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Within a crowded field already overflowing with Weezer wannabes and vapid Vampire Weekenders

Remo Drive, Reel Big Fish, Built to Spill, Black Keys

Black Keys at Pechanga Arena on November 17
Black Keys at Pechanga Arena on November 17
Remo Drive
Past Event

Remo Drive and Slow Pulp

  • Sunday, June 23, 2019, 6 p.m.
  • Irenic, 3090 Polk Avenue, San Diego
  • $16 - $20

There’s something about Epitaph Records, when you hear of a band signed to that label, you pretty much always know what you’re in for. Emo, power pop, and pop punk make up the bulk of their signees, and some bands try to cover all those stylistic canvases with a paint brush as wide as a wallpaper roller. Groups like Minnesota’s Remo Drive are unapologetic about their wish to appeal as wide a possible fan base as they can, within a crowded field already overflowing with Weezer wannabes and vapid Vampire Weekenders whose youth and inexperience all but guarantees recycling over innovation. They cheekily called their 2017 debut Greatest Hits, and in fact did score several mostly viral hits that may not have earned much money but still built their brand. Tracks such as “Crash Test Rating,” “Yer Killin Me,” and “Art School” got the attention of Epitaph, who’ll soon release their full-length Songs I Think Rock, shortly before the band plays the Irenic on June 23. Demos of several tracks were “leaked” via Reddit’s Indieheads group, and reaction seemed generally favorable, although several laughed off the young group’s reliance on so many of the now-tired mope tropes of emo. The all-ages bill includes Slow Pulp (who cite influences such as Thee Oh Sees and St. Vincent) and Minneapolis’ Heart to Gold.

Reel Big Fish
Past Event

Reel Big Fish and Bowling For Soup

  • Friday, July 26, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
  • House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

Even if you haven’t been keeping track of the various incarnations of the reggae-influenced and punk-infused genre known as ska, you’ve probably heard the biggest members of the “third wave” of ska like Reel Big Fish. Back in the mid-90s when people still listened to the radio, the Fish dared to name their breakthrough album Turn the Radio Off, even as stations all over the U.S. were going mildly bonkers over their 1997 hit “Sell Out.” By bonkers, I don’t mean they loved it – many DJs were annoyed that the track referenced FM payola scandals and the ridiculous circus nature of radio programming, but that didn’t keep the song from getting enough airplay to reach number ten on the U.S. Alternative chart. It remains pretty much their only charting hit record to date (as noted in a later Reel Big Fish song called “One Hit Wonderland,” off We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy). The tour bringing them to House of Blues on July 26 is in support of their first full-length since 2012, Life Sucks…Let’s Dance, released last December along with its lead single “You Can’t Have All Of Me.” The co-headlining bill includes Texas-based Bowling For Soup, best known for singles such as “High School Never Ends,” Almost,” and “Girl All the Bad Guys Want.” They apparently just lost founding bassist Erik Chandler, to be replaced on this tour by Rob Felicetti of the Ataris.

Built to Spill
Past Event

Built To Spill

  • Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $40

The Casbah has so much faith in Built to Spill’s Keep It Like a Secret 1999-2019 Tour that it booked the band for a rare three night stand, from November 12 through 14. All the promo blurbs refer to them as “indie,” ignoring the fact that two decades spent on a major label is no more roughing it than glampers ensconced in the VIP tent at Coachella (besides, isn’t indie really more of an adjective than a genre?). The record being celebrated on its 20th anniversary, Keep It Like a Secret, was somewhat groundbreaking in the way it made guitar jams a focal point of an album otherwise steeped hip-deep in almost bubblegum simple pop hooks, a trick not pulled off with much aplomb since the glory days of Pearl Jam and the Melvins. It’s perhaps one of the most ’90s albums of the ’90s. Although Boise Idaho bandleader Doug Martsch had previously enjoyed (with Treepeople and Halo Benders) and has gone on to accrue a fair amount of success, never has his band sounded so perfectly distilled as on that 20 year-old release. A case could be made that Keep It Like a Secret has held up best of all Built to Spill’s eight albums and five EPs. For their first major road trip since releasing Untethered Moon in 2015, the band will head out in June and play a total of 83 shows, with the local dates among the last dozen of a long sojourn.

Black Keys
Past Event

The Black Keys and Modest Mouse

The Let’s Rock tour marks the return of the Black Keys, the no-frills guitar-and-drums duo who appeared to be the future of rock and roll when they made their first splash in 2010 with the inescapable “Tighten Up” single, which turned up in countless movies, TV shows, commercials, and bar band setlists. Their emergence was frequently cited as the vanguard of garage rock revival, at least if the majority of critics and pundits were to be believed, though the trend pretty much seemed to sputter as the guitar was increasingly abandoned, becoming one of the most rarely heard instruments in modern pop music. The guitar’s downfall seemed to (coincidentally?) coincide with the disappearance of the Black Keys. After several successful releases and tours, they took some time off beginning in 2015, while Dan Auerbach built up a list of production credits, providing more pop-oriented artists like Lana Del with a harder edge rock sound that benefitted pretty much everyone he’s so far sprinkled his magic dust upon. Patrick Carney produced Michelle Branch’s comeback album (resulting in their engagement) and did the theme music for the Netflix’s BoJack Horseman cartoon, while five years meandered on by with no new music from the Black Keys. That changed earlier this month with the release of their single “Lo/Hi,” said to preview an upcoming release due sometime before they take the Pechanga Arena stage on November 17. The bill includes Modest Mouse, whose first new song since 2015 drops this week, “Poison the Well.”

