I'd been riding along with the Hunches on a short West Coast tour. Tonight they were to play the Troubadour in Los Angeles. The band was having a meeting with club management before the show. I wandered up, and the manager asked me if I was in charge of the band--hoping to get in free, I told him I was. He then informed me that, as their manager, I would be legally responsible for anything that happened during their performance.
I quickly and absolutely rescinded my position as band manager. I'd pay if I had to. There's no way in hell anyone would deal with that heavy a responsibility by choice; not without a magnum bank account and a team of lawyers, anyway. You see, Hunches shows are brittle shells of live napalm. Guitars, mics, lights, stages, and even fragile psyches could be torched at any moment.
This short West Coast swing is to raise awareness for the soon to be released album, Hobo Sunrise, their second via In The Red Records. And from their ferocious live show, the Hunches have recorded an equally searing album--like pressing your bare skin against a red-hot engine that's just broken the land-speed record to hell and back. Hobo Sunrise is full of violent nightmares, but also golden mornings, and an underlying beautiful sadness.
The album recalls true grit American punk/garage. After a listen, I go sifting through my music, looking for the tape Hunches singer Lazy von Lasers made me when we were 13--the Pagans on one side, the Saints on the other. The old Cleveland scene is another important part in understanding the Hunches. Bands like Pere Ubu, the Mirrors, and the Electric Eels come to mind. But Hobo Sunrise is more than just garage punk.
Guitarist Chris Gunn is also deeply influenced by old soul, blues, and R&B cats like Howlin Wolf, Hasil Adkins, Doc Boggs, and Skip James. His screaming guitar is the album's guiding light.
Aside from the soul and punk, Gunn has also concocted some riffs that are downright spooky. When paired with some of singer Lazy von Laser's more manic vocals, it's a nightmare--like being chased by flaming-hell banshees, whose only desire is to remove your flesh with rusty guitar strings. Just when you're ready to give in, a golden sunbeam of guitar pop shines in your eyes, waking you from the terrible dream. Then the album hands you a can of fresh malt liquor for extra power.
Now, a few minutes after the meeting with the club manager, the band is being called in for sound check. After the powerful Ben Spencer (drums) and precise Sarah Epstein (bass) rumble away, Singer Lazy von Lasers is up--not only to check his vocals, but also the power drill and tin cans he has brought along. The soundman doesn't quite know what to make of it, but the sound of a drill boring into a tin can, amplified through 1000watts, is an idea that needs exploring.
After he's finished, Von Lasers hops down off the stage. We stand around watching Chris fumble with his guitar cables, wondering if it's time yet to break into that giant tub of beer that was recently delivered to the dressing room. I can see Von Lasers eying the scaffolding on the corners of the stage. It looks like it'd make a pretty good ladder. "You think I can get away climbing these?" he asks.
"They'll fill your ass full of tranquilizer before you get past the second step." But then I remember that I no longer hold any legal responsibility. I tell him to go for it.
Just then Chris flicks his amp on, sending waves of violent feedback straight to the base of the spine, immediately shredding every brainwave in the room. I stumble and try to regain my balance. Forced to turn down, Chris does, reluctantly. I sense he is genuinely worried that his guitar won't be loud enough to cut through to the guts of the tonight's audience... but of the six bands that night, the Hunches are the only ones able to completely unglue the crowd. Other bands get heads bobbing, but the Hunches threw the crowd in to a genuine fury of dripping sweat, shaking hips, and stomping feet.
The Hunches find solace in this chaos, much like a boxer who keeps cool after a solid shot to the nose. And while he would reject the term, singer Lazy von Lasers' act sometimes may border on performance art. Moments of prophetic Beefheart style poetry, homemade instruments, and fullspeed confrontations with brick walls become a personification of the Hunches sound... and when it's a CD release party, you expect a band at their best... and most chaotic.