Album Review – The Bad Things After the Inferno [Silent City Records] – The Alternate Root – Things look brighter in the light of day so it is any wonder that we choose the night? The darkness is more forgiving as well as very supportive of outlandish ideas and schemes. Wrong side of town back alleys and the shadows that stay just out of reach of the blurred light across the tracks are where The Bad Things live. In the case of After the Inferno, hanging around The Bad Things is exactly where you need to be. So, back to the alley and as you open the door to your destination, chaotic cabaret notes, beats and bravado pulls you in with promises. The Bad Things wake in a small attic somewhere deep in Russia as the “Grifter’s Life” plays, they high step in and out of the Midwest in “Lincoln”, drift down a Hawaiian mountainsides on the mist of soft string sighs and exit the album on a funereal march courted by lush horns and a persistent concertina on “Death to the Inferno”.
Live Preview – The Bad Things at Bob’s Java Jive [Tacoma] – Weekly Volcano – The Bad Things are born out of cabaret and drink. A motley crew, made up of urchins and drunkards, The Bad Things bring theatricality and tongue-in-cheek fatalism to a variety of genres. Taking cues from the likes of Tom Waits and the Pogues, the band piles accordions, mandolins, singing saws, upright bass and all manner of squeezeboxes onto their stage, inciting polka riots and rowdy singalongs in their audiences.
Live Preview – The Bad Things, Chervona at Alberta Street Pub [Portland] – Willamette Week – Beginning as buskers at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the Balkan-flavored sextet the Bad Things (instruments include accordion, banjo, trumpet and mandolin) released four albums in a dozen years, including the brand newAfter the Inferno, which adds Southwestern border sounds and some political lyrics (influenced by the band’s friendship with former Chumbawamba member Danbert Nobacon, who now lives in Washington) to their punky folk cabaret. The Eastern European connection—not to mention accordion—makes the brassy Russian punk folk of Portland’s Chervona an apt opener.
Album Review – The Bad Things Carry On After the Inferno – The Sunbreak –
It sounds strange to call a series of songs about death, alcoholism, thwarted love, larceny, and suicide inspiring. But After the Inferno, the latest full-length from Seattle underground cabaret stalwarts The Bad Things, always maintains a fighter’s spirit—and a brotherly bear hug of love—no matter how grave things get.
The Bad Things have always reveled in that dichotomy. Like most of the band’s output, the songs on After the Inferno stir traditional pre-rock-and-roll ingredients into songs that use unashamedly pretty (if sometimes raucous) melodies to leaven the lyrical darkness. Black humor and sentimentality go hand-in-hand in The Bad Things’ wonderful pocket universe: It’s the place where Tom Waits and The Pogues dance jigs together during the good times, and cry on each other’s shoulders during the bad.
The songs on After the Inferno don’t feel retro, so much as they feel like a heartfelt continuation of lots of traditional styles outside mainstream rock’s myopic lens (Brecht/Weil cabaret, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley pop, Tex-Mex, etc.). All of the dynamics on the record—from Steve Kamke’s kitchen-sink drums to Austin Quist’s swinging standup bass to Beau Hebert’s gently-plucked mandolin—sound completely organic, and there’s no attempt to gussy up things with retro-kitschy reverb or other studio tricks (The Bad Things produced After the Inferno themselves).
That warm but bare-bones production approach exists to showcase the songs, and After the Inferno sports several beauts, all band originals. The clattering “Grifter’s Life” paints a vivid portrait of dishonor and decay among con men, set to a jumping, saber-rattling polka, while “Careless Maria” lilts with a mariachi-country swing that’d do Marty Robbins proud. The sublime “Can’t Get Enough of Love” pulses like a great vintage ska ballad, with Brendan Hogan’s warm trumpet providing romantic counterpoint as band leader Jimmy Berg croons with the charming awkwardness of a pug-nosed 1930s Dead End Kid.
Fate’s hurtled plenty of misfortune at The Bad Things in the six years since their last proper band effort, 2008’sIt’ll All Be Over Soon, and After the Inferno acknowledges all of that loss with clear eyes. Fire gutted the band’s longtime practice space (and a goodly share of their equipment) in 2012, several of their loved ones shuffled off this mortal coil over the last half-decade, and two of their closest pals (Joe Albanese and Drew Keriakedes of God’s Favorite Beefcake) perished in 2012’s Cafe Racer shootings. Even without all of that extra emotional heft, After the Inferno would be terrific. Knowing that backstory, however, renders The Bad Things’ newest effort nothing short of inspirational.
Album Review – The Bad Things After the Inferno [Silent City Records] – Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange – I’ve said it before, but let me repeat it once more: one of the best things I did in the last decade was sign into FAME as a critic. After 30 years writing mainly for assholes, and one or two fairly nice guys along the way, Big Dave Pyles gave me what I asked for: complete freedom to do as I damn well please, and from that—after departing the realm of progrock, avant-garde, outside jazz, and so on, sick to death of idiot publishers, editors, and fellow crits while strongly desiring to get back and re-invest my affinities for bluegrass, folk, and blues while never surrendering my imperishable love for outside fare—I soon came to the attention of a number of savvy PR people and was supplied musics that completely revivified my flagging spirit, musics precisely like The Bad Things’ After the Inferno, stuff I would never have run across otherwise. So thanks Dave, all ‘y’all PR peeps, and especially the musicians who have produced such wondrous fare for such thirsty ears as mine and the FAME readers’. Siiiiiigh!! And The Bad Things are, well, uh…hmmm, lemme typify them in frontman Jimmy “The Pickpocket” Berg’s own words:
“We’ve ventured into new musical styles, and all our lives have changed. We’ve lost loved ones, some of us had to quit drinking, and I’ve become a parent, so After the Inferno is aptly titled. It’s a rebirth for us. We’re going into a future that’s not easily pigeonholed, and we prefer it that way.”
He’s not exaggerating. He and the lads have concocted a blend of folk, jazz, country, jug, cabaret, rough pop, Balkan, and God only knows what else to come up with a sound that would go exceedingly well with a number of my favorite groups in this bandwidth: The Carnivaleros, The Woes, The Asylum Street Spankers, and so on, groups in which the roots element is very strong but, just when it rears its beautifully odd Americana head, commences to slipping and sliding everywhichwhere and beyond. That’s not a complaint, it’s a deep compliment. Who the hell needs more chart music? Sure as hell not me.