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Black Keys at Pechanga Arena on November 17
Black Keys at Pechanga Arena on November 17
Remo Drive
Past Event

Remo Drive and Slow Pulp

  • Sunday, June 23, 2019, 6 p.m.
  • Irenic, 3090 Polk Avenue, San Diego
  • $16 - $20

There’s something about Epitaph Records, when you hear of a band signed to that label, you pretty much always know what you’re in for. Emo, power pop, and pop punk make up the bulk of their signees, and some bands try to cover all those stylistic canvases with a paint brush as wide as a wallpaper roller. Groups like Minnesota’s Remo Drive are unapologetic about their wish to appeal as wide a possible fan base as they can, within a crowded field already overflowing with Weezer wannabes and vapid Vampire Weekenders whose youth and inexperience all but guarantees recycling over innovation. They cheekily called their 2017 debut Greatest Hits, and in fact did score several mostly viral hits that may not have earned much money but still built their brand. Tracks such as “Crash Test Rating,” “Yer Killin Me,” and “Art School” got the attention of Epitaph, who’ll soon release their full-length Songs I Think Rock, shortly before the band plays the Irenic on June 23. Demos of several tracks were “leaked” via Reddit’s Indieheads group, and reaction seemed generally favorable, although several laughed off the young group’s reliance on so many of the now-tired mope tropes of emo. The all-ages bill includes Slow Pulp (who cite influences such as Thee Oh Sees and St. Vincent) and Minneapolis’ Heart to Gold.

Reel Big Fish
Past Event

Reel Big Fish and Bowling For Soup

  • Friday, July 26, 2019, 7:30 p.m.
  • House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

Even if you haven’t been keeping track of the various incarnations of the reggae-influenced and punk-infused genre known as ska, you’ve probably heard the biggest members of the “third wave” of ska like Reel Big Fish. Back in the mid-90s when people still listened to the radio, the Fish dared to name their breakthrough album Turn the Radio Off, even as stations all over the U.S. were going mildly bonkers over their 1997 hit “Sell Out.” By bonkers, I don’t mean they loved it – many DJs were annoyed that the track referenced FM payola scandals and the ridiculous circus nature of radio programming, but that didn’t keep the song from getting enough airplay to reach number ten on the U.S. Alternative chart. It remains pretty much their only charting hit record to date (as noted in a later Reel Big Fish song called “One Hit Wonderland,” off We’re Not Happy ‘Til You’re Not Happy). The tour bringing them to House of Blues on July 26 is in support of their first full-length since 2012, Life Sucks…Let’s Dance, released last December along with its lead single “You Can’t Have All Of Me.” The co-headlining bill includes Texas-based Bowling For Soup, best known for singles such as “High School Never Ends,” Almost,” and “Girl All the Bad Guys Want.” They apparently just lost founding bassist Erik Chandler, to be replaced on this tour by Rob Felicetti of the Ataris.

Built to Spill
Past Event

Built To Spill

  • Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 8 p.m.
  • Casbah, 2501 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego
  • 21+ / $40

The Casbah has so much faith in Built to Spill’s Keep It Like a Secret 1999-2019 Tour that it booked the band for a rare three night stand, from November 12 through 14. All the promo blurbs refer to them as “indie,” ignoring the fact that two decades spent on a major label is no more roughing it than glampers ensconced in the VIP tent at Coachella (besides, isn’t indie really more of an adjective than a genre?). The record being celebrated on its 20th anniversary, Keep It Like a Secret, was somewhat groundbreaking in the way it made guitar jams a focal point of an album otherwise steeped hip-deep in almost bubblegum simple pop hooks, a trick not pulled off with much aplomb since the glory days of Pearl Jam and the Melvins. It’s perhaps one of the most ’90s albums of the ’90s. Although Boise Idaho bandleader Doug Martsch had previously enjoyed (with Treepeople and Halo Benders) and has gone on to accrue a fair amount of success, never has his band sounded so perfectly distilled as on that 20 year-old release. A case could be made that Keep It Like a Secret has held up best of all Built to Spill’s eight albums and five EPs. For their first major road trip since releasing Untethered Moon in 2015, the band will head out in June and play a total of 83 shows, with the local dates among the last dozen of a long sojourn.

Black Keys
Past Event

The Black Keys and Modest Mouse

The Let’s Rock tour marks the return of the Black Keys, the no-frills guitar-and-drums duo who appeared to be the future of rock and roll when they made their first splash in 2010 with the inescapable “Tighten Up” single, which turned up in countless movies, TV shows, commercials, and bar band setlists. Their emergence was frequently cited as the vanguard of garage rock revival, at least if the majority of critics and pundits were to be believed, though the trend pretty much seemed to sputter as the guitar was increasingly abandoned, becoming one of the most rarely heard instruments in modern pop music. The guitar’s downfall seemed to (coincidentally?) coincide with the disappearance of the Black Keys. After several successful releases and tours, they took some time off beginning in 2015, while Dan Auerbach built up a list of production credits, providing more pop-oriented artists like Lana Del with a harder edge rock sound that benefitted pretty much everyone he’s so far sprinkled his magic dust upon. Patrick Carney produced Michelle Branch’s comeback album (resulting in their engagement) and did the theme music for the Netflix’s BoJack Horseman cartoon, while five years meandered on by with no new music from the Black Keys. That changed earlier this month with the release of their single “Lo/Hi,” said to preview an upcoming release due sometime before they take the Pechanga Arena stage on November 17. The bill includes Modest Mouse, whose first new song since 2015 drops this week, “Poison the Well.”

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