AntiSeen had just played a set of weekend shows in Hickory, NC and Spartanburg, SC. I had made out it out to both shows and had a great time hearing new bands and watching AntiSeen play live. Fast forward a week later, it was Saturday, April 22nd, 2017: Record Store Day.
I meet up with Mad Brother Ward in Charlotte just after finishing my shift at work. We sojourn over to our local record store to check out this year’s Record Store Day vinyl and to prepare for the show AntiSeen will be playing here this evening. Jimmy ‘Repo’ of Repo Records is doing business slinging vinyl at a breakneck pace and the store is packed. Nonetheless, I manage to wade through the cacophony of voices and waves of bodies to find some pretty cool merch. First and foremost amongst which is a pretty killer re-release of ‘Psychotic Reactions’ by legendary 60s garage rock group ‘The Count Five.’ Score! After picking up some re-issue Link Wray and Music Machine, plus a Robert
Johnson cd boxset, I scope out the room and found that my friend and bandmate Owen Sykes had arrived. We shoot the bull, look over some more merch, and catch up with our friend Alex Stiff, frontman of The Fill Ins.
The show is set to start at 5 pm. So at ten till, we stand watching the band do a quick line-check before disappearing into the back room, where I can only surmise they are mentally preparing for the show. The store is even more packed than it was just half an hour ago and it seems subtly quieter. As the minutes tick down, anticipation from fans and a slight impatience from first-timers compound into a palpable atmosphere of uncertainty. I have never consciously ‘read’ a room before, but I find myself doing so now and intuitively understanding crowd psychology on some level.
AntiSeen enter the room and begin to launch into their set full-force. Thousands of teeny-bopper power punk bands claim lineage to The Ramones. But this intensity, this no-nonsense approach during the first act of the set demonstrates it, lives and breathes and revels in it. The past two nights contained only one major hiccup musically, a sonic false start on the same track both nights. Tonight, this issue is remedied and the songs are all played perfectly as far as I can tell. All the same, the crowd is understandably less energetic than if the show were in a large, open space, but many audience members (me included) belt out the lyrics track after track and have one hell of a time. Although its a hot day, AntiSeen’s energy never wavers. The Gooch goes full ambidextrous octopus on his drum kit, while Barry Hannibal lays down steady, driving grooves, while Mad Brother’s aim rings true, launching a surging sonic assault. All this, buttressed by the deep-fried soul-punk groove intermittedly escaping the indomitable Jeff Clayton’s vox.
At the end of the set, a break occurs in my thought. No one is yelling loud enough or directing chanting well enough to warrant an encore. The crowd diffuses quickly and waits to buy some AntiSeen vinyl. People stand around talking about how great of a show it was, or how great the band was, or how they wanted to hear a particular song. They just stand there and let possible experiences pass them by. And I stand there and do the same damn thing. Spiritually hangdog and disheveled, something clicks and a new vista opens itself to me, a thing to which the ramifications of will not become fully manifest till weeks later.
AntiSeen is releasing a new vinyl today: The Complete Drastic Sessions. The release of these early versions of AntiSeen’s first EP stands as an important event for Charlotte music as Bill Cates, the original bassist of AntiSeen is present. This day marks the first time Cates and Clayton have seen each other in over 30 years and the album’s signed by the two of them will definitely become highly sought after collector’s items.
Before making my departure I catch up with one of AntiSeen’s biggest fans, Matthew Vaine, as well as Eddie Ford of ‘The Self-Made Monsters,’ who proceeds to school me on early garage rock and punk bands I should check out asap. I find myself writing a decently long list of band names like ‘The Action Swingers’ and “The Cosmic Psychos’ whose depths I am currently in the process of plunging. Barry Hannibal, Mad Brother, Eddie, Owen, and I head out the The Tipsy Burro, put on some great music on their free jukebox, get some grub, and head our separate ways.
