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Caustic LA Punk Band Returns To The Bay Area

By Dave Pehling

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- LA-based punks The Birth Defects comes back to the Bay Area this weekend, playing a pair of shows on both sides of the Bay with local heavyweights including Feral Ohms, Older Sun and War Bison.

Led by SF expatriate Jason Finazzo and initially featuring former guitarist for Thee Oh Sees Petey Dammit, ex Bleached bassist Jonathan Safley and drummer Jason Gerkin (who played with Shiner, Hum and Molly McGuire), the high-octane band issued its ferocious Ty Segall-produced debut First 8 Mistakes on Ghost Ramp Records in 2015 to rave reviews. Blasting out of speakers at breakneck tempos, chaotic anthems like album opener "The Walls" and self-destructive celebration "Party Suicide" captured the frantic spirit of early efforts by Zeke, the Dwarves and REO Speedealer mixed with elements of '90s noise-rock that recalled Unsane and the Jesus Lizard (particularly on "Bricks").

The Birth Defects - Party Suicide by Jack Wagner on YouTube

Finazzo would eventually put together a completely different trio line-up with drummer Anthony Drinkwater (who also plays in LA psychobilly band the Rocketz) and madman Danish bassist Philip Neilsen (whose resume includes stints in proto-punk band Swarming Orchids, southern rock trio Grit and synth-pop group Tic Tic Boom among other projects), touring the U.S. extensively with the Coathangers. Legend of the Seagullmen guitarist Tim Dawson joined the Birth Defects in 2017, filling out the line-up that recorded the band's sophomore effort for Ghost Ramp, Everything is Fine, that was released in January of last year.

The Birth Defects - Endless Pain by Ghost Ramp on YouTube

While still featuring some of the hectic punk mayhem that has become the band's trademark ("YOLF" and "Lost Control"), the new recording explores decidedly weirder sounds ranging from the heavily processed guitar on "Endless Pain" and the dramatic tempo shift on the sludgy "Dyelisiem" to the chanted vocals on the swirling psychedelic dirge "Sunday Morning Mantra" that closes the album.

For the band's Saturday night show at the Ivy Room in Albany, they will be joined by headlining power trio Feral Ohms. Anchored by renowned Bay Area guitarist Ethan Miller who founded Comets on Fire and Howlin Rain and more recently became part of the psych supergroup Heron Oblivion, Feral Ohms has been delivering a deafening, fuzzed-out fury that recalls the lysergic caveman stomp of late '60s underground legends Blue Cheer and Sir Lord Baltimore while hearkening back to Miller's most unhinged early work with CoF since 2011.

God of Nicaragua by Feral Ohms - Topic on YouTube

After putting out a string of 7-inch singles for a variety of imprints including SF boutique label Valley King and Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label, in 2016 the threesome issued a frenetic live recording tracked at the Chapel in San Francisco on Thee Oh Sees frontman John Dwyer's Castle Face Records. In 2017, the trio offered up it's self-titled studio debut released on Miller's own Silver Current label that manages (barely) to contain the ferocity of the band's onstage assault.

More recently, Silver Current put out a limited edition box set of the band's singles that quickly sold out. The band kicks off these stacked shows with its current line-up featuring longtime drummer Chris Johnson and recent addition Phil Manley (Trans Am, the F---ing Champs, Life Coach, Terry Gross) on bass. Opening the Ivy Room show will be Very Paranoia, a bruising new quartet featuring members of local psych/punk Hot Lunch and Lecherous Gaze.

On Sunday, the Birth Defects come to San Francisco to play the Sunday afternoon show at the Bottom of the Hill sponsored by Iron Man Moving and local show promoter and design company Subliminal SF. That show is headlined by rising local metal act War Bison. Playing around the Bay Area since 2016, the quintet dishes out a mix of hardcore punk and thrash metal that touches on the sound of crossover pioneers D.R.I. (who they have opened for) and that band's modern disciples like Power Trip and Municipal Waste. Last fall, the group self-released its debut album Acre digitally, offering up ten tunes filled with breakneck tempos and hard-swinging sonic violence.

They will also be joined by San Francisco hard-rock outfit Older Sun. Making riff-driven monolithic tunes indebted to the classic '60s and '70s sounds of Cream, Free and Montrose since 2012, the band released their debut album last year on Anchorite Recordings after issuing a pair of singles for Valley King Records. That album marked the end of a chapter for the band, presenting its last songs recorded with departing lead singer Chris Wagner. The group has since expanded to a quintet and is now fronted by new singer Kelsey Guntharp. Local act Highwinds opens the show.

Feral Ohms with the Birth Defects and Very Paranoia
Saturday, Feb. 9, 9 p.m. $8-$10
Ivy Room

The Subliminal Sunday BBQ with War Bison and the Birth Defects
Sunday, Feb. 10, 2 p.m. $10
Bottom of the Hill

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