Tag Archives: Bob Balch

ALBUM OF WEEK 29: CALIFORNIA CROSSING

Few days ago my best male friend was having a bad time. One of the things I hate most is that my friends suffer. Sometimes I’ve been told about awful or very sad experiences and I’ve seen myself crying and thinking such suffering wasn’t fair for them.

Anyway, the good thing about male friends is that if they entrust you and ask for your opinion about their personal issues, you can go straight, even though what you say to them might sound harsh. At the end of the day, guys want things plain and simple, clear messages, and not typical female twisting sings. The straighter a person is the better, you might get angry at first but at the end of the day you’ll realize your friend was right and only wanted the best for you, for real.

Not entering in private bizz, after a long chat with him explaining his situation, and my understanding, I probably gave him one of the most simple yet effective advises I could, that he understood immediately. I’d never suggest something like that to a girl friend. I just said:

Hey, XXXXXXXX, if I were you, I’d go straight to the fridge, grab a super cold beer, lit a cigarette, go to your CD selves, look for California Crossing, and play it out loud.

His reply was a simple “damn right!”.

California Crossing

Probably I remarked time ago that fu Manchu are one of my favorite bands ever. I have a weakness for them, and never get tired of them. I cannot understand why this band is so underrated and ignored, especially here in Spain. Their live shows are solid and powerful and they always deliver. You should have seen them at the Islington Academy last year. it was insane!

Some bands have their Holy Trinity. I reckon in this case we’d have to talk about The Action is Go, King of the Road and this California Crossing.

This was the first release of one of their albums I experienced back in Spain after living in UK. I remember as if it was yesterday I used to chat on internet chats a lot. Jaume, Kiko and I were the cyber threesome and we both loved the band, thus we lived the album in a very intense way. I still remember before being able to purchase it, the downloading from Audiogalaxy was like a pain in the ass, as it look ages to finally play it.

California has several references that imply summer: first the word California. For an ignorant such as me who’s never been to the promised land yet, California is sun, beaches and glory. On the other hand the album cover basically sums up the concept I have of California: girls in bikini, sun, surf boards, beach, palm trees, and large yankee cars. Inner artwork is pretty much the same but fully detailed, adding Vans and striped polo shirts, their band stylish trademark. Yep, I started wearing Vans because of Fu Manchu and loved the red/black square slip-ons Brad Davis was always wearing.

Anyway, even though I paid it lots of attention, for many years I considered California Crossing inferior to the previous ones, but nowadays I reckon that was something very stupid to think. California Crossing is powerful, fast, groovie and has a great bunch of hits. In fact it includes the short version of one of my personal top 5 favorite songs, Mongoose. It works as an anthem to the good times and an upper. Cowbell rules the world.

fu manchu

I’m not very good with the names of the songs sometimes, so I’m checking the tracklist while writing this, and you know what? There’s not a single bad song and none of them is expendable. Wiz Kids, Downtown in Dogtown, Squash that Fly, Ampn’, Bultaco…all of them are brilliant. Balch’s riffs are insane, Scott Hill’s nasty and peculiar style singing yet super catchy, and Brant Bjork’s super groovie drums (that drum solo in The Wasteoid must be mentioned here). By the way, it’s a pity the drummer left the band to start his solo career although it’s also true Fu Manchu have always had very outstanding drummers.

The natural speed feeling that comes with this album makes me feel like driving or skating. Unfortunately I can’t do any of them, but riding my little motorbike and music is not the option. The energy this album generates is only comparable and overcome by their live performances.

I should attend a Fu Manchu show once a year at least. Hope their new album finally comes out at the end of 2013. I need new more stuff. They’re so great!

FU MANCHU VOWS RENEWED WITH THE ACTION IS GO!

Some months ago I told you about me attending Fu Manchu’s The Action is Go 15th anniversary show in London. Well, as it’s always been said, what’s worth enjoying takes its time to arrive, and once here, the pleasure it causes is very intense but too brief.

I purchased tickets for this show mentioned early March, and since then many things have occurred. The event took place on Saturday evening, and I’m already back home, relived after resting in my own bed (God bless!). 36 hours invested in London, just to see one of my favorite bands’ live show. Likely you think I’m nuts, and this has been an excess, a whim, but you know, this is the way I am, and this show was something I couldn’t miss, for many reasons, some of them personal, as to close a circle which started in London, in 1999. You can call it nostalgia for the good old times. I won’t disagree. As explained, my love for Fu Manchu started with this album.

