WE PORTLANDERS are famous, maybe infamous, for complaining about the weather. So this past winter-that-shall-not-be-mentioned—the one that kept the rain coming well into June—it was quite refreshing to see a local pack of surf-scum come into their own as a band, shrugging off the downpour and forcing in the sunshine. Guantanamo Baywatch emerged seemingly out of nowhere, washing up grimy and mutated on the polluted banks of the Willamette, promptly running amok in the Portland punk scene—clad in sunglasses and howling at the moon—clearly having missed the memo that winter is supposed to be a bummer.
It was obvious from first glance that this overly sexwaxed gang was not your daddy's brand of surf rock. When Guantanamo Baywatch first started playing together in early 2009, the idea was to be "a trashy, high-energy surf band" in defiance of the weather. "Sun rules, rain drools!" as bassist Chevelle Wiseman so eloquently puts it. "I think what Portland needs is super rowdy, fucked-up bands to get people moving around, especially when it's shitty outside."
The trio of Wiseman, Jason Powell, and Devin Trainer—whose stage aliases of Chicky Baby, Pizza Eater, and Turok: Pussy Hunter one-up and out-punk just about everybody—sounds like they kidnapped the Ventures and made them play while dragging them behind jet skis through a toxic and twisted shark colony, where the mohawked great whites would just as likely shotgun a Sparks as they would chomp you in half. The resulting sounds are sick and skuzzy with generous dollops of reverb and rockabilly, plus scuttling, warbled vocals every bit as unpredictable and venomous as the Cramps' Lux Interior or the Gun Club's Jeffrey Lee Pierce. While they hang 10 like Orca Team, Guantanamo Baywatch's party-first-ask-questions-later attitude better puts them in the company of White Fang and the Mean Jeans. The band's rambunctious live shows, in all their sloppy, ecstatic glory, are the place to be and should only be tighter and altogether crazier after they get back from their full US tour at this PDX Pop Now! show.