Chokebore @ Jabberjaw
Chokebore, my new favorite band played. They just got back into town from a U.S./Paris tour and I'm a privileged type of groupie who gets the information from the singer, Troy, late the night before. The night when he also tells me I can be the president of their fan club when I ask politely. Since they've become my favorite band I've been waiting almost patiently to see them play live - with the thought of how many times over the years I missed their local LA shows gnawing at my petty little mind. I actually used to make fun of this band, the only thing I knew about them being their name change from Dana Lynn to Chokebore, at the request of Tom Hazelmeyer of AmRep as a prerequisite to signing them to his label - you know, the manly label ("Dana Lynn" is not manly). This is right around the time their now almost forgotten band Helmet was being manly all across the globe, and one word band titles were all the rage! ha. But Chokebore sounded so contrived - or so it seemed, and I decided not to listen to them because I saw this as weak character (whata brat!).
But in the meantime this band could care less and happened to become a great band and so what could I do? It was mere chance I ever placed the thing in my CD player. And actually after my first skip through I didn't think much of it. I told my friend Lisa who is friends with one of them that it sucked hard - "wimpy" I might have called it. Within a week she came over and I played it, and found myself defending them against her "they used to be hardcore" comments. "But, don't you see the balance, the subtle qualities crashed with the throbbing dissonance. They're still hardcore." "But they used to be totally hardcore." We flipped through song after song and I notice she had about as much patience as I the first time listening through. When she departed still unconvinced, I was left to deliberate my defense of them. I played them over and over without reaching for that fast-forward button, taking in the essence, reveling in my new found delight...and by the time we went away for our zine tour this summer it was my personal soundtrack. Chokebore vibrations were all that could penetrate the brutal jarring that the Winnebago, and the whole tour, left me with. It's the least I can say that this band saved my life by buffering me and giving me - a girl who hasn't found love in music for long enough to wonder - a little bit of hope.
So in the meantime, Chokebore is playing at two places I usually don't jump at the chance to attend: Jabberjaw and the Viper room (okay, Jabberjaw is that bad). I know it is a symbol of my sins against the band years before - and I'm not even religious - and my going to these establishments will serve as a form of repentance that I shall humbly acquiesce to. I have not stepped foot in Jabberjaw for over three years, but this time there was no Nyler at the door to tell me I wasn't on anyone's list even though I'd catch sight of my name as he'd be pretending to look through them; and I didn't have to stand by the door waiting for someone from the band to yell at him for being a slimeball either; and no one looked like they were doing much heroin, albeit I'm not a good judge; and I actually found myself missing the sweet scent of cat pee since I don't have a cat of my own anymore....
The first band (name easily forgotten), I couldn't jive with, though the singer's John Hughes-esque '80s style dancing was a joy to behold. We waited. I was there with my pal Lorraine, telling her her favorite rock star might come to see this band even though it was more than exceedingly doubtful. But being my money girl Friday - at home and on tour - she has listened to Chokebore's "Anything Near Water" CD by incidence at least half as many times as I, so she has her own type of appreciation for them.
And then it's time. Without my glasses on I see Troy's lips contort and he makes a paused operatic drama face (sorta distant cousin to Shudder), while workin' an underwater jig with his guitar that is awfully sexy. He sings from all angles of the microphone and his agitated movements make my stomach feel like it does when someone is stuttering and I want to jump in and help them finish their sentence. I close my eyes and it's fluid; so I decide to flip back and forth from having my eyes open or closed to balance myself. The rest of the band pounds away - each knee deep in their own world.
Some drunken boob is on Lorraine's back and some jerky alterna-jock boys are egging him on. I'd fight for my girl, but since she could probably kick anyone's ass it is only a gesture of affection. I think about a few fancy martial arts maneuvers I've recently learned and want desperately to try out. I look for back-up and only see Evan Mack by the coffee bar and wonder if he'd come and help us out if we needed it.
"Lemonade" gets interrupted by a phone call. Mr. Lead Guitar is the only one who stops playing though, until the rest of the band realizes it's not just cause his sound's cut out. A 16 year old was skateboarding in the street out front and forgot to look left, right, and left again. Legs probably broken. Ambulance on its way. He'll live. Show must go on.
Next to me an alterna-homegirl and her alterna-homeboy are slow jammin' as "Comeback Thursday" starts up, and this girl's singing it in my ear like Whitney Houston. The luxury of a not too crowded night at Jabberjaw is its living room feel, but having only a few people grinding into your personal space is sometimes more personally annoying then just simply being sucked up into a large mass - 'cause I wouldn't want all these people in my living room. So I close my eyes; oh yeah, I'd forgotten, it's smooth again. I glide along the contours of the sound. I stop my own monotonous noise and let theirs envelope me. It changes the flow of my blood, the tension in my muscles, feel of my skin. This is what loving a band is all about. I open my eyes and it's gone in a flash and I don't find it again that evening. And then the show is prematurely over. But it's enough for me to know it exists; and that we have the time, and tenacity, for this relationship to flourish. And that it's exactly the kind of one-sided relationship I've been looking for.
* now that I'm the Pres. & I've got the indide scoop, don't dis my boys for their name change cause the real story is they switched 'cause they felt like it, and came up with it all by themselves!
Ben Is Dead #28 (September 1997)