AntiSeen Live And Obstinate (II)
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)