Before I went to Europe last month for my post-graduate beercation, I pitched a bunch of zany ideas to a lot of outlets and nothing took. But God bless Gustavo and the OC Weekly for allowing me to use some of my travel photos and personal notes to share at least a little sliver of my discoveries with its readership. And for keeping my Austin Powers reference in the headline. 🙂

The Bruery Goes Global: Bottles Spotted In Netherlands–Ishn’t Dat Vierd?

Sarah Bennett
Beers from Placentia’s Bruery on the shelf at De Bierkoning, a bottleshop in Amsterdam.

We all know the Netherlands is the place in Europe to get great pot and decent-looking legal prostitutes, but bottles from Orange County’s own craft beer creators (and subject of last year’s cover story) The Bruery? Yup.

As this beer geek discovered on a recent vacation to the land of windmills, canals, clogs and the Cannabis Cup, the Dutch love American craft beer. They love Stone Brewing’s bitter, hoppy IPAs; they love rich, chocolate-y stouts from Ohio’s Hoppin’ Frog Brewery and they love aromatic pale ales from Anderson Valley and Port Brewing Companies.



checking in on

March 9, 2012

This is the first in a series of bi-weekly contributions I will be making to the O.C. Weekly’s new in-print column called “Checking In On…” The idea is to catch up with local bands that we’ve covered before and therefore can’t do another big feature on. If you have any suggestions or contacts, please let me know!

Published in print in the March 8, 2012 issue of O.C. Weekly and online here.

Avi Buffalo, Older and Wiser

Post-debut success, Long Beach’s band of teenagers have had some time to reflect—and write more music

In the two years since Southern California first basked in the dreamy guitarwork and lo-fi stylings of Avi Buffalo‘s self-titled debut album, front man Avi Zahner-Isenberg has grown both older and wiser.

A look back in time

Now 21, Zahner has had some space to reflect on his once-rigorous touring schedule—which found the band of teenagers playing coveted slots at mega-festivals such as All Tomorrow’s Parties and Primavera Sound—and the experiences have left him thinking critically about his next steps.

“We were exposed to so much craziness at such a young age. There’s no way around it,” Zahner-Isenberg says. “It was really good in so many respects, but it’s something you have to battle with. Your brain isn’t even fully developed when you’re 18, and all of a sudden, you’re thrown into opening up for epic people whom you’ve looked up to your entire life. What does that do to your head?”

For Zahner, the global exposure that came with being Sub Pop Records‘ latest buzz band only grounded him more. And since returning home to Long Beach more than a year and a half ago, he has been running a home studio (Hood Ranch Dressing), playing music with old friends and writing songs for the next Avi Buffalo album, which will start tracking in a few months. He even released a few experimental solo albums, partially recorded on his laptop while living in the band’s tour van, parked in the driveway of his parents’ house.

Messing around with his home recording equipment also helped him prepare for the band’s upcoming professional-studio time. “I’m really excited because this time we have more experience with recording,” he explains. “Being able to get into home recording has been really helpful. I’m able to have a perspective on what songs are supposed to sound like when we go into the studio. It’s not just the raw chord progressions and lyrics anymore.”

Since the songs are already written for the new album—some of which are (Ă  la San Pedro‘s Minutemen, he says) 20 to 50 seconds long—Zahner’s concern now is balance. What is the right mix between hi-fi and lo-fi? How do you prepare your songs for recording, but still leave room for spontaneity? Can you avoid sacrificing depth and vibe for cleanliness?

Working with fellow local musicians during the past few years of downtime, both through Hood Ranch Dressing Studios and performances with the Wild Bunch, as well as other friends’ bands, has brought Zahner closer to answering these questions. But reconnecting with his circle of talented friends may have been beneficial in another, more important way.

“At the end of the day, you have to go back to those people whom you’ve played with for years who in some ways haven’t gone through that so you can humble yourself and realize why you’re playing music,” he says. “As long as I’m connected to those people, then I’m emotionally sound.”

