Frank Gutch Jr: No Small Children Smoke Portland Oregon’s Slabtown; Johnny Mabbott and The Doors Tribute— Slapdown at the High School; Highlight Bomb— Well Hidden, But Why? plus Notes…..

FrankJr2After last night’s No Small Children gig, drummer Nicola B made a statement I have been waiting to hear for the past couple of decades.  Remarking about the previous night’s show in Seattle at The Central Tavern, she said that they had “turned the room.”.  Basically, it means that while, at first, no one paid much attention, by the last song, everyone was on board.  Even dancing, she said (quite enthusiastically, I might add).

nscalbumcoverThey turned the room at Slabtown, too.  A small Saturday night crowd, mostly there to see other bands, slowly came to as the band blistered through the tracks on their new album, Trophy Wife, plus Wenches and Bitches, a song from their earlier Dear Youth EP.  Blistered!  I mean to tell you that from note one, they had me in the palms of their hands, if not everyone.  That first note belonged to Survivor Face, a cranking speed pop/punk tour de force of a song— three ladies in gowns (Lisa Parade in flowing white formal and Joanie Pimentel and Nicola B sporting black evening dresses) rocking the brick/cement/wood structure that is Slabtown.  I didn’t think they could really do it, pull off the songs which were a bit more speed metal or which they embellished in the studio with various vocal and instrumental effects.  But they did and they did it in grand style.

The thing you have to understand about these ladies is that they won’t take no for an answer.  They’re not in-your-face about it or anything like that, but they don’t give up.  If nothing else, they wear you down, ripping into one song after another like there is no tomorrow.  Not unlike The Ramones, whose sets of twenty songs were notoriously short due to the speed and condensed nature of their songs.  No, NSC‘s songs were not necessarily short, but they were intense and gave you the feeling that they were.  By the end of the almost one hour set, I was surprised they were still standing, but tenacity ruled the night, Nicola beating her drums in raw abandon, Joanie pounding the bass and Lisa flailing the guitar when not ripping out hard rock riffs reminiscent of AC/DC or Led Zeppelin in their prime.  No joke.  They came to play and play they did.

NSCThayerThey played so well, in fact, that most of the night (when I wasn’t laughing from the pure joy of the music), I smiled, big-time.  So much so that when the set ended, my face hurt.  Was it worth it?  Oh, yeah.

I couldn’t honestly pick a highlight, but I was amazed to see (Lon Chaney, eat your heart out) the many faces of Joanie, who accentuated each movement with expressions you had to see to believe.  She spent most of the night strutting the stage like a rooster, head bobbing with each step, and when she sang, it was pure wonder.  Her voice is as powerful as any voice I’ve heard in rock and when she really lets go, it almost stops the heart.  Wailing, yodeling, screaming, harmonizing sweetly or otherwise, she does it with conviction.  My favorite Joanie moment was when she broke into a Popeye face in the middle of Can’t Say No, the second song of the set.  Talk about entertaining!  I’m still laughing!

nosmallchildrenxNicola B was stuck behind the drums the entire set, frequency-blocking headphones on, pounding to beat hell.  She told me later that they are saving up to get her headphones which plug into Joanie and Lisa‘s mix, something she really wants to happen judging by her enthusiasm.  I can understand.  Between her incessant crashing of cymbals and battering of drums, it has to wear on her hearing.  It didn’t b other her this night, though.  Her drumming was just short of faultless.

And Lisa— ah, yes, Lisa.  We go back a ways, do we, and meeting her was one of those moments, you know?  Watching her perform was a long string of those moments.  She beat the crap out of that guitar (a Les Paul Jr.?).  He strangled it and shook it and flailed it, getting everything she could out of it and even then, she wasn’t satisfied.  She would occasionally step back to the Marshall she was playing through and force a meeting of the minds, so to speak.  Not in an abusive way.  Every move she made was for the music.  At certain times, there were more grunts and gzrks and amp growls as there was true guitar sound, but what an effect!  I love it when a musician knows how to use equipment.  And if the musician happens to be a girl, more the better.  She grunged out mostly, but when it came time to really play, she made that guitar scream.

