Rocket Queen: He's Heavy, He's My Brother

The sonic fraternity of the Jesus Lizard, Fu Manchu, and KARP.

I don't know where or how it originated, but the whole "Rocktober" phenomenon is probably the only thing that keeps me from going batshit with seasonal affective disorder in the fall. With unfailing predictability, almost every October local-club calendar fills up with can't-miss hard, heavy rock and punk bills. This month started with Motörhead at Showbox SoDo, and three weeks in we're looking down the barrel of another perfect storm of whiplash-inducing live shows.Given his victory in landing the Jesus Lizard reunion show for the Capitol Hill Block Party this past summer, it's no surprise that Neumos owner/booker Jason Lajeunesse is hosting the band's second trip to Seattle. When revered punk bands reconvene a full decade after their split, the potential for disappointing performances is high, but thanks to frontman David Yow's purported newfound love of yoga and guitarist Duane Denison's Jedi-like retention of skill, Jesus Lizard shows remain joyously chaotic experiences. Unless you're willing to endure Yow's confrontational acrobatics, don't plant yourself in the front row this Friday, Oct. 23; the show will undoubtedly be fully interactive. To catch one of the more riveting heirs to the Jesus Lizard's abrasive, angular sound, be sure to show up early for the opening set from Portland's Black Elk.Heading back to Neumos the very next night for yet another sweaty evening is not something I or my immune system would normally endorse, but missing Southern California stoner rockers Fu Manchu is simply not an option. Queens of the Stone Age may have gone on to steal the spotlight during the rise of stoner/desert rock in the late '90s, but the Fu has been rumbling below the mainstream's radar for nearly a decade, spewing potent clouds of guitar-driven anthems about well-worn topics befitting their geographical origins. While the pleasures of suntanned girls and boogie vans aren't exactly Mensa-level subject matter, the band succeeds by refusing to choose between blasé cheekiness and earnest endorsement. Songs from their new album, Signs of Infinite Power (out this week on Century Media), celebrate debauchery and delinquency, but underscore it with such obscenely well-executed playing that it's clear they work very hard between bong hits.Hard work is something William Badgley knows plenty about. The Brooklyn-based filmmaker has been toiling passionately for years to create a documentary about Olympia's KARP, the influential metal-informed punk trio widely respected in the Northwest and beyond for their brutally heavy sound. Vocalist/bassist Jared Warren, vocalist/guitarist Chris Smith, and animalistic drummer Scott Jernigan produced a respectable handful of singles and full-length releases (most on Calvin Johnson's K Records) during their 1990–98 run, but made much of their mark through utterly unhinged, technically astonishing live shows. Badgley has accumulated 80 hours of interview footage with band members, fans, and fellow musicians, plus digitized versions of nearly 20 separate live shows. He's finally moving into the editing stage, and with encouragement from Johnson has coordinated a series of benefit shows to help finish the project in Olympia, Portland, and Seattle (Thurs., Oct. 22 at Mars Bar). Local heavyweights Akimbo headline; Badgley's band 1776 will open."I've only played fundraisers before; I've never had one," says Badgley, who also played guitar in the Bellingham band Federation X before he moved to New York. "So we set these up, and the reaction has been really positive. It seems like people are really excited about them."It's easy to get people excited about the idea of a KARP documentary. Few Northwest bands have retained such a fiercely devoted following a decade after their disbanding—and six years after Jernigan died in a tragic boating accident.Seattle expat and former Juno frontman Arlie Carstens is among these loyal fans. "Even now, KARP just sort of embodies everything I like about heavy music," says Carstens emphatically. "The songwriting was brutal and the musicianship was a truly beautiful thing to behold. They always provided people a proper show—real sweat, real blood, real freaking out. Heavy music that is smart, discerning, and funny is a very rare thing. Basically, KARP were the snow leopard of Northwest punk rock. I will miss that band 'til the day I die."In addition to raising funds to finish the film, Badgley will screen three-minute clips from it at Thursday's show between band sets. He'll also be filming and conducting more interviews throughout the evening. "This band pretty much belongs to this region, and I want everyone to get a chance to participate in this," says Badgley.rocketqueen@seattleweekly.com

 
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