SAN FRANCISCO -- Veteran Bay Area punk band Victims Family teams with Portland, OR-based heavyweights Nasalrod for a trio of Northern California shows this weekend.
With a partnership dating back nearly four decades, guitarist/vocalist Ralph Spight and bassist Larry Boothroyd have been making a uniquely hectic jazz-punk noise as the core of Victims Family since forming the band in 1984 when they were just a couple of scrawny Santa Rosa teenagers.
Bringing together the lyrical venom of the Dead Kennedys and the eclectic punk virtuosity of The Minutemen and NoMeansNo, Victims Family created a ferocious stew of hardcore, jazz, metal, funk and math rock with original drummer Devon VrMeer. Embracing the DIY punk ethos of the time, the young trio booked its first national tour in 1985, honing its chops while sharing the stage with such bands as NOFX, Tales of Terror, the aforementioned DKs and Social Unrest.
The band issued its debut album Voltage and Violets on Mordam Records the following year, unleashing Spight's vitriolic social commentary on salvos like "Homophobia" and "God, Jerry, & The P.M.R.C." in addition to writing likely the only instrumental tribute to jazz guitarist George Benson ever performed by a punk band. Victims' follow-up effort Things I Hate To Admit further refined the group's sound with more ear-pleasing, barbed wire hooks on such future fan favorites as "World War IX" and "Corona Belly."
VrMeer's departure to start a family led to his short-term replacement by Eric Strand before roadie Tim Solyan stepped in and completed what many consider to be the band's classic line-up. Victims Family crafted what still stands as one of the outstanding punk albums of the decade with 1990's White Bread Blues while furthering their reputation as a blistering live act with multiple U.S. and European tours, sharing the stage with the likes of Nirvana and Primus while having future stars Mr. Bungle and Green Day serve as opening acts.
The line-up released a second album, The Germ, in 1992. It was the band's first effort for Alternative Tentacles, but the grind of the road eventually led to a two-year hiatus. A reunion would produce another solid studio effort (Headache Remedy) and a live album that captured Victims' volatile onstage chemistry before Spight and Boothroyd moved on to band projects Saturn's Flea Collar (with the bassist switching to drums) and Hellworms (another trio that featured Bluchunks/Walrus drummer Joaquin Spengemann).
Victims Family put out one more album with yet another drummer — Apocalicious in 2001 featuring My Name drummer David Gleza behind the kit — before the principles moved on to explore other creative outlets. Spight would front his own band the Freak Accident in addition to anchoring Biafra's lauded new band The Guantanamo School of Medicine on guitar, while Boothroyd would tour and record extensively with celebrated experimental outfit Triclops! and the Bay Area supergroup Brubaker, though he eventually would be brought in to play bass with Biafra's band. In the midst of the pandemic, the bassist released the ambitious debut studio album by Specimen Box, a complex project that featured the musician constructing four wide-ranging suites of experimental sounds from 60-second recordings he compiled and edited from over 100 collaborators.
Boothroyd has since constructed a second Specimen Box album entitled Remote Communion, taking a more song-oriented from a smaller pool of musicians and vocalists (working with "only" 60 contributors) slated for release on the Valley King Records imprint in mid-December with a stunning 3-D cover by noted Bay Area artist Alan Forbes. He also played and recorded with violinist/vocalist Emily Palen in the bands KnightressM1 and Othered.
Despite the challenges presented by the drummer's busy schedule as an in-demand drum tech, semi-regular Victims Family reunions that bring Solyan back into the fold often find fans traveling long distances to catch another brutal live set. In recent years, the trio embarked on a brief string of West Coast dates with Portland, OR-based powerhouse punk band Nasalrod in addition to a 35th anniversary gig and an appearance at AT's two-day Tentacle Fest in Berkeley in 2019.
The band served as the opening act for an epic experimental punk triple bill a year ago at the Great American Music Hall with Oxbow and NYC provocateur Lydia Lunch and her explosive new band Retrovirus as well as headlining an SF concert last May. For this trio of shows in Sacramento and Petaluma that concludes with a Sunday concert at the Bottom of the Hill, the trio once again teams up with Nasalrod. Fronted by high-energy singer Chairman (aka Jeffrey Couch) and powered by legendary Fear drummer Spit Stix, Nasalrod has been making its kinetic style of ferocious art punk for over a decade, releasing its first 7-inch single in 2012.
Nodding at points to such influences as '70s power-pop icons Cheap Trick, the '90s noise-rock of the Jesus Lizard and a variety of experimental bands including the Minutemen, NoMeansNo (who they have been known to cover) and Mr. Bungle, Nasalrod has established itself as one of the most explosive live band's on the Portland scene. Rounded out by bassist Mandy Morgan and guitarist Mustin Douch, the group released its debut studio effort Building Machines in 2017. The songs from that album made up the bulk of the crew's intense 2020 in-concert document Live at Romtoms that was issued on CD and DVD.
A number of notable support acts will be opening for the two high-octane bands. The Friday show in Sacramento at the Starlet Room will be opened by Frack!, a sludgy, local noise-punk trio that uses a lap-steel guitar and released their debut album Accelerant on Forbidden Place Records last year, while longtime SF funk/thrash-metal band Mordred (one of the first metal bands to include a DJ) also plays the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma Saturday with locals the Choice opening. At the Bottom of the Hill Sunday, San Francisco post-punk trio Rip Room kicks things off with songs from its propulsive collection of angular new art-punk anthems entitled Alight and Resound that at points recalls Gang of Four, Devo and SF '80s jazz-punks the Rhythm Pigs.
Victims Family with Nasalrod
Friday, Dec. 2, 7 p.m. $15-$18 (all ages)
Saturday, Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m. $15 (all ages)
Sunday, Dec. 4, 8:30 p.m. $15-$18
Bottom of the Hill
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