Berg has one of those odd voices part stage presence, part nerd, part Dylan, part bad boy, but always strangely entertaining, and his ensemble is an aggregate of broken angels quite familiar with the mean streets but also mindful of the presence of redemption amid searing honesty and cynicism snarkily delivered. There’s, thank God, a helluva lot of swearin’, cussin’, stump jumpin, and nasty grumpin’ in After the Inferno, sets of mean-spirited lyrics, one verse after the other, cheek to jowl with a honky-tonk, terbacky-spittin’, barn raisin’, fuck-you-and-the-goat-you-rode-in-on spirit, all and sundry gritty, sly, and rambunctious. You’ll hear ‘Murrican, Mezzican, Balkan, klezmeric, and other refrains in the sextet’s music strains, all nailed together in The Bad Things’ iconoclastic perambulations.
This really is no-nonsense rousty music simultaneously pissed as hell while amused with itself, the result an unusually American amalgamation of everything Berg could lay his hands on, as long as it had rime and dust, an evocation of how the bread basket came to metropolis and then reversed the flow. It’s as rednecky and dirt encrusted as 1950 and then as modern as two minutes ago, finding ground that quakes and steams, roils and smokes, then discomforts, irritates, and bemuses, banjos, mandos, sousaphones, ‘cordines, and various implements of elegant tomfoolery wailing away as you fret and fume, guffaw and lament, choke and chortle…and come away only wanting more.
Album Review – The Bad Things After the Inferno [Silent City Records] – Playback:stl – From Seattle comes The Bad Things. For most of my generation, the mere mention of this town conjures an image that, 20 years later, we cannot shake. The Bad Things have taken on that legacy and done something new with it.
Most “Seattle” bands have the power trio, the brooding singer, etc. Well, The Bad Things may have been like that in a past life, but they come off as a Depression-era jazz band playing modern rock. Now, stick with me on this. Instead of just the drums, bass, and guitar we’re all oh, so familiar with, there’s more. The singer plays an accordion. There are also other various stringed instruments throughout the record.
I found myself spending far too much time trying to figure out what this was or what that was, so I had to reset and listen to the record again, and when I did, I found something very special. This is modern retro. The singer croons, the drummer swings, and the album delivers jazzy rockers and slow and methodical jazz style blues tunes, but it’s still rock at the same time.
In the sea of records we all must tread through, this one shines out as something vastly different from its peers. Verdict: You should own this!
Album Review – The Bad Things After the Inferno [Silent City Records] – ExpressMilwaukee.com – Seattle will long be remembered as ground zero of grunge, but that’s not the only music the city has nurtured in recent times. The Bad Things are an Americana group with a particular perspective, which includes conjuring ghosts of the city’s militant past—a place that outsiders from old weird America called home. Recorded with stringed acoustic instruments, accordion, gently brushed drums and even a softly intoned trumpet here and there, The Bad Things bring a contemporary sensibility to folk music.
Album Review – The Bad Things After the Inferno [Silent City Records] – The Midwest Record – Six-piece band The Bad Things (their instrumentation includes accordion, banjo, guitar, upright bass, trumpet, keys, drums, and mandolin) present After the Inferno, an album that treads the tenuous border between love and destruction. Songs resonate with a touch of sadness for the tragedies of the past, but also build upon renewed hope for the future. Intense and powerful, After the Inferno reflects resilience, perseverance, and remembrance. The tracks are “Young Emily Rose”, “Lincoln”, “Bonnie to my Clyde”, “Can’t Get Enough of Love”, “Green Grass”, “Grifter’s Life”, “Carless Maria”, “Not Tonight”, “Jalisco Serenade”, and “Death of the Inferno.”
Album Review – The Bad Things After the Inferno [Silent City Records] – Knick Knack Records’ Talking Machine Blog – Described as junkyard cabaret,After The Inferno includes elements of punk, cabaret, polka and roots music in a synergetic package. Impressive storytelling abilities along with catchy melodies and choruses make it easy to sing along and an enjoyable ride from beginning to end. The arrangements are tight and snappy despite the numerous moving parts. The magic is in the simplicity that holds everything together without sounding overcrowded. The material on this album focuses on loss, heartache, tragedy yet are full of resilience and hope.
Album Review – The Bad Things After the Inferno [Silent City Records] – Inside World Music – With many lineup changes and tragedies over the years, The Bad Things seem to rise up from the ashes of the past with their latest recording, After The Inferno. The Seattle-based group combines a quirky, alt-pop, and a fusion medley of musical styles and instruments throughout the album. The music takes on a gypsy, cabaret, country, folk, and punk characteristic that is highly-creative, unique, and memorable. The slow and emotive “Green Grass,” is a classic folk and country tune with alternative leanings and beautiful back-up vocals. The gypsy rave hit, “Grifter’s Life,” is a rollicking tune with great vocals and a danceable rhythm lead by accordion, horns, and percussion. With song elements bordering on folk, alternative, and indescribable, The Bad Things know how to create music with soul and substance. There are a few similarities to Neutral Milk Hotel. Get it today.
Album Review – The Bad Things Are Anything But – The POP! Stereo Review Round Up – A decade into their career, Seattle’s Bad Things are still one of the city’s best kept musical secrets. While the word Seattle conjures some obvious musical images, The Bad Things are happily not one of them. This gang of outcasts celebrate their uniqueness and outsider status with a fairly interesting approach to music that has more in common with Beirut than with Nirvana. Their latest album, After The Inferno is a tribute to their standing within the coffee capital’s musical community.
Sounding like something from a different century, Bad Things have old world charm by the bucket load. They sound aged, traditional, unusual, and most importantly…cool. There are polka rhythms, accordion songs, horns, chants and a worldly approach to writing a song and not an ounce of flannel in sight. After The Inferno is unusually brilliant because it’s pure and honest and different. It’s just not modern in a 21st century way and I love how the band have found this neat little niche in which to explore old musical styles that often aren’t heard. The Bad Things ability to mix folk, traditional country, Eastern European, Western European, and quirky pop influences into something so mesmerizing makes it almost impossible to turn away from much less dislike.After The Inferno is the kind of record you’d hear on a steam ship, river boat, or expedition. It’s an exploratory and rootsy record that keeps traditional sounds close to it’s heart. The Bad Things are honest and awesome musicians and their name is a complete misnomer, because their albums are far from being Bad Things. Seriously awesome old timey music that even your parents and grand parents will like After The Inferno is highly recommended.
