San Diego Symphony's second night of the Masterworks season showcased the power of place and personality
Garrett Harris noon, Oct. 13
Matt Johnson: Drums | David Rinck: Vocals | Paul Howland: Bass guitar | Tommy Clarke: Guitar (electric) | Aaron Daniels: Drums | Mark Mullen: Drums | Todd Lahman: Guitar (electric) | Arturo Reyes: Drums | Armando: Saxophone
Sound description: An eclectic mix of American underground styles, varying from hard early-Stooges style jams, to throbbing funk beats.
RIYL: Iggy Pop and the Stooges, New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, George Clinton, Parliament, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, MC5, the Velvet Underground, X Ray Spex, Grand Funk Railroad, Martha and the Vandellas, Noise 292, the Rock’n Dogs, the Answers, Hair Theatre
Inception: San Diego, 1981
Current Status: Following the Wallflowers final performance at the legendary Davefest III (the Che Underground’s answer to Woodstock), the band members all went their separate ways. David disappeared overseas not to re-surface again for almost two and a half decades. In the interim he studied economics and is now a U.S. diplomat with the Agency for International Development (USAID), posted in Kenya. He switched to guitar a few years ago, and currently plays in the Blues Gangsters, a fixture on Nairobi’s raucous bar scene. Paul remained in San Diego, where he and Matt recorded a single with the Morlocks. He went on to play with the successful and eclectic Ska band Unsteady. He is currently a Dub Step deejay (catch him on Sunday 6 to 8 pm pacific time on www.react.fm), known to his audiences as the P Man. Matt went to law school in New Orleans and now practices immigration law on the Mexican border in El Centro. Other members of the Wallflowers are tough to locate. Armando sadly passed away a few years ago.
Influences: Iggy Pop and the Stooges, New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, George Clinton, Parliament, Miles Davis, Ornette Coleman, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, MC5, the Velvet Underground, X Ray Spex, Grand Funk Railroad, Martha and the Vandellas, Noise 292, the Rock’n Dogs, the Answers, Hair Theatre
Fresh from the exhilarating experience that was late 1970s punk rock, the Wallflowers formed spontaneously at a party in San Diego in 1981, going on to become what has been described as “the most joyfully subversive band in the whole Che Underground circuit.”
The Wallflowers initial line-up was comprised of vocalist David Rinck, Bassist Paul Howland, and guitarist Tommy Clarke. Aaron Daniels and later Mark Mullen played drums. Musically, the band reached back into the late 60s and early 70s, re-establishing a link with the wonderfully eclectic styles of pre-punk rock American underground music for many young fans. Thematically, the band dealt with the familiar subjects associated with disenfranchised youth. But always keenly suspicious of the insidious power of the ever-encroaching “entertainment industry” to impose popular styles in the ever-diminishing cultural space of the early 80s, the music and lyrics of the Wallflowers also championed a fiercely independent and individualistic approach.
One of their early standards “Funland” was named for a long ago demolished downtown pinball arcade they frequented, but also commented on the vicarious cultural situation of the post-punk generation. Commercially the early Wallflowers generally lived up to their moniker, on the fringes of the SD punk rock and mod scenes, but never really accepted by either. After releasing four songs on two compilation tapes (BCT’s Eat Me and Brain of Stone ), the original band disbanded early in 1984, with Tommy and Mark going on to join the Morlocks. David played shortly in a studio group called the Ramblers with guitarist and Music Power producer Eric Camillo.
Later, in 1984, the band re-formed with David and Paul joined by guitarist Todd Lahman, alto sax player Armando, and drummer Arturo Reyes (later replaced by Matt Johnson). In the interim, a new underground scene had morphed around the Che Café on the UC San Diego campus. The “Che Underground” comprised of other iconoclastic bands such as Noise 292, the Rock’n Dogs, the Answers and Hair Theater. In this scene, the Wallflowers finally found a home livening up events with their constantly changing line-up of marimbas, trumpets and timbales, all overlaying the Wallflowers signature bump and grind.
In 1985, the band signed with Mystic Records and recorded an EP entitled The Legend of the Wallflowers. True to their roots however, the band always felt most at home on their own turf in the gritty SD downtown they sang about, before it became gentrified into the Gas Lamp Quarter. Their anthemic “Paradise on 4th Avenue” pays tribute to Steve Epeneter’s Studio 517, located on that street, and the rough and tumble life and times of a SD that has long since disappeared.
David Rinck: Vocals
Paul Howland: Bass Guitar
Tommy Clarke: Guitar
Aaron Daniels: Drums (later Mark Mullen)
David Rinck: Vocals
Paul Howland: Bass Guitar
Todd Lahman: Guitar
Armando: Alto Saxophone
Arturo Reyes: Drums (later Matt Johnson)