The Year Jawbreaker Broke a.k.a. Why my family braved the elements, port-a-potties, and bros at the Riot Fest

Going to huge festivals can be a bummer: huge stages and barriers so the bands you want to see are mere dots on the horizon, disgusting port-a-potties, bros everywhere, and it’s you against the elements all day long. Still, my wife, daughter, and I flew out to Chicago to see Jawbreaker’s first proper show after more than 20 years.

I was at the right place and right time, and always made a point to see the punk band from L.A. play dives like The Anti-Club, Raji’s, Al’s Bar, Club 88, Jabberjaw, the pizza joint at UCLA, as well as my friend Eric’s backyard, not to mention the occasional pilgrimage to Gilman St. Over time, I became become friends with Adam and when it was announced that he, Blake, and Chris were finally getting back together–rising from the ashes of burning out decades after a much too brief and painful but beloved existence to headline a gigantic festival thanks to generations of music lovers who discovered them too late–how could we miss it, even if it was all the way out in Chicago?

Of course, it wasn’t just Jawbreaker. Tucked into Riot Fest’s massive lineup on Sunday were killer sets by Engine 88 (featuring Dave who worked Lost Weekend Video with Adam), Upset (who has played with Adam’s other band California a few times, including once at a Save Music in Chinatown show), That Dog. (friends who played with them at Jabberjaw a few times), and Versus (friends of Jawbreaker including James who worked at Lost Weekend as well). Too bad J Church couldn’t have been there but I wore a T-shirt in Lance’s honor.

We missed Adam’s sister’s band The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black because we couldn’t pull ourselves away from seeing our friend Rachel Haden with That Dog., but it was pretty much the Jawbreaker drummer’s All Tomorrow’s Parties and Fantasy Island smushed together, and it was no problem for us to walk right up to the barricade to see most of Jawbreaker’s support from as close as possible. (Sorry, Best Coast, Beach Slang, Kitten Forever, TVOTR, Built To Spill, MIA, GWAR… We’ll catch you later!)

We saw plenty of friends on our side of the barricades, too. My pal Scott, who I met way back when he was in J Church but kept in touch with through our love of comic books, happened to be Blake’s guitar tech and brought us many cold waters from backstage. Jon and Ron played much bigger parts in Jawbreaker’s West L.A. days than me, said hi, and hooked us up with bottles of water, too, and I regret not taking a picture with them. Wendy, Eloise, and I also introduced ourselves to Adam’s kids, gave copies of our new Save Music in Chinatown zine to Lauren from Upset, and met up with our friend’s sister Veena who flew in solo from the Bay Area to finally see Jawbreaker. Hardcore!

After all that plus some mediocre food, I was pretty stoked and relieved that 9-year-old Eloise could handle the growing, thickening crowd during Dinosaur Jr. and Prophets of Rage and even make it to Jawbreaker going onstage–and then ride my back during the entire brilliant, cathartic, and tight-as-shit set from “Boxcar” to “Bivouac” in the middle of the sweaty and swaying masses. With so much on the line after so much time off, the band totally could have flamed out but what a payoff and how beautiful was it to see them playing their guts out with Adam grinning like Billy Zoom the entire time until demolishing his drum kit?

While the Windy City was already of our favorite places to visit, it was pretty awesome to catch up with Adam and say hi to Blake in front of their hotel after having lunch with Scott the day before. And for James to approach us at the Art Institute and then lead us over to where the rest of Versus was meeting up. To spend time with our dear friend Tim, a fellow Jawbreaker fanatic who has hosted my family at his cool film festival and have him take us to donuts and drive us to Chinatown.

So many of us gathered to see one of our favorite bands and some of our favorite people finally get their due. How rare is that these days and how often does it happen someone or something you literally know and love? And how cool was it for my family to be present at that crucial moment of release and redemption? I loved all the songs before but now they are a soundtrack to something completely different.

We got more than stupid T-shirts out of the concert. In this messed-up world, the good guys won for once and we saw it happen from the trenches.

p.s. Don’t miss the L.A. debut screenings of Don’t Break Down: A Film About Jawbreaker at The Vista in Los Feliz on Wednesday, October 4. See you there!

 

 

 

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Save Music in Chinatown 7 photos by Ben Clark

smic7-3I’ve already shared my photos (above) and thoughts on our most recent benefit, and you can check them out at imprintculturelab.com. But then I received images from my photographer friend Ben Clark (maybe you’ve been checking out his images all over the new Jabberjaw coffee table book) and they are worth sharing, too.