Where’s The Band?

At The Yost Theater Last Night

Originally published online at

Lydia Chain

Where’s the Band? Tour
Yost Theater, Santa Ana
Feb. 7, 2012

Whatever happened to the golden days of emo when the singers on stage were just as weepy and insecure as our high school selves? Stalwarts, such as those who played the second installment of the Where’s The Band? tour, apparently are dropping their backing musicians, embarking on solo careers and transforming into legitimate singer songwriters.

The result is ideal for their maturing demographic, but it definitely takes some getting used to. The show brought six band-less frontmen–including Dustin Kensrue (Thrice), Matt Pryor (The Get Up Kids), Chris Conley (Saves the Day), Anthony Raneri (Bayside), Ace Enders (The Early November) and Evan Weiss (Into It. Over It)–to a full house at the newly hosting Yost Theatre, giving each a quick 30-minute set to do with what they choose.

Lydia Chain

Conley sat on a black leather bar chair center stage and took requests from the audience, all of which were off Saves the Day’s first three albums. In his signature wail that is both grating and comforting, he sang “Rock Tonic Juice Magic” from Through Being Cool, “3 Miles Down” from Can’t Slow Down and ended the set with “At Your Funeral” off Stay What You Are. At one point, he noted that he had written some of the songs he was singing when he was 17, but the idea of time passing was rendered null by the slight frame and sweet ’90s lesbian ‘do that maintained his current age to be not a day over Junior prom.

A quick unplug and a handshake sufficed for set changes throughout the night, and once Pryor took his standing position in front of the stage’s solitary mic stand, he ripped into “All Eyes,” a song from his folk-rock side project The New Amsterdams. In addition to solo songs such as “Confidence Man,” which–inspired by a tourmate’s backstage comment on his fedora–culminated in a segway into Bruno Mars’ portion of “Billionaire,” Pryor also took requests for old school Get Up Kids songs. Instead of finishing the set with the ballad “I’ll Catch You” as is the norm for his acoustic tours, Pryor instead opted for the upbeat “Better Half,” “a love song written a long time ago.”

As promised in our previews of this event, Pryor, Enders and Ranieri did end up channeling their inner barbershop quartet for a brilliant cover of “Rainbow Connection” from The Muppet Movie(between parts, Enders even mimicked Kermit’s awkward dance moves).

Hometown hottie (yes we just called him that) Dustin Kensrue headlined the night with a diverse set of newer Thrice songs, indie-rock covers and multiple solo numbers about how much he loves and needs his wife. After an evening of failed sing-a-long attempts and emotionless faces from those young folks closest to the stage, Kensrue’s bluesy solo songs finally woke up the crowd, getting lips moving and iPhones filming through the last jam of the night–a Tom Waits cover of “Down There By the Train.”

Lydia Chain

The set list wasn’t much different than the Troubadour show a few nights prior, but the friendly attitudes from all of the performers still gave the show a personal touch. Each casually dropped insider info before playing older songs and interacted with the audience through both requests and random-story asides. Several also talked out their thought processes about which requests to honor and were honest about being scared to try songs they hadn’t practiced in a while.

Instead of these artists being the unreachable frontmen of our favorite bands as they might have been years ago, the Where’s the Band? format strips away the intimidation factor built into traditional audience-performer relationships and presents these guys as real dudes who could just as easily been your buddies having this show in your living room.

Lydia Chain

Though remnants of these bands’ weepy and insecure heydeys are worth revisiting on nights like these, it is good to know that our guilty pleasures are capable of adult feelings too.
The Crowd: Sober couples cuddling with each other and lots of lonely guys wearing either saggy beanies or lowercase “a” Angels hats.

Critic’s Bias: I was secretly hoping for a sweaty, intimate, fist-pumping acoustic session like the ones that went down at Chain Reaction circa 2003.

Overheard in the Crowd: “Are you awake? You better get into this shit!”