There is a key to their sound, beyond the obvious.  Lisa and Joanie blend together so well that they hide what is missing from the studio album, one singing high and one singing low so well that you don’t miss the synthesized horns on Might Get Up or the organ and stacked harmonies on Baby I Love You, Even Though (which kind of brings The Lennon Sisters into the 21st Century).  The voices are the fill.  It rarely happens that way.  It was one of many surprises.

nscmakeupI think my favorite moments were when they played Back To Bed, a track recorded on Lisa Parade‘s Finding Flora album, and Music Thank You.  Lisa pointed toward me when playing Music Thank You, because if we share nothing else, it is an innate and strong love for music.

It wasn’t all No Small Children, either, sports fans.  I met Lisa’s husband, producer/engineer Bob Marlette, who produced the Lisa Parade albums and who mixed the Parade albums as well as NSC‘s Dear Youth and Trophy Wife.  He tipped me on a project he was just finishing (or has just finished) by The Smashing (?)— and, no, it wasn’t Pumpkins.  I leave out the full name for fear of violating marketing plans by that band.  Bob is a great guy.  I knew it when I said, “You know, she’s lucky to have you” to which he replied, “I’m the lucky one.”  Look, Bob is no small town guy.  He’s worked with some big names, Alice Cooper, Tracy Chapman and Anvil, to name but a few.  But he is as grounded as they come.  He is truly thankful for his good fortune, which made the short time we hung out together very enjoyable.  I smile on the inside when I think that of all the musicians he has worked with, none are as important to him or myself as The Lisa Parade and No Small Children.  This video will give you a little insight.

Mick Berlinsky (I’m pretty sure he’s the same guy who produced and directed the band’s Drunk Creepy Guy video, though that could have been his alias, David), who is married to Nicola, was really fun to watch.  He got the crowd going with the question/answer parts of a couple of the band’s tunes and obviously has a personal interest in the band and, especially, Nicola.  If we had had time to have a few beers with him, I am sure I would have had a great time.

lisaparadeThe surprise, for Lisa, was the presence of Dave Ricardo (The Zags, The Cool Whips, and B and Not B).  Lisa had taught him music some 20 years ago and when he heard that she was in town, he headed down to the tav to say hello.  It totally freaked her out.  Freaked me out too and I didn’t even know the guy.  I do now, though, and will know his music as well.

I didn’t get a chance to say much to any of the ladies.  That’s okay.  They let their music do their talking and me, I can never figure out what to say in such instances anyway.  Which is why I let my fingers do the talking, mostly after the fact.  I did see the appreciation felt for my enthusiasm for the band.  I tried to explain that I do it because I love the music.  I think they already knew that.

I will close this by saying that this band should be opening arena dates for big stars, they are that good.  Booking agents, be aware.  Watch their videos.  Listen to their albums.  If the music doesn’t get through, maybe you should consider another line of work.  Writers, if you are not tracking these ladies down, you’re missing a big bet.  I’m talking to you, Rolling Stone and Paste and what few mainstream music rags are left out there.  The alternative zines are already all over these ladies.  Wait too long and you will be forced to recognize them, whether you want to or not.  Trust me.  While being late to the party would normally not really affect the public’s view of you, the alternative zines will have a field day with your credibility.  In fact, they already are.

It was a hell of a night, people.  You missed it.  But you will have another chance.  They have a plan, does No Small Children, and that plan includes a real future.  I look forward to it.

trevadrakeJust so you know, this was a showcase night.  Five bands.  NSC played the middle slot.  Opening was a band calling themselves ProntoGizmo alaCoochie, a new name attached to a lineup with has played a few gigs under Treva Drake & (insert name of the night here).  I talked with the drummer who laughed when I asked about the previous name.  He said they seldom played under the same name twice.  There is talent in the band, but they need focus and direction.  I talked with Treva (tree-vuh) after NSC‘s set and she is obviously happy doing what she is doing, musically, and I can’t fault her that.  I guess it’s the old dormant producer in me, but I see a lot of talent beneath what they are attempting to do.  Their strengths, though, shine through only occasionally.  Most of the problems were technical (the stage setup, mixing, etc).  To their credit, they fought the problems and braved it on through to the end.  I would love to see them under different circumstances.  I have a feeling that they are much better than they sounded.