I find myself grasping for words when writing about an AntiSeen set. I have seen too few good rock and roll sets in my as yet relatively short life. This is due, in large part, to the low levels of popularity r’n’r enjoys these days. There were times in the 50s with the black fathers of rock and roll, the late 50s and early 60s with their popularizers and later garage rock, early punk and glam in the 70s, and arguably a revival of rock for a very short period in the late 90s and early 2000s, and during these times the music was vital. But only because it was immediate, true, and above all else, fun.
Now, I and a small group of disaffected, alienated, and generally pissed off youth are taking The Boron Heist multimedia. There is a time for all things commercially. This a time to force the hand: https://www.facebook.com/TheBoronHeist/
(For information on AntiSeen’s upcoming LP ‘Obstinate’ or for upcoming shows near you check out AntiSeen here: https://www.facebook.com/ANTiSEEN-82559392576/ )
If you missed part I, check it out Here
AntiSeen has been around for a long time. They’ve remained while bands, movements, and decades passed. They have a large European following and a strong contingent of fans stateside. They’ve toured alongside many great bands like Fear and The Meatmen. Played large festivals with groups like The Sonics, The Weirdos, and Mudhoney. And enjoy the support of many underground and mainstream acts. But they’ve never seen mainstream success themselves.
This is due in large part to vocalist Jeff Clayton’s lyrics and rhetoric, which have been both lauded and criticized. The latter press ilk has been more heavily emphasized and so, they can sometimes have difficulty booking shows in more asinine parts of the country. To make myself perfectly clear: I mean specifically fascist groupthink sorts of places.
The great American comic and satirist George Carlin talked a lot about how words don’t come pre-loaded with positive or negative connotations. A word means nothing in and of itself. The only real way to evaluate the meaning of some word or phrase is the context of its use and the intent of its speaker. That’s it.
So when Clayton writes a little ditty about a wifebeater or incest or killing your nagging spouse, the first rational thought (I recognize the nonrational validity of one’s first outraged position as knee-jerk that should then give way to thought afterward) should rightly be to ask what the context or intent of these songs is at bottom and not simply what they say on the surface. The way I see it, Jeff Clayton and all the AntiSeen boys are steeped in camp, wrestling, and bad horror movies. Their songs reflect and mirror these interests, presenting some good ol’ southern gothic: painting a picture of a specific real or imagined reality for backwoods southern folk rather than making some political or social statement.
But here’s the double standard. When lauded and beloved punk and roots rock band X did it in LA in the late 70s and early 80s, John Doe and Exene Cervenka’s lyrics about alienated, sexually violent, and xenophobic youth (See ‘Nausea’, Johnny Hit and Run Paulene’, and ‘Los Angeles’) were understood to be akin to harsh realism in fiction and jive Beat poetry as both were budding poets in an art-infused early LA punk scene. AntiSeen, being from middle-of-nowhere, Carolina with no such local cultural reference points, were automatically castigated for being violent, sexist, homophobic, etc., etc., etc. And they’re not. Period.
That said, rant over, and back to where I left off last:
The day before the Hickory show, I rode along with AntiSeen to Spartanburg. It was a long night and I had to wake up early to begin a long shift cooking southern comfort and diner food for the patrons of Monroe, North Carolina’s Jud’s Restaurant. At 2 pm, I call to a close my toil and make a b-line to the car with my friend Owen Sykes. We ride up to Charlotte, score another ride along with AntiSeen to the show in Hickory, and prepare for the night ahead of us.
Along the way, traffic isn’t nearly as chaotic as last night, though through my incessant napping I guess I wouldn’t notice if it was. We opt not to stop for fast food again on account of the lackluster quality we endured at a Hardee’s the previous night and we instead find a Cracker Barrel where we commence to stuff our faces. Before leaving, Barry Hannibal (bass) and I get pretty hyped on some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans we find in the adjoining shop. He buys a pack and we then spend a good deal of the remaining trip talking up how bad they taste to the rest of the van’s occupants. Everyone else decides to sit out the jelly-bean-roulette experience.