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While digital photography has made it easy for hacks like me to take pretty good photos, there’s no substitute for a skilled photography. Rachel’s friends and family sitting on the floor, Nate behind the soundboard–Ben really conveys what the room feels like and doesn’t just take band pics.

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The California image below reminds me of Joe Strummer… And Adam’s Saccharine Trust shirt! Does he break that out for special occasions or wear it all the time?

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Dustin’s expression in this image below is amazing–probably one of the few times he wasn’t smiling during the set!

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How great are Upset? How cool is it that you can see the girls rocking out in front. They raged! Before talking a little bit about our cause and introducing the band, I got to say, “Girls in front!”

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Steve Soto is a legend who has played with so many excellent bands: Adolescents, Agent Orange, Manic Hispanic, 22 Jacks, Punk Rock Karaoke… But his solo songs are simply gorgeous and to see him on an empty stage is actually a little jarring.

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How great are Sean & Zander? And who knew what their stripped-down take on roots and Americana would appeal to the kids so much?

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Proof that the kids love Sean & Zander.

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Thanks to Ben, who doesn’t go to as many shows as he used to but set aside time to attend ours. And all the musicians, supporters, attendees, and friends who helped to make it happen. Looking forward to our next benefit in January!

Why Save Music in Chinatown 7 is my next perfect day

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In a couple of weekends, we’ll be hosting our seventh Save Music in Chinatown show. Some things haven’t changed since Wendy and I came up with the harebrained idea to try organizing all-ages benefit matinee concerts to raise money for the defunded music education program at our daughter’s public elementary school.

• Castelar still must raise $50,000 annually to pay for music classes for the kids. Our shows can’t pay for all of it but we can make a difference, raise awareness, and foster a community.
• The lineups are stellar, our stash of raffle prizes is amazing, and the bake sale has achieved legend status.
• We still rely almost entirely on word of mouth and I still stress out and wonder when people will start buying tickets, but it always turns out great. (Doesn’t it?)

But some things have changed, too.

• We’ll always appreciate Human Resources for giving us a place to start and grow as well as a connection to the neighborhood’s awesome art scene, but finding a new home at the Grand Star is a step toward carrying on the punk rock heritage and adding to the tradition of the Hong Kong Café and Madame Wong’s.
• We’ve amassed a small-but-dedicated army of friends in awesome bands, rad venues, and DIY media outlets that love the history of punk rock in Chinatown and help us pay tribute to it while helping the local kids.
• Personally, Save Music in Chinatown has been a shift from making things on a printed page to making things happen in real life, but I’m in the process of making a Save Music in Chinatown zine in time for our next show!

I’ve stated this before and I still believe it so I’ll repeat it. When we have a Save Music in Chinatown gig, we’re really make my perfect day a reality (sorta like the ones we used to print in Giant Robot mag). Waking up late and rolling out on a Sunday afternoon when there’s free metered or cheap parking available, seeing a bunch of amazing bands for a bargain price with killer snacks and quality coffee, and being able to take kids if they can handle it. Seeing friends and family who don’t go to as many shows as they used to because of stinky, late night venues full of assholes and poseurs. Being done around 6:00 p.m. so you can grab some noodles for dinner before getting home at a decent hour and being ready to get up early on Monday.

And not only are we helping mostly immigrant kids at an inner city school receive music education, but we are exposing the handful that show up to DIY culture. They get that music isn’t just played by rock stars or rappers at Staples Center but by regular folks who lug their own stuff around and play on tiny stages for friends. And if even lame parents can be part of something cool, why can’t they?

Please check out and share the event page on Facebook and ticketing information at Eventbrite, and hope to see you in Chinatown on Sunday, September 27. Thanks for the support and hit me up if you have any questions!

Below, clockwise from top left: Elvis, Tony from The Adolescents, Donut Friend, Margaret Cho, Scoops Chinatown, and Dan from The Adolescents and Dennis from The Crowd are down with the cause.

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Adam Pfahler on reissuing Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy

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Photo by Wild Don Lewis circa 1994.

While dorking around Facebook just like everyone else does, I started seeing posts about the upcoming reissue of Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. Of course, I had to hit up my pal, Jawbreaker drummer, and Blackball Records founder Adam Pfahler about it…

I last saw him in the spring when his new band, California, was in town and they even played our Save Music in California benefit on a double bill with the Chuck Dukowski Sextet. How awesome was that? Did I mention that he also played my wedding banquet with Whysall Lane? Crashed at my place with J Church?