Live Review – Firewater and the Bad Things at the Crocodile – CultureMob It was a perfect fit to have the Bad Things open for [Firewater] this past Monday, the first day of the scariest month, October. “Enough about break-ups. Let’s get back to death,” Jimmy the Pickpocket said to the audience. This is the second time that the Bad Things have opened up for Firewater. After this show… I just wish they were on tour together. Every city should get to see this combo.
All of the best Bad Things songs are sing-alongs about shifty characters and foul deeds. Jimmy shouts from behind his accordion, Mad Wilcox slaps the strings of his upright bass so hard you think they might break, banjo and mandolin and trumpet melodies play a game of tag, and the set isn’t even half over. They played their hearts out Monday night….
Interview – Jimmy the Pickpocket Talks with CultureMob about The Bad Things – CultureMob The Bad Things have a show coming up on October 1st with the amazing band Firewater at the Crocodile. Don’t miss this show. These two bands couldn’t complement each other more, and the combined entertainment will prove a rare, and likely magical night. Tickets are $15 in advance, and available here.
I met with Jimmy “the Pickpocket” Berg, lead singer and accordion player for The Bad Things in Georgetown. I met him on his home turf to find out about how they are finding their way in the wake of two disasters. The Bad Things are post-apocalyptic depression era music. What they do crushes your heart and gives you a new one made out of whiskey. They’re high in the running for the most fun live show in Seattle any night they play. Though this past year has been fraught with tragedy, they are powering through with the help of the community.
We met in a little diner adjacent to the 9lb Hammer in Georgetown, The Square Knot. We discussed the fire that consumed the band’s practice space back in May, and the subsequent loss of dear friends Drew Keriakedes and Joe Albanese, who were among the victims in the Cafe Racer shootings in June. (Donations for the victims here.)
To put it mildly, it made for a difficult summer. With the help of their Indiegogo campaign, and generous donations from foundations and private donors the band has recovered some of their gear. There’s still time to donate to the indigogo fundraiser, and there are some fun giveaways associated. Take a look.
Tom Mohrman: What happened with the practice space?
Jimmy the Pickpocket: It was a space that we’d had for around nine years. It was in an old factory here in Georgetown. It was a raw, kind of gnarly space, but it was great. We had underground parties there, a few bands practiced there besides us, but it was our little home. The electrical in there was super sketchy. Everything about it was fairly sketchy, but it was a great raw space. We had years of memorabilia in there, two pianos, a bunch of leslie speakers and old organs, we had tons of great stuff.
TM: So it was as much a performance space as it was a practice space?
JTP: Yeah. Every summer we would have fundraisers. Usually when they would do the Georgetown Carnival we would do the after party there. So yeah it was our little clubhouse really. And we don’t know what happened, but overnight at some point a fire started. I got the call in the morning and drove down there. The chunk of the building that was our space was just gone.
After the fire
TM: What was the next step?
JTP: Well we were just stunned. There’s nothing you can do. So when I put an announcement on Facebook about it there was this huge outpouring of support, and everyone was going to do fundraising… of course three weeks later Drew and Joe were killed, and so everything got canceled and we felt like idiots for even trying to ask for money after that. Now we’re doing an indiegogo and we’re getting some response from that, and the Grammy Foundation through MusiCares contacted me both about contacting Drew and Joe’s family to help cover funeral costs, and to help us with our fire. We’ve put in the paperwork with MusiCares, and they’ve really stepped up.
TM: Is there any part of this that feels like a fresh start, or clean slate?
JTP: A little. We’ve been offered a space in this new arts collective on Dearborn. They’re basically going to build us this beautiful space. And we’re getting all this new equipment, I mean a lot of our equipment was kind of shitty anyway. Our drummer’s drum kit was a major loss, and he’d had it his whole life. That’s going to be hard to replace, but he’s got a new kit now, and people have donated. Everyone really rallied. The community here has been really great. The amount of emails and letters and comments of support has been just amazing.
The biggest thing to happen recently for me was a girl sent us a card that she’d made, this beautiful card with a metal key on it. She lives somewhere in the middle of Washington and sent us twenty dollars and this note that just said, equipment can be replaced, but you can’t, and keep playing music.
You know, being a musician you don’t make a lot of money, you don’t get a lot of praise. You wonder what the fuck you’re doing it for a lot of the times. And then that happened, and us meaning a lot to people was reason enough to go on.
And then with what happened with Drew and Joe. We played the last show they ever played with them, and had an amazing night, and came here afterwards, and all night we just talked about how great they were, and how we loved our community. The whole night was just love love love, and it was a great fucking night, everyone played great. And then when they were gone it was- that again was reason enough to keep doing this. You never know, you know? We had no idea how important that night with them would be, later, but we knew it was special.
For more in-depth about this past summer’s events, read this beautiful piece Jimmy wrote about Drew and Joe on The Bad Things’ website. For more of our Bad Things coverage, read my review of this show at the Comet. See everyone at the Croc October 1st!
Live Preview – The Bad Things, Eliza Rickman and Toy Box Trio at Columbia City Theater 3/11/12 – SSGmusic Formed in 2002, The Bad Things have preached their religion of Junkyard Cabaret for ten years now, to the utter delight of gypsy pirate enthusiasts everywhere. Founding members Jimmy the Pickpocket (accordion/vocals) and Mad Wilcox (upright bass/musical saw), formed what would eventually evolve into the Bad Things after the demise of cult cabaret outfit, A Midnite Choir in the early aughts. In the years since, the now sextet, has released six albums, the most recent being 2010’s Woebegone (Verbal Burlesque Records). The Bad Things’ blend the theatricality of vaudeville with the tempos of cabaret and the lyrical flexibility of sea shanties, creating a bouncy sound which—disregarding the English lyrics and references to Americana—evokes the feel of a 1930s French Flea Market. Their live shows are known to feature a kind of manic energy, inducing a level of fan engagement so thorough, the venue floor shakes noticeably. In the past, the group have collaborated with the late Kearney Barton, esteemed producer of other local favorites, the Sonics, the Ventures and the Kingsmen.