Magnetic Health Factory were next up, four guys who have all the confidence in the world and would be power pop but rely heavily on minor chords and intricate rhythms.  They have a definite Brit Rock leaning but are way beyond genre on a lot of their songs.  One song, Something In Your Eyes, blew me away (a very early new wave feel to it not unlike Talking Heads but more powerful), but it was a stand-alone, though a couple of the other tracks were somewhat impressive.  They are powerful and held the crowd’s attention, but suffered the occasional misstep, mostly the odd measure in which it sounded like the guitars were playing in different keys.  It never lasted longer than a few chords, but you know how picky I can be.  The thing is, I can’t get Something In Your Eyes out of my head.  You can hear it (and download their entire Western Medicine album) by clicking here.  I have this sneaking feeling that if I had caught them on a different night, they might easily have floored me.

The last two acts, The Lesser Three and Brutalist, I had to forgo because I had only a few minutes to visit with NSC.  They were anxious to get dinner, so we used the few minutes outside on the sidewalk talking a bit and saying goodbyes.

mabbott 001The Sunnyvale High School Chordasonics’ Tribute to The Doors:  God love Johnny Mabbott!  His real name is John Mabbott, of course, but after picking up and holding on to his 1983 comedy album, titled either Twelve Inches of Pure Comedy From John Mabbott Including the Sunnyvale High School Chordasonics Tribute to The Doors For Six Dollars Plus Tax… or “For the Safety and Future of our Community”, as it says on the back, he has been and will remain Johnny to me.  Of all the albums in my collection, this is one of the least known if not the rarest, the other being an album out of South Central Washington by a band calling themselves Hot Poop and featuring an open-trenchcoat shot of otherwise nude band members with, shall we say, opposing genitals (you have to see it to understand).

mabbottlabel 001It shouldn’t be.  When Mabbott brought the album into Peaches in Seattle, I slapped it on the turntable to hear what it was and damned if it wasn’t intriguing as hell.   Lots of takeoffs on game shows, new reports, man-in-the-street humor— all good and sometimes pretty near brilliant.  Very well produced and performed.  Of course, the kids in the store hated it.  It was neither The Smiths nor The Replacements nor any of the bands they revered.  It was comedy and comedy to them was the lame presentations of the then Saturday Night Live (I got so tired of being called Frankmeister and Frankfurter and Franknbeans).  I tried to turn them on to Firesign Theater, but they would have none of it.  Mabbott had touches of them— maybe not as developed but certainly as viable in spots.  Some of the skits on this album are okay at best but others are totally viable (and funny, too).  The highlight of the album for me was the insanely juvenile tribute to The Doors.  It begins…

“And now the Sunnyvale High Glee Chordasonics would like to perform their tribute to the late great poet  and heroin addict, Jim Morrison, and his fabulous band, The Doors.”  At which point Mabbot and crew rip into a medley to write home about.   Acappella, the Chordasonics sound not unlike The Bobs minus the Gerald McBoing-Boing sound effects and when they voice-bounce their way through Break On Through, it catches you a bit offguard (the first time, anyway), but following it with Back Door Man (with an inserted hat tip to the ever popular Sunnyvale Spartans), and a very forceful but off-the-mark The End was pure genius.   Think Ernie from My Three Sons on meth.  Think Bill Murray‘s lounge lizard act only more juvenile.  Think Johnny Mabbott and a crew of friends who must have worked like hell to pull this off.  Maybe it didn’t sell and maybe the kids didn’t like it so much, but I loved it.  If you can’t show superstars a little irreverence, what the hell good are they, anyway?

He dedicated the album to John Belushi  “in hopes that the Kathy Smiths of the world get latrine maintenance in hell.”  He continues on the label itself.  Side One heralds “If you’re borrowing or renting record to re-record on your tape deck” and continues on Side Two, “…please send me like five bucks or something, ’cause this production broke me.”  Things haven’t changed much, have they?

