Night Wounds lives and breathes a kind of punk that's getting harder to find these days. There are two varieties of punk right now. One is more mainstream; it's an imitation-of-chords version of music inspired by Fugazi and bands on Lookout! Records. The other is the real fervor of punk--a presentation that exposes an emotional, beautiful and damaged reaction to the world around us, showcasing wild personalities who really know how to play their instruments well. This is the kind of punk rock writer and cultural historian Greil Marcus describes as "the sound of the city collapsing." Part art, part chaos, these bands have a place in underground music history.
In Boise, this history includes Treepeople, Anxiety Prophet and other groups that were immortalized in the 'zine Your Face. The interviews within those photocopied pages exemplified the deep tradition and history of underground punk in Boise.
Playing in basements and at house parties is the only option when there is no all-ages venue that showcases experimental and raucous music. Punk became a living, breathing tradition of the seething underbelly of music, rioting and spasmodically writhing around basements all over the country. Bands like Deerhoof, Lightning Bolt, and Tad also started out by playing houses and art galleries, and like Night Wounds, they share this incredible artsy-grunge sound.
Night Wounds has been cutting its teeth by playing a wide variety of shows. Starting out in Portland, Maine, the group was the brainchild of now guitarist and vocalist Toby Francis. The addition of Sarah Stroger was the result of having an opening slot.
"Night Wounds had to put together a show for Blood Brothers, and we had just lost a member of the band, so I asked Sarah to join," Francis notes. That day, they wrote new songs and performed together to great accolades. "People loved that show!" Francis recalls.
With that kind of beginning, it is easier to understand how, within a matter of months, this group could move to Los Angeles and create such a stir.
Night Wounds has created the kind of impact that breeds sweaty, dance-filled shows and a seriously moody atmosphere. Audiences adore them, which makes other local groups detest them. Francis speaks of one rival band member who shouts "Hallelujah!" whenever Night Wounds is done with their set. No matter: Still-bouncing fans clap and shout for more.
And in their relatively short time as a band, Night Wounds has already had a smattering of releases. Not Not Fun, a label based out of Los Angeles, recently released Night Wounds' split seven-inch record with the band Coughs, who stopped through Boise on their summer cross-country tour.
Gilgongo Records has just released Night Wounds' latest seven-inch: "Rat Magic." A suspenseful opening segment of noodling and abrasive guitar leans into a power punk disco beat that has bass and guitar pluckings that sound like someone just perfected the art of the riff. The song, like their others, comes together with rhythm and then bashes itself into oblivion, sparks of noise flying everywhere.
Night Wounds song structures are a personalized sound track to a movie that reveals the destruction of society, ideas coming together and falling away, revealing a ruthless and tumultuous passion.
Their untamed fury and drive will make anyone love underground punk again, with their mistakes adding to the charm, like coincidences that spring forth into new creative sound territory and bizarre circumstances. Francis says, "Every tour is a learning experience."
When Night Wounds began in Maine during the summer of 2004, they were more full of noise--frantic, crazy sessions of experimentation and synthesizers. They ran into trouble with people misinterpreting their music.
Francis describes how the scene on the East Coast near Boston compares to his more recent West Coast experience: "Both coasts portray each other's scenes as goofy and light hearted, but they're not. But, sometimes people took us seriously and loved it.
Stroger and Francis relocated to Los Angeles in June of this year, and found their drummer (who was also originally from New England) through an ad placement service. He answered the ad, but said he was really busy and wasn't certain how much time he could devote to a group, but after the first practice he said that he was ready to spend all of his free time on the band. He had only performed with practice bands before, (which is where he developed his fast-and-furious drum technique), so the idea of performing in venues was an exciting one.
While the other members of the band are putting away their instruments, the drummer often continues to pound away in a long, radical drum solo, sometimes breaking free to show his undying love for the art of the beat. He pounds away with jaw-dropping elegance and he just won't quit.
Francis loves the guitar but he used to play drums, synthesizers and other effects. He imagines moving on to other instruments later, but for now, his skronky solo and rhythm movements are fun for him and everyone who sees him. After taking a position at a specialized guitar shop in Los Angeles, Francis has come to know and recognize the nuances of guitar sounds. "I've memorized a bunch of serial numbers and can spot certain pickups by eye," he says.
Stroger's bass sheds a thumping, original brand of tease. Each note comes out like a gun shot, leaving the listener craving another. Her sound is loud and deadly, lending even more credence to Huggy Bear comparisons. Stroger's sound is the perfect punctuation to the throbbing cacophony, riddled with Francis' meddling guitar and shouting vocals.
They recently added a saxophone, which fully complements the jazz punk that embodies their fluctuating sound.
"I call it art-gunk because I was drunk and tried to write art-punk but I mistyped it and it stuck," Francis says. The saxophone is run through a delay pedal and subsequently amplified.
Other acts performing with Night Wounds at their January 3 show at ELK are Nick Brown out of Providence, Rhode Island. Brown carts along a suitcase full of pedals and gear. Ambient Laptop are locals and are opening for the night.
This show is just in time for you to recover from your New Year's Eve debauchery. And if one of your resolutions was to be cooler and hipper, attending this show will go a long way toward achieving that goal.
The show is all-ages, starts at 8 p.m. and cost is $5. Money collected goes directly into the hands of the touring bands.
Editor's note: Because this is a house show, I chose not to print the address or phone number. Please e-mail RockingHorseRecords@gmail.com for show location.