Random Notebook Dump: Why was someone requesting Limp Bizkit?

insane clown posse

November 18, 2011

As originally published in the OC Weekly music blog

Yeastie Boys Talk Clowns, Cops and Venues That Rhyme With ‘Slidenard’

The Yeastie Boys might be simultaneously the best and worst band in Orange County right now–a good old-fashioned punk rock cover band that takes itself so un-seriously it’s got a circus theme.

Started three years ago as a way to replace typical cover band pitfalls with red noses and flourescent curly wigs, our little local Yeastie Boys (not to be confused with the Oklahoma homebrewers club of the same name) might have lost this year’s OC Weekly‘s reader’s choice award for Best Punk Band, but that won’t stop them from bringing clown-filled lyrics and a refined Ringling Brothers aesthetic to adults and open-minded children across the county.

The band’s endless roster of clown-clad members are known for throwing popcorn, cotton candy and peanuts at slightly suspecting fans during its raucous sets, which take place at whatever venue hasn’t banned them yet. This weekend, that list includes Queen’s Wharf–an old time seafood restaurant along berth 55 in the Port of Long Beach–where the Yeastie Boys will help anchor the all-ages Punk Rock BBQ #2, a make-up show for the September 25 punk-and-skate event that was unexpectedly shut down by Costa Mesa PD.

Founding clown Dirt Williams (aka Dirt Clown) took some time to check in before blowing up inflatable penises for tomorrow’s show.

Courtesy of Yeastie Boys
Yeastie Boys keeping it classy at the original Punk Rock BBQ on Sept. 25.

OC Weekly (Sarah Bennett): So…why clowns?
Dirt Williams: I’ve been called a clown my whole life, so I guess I am finally living up to expectations.

Are you sick of visual ICP comparisons?

Yes, the comparison ends at clown.

You seem to have invented the genre of clown punk. How is that different from other forms of punk?
Besides the obvious? Less serious, more fun I suppose…

Why do you have so many rotating members? How many are there total?

My member rotates often, as for band members there has been 17 or so – anywhere between 7-12 at any given show. It’s quite a circus. We have had members from Adolescents, D.I., 45 Grave, China White, the HATED, the Chiefs & others – some are full time clowns & others are special guests, our shows are like Pee Wee Herman theater popcorn – you never know what surprise you might find.

What venues have you been kicked out of and why?
I don’t want to mention any by name, but they rhyme with: Malaxy Theathre, Salex’s Bar, DiPiwasas, Mold Towne Pub, The Breast, Grand Bromance Rivergloat, Joke Joint, Slidenard and probably a few more that we are not welcome back to. Why? I’m guessing it’s mess that seems to happen at every show which can be pretty impressive even by clown standards.

Why should you have won Best Punk Band [in this year’s OC Weekly best-of reader’s choice] over Social Distortion?
Have you not seen one of our shows? Next year we hope to be nominated for both best & worst punk band.

This weekend’s Punk Rock BBQ at Queen’s Wharf is a makeup show. Tell me about the first one?
The first one was real fun right up until the cops shut it down.

Didn’t the cops come in the middle of your set? What does that say about your music and stage energy?
At least they let us finish the set. One officer asked us to play at his kids birthday party, I’m guessing he either liked it, or we are in for a surprise ‘occupy’ type beating.

Was there ever a thought that you wouldn’t play the make-up show? What are the promoters like and what else do they put on?
Because we wear make-up? I get it. Leave the jokes to me sweetcheeks. It’s the same promoter that puts on the ‘Punk Rock Picnic’, which is the biggest punk rock event in OC every year. We’ve played there the last two years & its been a lot of fun.

If this weekend’s Punk Rock BBQ is guaranteed not to get shut down, does that make it less punk rock?
I don’t think anyone can guarantee that any punk show will not get shut down, but we can guarantee a good time during our set. Keep an eye out for flying clown penises during the song ‘Clown Dick’ this Saturday….and bring the kids! We promise not to shower with them.