Live Review – An Open Letter to the Capitol Hill Block Party: Book the Bad Things – CultureMob Dear Capitol Hill Block Party, You Need to Book the Bad Things. The thing with this band is that within three songs the crowd will be swaying side to side, by the fourth the dancing will be open and unashamed. Accordion front man Jimmy the Pickpocket leers at the crowd and sings with a captivating energy reminiscent of Shane MacGowan crossed with Frank Black. Seeing them at the Comet on Friday the thirteenth was proof that Seattle loves the Bad Things. You could feel the wooden dance floor move under your feet like a trampoline. The Bad Things announced at this show that it’s been ten years that they’ve been together. It shows. They are effortless with each other on stage. There’s that ESP that you get after years in the trenches. They were the least costumed act of the night. They are honest, and their music speaks volumes of emotion. They’re at their best when they are manic, Jimmy the Pickpocket’s neck vein popping out as he puts it all into the mic. Their songs are as comfortable as sea shanties, but they sound fresh. There’s nothing automatic, or stale. They held sway with the crowd at the Comet. It was a room full of last call shots and people congratulating each other for being in the right bar on the right night. This band would be perfect a the block party. Are you still there? Book this band. Give them an indoor stage and let them shake the dust out of the walls. You can thank me after.
Album Review – Danbert Nobacon & The Bad Things. Woebegone – No Depression [Danbert’s] most recent album is a self-released little wonder with Northwest cabaret-punks The Bad Things. Titled Woebegone, it’s a romping mashup of Tom-Waits-style cabaret riffs with the edge and snarl of an aging punk rocker. You’ll like it for sure if you like Tom Waits, but it’s a lot of fun even if you’re unfamiliar with that kind of music. It’s rough and raw and angry and funny all at the same time. There’s something compelling about Nobacon’s gravelly voice and working-class British accent, and he delivers a host of interesting vignettes with this album. Kudos to The Bad Things, who bring a foundational structure to the album that lets Nobacon do his thing with great support.
The Cabaret Macabre Haunts Columbia City Theater – The Sunbreak Any band with a lead singer who leans on a squeeze box and sings lyrics about (among other things) hard-luck cases viewing their lives through the bottom of a shotglass is all right by me; especially if the band’s as all-around wonderful as Seattle’s The Bad Things. With their top-flight musicianship and Jimmy the Pickpocket’s deceptively sweet voice at the center, the band always delivers live, leavening their brand of Pogues-style cry-in-your-pint sing-along ditties with a wry sense of humor and fun (I’m officially in love with their polka’ed-up cover of The Stones’ “Out of Time”). Make sure your liver’s ready for the alcohol onslaught, and get ready to dance.
Live Preview – Columbia City Theater’s One Year Anniversary Shindig – SSG Music When you ask The Bad Things to plan a party and invite some friends, they do not disappoint. The pirate-gypsy-goth group definitely is the right group to get a party started and to get people out on the dance floor. They have a fantastic mix of mandolin, accordion, banjo, and more.
Live Preview – West Seattle Summerfest – The Sunbreak If the Pogues could hold their liquor better; shared tequila, German brews, and Scotch ales with Tom Waits; and jammed with a mariachi band; they’d sound kind of like the Bad Things. This awesome kitchen-sink cabaret ensemble comes fresh from the den of debauchery that was the Columbia City Theater’s One-Year Anniversary show (go here for details) to bring mordant humor, alcohol-sodden moping, and killer musicianship to the ‘Fest music stage.
Live Review – Columbia City Theater’s One Year Anniversary – Examiner.com Seattle’s own Bad Things made for a great follow-up, leavening the quirks in their own brand of kitchen-sink cabaret/pop/country with liquor-sodden warmth. Lead singer Jimmy the Pickpocket crooned the songs in a sweet and simple voice made for singing along, and their tunes (mostly originals, with a great cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Out of Time” plopped into the middle) combined last-call weepiness with an impish twinkle, gallows humor, and some serious musicianship. If the Pogues could hold their liquor better, and a mariachi band joined them for tequila rounds, they’d be the cover band for The Bad Things.
Live Preview – Ashia Grzesik and the Bad Things – Seattle PI The Bad Things are Seattle’s finest purveyors of junkyard cabaret and degenerate folk music, which is something that not only totally exists but makes me ineffably happy. Over the years, they’ve provided the score to dozens of theatrical, burlesque, aerial, and cabaret performances.
Live Preview – Bad Things Happen To A Tractor – SpelloutSeattle.com In their press sheet, Seattle “junkyard cabaret” outfit The Bad Things dubs their brand of punked-up klezmer boogie “the music of the Post-Apocalyptic Depression Era.” A cursory perusal of any news source indicates that we’ve reached that milestone, so we might as well embrace the soundtrack. The Bad Things crank out a mad, spiraling gypsy swing that will appeal to anyone who loves DeVotchKa, Gogol Bordello, the Circus Contraption band or life itself, and you can get a belly full of that tasty stuff tonight at the Tractor.
Live Review – Balkan Beat Box and The Bad Things at The Showbox – Seattle Rock Guy I slowly emerged from my comatose state and I realized, inside the Showbox, one of my favorite local bands would take the stage: The Bad Things! Just what the doctor ordered! The Bad Things make me crave beer and I had not consumed any type of tasty beverage since Red Fang. “I want a beer,” droned Nik – his first complete sentence in almost a week! Suddenly, circumstances seemed promising. The Bad Things playing acted like a shot in the arm. The SRG and I started having a conversation – about RED FANG! Over a few songs, our attention solely belonged to The Bad Things and conversation turned to our culture needing more drinking bands/songs and agreed The Bad Things would rule the drinking band genre charts if such thing existed. Why doesn’t such a thing exist?
Live Review – Burlesque, Bellydancing, and Booze the Perfect Trifecta for Flashback Fun at The High Dive – Examiner.com The evening was punctuated with a performance by the 6-piece local favorite The Bad Things. If you are in the mood for some Post Apocalyptic Depression Era tunes then brace your eardrums for a soundtrack that echoes what could have happened if Hunter S. Thompson wrote The Great Gatsby.
Album Review – Danbert Nobacon “Woebegone” – The Kaje The Bad Things are a somewhat iconic and well established gypsy-folk band who have been performing together on street corners, underground gigs and grass-roots festivals all over North America for the past eight years. I am a big fan of this band, regularly checking out YouTube for any madcap performances at some illegal party or other. Apart from the debauchery and fall-out attitude of this band they are above all very talented songwriters and performers….Danbert Nobacon is clearly a very talented musician and songwriter and collaborating with The Bad Things will have been his best career move to date.