Obviously, I’m a big fan of the man and his music so you probably can’t trust me when I say that 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is possibly the raddest Jawbreaker album–a perfect balance of being evolved yet totally ripping. Can’t wait to hear the alternate mixes when the thick wax reissue drops on October 14.

Was the 24 Hour Revenge Therapy period a blur or do you recall everything?
Both. I’ve found in the process of doing press for this record that while I like to think I have a photographic memory, there’s all kinds of stuff I totally forgot. But what I forgot, Chris remembers. What Chris forgot, Blake remembers. But I will say, the things that I do remember are very clear to me. Also, I kept journals on all of our tours. They’re written in a sort of shorthand. I always thought that I would eventually flesh them out if I was ever inspired to tell our story. I’m thinking I might bring my 1993 book down to Giant Robot and just read from that in lieu of boring people with weak freestyle.

Is it awkward to listen to the old songs? Weird? Awesome?
I think we sound great. Objectivity is the benefit of being so far removed from the band at this point. I’ve said it before: Jawbreaker was so long ago, I’m not 100 percent sure I was in the band. But the weirdest thing is when I hear our music out of context, by accident. Like one time I was in a coffee shop and they were playing one of our records. It took me way longer than you might think for me to recognize it was us. But the cool thing was, I liked what I heard! Anyway, I find that it’s more awkward and weird to listen to new music.

You get pretty serious about the remastering part. Have you always had the ear for that? Is it something you learned?
My ears are pretty shot. The reason I spend so much time mastering then, remastering then re-remastering the re-master, then eventually going with the original is that I can’t really hear. I don’t trust my ears. There, I said it. Did you hear that? Because I didn’t. See what I mean?

For the reissues, do you read the reviews and comments when they get posted? People are either so serious or snarky it hurts!
One time a guy who wasn’t even old enough to have seen us play made a snide remark that we weren’t a good live band. Now, I don’t care if you don’t like my band. But I’m absolutely sure about one thing and that is that we were a really good live band in spite of what this prick saw on YouTube. So I wrote him back, “Fuck you in the heart.” That’s about as far as I’ve gone. Mostly, I just wash them out of my life.

Does your inner label guy have battles with your inner band guy about why there’s no shows to go with the re-releases?
I see where you’re going with this–because I’m both the label guy and the band guy. The inner struggle! Dr. Jekyll versus Mr. Heckle! Alas, what I truly want is for everyone to go out and purchase Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy at finer record stores in their area. Then I want them to listen to the record and be inspired enough to start their own band. Then one day when they’re practicing their craft, I want their copy of 24 Hour Revenge Therapy to be stolen from
their car when they absentmindedly leave it unlocked in a sketchy-but-affordable part of town. Then I want them to march right out and purchase 24 Hour Revenge Therapy again. But before they do that, I want their bandmate to be like, “It’s cool dude. I have that record. I’ll rip you a copy of mine. Or better yet, why don’t you just stream it on Spotify or Rhapsody or Pandora or BitTorrent or any number of illegal downloading sites that David Lowery warned us about?” Then I want them to go, “You know what? I’m buying it again. And on top of that, I’m buying an extra copy just in case this one gets broken or stolen. Wait. No. Fuck that. I’m going to buy three copies. That way I’ll have one to give away as a gift if the spirit moves me.” Then I want Jawbreaker to get back together and play Vin Scully’s birthday party.

Does all the producing make you want to drum?
In the past 33-plus years, the longest time I’ve gone without playing drums is precisely nine months. That was after my third shoulder surgery in 2006. I have three drum kits: one set up at my practice space, one set up at my house, one in cases in the basement waiting for the next show or recording session. Looking at my usual routine via GPS, it appears I’m never more than 5 miles or 20 minutes from a drum set to bang on. This is comforting to me.

Is California the next release on Blackball Records?
I give you my word.

Can we plan our spring Save Music in Chinatown show around California’s next tour, and what will it take to get Rachel on the bill?
You say jump, we say, “How high?” We ask Rachel to get onstage, we go through a number of receptionists at Third Man Records before finally
getting “accidentally” disconnected and continue trying to reach her through the That Dog Totally Fanatical Fanpage on Facebook posing as Todd Rundgren offering a proper paying gig. When she finds out it’s us, she burns an effigy of the band–a VHS copy of John Milius’ Big Wednesday–atop the lifeguard station on Santa Monica State Beach just north of Chautauqua.

In reality, all it will take is a pack of Marlboro reds. In a box.

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Eloise’s first pilgrimage to visit Adam at Lost Weekend Video (February 16, 2014)

Pre-order 24 Hour Revenge Therapy from Midheaven and follow Jawbreaker on Facebook.