So the winner for Virtually Unknown and Lost Comedy Album Released For the Safety and Future of Our Community is…..  drum roll please….. John Mabbott!!!  It’s late, Johnny, but you know what they say.  Better late than never.

From Seattle, Highlight Bomb…..

I’m a flake.  I’ve evidently always been a flake.  I suffered through four years of high school being a poor knockoff of Richard Crenna  (Walter Denton)on Our Miss Brooks.

But I mean well.  I started meaning well on the Net by bookmarking things.  There was never enough time, I thought, so I would bookmark pages in the hopes of getting back to them later.  Soon, I had hundreds of bookmarks (and still do).  My sister, when checking her email one day, asked me why. At that time, I could not think of one good reason.  In the back of my mind, I always hoped to get to some of them.

Last week, I clicked on a page for a band calling themselves Highlight Bomb.  I have no idea where I found the link, whether it was passed along by a friend or just popped up one day on one of my many searches and I, always interested in things Seattle, saved it.  After listening to a few of the songs, I regretted not getting to them right after bookmarking.  These guys are not only good, but diversified, musically.  They crank and boogie and metal out extremely well indeed, with the occasional pop tune thrown in for good measure.  To make up for losing them in the mountainous pile of projects I wish I could get to but somehow seem to not, here are a couple of videos and thumbnail reviews of songs left behind but now getting ample listening time.  I’m impressed.

Okay, they’re from Tacoma, but seriously, would any of you looked had I said Tacoma?  Fewer, I will bet.  Maybe a lot fewer.  Such is the power of a music scene.  While Seattle and Tacoma have always shared a scene, mention Tacoma and you get a blank stare.  Except from Sonics and Wailers fans.  The thing is, these guys are good!  And the sense of humor doesn’t hurt.  They have a number of songs posted on their Reverbnation page (you can access them here), but I will give you a blow-by-blow description in case you’re strapped for time (or are just an idiot who whines about music being a thing of the past but who won’t take a couple of minutes to click and listen to something new and good):

highlightbombNo Empire— Is this grunge?  Truth be told, I stopped listening as soon as people started calling it grunge.  All of those bands you loved to listen to like Mudhoney and Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam and Nirvana were just rockers to me.  Maybe a little more angst-ridden, but just rock.  This is a guitar-driven song reminding me a bit of a toned down Ticktockman or a King’s X.  A little more basic with more standard hooks.  I dig it.

Fall Classic— leans more toward the power pop side of the street.  Fountains of Wayne with less production.  Great track.  Good hook.

I Don’t Mind— Wait!  Acoustic?  Yep.  These guys do it all.  Outstanding acoustic pop, in fact.  Normally, I would complain because I am not a huge fan of acoustic— it has been overdone a bit—- but I dig all music when it is done well and these guys do it well.  I like this a lot.  Even with the strings (or is it only cello).

Devolver— Now we’re talking!  A step into Freedom Hawk territory.  Crankin’ hard rock.  In fact, this song sounds a lot like the Hawk, a band I’ve been following for some time now.  Crunching rhythm guitar, heavy beat.  Just to compare:

Wow Culture Lovers—  This starts off like a speed metal prelude, but settles down to a solid hard rocker.  Whoever writes their lyrics has a nice touch.  It comes through on all the songs, but I especially like the lyrics on this one.

highlightbombpinballChalk It Up As a Good Memory—  Chunky rhythm guitar and power pop.  Great combination if you ask me.  This one’s upbeat and powerful.  As with all of HB‘s songs, they are recorded loud to be played loud, as the old LP stickers used to say.  And I love me a little guitar feedback now and then.

The Storm—  These guys love their hard rock.  This one, Toto, is right now my favorite.  Heavy rhythm guitar with seventies hair band vocals and a slower beat.  Had Cinderella played this at the one concert I saw them play, I wouldn’t have blinked an eye.  But I like these guys more than I ever liked them.

Coal Rush—  What the hell?  Speed Americana?  It’s like speed metal with a banjo or something.  Dig the chorus, but think it will take a bit of time to adjust.  Interesting, to say the least.  And is that a female voice I hear?  Damn!  This is actually good!

