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Bay Area noise-rock hero supports reunited Welsh band Mclusky at Rickshaw Stop

Former East Bay resident and noted purveyor of noise rock Conan Neutron brings his current tour backed by his band of Secret Friends to the Rickshaw Stop Tuesday, sharing the stage with reunited Welsh post-hardcore band Mclusky.

A longtime Oakland resident, Neutron was the principle creative force behind the East Bay noise-punk outfit Replicator with bassist Ben Adrian (who later played in Cartographer) and drummer Chris Bolig during the 2000s. Echoing the lurching, dissonant sounds of such influential '90s acts as the Jesus Lizard, Melvins and SF's own Steel Pole Bathtub, the group built up a small but loyal fan base over the course of several albums and U.S. tours.

Replicator - Delicious Fornicake (live at the Hemlock) by Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends on YouTube

The group dissolved amicably in 2008, with Neutron initially working with Bolig in the still noisy but somewhat more traditional rock group Mount Vicious. Neutron would then spend a number of years touring and recording with anthemic post-punk band Victory and Associates, as well as co-founding and organizing PRF BBQ West,  a series of multi-day festivals in Oakland that hosted an eclectic group of noisy, heavy bands from the Bay Area and abroad for several years running.

Conan Neutron and his Secret Friends
Conan Neutron and his Secret Friends Conan Neutron and his Secret Friends

A few years ago, he began a new loose-limbed partnership with Melvins drummer Dale Crover and bassist Tony Ash (of Louisville, KY's Trophy Wives) under the moniker Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends. Though their first effort The Enemy of Everyone in 2015 was more of a traditional power trio (with co-producer Toshi Kasai adding percussion and vocals and Oxbow singer Eugene Robinson providing vocals on the song "Fight Math"), their savage follow-up The Art of Murder drew on collaborators from a variety of bands including Crover's partner in the Melvins, Buzz Osborne. Neutron also launched his noise-punk focused podcast Protonic Reversal featuring interviews with such renowned musicians as Black Flag/OFF! singer Keith Morris, guitarist/singer Guy Picciotto (Fugazi/Rites of Spring), the late iconic singer Mark Lanegan (The Screaming Trees, Queens of the Stone Age) and Eagles of Death Metal/earthlings? guitarist Dave Catching.

Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends - Jilted Dragon by Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends on YouTube

Neutron has since relocated to Milwaukee, but remained consistently busy with touring and the recording of his Proton and Electrons split single series with help from Ash and Crover. The even dozen limited edition 7-inch singles each featured a new Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends song on one side and a tune by a band that has collaborated with Neutron and friends on the flip including Trophy Wives, the God Eaters, Cheap Sleaze, Cartographer and Crover's solo band playing covers from the classic The Who Sell Out album. The completed series was made available as a limited edition box collecting all 12 of the singles or as a double album on CD or vinyl that included all of the Secret Friends songs on one disc and compiles the b-sides on a second disc.

Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends - A Litany of Grievances by Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends on YouTube

While the pandemic would keep Neutron off the road for the better part of two years, he remained active with a couple of recording projects, releasing a full album with the Secret Friends entitled Dark Passengers tracked with Crover, Kasai and Ash just months before the COVID-19 shutdown as well as the conceptual split EP Dangerous Nomenclature that featured Neutron and company and duo The Erratic Retaliator Strategy both recording three songs that were written as inspired by the given song titles. Last fall, the group released the split LP Adult Prom with Cincinnati-based electric cello/drum duo Lung. Neutron also co-founded Caterwaul, an annual underground music festival in Minneapolis that this year will include such renowned acts as Oxbow, the reunited Brainiac and the Art Gray Noizz Quintet.   

Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends - The Commuter by Conan Neutron & the Secret Friends on YouTube

On Tuesday, Neutron returns to the Bay Area with a different touring line-up of the Secret Friends featuring Ash on bass, Mindee Jorgenson (Mod Pods, touring drummer for Dale Crover's band) on drums, and Dusty Rose (Shovel, touring guitarist for the Darts) on guitar. Neutron and company will at last support reunited Welsh post-punk band Mclusky at the Rickshaw Stop as part of a twice-postponed West Coast tour with the visiting group. Formed in 1996 in Cardiff by expat Brit Andrew Falkous and initially working under the moniker Best before changing their name, Mclusky would establish a reputation for noisy yet tuneful songs that recalled classic early '90s bands like the Jesus Lizard, Nirvana and the Pixies. The group's Steve Albini-produced sophomore album Mclusky Do Dallas in 2002 was widely acclaimed, making a number of year ending best of lists.

mclusky live at Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, 2019 by Prescriptions Music label on YouTube

While the band would split over personal differences between Falkous and bassist Jon Chapple in 2005 despite their growing audience, Falkous and latter-era drummer Jack Egglestone would eventually move on to play in the like-minded group Future of the Left. Eventually Falkous would be prevailed upon to reform a version of Mclusky in 2014 with Egglestone, singer Damien Sayell and bassist Julia Ruzicka (Sayell would take over bass in 2018). 

While the new line-up has yet to record new music, in April of last year they announced they would tour to mark the 20th anniversary Mclusky Do Dallas, visiting the States for the trio's first U.S. tour in 18 years. Health issues led the band to cancel the scheduled September date in Oakland of the initial West Coast leg of that jaunt (and a November make-up show), Mclusky is finally set to play this long-deferred Bay Area show being held Tuesday night at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco.

Mclusky with Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends 
Tuesday, March 5, 7 p.m. $25
The Rickshaw Stop

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