The Yeastie Boys perform with D.I., The Generators and more at Punk Rock BBQ #2 at Queen’s Wharf, 555 Pico Ave. Long Beach., Sat. 11:30am-9:30pm, $15, all ages.

Note from event website: This is a make-up show for all who attended and paid for the first Punk Rock BBQ, your wrist bands, ticket stubs will get you in free. If you bought your tickets on brown paper tickets website, we have your name on a list, just bring your ID.

sitting in a waiting room

October 17, 2011

Originally published online here.

Album Attack: Fugazi’s 13 Songs at The Prospector Saturday Night

David Thornton

Album Attack, Fugazi’s 13 Songs
October 15, 2011
The Prospector

As has become the custom in Long Beach, a hodgepodge-supergroup of local musicians took the stage at The Prospector on Saturday to play through an influential indie album in its entirety. In the spotlight this month–Fugazi’s 13 Songs.

The monthly shows–know as Album Attack–are performed by a one-time-only band, curated exclusively for each show by the concept’s creator, current cover-and-karaoke-band guru Jesse Wilder. Long Beach’s Fugazi included singer Warren Woodward, guitarist and singer Josh Teague, bassist Travis Laws and drummer Thad Paulson, four seasoned area musicians who were chosen for their ability to execute the frenetic energy found in the post-hardcore band’s first full-length release.

But before they ripped into the seminal 1989 album, opening act Sassafrassprimed the crowd by channeling chugging riffs and scratchy wails like early Black Sabbath or Motorhead. Though they were down a member–the Mike Watt-recommended bassist was apparently at a high school reunion–the two guitarists switched off bass duties, dropping keys mid-song as if it were their schtick.

About halfway through their set, my cohort explained that there are two types of bands that play guitar-driven cock rock: guys with too much testosterone and stoners. Judging by Sassafrass’ sped-up funk lines and prog-guitar tendencies, we both agreed they were definitely the latter.

Sarah Bennett

Our homegrown self-described Fauxgazi came out next, confidently tearing into 13 Songs despite the nervousness they must have felt playing such a defining album for their generation. Debates had raged earlier in the night over other Fugazi albums that should have been covered instead, but the band’s spot-on rendition of opener “Waiting Room” was a reminder of why 13 Songs won out.

It might not be a solid compilation of Fugazi’s finest work, but 13 Songs is an early testament to their raw sound of latent punk energy as it crashed into melodic emotionalism on its way out of ’80s hardcore. It shows the unrefined-yet-controlled style that initially drew listeners to Fugazi and, as an early recording, is fitting source material for an Album Attack band that barely has a month to find their own dynamic.

All veterans of the local music scene, the members of LB’s Fugazi replicated the 13 songs with ease.

Paulson nailed all of Brendan Canty’s aggressive rhythms, Teague’s masterful shredding turned his black cowboy shirt into a sweat-swimsuit, mop-topped Woodward sang some of Guy Picciotto’s lyrics while staggering into the crowd and Laws’ intensive bass-playing ensured if any mistakes were made, no one would stop moving long enough to hear it. The band even went beyond their required setlist and played two extra Fugazi songs, “Reclaimation” and “Blueprint.”

While maybe not an “authentic” punk rock show–no one started a pit and no one left shirtless–the intimate venue and talented local musicians made the fourth installment of Album Attack a success. Though rumors are floating around of a Rentals-album rehash in the future, we can only look forward Wilder’s next announced move–November’s Album Attack will be The Replacements’ Let It Be.

Critics Bias: I’ve been looking forward to this show since the Album Attack series began.

The Crowd: Enthusiastic thirtysomething friends of the Fugazi band members and the regular crop of whiskey-swilling Long Beach musicians.

Overheard in the Crowd: “This is fucking rad!”

Random Notebook Dump: The rhythm section is killing it!!!