Album Review – Danbert Nobacon “Woebegone” – The Hippo …the emphasis here is grungy, unplugged, old-world fun – sea shanties, banjo-plucked dustbowl gloom, things like that.
Bad Things rising – For ‘Woebegone’ project, Methow transplant Danbert Nobacon assembles a cabaret crew – The Wenatchee World James “Jimmy the Pickpocket” Berg knew Danbert Nobacon’s music long before most of his peers in the U.S. Now he’s helping the British songsmith make more of it. Berg, 36, leads the Seattle cabaret-punk ensemble the Bad Things. As a young punk rocker hitchhiking around Europe, one band kept coming to his attention: Nobacon’s old collective Chumbawamba. “European squatter kids all loved them,” Berg says today. Fast-forward to 2008: British expatriate Nobacon (real name Nigel Hunter) had relocated to Twisp with his young family and booked himself into the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle, playing songs from his solo album “The Library Book of the World.” Berg, also playing the festival with the Bad Things, couldn’t believe what he was reading on the program. The two musicians met, Nobacon gigged with the Bad Things around the Northwest, and last year proposed a new self-produced CD project: “Woebegone,” the tale in song of a time-traveling roots musician plunged into a polluted, police-state world of the very near future. “I think we added some suggestions to tunes, but generally, it was his baby,” says Berg. “We were just kind of the vehicle for it.” “Woebegone” was to appear this weekend, in tandem with a Nobacon/Bad Things show Friday at the Twisp River Pub. The release date has since been pushed back to September, but the performance goes on as scheduled. Nobacon vows a proper CD release show will follow when the disc appears, plus perhaps a theatrical presentation of the “Woebegone” cycle at Twisp’s Merc Playhouse. “I don’t know why I started writing as this character — it just sort of grew from there, really,” Nobacon says. Nobacon came to public notice with Chumbawamba, the anarchist rock troupe he co-founded, which specialized in scathing political screeds like “The Day the Nazi Died,” “Never Do What You Are Told” and “Homophobia.” Their binge-drinking ode “Tubthumping” became a surprise international hit in 1997, though it barely represented the band’s total output. Their public shows were marked by extreme theatricality, involving outlandish costumes or, sometimes, no clothing at all. Nobacon and his family settled in Twisp in 2007. Accordionist Berg and bassist Austin “Mad Wilcox” Quist came at rock from a similarly theatrical angle, forming the cabaret-rock group A Midnite Choir in Seattle. The group put out one well-regarded album, “You Have Been Warned,” in 2002, shortly before reforming into the Bad Things. Berg had picked up the accordion during his European travels and took much of his influence from the Pogues, the Irish rockers who “were able to still sound traditional and not sound like a rock band, but somehow still have that punk edge,” he says. The Bad Things encountered Nobacon at a Seattle Folklife Festival two years ago, and were soon invited to collaborate on the new record. “It’s Danbert’s songs, so it’s maybe different chordal patterns than we would do,” says singer and accordionist James “Jimmy the Pickpocket” Berg, third from right. “But I think it feels like a Bad Things record.” He’s not sure if the “cabaret” label, often applied to Dresden Dolls and Devotchka, covers his band fully. “To me, it’s the old sense of raucous, theatrical music that hearkens back to the Weimar Republic, the old Berlin of the ’20s and ’30s, which was a little more loose morally, and they tended to sing about darker subject matter — but it was theater and it was entertainment. … A Bad Things show can be a totally drunken punk rock show, or it can be a theatrical cabaret show. It just kind of depends.” Nobacon’s solo music has been pugnaciously American — rootsy gutbucket songs with acoustic orchestrations and sharp political messages. That affection is part of what drew him to the Bad Things as a backing band for “Woebegone.” “I love accordion and acoustic instruments, and the band does a really interesting thing with banjo and acoustic guitar, or banjo and mandolin,” he says. “They just have a really interesting exchange, the way they play.” Nobacon, who’s spent much of this year recovering from a January ski accident that shattered one leg, has other irons in the fire as well. Back in 2002, Chumbawamba scored the film “Revenger’s Tragedy” for renegade film director Alex Cox (“Repo Man,” “Sid and Nancy”). In September, Nobacon’s “anarchist fairytale” book “Three Dead Princes” will appear through Exterminating Angel Press, with illustrations by Cox. Nobacon says the director might appear in Twisp for a book release event. And the tale of “Woebegone” may not be at an end. “There’s another 18 songs which tell the next part of the story, which we didn’t record,” Nobacon says. “I’ll probably get around to that sooner or later, but probably later.”
Live Preview – Woven Hand, The Pill Thief and The Bad Things at Chop Suey – The Stranger The Bad Things are a local cirque noir/Gypsy-punk crew, with the obligatory accordions and drinking-song choruses.
Album Review – “It’ll All Be Over Soon” – Mark Ostler of Warning:Danger! Picks His Favorite Music of 2009 (New and Old) – Seattle Rock Guy Vaudeville, cabaret, drunken alley cat music, I have a soft spot for these genres. The imagery conjured by The Bad Things, both lyrically and musically, transports you to the dirty streets and back alleys of a 1920’s metropolis. Grab your whiskey and forget about your heartaches, cause these drunken clowns got your misery beat.