We arrive at Hickory, North Carolina’s ‘The Wizard’ saloon and club relatively early and load in the gear. ‘Dirtbag Love Affair’ had to cancel both tonight and last night’s gigs, so that leaves only three bands on the bill: Stardog, No Power No Crown, and AntiSeen. Rather than start the show early, the club pushes back the start of the show by 30 minutes. This means a later eta home, but also allows me ample time to make some conversation with James Capell ‘Cap’ Nunn, a friend of mine who plays bass for No Power No Crown and The Fill Ins. During this time, I also make my way to the merch table and buy a few AntiSeen CDs.
The opening act ‘Stardog’ gives a bar band sort of vibe and some of the lyrics are ham, but I find myself enjoying a few tracks on account of the Gary Moore-like virtuosity of their guitarist, the camp approach and lack of seriousness of their vocalist, and their overall tight sound as a group. Although their set plays a little too long, they perform a great cover of KISS’s “Love Gun” that makes it impossible for me to dislike them and they get some audience involvement from a relatively small turnout.
No Power No Crown is an interesting band. The guitarist and founder of the group is very much a Dimebag Darrell acolyte from playing technique, to the long hair and goatee, shorts and t-shirt, and even the Dean guitar. Usually I like the band’s live performances (although they tend to play a few too many covers), but tonight the guitarist confesses he is a little stoned. He is off-tempo and a bit sloppy on some solos, but the audience has a fun time anyway. And hell, if that ain’t the point of a music performance I don’t know what is.
When AntiSeen takes the stage, I’m taken aback by how good they sound. Last night they played well, but tonight they sound even more on point. Further, the sound man is an old pro and really did an amazing job on the line-check for all the instruments. The Gooch blasts out aggro, caveman beats with a one-pointed ferocious focused force, while Mad Brother Ward’s buzzsaw Tele cuts screaming highs and vicious mids akin to a machine press in its death throes. Barry Hannibal lays down the groove and adds the panache and sophistication that rounds out these otherwise minimalistic tunes. Jeff Clayton hollers and croons his hits with a sinister sneer and snarl while the audience sings along note for note. The set is a success and the band is called out for an encore of more classic destruco tunes as well as a new track off their upcoming LP ‘Obstinate.’
We load out the gear shortly after the end of the set and hit the road. Again, its a long drive home and I have work at 6 am. At some point the following morning I no longer feel tired and somehow get an extra boost of energy for the Sunday church crowd. I tell myself i’ve gone beyond tired and come out on the other side. I’ll find i’m sorely mistaken later that night.
Something about writing straight-forward narratives always tires me out. I wanted to end on a note comparing AntiSeen to other great bands. I was going to write something like ‘Jeff Clayton and AntiSeen’s approach to writing is somewhere in between the contemporary gothic of X and the fuck you, take no prisoners attitude of Fear. Somewhere between John Doe and Lee Ving.’ But I couldn’t stomach this becoming much more labyrinthine or long. So there you have it, take it or leave it. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoyed it.
(To be concluded: Here)
A little over a month ago, the legendary underground band ‘AntiSeen’ was set to play a couple weekend shows in my proximity. Not getting the chance to see them that often, I made plans to attend both shows with my friend Owen.
Now, here’s a little disclaimer: My dad has know these guys for a long time. Almost 30 years I think. I’ve been to shows from time to time throughout my life. And my dad currently plays guitar for the band. AntiSeen has always been a household name for me, quite literally. I’m biased, so be it.
Time: Friday April 7th. Place: Spartanburg, South Carolina. Ground Zero Club.
