Show Review: Bleached, Ex Cops, Dirty Pillows and Spirit on the Water at the Blank Club, 5/4/2013

by Joel Edelman on May 5, 2013

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All Photos by Michelle Viray

Bleached blew the doors off at the Blank Club, and luckily they weren’t DeLorean doors, because then people would have gotten decked for real, rather than that fake decking Floyd Mayweather gave Robert Guerrero earlier that evening. There’s more sports highlights herein. Buckle up.

(It’s times like this I’m glad Spinning Platters has an editor. What you see is far better than my Grandpa Simpson-style recap of the strange occurrences at the Blank.) (Editor’s Note: I’m kind of bummed he didn’t turn in this companion piece) 

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With doors at 9, I decided to show up at 10, and that was a mistake. Spirit on the Water must have gone on at 9:40, because they were in the middle of their last song when I got there. Anyway, they sounded like the New Pornographers, complete with special guest Neko Case. I’d see them again, or at least two songs’ worth next time.

After a quick 10-minute teardown, Dirty Pillows were on at 10:15, like that Cure song. There are only a half dozen near the stage watching, but really they’re all watching their phones. Who knows? Maybe they’re reviewing the show for an awesome Bay Area music website too. Oh wait. There is only one.

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At any rate, Dirty Pillows have a bit of a rockabilly sound, with hints of Groovie Ghoulies. They’re a two-piece, guitar and drums. Both sing. One song there was guitar but the guitarist was just fingering. I am a dumb, so I don’t know how that works, and there is precious little on the Internet about these guys, so it’s beyond me.

So then in the middle of the second song, the drummer’s pedal goes out, and we get a delay, a harbinger of the rest of the evening as well.

They get it fixed. And a little later, after a song, someone yells out “encore!” so the drummer picks up the setlist, reads it, and says, “we will have six encores.” The band later introduces a song by saying “for our next encore … .”

I think the name of one of the standout tracks was “Shane.” In it, lead singer Millhows channels Elvis Costello. The rest of the 30-minute set he just has the awesome glasses. The band, like the rest of the bill, has a great garage sound.

Dirty Pillows would be good for parties and showed a genuine aptitude at playing their instruments.

I alluded to delays earlier. Here is why. We got to have the pleasure of waiting 45 minutes for Ex Cops to start their set. Perhaps the sparse crowd encouraged the decision. It would have been nice to start the show later or give the first two bands longer sets. I’m trying to party like it’s cuatro de mayo for chrissake.

I’d be lying, though, if I said Ex Cops weren’t worth the wait. In 10 years a flyer from this show will be on the wall because it will have superstars Ex Cops and Bleached playing the same bill. And I was there to write about it. Eventually. OK. Now.

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I call Ex Cops a “Fillmore-quality band.” Despite having been together for less than two years, they have the stage presence to perform in front of hundreds of people at once. Having done enough shows at the, um, cozy Blank, it was awkward for me, like the time I saw Juliana Hatfield at the Agenda Lounge, another small venue.

This band reminded me of Silversun Pickups. Ex-Hymn Brian Harding does most of the singing and was wearing a shirt that made me think of Golden Grahams, except it was barely buttoned halfway up. Waiter, there’s a hair in my cereal. It must be a Brooklyn thing.

It would be easy to write them off and think they take themselves too seriously, but honestly Ex Cops are very talented. On “Spring Break” the entire five-piece really gets into it. This track also has the same melody during the chorus as Maxine Nightingale’s “Right Back Where We Started From.”

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Backing vocalist and jacqueline-of-all-trades Amalie Bruun looked familiar, so I cheated and looked on the Internet. Oh, yeah. She was half of the shoegaze-ish band, Minks. I always wanted to visit Minsk because if I got lost or caught dyslexia I’d end up seeing her instead. Not a bad way to go. And you can’t go wrong with anyone who has done a Chanel commercial directed by Martin Scorsese. The drummer for Bleached was wearing a shirt with the Chanel logo on it, by the way. More on them later.

Ex Cops are technically from Brooklyn. They’re supporting “True Hallucinations,” their first album, and this was their first show in California. You never forget your first time.

Seemingly everyone compares Ex Cops to the Raveonettes, and I’m sick of it. They’re much better than that.

So this is where the review gets a little off base. After the set I went to buy my photographer a drink. If you learn nothing else from this review, it’s that you always buy your photographer a drink. Always. So as I wait for the bartender to do what he does best, I hear someone complimenting my T-shirt. And for that, you need a little background: I have over 180 T-shirts, and I wear one of them, every day, in order. I usually don’t remember which one I have on. So what was so special about this one?

Ten years ago, I sold a bunch of rock T-shirts on eBay for a friend of mine, and part of the deal was that I got to keep the ones that didn’t sell. So in they went, into the rotation. Conveniently, today was the day for the AFI East Bay Hardcore shirt. Can you believe no one wanted to bid $4.99 plus shipping for this piece of history?

Well, Jon Sortland might have had a thing to say about it. He was the drummer in Circus Tents, whose song “Open Your Eyes” AFI covered on Answer That and Stay Fashionable. Today, he’s engaged to—that’s right—the touring bassist for Bleached! It’s all connected.

So during the 25-minute break between sets we had a nice conversation. Finally, just after midnight, I was able to get my cinco de mayo started right, with Clavin, Clavin and Safley. No, not a law firm, but what in the studio comprises Bleached. Oh, and the future Mrs. Sortland as well.

Bleached is fucking awesome. You already know that. Very garage/C-86 in sound. They should do a gig with Brilliant Colors. I don’t think they understand how much they’ve nailed their sound. It is so effortless. It’s as if they’ve been doing it for years. I said this when I reviewed Bleached’s Ride Your Heart: I feel for Mika Miko fans. But you can’t help but be happy at how awesome a job two-thirds of Mika Miko is doing as two-thirds of Bleached.

The best of the best may have been their rendition of “Next Stop.” Bleached kicked it into high gear on this one.

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We also got some fun banter. While in Portland the night before, it turns out lead singer Jennifer Clavin was kicked out of Sassy’s Bar, whose website has two pages: a schedule of when the ladies are dancing and a map. Then they got in a van and drove 14 hours to San Jose to play the next night. Kind of weird that they did San Jose first because Bleached is good enough to do San Francisco on a Saturday. Oh well. More ribs for me.

Bleached put it all together during their set. The band isn’t polished in a corporate way, but every chord and drum fill made perfect sense. Even people at the Blank were dancing. Say what? Club dancing? In San Jose? That’s like farms in Berkeley. One of the dancers in fact had a Dodger hat and jersey on. Considering his team gave up a walkoff homer to a third string catcher on his sixth major league team just hours earlier it was nice to see him be so happy. Jennifer even called him out so we could all celebrate him. Bleached conquers all.

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Helping support the crowd was Bruun, who was front and center, dancing and taking pictures of the crowd. Before finishing the set with “When I Was Yours,” the band called out the San Francisco show at the Independent. Jennifer stepped off stage and went into the crowd during an extended bridge. Hardcore.

The 40-minute set appeared to be the whole album, plus a cover, which unfortunately I couldn’t figure out. Help me, Internet. You’re my only hope.

Despite the dancing, the Blank returned to form, and there was no encore. Wonder what they would have played.

This has a chance to be the best show I go to this year, and I can’t wait for Bleached and Ex Cops to come back to San Jose.

Ex Cops Gallery:

Bleached Gallery:

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Dakin Hardwick May 6, 2013 at 12:33 am

The two songs they covered at The Independent were “Horror Business” by The Misfits and “Here Today, Tomorrow The World” by The Ramones.

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