An Interview with The Bad Things – Sepiachord The Bad Things are one of the best bands in Seattle, WA and they put on an amazing show. Their (evil) leader, Jimmy the Pickpocket, took a few minutes away from making music (and picking pockets) to chat with Sepiachord. Sepiachord: How long have The Bad Things been around? How did you get together? Jimmy the Pickpocket: The Bad Things got together in the Spring/Summer of 2002 after me, Jimmy the Pickpocket, and Mad Wilcox’s band A Midnite Choir broke up. Originally we were a 2 piece busking in the Pike Place Market and we played our first show as The Bad Things on July 22nd, 2002 as part of a Pirate Radio Benefit in Freeway Park. SC: You always do a big show for Halloween. Why is this holiday special to you? Any interesting surprises this year? JtPP: This will be our fifth year doing our Halloween show Cabaret Macabre. Since we’ve always been drawn to the dark and morbid, it’s a special holiday for us but it’s been an important holiday throughout my life. Fall in the Northwest is probably my favorite time of year. This year will feature us and Baby Gramps, who has performed every year since its inception and Space Accordion Orchestra which features our drummer Lord Kamke. It will also feature the amazing Russian/Gypsy punk of Chervona from Portland, a band I’ve wanted to play with for a while, DJ Darek Mazzone of KEXP’s Wo-Pop spinning Global beats from the Balkans and beyond, and the Hands of Kali, an incredible experimental bellydance troupe that draw on tradition but also takes it into the modern age with a decidedly gothic flair. We’re also taking it out of Georgetown for the first time and bringing it to the Rendezvous which has a lot of history for me as the Midnite Choir used to play there a lot in the old days…when it was a truly sketchy dive bar! That bar probably was the birthplace of the incredible underground cabaret scene that Seattle has today. SC: Your last big show was your two day release party blow out at the Columbia City Vaudeville Theatre. How did you stumble upon this venue? JtPP: Me, Captain Panto, and Mad Wilcox all live in Columbia City with Lord Kamke and Stanislav being close by, so that was a factor but I used to go to punk shows at that theater in the early 90’s and then some raves in the mid-90’s when it was the Lesh House. It’s an old Vaudeville theater from the turn of the century that got totally re-modeled in the early 2000’s and has been an amazing venue for Cabaret/Burlesque shows in recent years thanks to Tamara the Trapeze Lady and burlesque groups like the Atomic Bombshells. SC: You also recorded your newest CD (“It’ll All Be Over Soon”) in the studio at the Columbia City Vaudeville Theatre. How did that compare to other studios you’ve used? JtPP: Chip Butters, the engineer there, is an old friend of The Bad Things and someone who has wanted to work with us for quite a while. We chose him because he has a very analog perspective on recording, which is what we were looking for after the last album. Having access to that amazing theater to record drums, organ, and horns in was incredible and Chip really put his heart and soul into the record. Plus being in the neighborhood was great. It really felt like a homespun project – recording and having the CD release all in the neighborhood we love. SC: “It’ll All Be Over Soon” is your third CD, what makes it distinctive from your first two outings? JtPP: In some ways, it’s a return to the simplicity of the first album, since “Vaudeville Show” was such a concept album. This was going back to just recording songs and not bothering with all the sound effects and atmospheric sounds that “Vaudeville Show” had. It also has the analog feel of the first one but with some nice additions that ProTools allows. Musically, though, I think it’s our most diverse. I was finally able to add horns to Drunken Doughboy, which was inspired by Balkan brass bands like Fanfare Ciocarlia and was brought to fruition by the amazing Orkestar Zirkonium. Also, the songs are more recent. The other two albums featured songs that I had written during my Midnite Choir years and in the early Bad Things years but these were all, with the exception of “Twilight” written in the last couple years by this lineup of the band. I think it really showcases what this lineup can do musically. This has been the most steady lineup that we’ve had and I think it shows how we all write together and how we’ve evolved. SC: First the band created the show “The Breaking” with the Can Can Castaways, then they were featured on the second night of your CD release party. How did you hook up with them? Do you have any plans to write music specifically for them to perform to? JtPP: We had been working with the Castaways on and off at the Can Can because they were already dancing to our CD’s during their weekly cabaret shows. So, we’d just show up and play the songs live with them from time to time. I love their style and I really think they’re the most original and talented group of performers in this city. They have such a physical and quirky style and it totally fits with our music and we all mesh well as people. With “The Breaking” we were able to put all those random pieces into a coherent show and I’m incredibly proud of how it came out. Some parts of that show are so beautiful and it’s incredible as a musician to see how another type of performer interprets your music. It gives a song a whole new life really. They’ve already been working out routines to the new tunes, which they premiered at the CD Release. Whether that will turn into another show has yet to be determined but we’re already talking about doing some of those down at The Can Can in the near future. I think there’s still a lot more we can do with “The Breaking” as well but I would love to do something new tool….we’ll see! SC: Is it hard to organize everybody in the band to play shows? JtPP: Yes, but everyone is really devoted to this band. We all have our side projects but really we’ve become like a little family. We don’t gig as much as we used to so that helps and touring is pretty difficult for us to pull off due to marriages, mortgages, and work but we’re pretty happy with where we’re at. SC: What other Seattle bands do you love to play with? JtPP: Well, I mentioned Orkestar Zirkonium earlier who, I think, are one of the best live bands in town and are truly incredible musicians and people. I also love Baby Gramps, who is like a father-figure to us and a local legend. It seems like there are more and more bands popping up that do a similar style as us now and that’s exciting. It exciting to see a “scene” of this flavor form and a lot of the more recent bands are great. Some of my favorites would be the Dandelion Junk Queens, Miss Mamie Lavona, and, though not a Seattle band, The Peculiar Pretzelmen from LA….but we’re trying to get them to move here! SC: What’s better: folks coming up to you after the show and telling you how good you were or people dancing while you play? JtPP: I think a band like us is totally dependent on our audience. If the crowd is just standing there, it’s hard for us to get excited so I would always rather see a drunk, dancing audience than hear compliments. An audience’s enthusiasm is the ultimate compliment and we’ve been really lucky with that here in Seattle. SC: You manage to temper you gloomy/doomy lyrics with a bit of humor and even whimsy. Is this hard to pull off or is it the only way you can write songs? JtPP: One thing I always loved about traditional music was how they would have this happy sounding song but you’d listen to the lyrics and they’d be about being unemployed or killing your wife or whatever. I think it’s liberating to sing happily about horrible things because it kind of takes the power away from things like death. When you can laugh about it, then it no longer has any power over you. There’s nothing you can do about it anyway. Bad Things happen all the time! SC: What were your favorite bands as a kid? Do they have any influence on the music you make now? JtPP: Well, I went through the token Goth faze as a kid and some of the earlier bands I loved were The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths, etc., then I was really into Anarchist punk rock bands like Crass, Conflict, and Chumbawamba, then Two Tone ska and 60’s reggae, but probably the biggest influence on my music was when I heard Tom Waits’ “More Than Rain” off of “Franks Wild Years” on the local college radio station when I was about 15 or 16. I thought it was a really old recording and I loved the way it sounded. Like it was recorded in an old damp cellar or something. So mysterious and creepy. It wasn’t until about 5 years later that I found out who it was but I remember thinking “I want to make music that sounds like that!” SC: What would be the ultimate expression of The Bad Things? Would you love to see a huge Broadway show built around your work? JtPP: I’ve always thought of our songs as stories and with The Breaking I really was able to see how well they translate to the stage. I would love to write music for a production someday and it certainly would be amazing to see it come to fruition. I dunno if Broadway is really right for us though….maybe in a back alley off of Broadway! That’s more our style. SC: Any final Bad Thoughts? JtPP: Thanks for supporting us Sepiachord and creating a forum for all us like-minded musicians. That didn’t exist a few years ago and it’s great to see the community come together and you’re a big part of that! Cheers….