Bury You—  Of all the song titles on this page, I would have thought this the hardest of them all with the exception of The Storm.  This is mainstream rock and nothing like the other tracks there.  I’m impressed!  I think I’m ready for that ode to pretentious bands of the late seventies now.  Except this isn’t pretentious at all.  I would take this over most of the inane bands I’ve heard over the years anytime.  Good track, but a surprise!

1-800-FIGHTUS—  I knew they would get there.  Screaming punk.  I can see the saliva dribbling down the singer’s chin now.  Very cool.

Seriously, if you have an adventurous bone in your body and like power pop/metal, these guys could be the sleeper of your collection.  The more I hear them, the more I’m liking them.  Bombs, and whoever sent me the link to this page, my apologies for not paying attention.  You have earned your slot in my rockin’ hall of fame (small letters intentional— can’t be getting Music Notes smallsued by those wankers in Cleveland now, can I?  Not with my bank account.


Notes…..  I like the song, I like the voice, but more than anything, I love the arrangement.  Sometimes, arrangements make all the difference.  Audrey Rose:

Last week, I inadvertently omitted the link to Drew Gibson‘s kickstarter page.  Headslap!  I suggest you stop by and watch his video, which explains why the album will be titled 1532.  It’s an interesting story.  Also, you should be made aware that the album is being co-produced (or maybe produced) by C-ville’s Bobby ReadClick here for the link and to meet one of the under the radar musicians worthy of hearing.

I am presently reading a book I bought a good 30+ years ago titled Doctor Rat by one William Kotzwinkle.  I pulled it out a week ago and started reading because I felt guilty having neglected it all those years and it is giving me nightmares.  It is basically a manic look at laboratory research on animals only in this instance, the animals start a revolution.  Kotzwinkle is brutal and detailed in his attitude toward research, but in a supposedly humorous sort of way, but damn, he could have warned me!  Scooping out brains, forcing animals to undergo severe and traumatic procedures, attaching cancerous tumors…..  I could have done without that, myself, but reality is reality.  Two things relating to this:  Jim of Seattle and Little Green Blackbird.  I remembered just this week that Jim had recorded a very Munsters-type song titled Laboratory Rat.  I dug it up so you could see it.  Warning:  it is graphic (in a cartoon-like way).

Little Green Blackbird is the moniker used by Kirsti Gholson and she is one of the few people I know who has taken on animal researchers on humanitarian grounds.  She, in fact, Layout 1recorded a song about an animal researcher with whom she was not at all pleased— a researcher who performed the horrendous acts described in the Kotzwinkle book.  The song is titled Dr. Lemmon and while I hate to say that is is a beauty of a pop song, it is.  The truth is in the lyrics and Kirsti had those down pat.  You can access the songs on iTunes (click here).  For those who would like to read about what really goes on in the area of primate research and about Dr. Lemmon, if you can find the book Next of Kin by Roger Fouts, there is more than enough in it to keep you busy for awhile.

Back in 2012 I wrote a DBAWIS column which centered on the San Diego punk/new wave scene of the late 70s.  Gary Heffern recently pointed it out to some people and asked me to post the link.  While I seldom read my own stuff except for purposes of research (I stopped years ago when I realized how much I repeat myself), I found the requested column and read it again.  Some rat bastard deleted my original column and replaced it with a piece by someone who knows how to write.  Oh, well, I’ll post the link anyway.  This, my friends, was San Diego, about 1977 or so.  Click here.

ToniksI just noticed that Bobby Gottesman over at is giving away CD copies of The ToniksRise & Shine.  If you missed my Best Albums of 2013 picks, The Toniks came in at #3.  Solid Brit Rock with sidesteps into the 60s pop sound.  Visit the site and find out the details.  Also, Bobby has put up one mof my favorite pages on the Net— the icbme weekly song vote page.  Each week, it features four different tracks by four different bands (see how different that is?).  I mean, it’s fun just to hear the music which makes the cut, and listeners can VOTE for the song they like best, the winner being named Song of the Week, with a chance to be named Song of the Month or maybe Song of the Year or even Song of the Millennium, if he lives that long.  Lots of good things going on there.  I suggest you stop by.  Oh, and one reason you might want to check it out?  Bobby is featuring music by my favorite artists like No Small Children and The Minnows and, yes, The Toniks, with a different set of surprises each week.  A great place to find new and worthy music to listen to.