Everything had been quietly arranged in advance, with my favorite gig flash trip partner, Verónica, who’s also devoted to the Orange County boys. A low cost stay in London for a couple of nights being Saturday the day to wander around. I’ll explain about meeting London later on, because I have many feelings which need to be processed first.

Saturday arrived and we spent most of the day walking and enjoying one of the coolest and most beautiful days I’ve ever remembered in the city. We’re not used to early scheduled shows and as the doors opening were announced at 6pm, we managed to be around early, so we could be told the actual hours and the name of the supporting band.

I also had a very important target to accomplish, which was to purchase the limited re-edition of The Action is Go gatefold album, in red and blue vinyl. I HAD to have it, since I wanted it for so many years, and wouldn’t allow it to run out in front of my eyes. I’d feel miserable. So I had to make sure I could get it and keep things under strict control. After a beer at a pub nearby, with full of people watching soccer and long haired guys in rock-metal t-shirts likely to be also attending the show, we got in the venue.

I was frisked in a way I had to ask the security lady what she was looking for. She didn’t care about my camera, but opened and registered my wallet, looking for drugs (!!!). I couldn’t believe it.

Once in and after our visit to the merch stand, we were finally ready for the show. The Shrine, a Venice Beach trio, were the opening band. This punk-hard-heavy-metal-rock band, delivered several powerful tunes from his recently released album Primitive Blast, for half an hour, starting to warming up the audience, quite large, considering there was still an hour before Fu Manchu hit the stage. Their performance was really solid and the tunes were quite good. Wild riffs, very influenced by metal 70’s bands, and their song quite punk speed,  their formula is likely to hook many new fans during this tour, as they sounded very intense and fun, and songs were catchy. These young guys confessed being  pretty stoked for this  first time in Europe, and super honored to open for Scott Hill’s band.

Quarter past 8, Islington Academy sold out. Tony Alva’s aka The Action is Go skater’s anniversary design banner shining on top of the stage, everybody is nervous, we are in second row, in front of Brad Davis, the bass player, and we’re excited and hysterical.

It was kinda obvious the hit which would open the show, Evil Eye. In fact, they followed the correct track list, with no changes. The audience got crazy with Burning Road, Laserb’last and Strolling Astronomer, and I was delighted, singing and dancing nostop. Fortunately there was not massive mosh pit, as the last times I had seen them in Spain, and even though we received some shoves, it wasn’t too dramatic nor unbearable, and could remain in our current position for the whole show.

More fuzz and distortion than ever, Scott Hill and his poses, with his Fender Jaguar and his SSD classic see-through guitar, seemed to be really happy for being in London, as this is a very special city for them. Davis seemed more histrionic and funnier than usual, having Coronas all the time, Balch, as usual, playing his riffs in another planet, and, Oh God! Scott Reeder, the drummer (reminds me of Guy Pearce, by the way), playing sharp and accurate, yet with this groove, he was awesome. With the voice delay effect, the fuzz and other distort pedals beyond my knowledge, those slower tempo tunes, there were very lysergic moments creating a dreamy atmosphere. Some other times they were groove as Hell making audience dance merciless as if in a kind of celebration. So damn cool!

When they came back to stage to play the encore, we were all uncontrolled. Hill asked which songs we’d like them to play fo the night, and obviously we wanted all of them, but finally the winners were real Fu Manchu anthems: California Crossing, King of the Road, and the acid trip of Godzilla. What can I say? When the show was over, and the roadie guy attended my request of having Bob Balch’s set list (Hell Yeah!) I was plain and simply happy. I couldn’t care less about the rest of the world. I had seen Fu Manchu for the 9th time in my life and the show had been one of the most intense and fun I had enjoyed. The feeling of being in London, listening to The Action is Go songs, and then meeting Ben and Joe from Orange Goblin as it used to happen when I was living there, brought me back a familiar feeling as recovering those good old times I enjoyed in London 12-14 years ago. Time’s passed, but I had the same feelings and my mind was as fresh as young as back then. It was wonderful.

Thus, on Saturday I renewed my Fu Manchu fan vows for at least another 15 more years, and now it’s time to wait for a new album, said to be released next year, and the 15th anniversary of the wild King of the Road. In Spain? I don’t think so, the band seemed to lack motivation when playing if front of barely 100 people, and it’s justified they don’t feel like coming back here. Spain, musically speaking, and with pain in my heart, we get what we deserved, and sometimes even more.

Hail to Fu Manchu, one more time! Hope to see you soon, in London, Tokyo, LA… with you, anything goes, dear friends!