Tuesday, October 5, 2010

An Almost Perfect Naked Raygun Reunion

Posted By on 10.05.10 at 01:13 PM

Santiago Durango and Jeff Pezzati
  • Santiago Durango and Jeff Pezzati
Riot Fest kicks off tomorrow with an evening of punk-rock nostalgia at Double Door. The Busted at Oz reunion trots out most of the bands featured on the early Chicago punk compilation of the same name, recorded on the three final nights of the notorious Uptown club Oz in March 1981. Last week the Effigies canceled because original guitarist Earl Letiecq had to attend to urgent family matters; headliner first, the bill now consists of Naked Raygun, the Subverts, Steve Bjorklund of Strike Under backed by Joe Haggerty (Pegboy, Effigies) on drums and members of Articles of Faith, Silver Abuse, and Toothpaste (who weren't actually on the comp but did exist around the same time and shared members with groups on it). A band I know nothing about called Rottenfinko & the Convicts opens the night with a 15-minute set. The show is sold out, but a limited number of people with three- and five-day Riot Fest wristbands will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis; doors are at 7:30 PM. All proceeds benefit the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

At this point Naked Raygun shows aren't all that special anymore, since the band's been reunited for years, but this set is different: it was to feature the group's best-known early lineup, with singer Jeff Pezzati, bassist Camilo Gonzalez, drummer Jim Colao, and guitarist Santiago Durango. Only Pezzati is in the currently active version of the band. (Durango and Gonzalez were also members of Silver Abuse, arguably the city's first real punk band, and Durango later joined Steve Albini's Big Black.)

This was the 1983 lineup responsible for the classic Basement Screams EP, released by Albini's fledgling Ruthless label. Durango split shortly thereafter, but the singular sound developed during his tenure dominated the band's brilliant debut album, Throb Throb, which also included two of his songs. Guitarist John Haggerty expertly took the reins, but he could never match Durango's lacerating, scuzzy tone.

Camilo Gonzalez and Jeff Pezzati
  • Camilo Gonzalez and Jeff Pezzati
Just as remarkable on these albums was the rhythm section, which mastered a kind of tribal swing—particularly Colao, who could drop some serious 4/4 fury but also danced across his toms like an acid-fried lounge drummer. Touch and Go reissued these classics, along with four subsequent Naked Raygun albums, back in 1999.

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago Colao broke his arm in a biking accident, so he's unable to play tomorrow night. Eric Spicer, who's been the band's drummer since Colao split not long after Throb Throb, will fill in. He obviously knows the Naked Raygun repertoire, but he's a much more conventional player. I can't help but be disappointed that I'll miss Colao.

Today's playlist:

Various artists, Cumbia Beat Vol. 1: Experimental Guitar-Driven Tropical Sounds From Peru 1966-1976 (Vampi Soul)
Forest Jackson, Cymbalism (Mosz)
Ryu Hankil, Becoming Typewriter (Taumaturgia)
The Real Latinos, Good Groove (Jazzwerkstatt)
Christian Wolff, Long Piano (New World)

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