I’m on a Chloe Albert kick lately.  After posting her live-in-the-basement video of When the Night Fell in last weeks Notes, I have had a hankering.  She has a real soulfulness to her that I find very refreshing.  Here she is, live and bare-boned.

The sound isn’t the best on this but it is good enough, especially when two of my favorite Canuck guitarists are on the same stage.  Here is The Carla Olive Trio, featuring Carla Olive Kuykendall with Greg Godovitz, who I found years ago in a band called Goddo.  I stop by every once in awhile to watch and visit because I am afraid I will never be lucky enough to see them live.  Not like this.

I was thinking the other day of the most impressive and original bands I have seen over the years.  Colosseum is one, one of only two bands which come to mind when thinking of bands whose drummer wrote the music (Jon Hiseman was the writing genius there).  The other is Captain Beyond, whose writing machine on the first album was Florida’s Bobby Caldwell, who played at one time with Plant Life (not to be confused with the Bobby Caldwell who was popular on the disco circuit and went on from their to play jazz and lounge).  The vocalist in this video, in case you’re wondering, is none other than post-Deep Purple‘s Rod Evans.  The first three albums on which he sang are my favorites of the Purple.  They were never the same after he left.

Funny story:  I was working at Licorice Pizza in San Diego back in the early seventies with a cat named Larry the K, who had requested Captain Beyond album covers for display.  Supposedly, the original 3-D cover for that album had sold out but when Larry got the jackets, that’s what was there.  Larry built that display with tears in his eyes, stapling through the jackets, knowing he was ruining collectors items.  He had to.  They had sent them on the contingency that they were used.  A sad day, indeed.

Speaking of guitar… what?  We weren’t?  I’m surprised.  Seems like I’m always talking about guitars.  Anyway, here is one of my all-time favorite guitarists, Allan Holldsworth, with Soft Machine during their Bundles tour.  Warning:  Not for the faint of heart.  This is prog jazz!  That’s what I call it, anyway.

In honor of Woolly Wolstenholme…..  The vocals may be a bit fuzzy, but the music is classic.  I leave you with Barclay James Harvest.  Of all the bands who made it in the States, I have never understood why these guys didn’t.


Frank’s column appears every Tuesday

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DBAWIS ButtonFrank Gutch Jr. looks like Cary Grant, writes like Hemingway and smells like Pepe Le Pew. He has been thrown out of more hotels than Keith Moon, is only slightly less pompous than Garth Brooks and at one time got laid at least once a year (one year in a row). He has written for various publications, all of which have threatened to sue if mentioned in any of his columns, and takes pride in the fact that he has never been quoted. Read at your own peril.” 


4 Responses to “Frank Gutch Jr: No Small Children Smoke Portland Oregon’s Slabtown; Johnny Mabbott and The Doors Tribute— Slapdown at the High School; Highlight Bomb— Well Hidden, But Why? plus Notes…..”

  1. I mistakenly posted the wrong video for Chloe Albert, though this one is a beauty. Here is a link to the one I had planned to post.

    • Actually, Frank…you posted a non-working youtube link. I picked out the video of her singing that song…and promptly fell in love with her and her music. GREAT tip, my friend.

  2. […] No Small Children Smoke Portland Oregon's Slabtown Frank Gutch Jr: No Small Children Smoke Portland Oregon's Slabtown; Johnny Mabbott and The Doors Tribute— Slapdown at the High School; Highlight Bomb— Well Hidden, But Why? plus Notes… Lisa and Joanie blend together so well that they hide what is missing from the studio album, one singing high and one singing low so well that you don't miss the synthesized horns on Might Get Up or the organ and stacked harmonies on Baby I Love You, Even  […]

  3. Reina Michelle Bluth

    Frank Gutch Jr: No Small Children Smoke Portland Oregon’s Slabtown; Johnny Mabbott and The Doors Tribute- Slapdown at the High School; Highlight Bomb- Well Hidden, But Why? plus Notes….. | Segarini: Don’t Believe a Word I Say

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