Owen and I (heretofore ‘we’) plan on heading to Charlotte right after work to pick up my dad, Mad Brother Ward, who is carpooling with us to the show from there. However, plans change. And usually they change for the worse, but this time is a different story. Jeff Clayton (vocals) and Todd Goss (merch) will be riding up separately from the rest of the band so the band van had extra room. We are invited to go along for the ride and eagerly agree.
The van is Barry Hannibal’s (bass) and is spacious enough to hold 7 comfortably with gear (and who knows how many uncomfortably!). Owen, Barry, Mad Brother, The Gooch (drums), Brandon (roadie and occasional body-guard), and I load into the van and head on toward Spartanburg.
Traffic was bad, fast food was okay, extra sleep was awesome, and roughly 3 hours later we pull up to the club and unload the gear. Ground Zero Club is a medium-sized venue somewhere between The Milestone and the now-defunct Tremont Music Hall (both legendary Charlotte venues I always intuitively use as my points of reference). Four bands are booked for tonight, but Dirtbag Love Affair had to drop the date last minute. This is unfortunate as I like the band a lot more than most local groups that try to pass themselves off as rock and roll. The guitarist has a glam-Johnny Thunders look and guitar style and the band is tight. Besides, they were booked for both tonight and tomorrow’s shows. On the bright side, this means a shorter show and an earlier eta getting home.
While waiting for the show to start, I study AntiSeen’s merch booth and eye a T-Shirt with my name on it. I ask how much one costs, and Jeff Clayton gifts me one as well as a copy of ‘Destructo Maximus’ (https://www.amazon.com/Antiseen-Destructo-Maximus/dp/0967662222), AntiSeen’s restrospective tome of articles, reviews, write-ups, photographs, and lyrics (Seriously, get yourself a copy if you haven’t already). Elated, I automatically turn to the first page and begin reading its contents until the first band soundchecks, at which point I drop it off in the van for safekeeping.
The opener is a group called The Municipators. They are, I will find, the tightest group to play either night this weekend. But I’m a little dismayed with the pop-punk they’re producing because, well, its pop punk (a horrendous genre that takes the worst of both forms and tends to infuse unhealthy doses of pub rock chanting and ‘pseudo-political bullshit’). All the same, their songs aren’t about politics and they close the set with a blistering (if not altogether note-for-note) rendition of Molly Hatchet’s “Flirtin’ with Disaster” that knocks me out of my stupor. Its a good, solid set.
The second band, The Casket Creatures, is something of a genre band as well. This time, horror punk. Horror punk is difficult to get right in the same way that most genres with hooks and choruses are, because very few people have a great pop sensibility. But where other genres may have multiple great pop songwriters, in horror punk, it seems like only The Misfits do. The Casket Creatures do not have this ability. But they have camp and a healthy following, so more power to them.
Finally, AntiSeen soundchecks and takes the stage. Some of the members of the opening bands are really into the set as evinced by some moshing and singing along. The turnout wasn’t as high as it could have been, but those that are here generally leave the bar and come watch the band play. AntiSeen is raw and aggressive, and tonight they are running on all gears. The Boys From Brutalsville encore a few songs including a new track off their upcoming LP ‘Obstinate’ and deliver the buzz-saw, desctructo goods in the way only a COS (Confederacy of Scum) band could.
Jeff Clayton makes some sales at the merch table, and Brandon and we (still following?) load out the gear. The ride back is long, but riding in the van allows me time to get some extra much-needed sleep. We ride into Charlotte, drive with Mad Brother Ward from Barry’s place to Gooch’s where we drop him off for the night. We then drive back to MBW’s apartment, get into Owen’s car and ride back into Wingate, North Carolina sometime around 2 or 3 am (Confusing right?). In three short hours, I wake up and head to work for my 8-hour shift. As I rub the sleep from my eyes and shake off my grogginess with a hot shower, I realize that we’ll be going out again tonight to see the boys play Hickory. I comprehend how drained I am and imagine how much worse I will be the following day. And I don’t mull over going, not for a second.
(To be continued: Here)