SeattleNoise: The Bad Things – Seattle Post-Intelligencer WHAT: Known to some as Seattle’s premier “junkyard cabaret” band, this sextet is a carnival on wheels. The lineup includes Jimmy “the Pickpocket” Berg (vocals, accordion), Miss Funi “La Fantastica” McCloughlin (vocals, castanets, tin-can brassiere), Austin “Mad Wilcox” Quist (upright bass, musical saw, sousaphone), Beau “Stanislav the Gypsy” Hebert (guitar, mandolin), Miles “Captain” Panto (banjo, dobro), and Steve “Lord” Kamke (drums). QUOTE: “If you listen to our songs,” Berg explains, “you’ll see that many of them are about people doing bad things, i.e. killing their lovers (or in a couple of songs, an entire town), drinking too much, drugging too much, killing themselves, etc. I always thought of the band as a sort of gang that celebrated the darker sides of life. Our gigs feel like celebrations, but the subject matter is pretty dark a lot of the time — creating an interesting dichotomy. The idea becomes, ‘Drink up now because bad things happen every day, and we’re all gonna die someday no matter what.’ And, yes, people should do bad things to our songs or at least think about doing them.” CAREER DEBUT: July 22, 2002, as part of a Pirate Radio benefit at Freeway Park, although for several months prior the group had been busking as a three-piece at Pike Place Market. SOUND: As if a bunch of Gypsy marauders were performing macabre circus sideshow songs around a campfire in the middle of an abandoned cabaret that serves wine in a jug and mead on tap. RELEASES: Their 2003 demo, “The Bad Things,” came with a handmade cover but is now out of print; 2004’s “The Bad Things” is considered their proper debut; the band also had a song (“Angel’s Disguise”) featured on the 2006 compilation “Girlfriends and She-Devils: A Tribute to the Femme Fatale,” followed by “Vaudeville Show” and next week’s release, “It’ll All Be Over Soon.” INFLUENCES: “Lyrically, I was inspired by the train-hopping gutter punks that I kept company with as a young man. While I never hopped trains, I loved the stories told while drinking under bridges and around campfires, and I think we all had a deep love for folk and old-timey music.”
Live Review – Georgetown Music Festival – Sound On The Sound The gypsy caravan of The Bad Things complete with banjo’s, accordions, washboards, and mandolins lived up to their mischievous name. The music is built for dancing along, and even a few of the non-hippie kind of feet were feeling it.
Death Polka – What’s Up Magazine Six years ago on the rainy, polluted streets of Seattle the darkly funny band The Bad Things first took shape as an all-acoustic vaudeville group with a legion of instruments and a heap of charmingly devious characters. Traditional music collides with latter-day black humor and despair in a raucous cacophony of antiquated/obscure instruments like the accordion, banjo, melodica, saw and a pair of steel boob-drums called “the Funi ta-ta’s” to name just a few. The Bad Things consists of: ‘Jimmy the Pickpocket’ (Jimmy Berg),lead vocalist who plays the accordion, organ and melodica; ‘Funi La Fantastica’ (Stephanie McLaughlin) lead and backing vocalist and percussionist; ‘Stanislov the Gypsy’ (Beau Hebert) on guitar and mandolin; ‘Mad Wilcox’ (Austin Quist), backing vocalist who plays the upright bass, sousaphone and saw; ‘Captain Panto’ (Miles Panto) on the banjo and dobro; and ‘Lord Kamke’ (Steven Kamke) on percussion. The Bad Things have attracted a cult following of fans for their riotous, wine-swiggin’ live shows. Their music has been called “the party being held at the end of the world.” Local fan Aireekah Laudert said, “Their music is filthy yet lovely,waltz-inducing, and extremely entertaining. They probably make me want to drink more than any other band.” Laudert is a new member of the Dirty Bird Cabaret, a Bellingham act that will perform with The Bad Things on Friday, March 13 at the Green Frog Acoustic Tavern. The band’s third and latest album It’ll All Be Over Soon was released in August 2008. The album was recorded in an old vaudeville theatre in Seattle with vintage equipment that produces a warm, old-timey-sounding recording. The themes of death, heartache and general woe are delivered in a light-hearted and bouncy polka way, similar to other albums, but the music sounds more subtly textured and complex than ever. “The new album is a step forward for us,” said Jimmy the Pickpocket(Jimmy Berg), the band’s co-founder and Bellingham native. “Some great new tunes and more exploration of new styles than in the past.” Quist said of the album, “It’s another file in the increasing stack of evidence that we are a bunch of drunken, twisted, mental cases that maybe shouldn’t be allowed to record, or at least not be inflicted upon decent god-fearing people.” The Bad Things are influenced by the style of traditional folk music; including Russian and Gypsy folk, American bluegrass, and Klezmer music (think bar mitzvah), but retain the spirit of a punk-rock band. The band describes themselves as “junkyard waltzes and shameless shanties.” Seattle’s Cabaret Macabre, which was created by The Bad Things five years ago, started as a way to bring similar carnival/cabaret/old-timey bands together to celebrate The Bad Things’ favorite holiday: Halloween. The event has featured Dark carny, Baby Gramps, Seattle Semi-Pro Wrestling, PURE Suspension piercing and of course The Bad Things. Next fall, The Bad Things will be part of the first annual Seattle international cabaret festival that will feature The Tiger Lilies and The Yard Dogs Road Show. Berg said the details are still in the works.
Live Preview – Rocka Rolla – The Stranger Halloween and rock ‘n’ roll are natural bedfellows, so it comes as no surprise that this week brings a wide array of entertainment options for people who prefer to mix the macabre with the musical. My pick for the most perfect pairing is the Bad Things, a band of lovable, local loonies who have garnered themselves a slavish cult following, thanks to their wickedly weird, devious carnival soundtrack. Working with the intriguing, antiquated ingredients of traditional klezmer music, Appalachian balladry, and a strong streak of Gypsy-folk and Mexican influences, the Bad Things are both charming and creepy. If your idea of a good time includes ghostly accordion playin’, German clowns, diminutive deviants offering disquieting spoken-word interludes, aerialists, a darkly beautiful siren leading you astray, or just a general sense of old-world rapture colliding with modern punk sensibilities, then the Bad Things will leave you delighted.
Album Review – The Bad Things “Vaudeville Show” – Sepiachord Seattle’s The Bad Things have a pedigree that’s hard for me to argue with: they pulled a phoenix by growing out of the ashes of the great A Midnite Choir. While the ‘Choir was an intimate trio The Bad Things have blossomed into a wonderfully complex ensemble of (at least) six performers. And they are performers. They evoke characters on stage, they entertain with a show. But at the heart of it all they’re talent musicians. “Vaudeville Show” is their second release and continues to explore the band’s scruffy and dark, yet entertaining, world view. At its essence vaudeville was like watching television without being able to control the remote: every few minutes the channel would change and a new performer would appear to try to grab your attention. The Bad Things understand the audiences desire for constant variety. The instrumentation on this CD is wonderfully varied and any number of song styles are plundered. This recording has polkas, waltzes, sea shanties, circus themes and junkyard cabaret. This is a well rounded album, it’s peppered with sinister asides (thanks to Seth “Danny Dead” Witz) and tempered with instrumentals. It can make you laugh as on the slightly scatological introduction of “The Bad Things Vaudeville Show” or the gleefully mean-spirited Spike Jones-meets-Dead Kennedys rave up of “Kill Yourself”. But they’re not always a scream… at least not in a comedic way. The Bad Things have developed a reputation as a dance band. True there are danceable elements and it’s refreshing to see an audience actually DANCE (as opposed to drunkenly bashing into each other). But the songs are so frequently funeral and bleak that you’ll stop waltzing to slit your wrists. Don’t worry about getting lost in such an assortment of sound. On “Vaudeville Show” the band has created a loose story line for you to follow from piece to piece. The concept album strategy isn’t really necessary, it’s interesting and fun but the songs all hold up on their own. Because, at their heart, The Bad Things know that to be a great band means writing wonderful songs that are catchy and moving. Their skill at song writing is illustrated no better than on the song “The Breaking”. The two greatest themes in storytelling are falling in love and falling OUT of love. It should come as no surprise that the end of a relationship is what would appeal to these musical freebooters. accordionist/singer Jimmy “The Pickpocket” Berg and percussionist/singer Stephanie “Miss Funi” McLaughlin trade verses reminding each other why they got together and why the can’t stay together any longer. “The Breaking” is a classic of the lost (or losing) love genre. It shows that the end of a relationship is a ghost of what it started to be, Love becomes a revenant of hope, possibility echoes itself in a list of regrets. If you can’t hear your life in this dirge waltz then you’ve never had a real love to lose. Yet the darkness of the song is still balanced by the band’s bitter humor. The Bad Things know that you’re here for the show, for entertainment. They are a vaudeville act in that they help us forget our problems for awhile, we get caught up in it all. In a way it’s too bad that the band is performing now because they may have missed their perfect venue: The Bad Things should have been playing the ballroom when the Titanic went down.
Album Review – The Bad Things “Vaudeville Show” – LunaKafe.com As you can tell from the title, The Bad Things are a twisted bunch of players. You might assume they know their Brecht from their Brel and they say ten ‘ave Tom Waits’ each night. The singer calls himself ‘Jimmy the Pickpocket’ and the rest have equally fancy nicknames. Either you’ll know it’s for you or hate it. “Thy Will Be Done” is like an Americana song seen though a prism of gaudy cabaret. “Angel’s Disguise” features a musical saw while Jimmy sings of meeting a bewildering girl. “Kill Yourself” is a very merry, very Waitsy song giving spiteful advice to the angel girl of the previous song. “All The clowns Are Now Garbage Collectors” is an ace title for a great song. The Bad things are a great group and their vaudeville show is most inspired.
Border Radio – The Stranger Speaking of evil clowns… if you hit the (Northwest Folklife) festival Saturday evening, seek out locals the Bad Things. As an avid fan of the novel Geek Love and all things reeking of Coney Island, I find that their demented carnival tunes—as featured on their new album Vaudeville Show—resonate vividly in my addled brain. How can you not love a band whose instrumentation includes glockenspiel, concertina, melodica, toy piano, musical saw, and sousaphone?
Yes Yes You Can Can – The Seattle Weekly Tableau Vivant danced and mimed skits involving dueling courtesans in Louis XIV–era dresses and mechanical dolls launching failed love affairs. An appropriately gravel-voiced Danny Dead spun tales and the Bad Things Orchestra accompanied the action with Parisian circus-slash-jug band music. It was burlesque in its broadest sense: light on salaciousness and heavy on broad humor, with titillation for everyone present—buxom women jiggling their pasties and the only man who’s ever made a skintight red knit leotard look alluring. Lights shining up from the stage floor cast the performers’ beauty in tawdry, exotic hues, making them look like they belonged in the Moulin Rouge—this time the Parisian icon, not the movie.
Album Review – The Bad Things “Self Titled” – Shite and Onions zine A few years ago, I noticed Reverend Glasseye was playing a gig in Portland with The Dolomites. I looked at the showbill, I noticed the opening band were called: “A Midnite Choir” I had no idea who they were, so I decided to get a closer inspection and show up early. Based on my observations, I came to this conclusion: imagine Edgar Allen Poe picking up a squeezebox instead of a pen. Imagine if “The Raven” was an album instead of a book. Simply put, but it pretty much sums up “A Midnite Choir” Turns out that gig was The Choir’s last show. Eventually, members of “A Midnite Choir” joined other bands such as: The Wages Of Sin, Moonpenny Opera, The Circus Contraption, and The Bad Things. The Bad Things pretty much pick things up where “A Midnite Choir” left off. Imagine if Nick Cave’s little brother found a time machine & became a member of some house band at a funeral home in the late 19th century. That might actually be the case, I dunno ,but if the end of the world come tomorrow, The Bad Things, would be the ones pointing, & giggling saying something like: “Die, die die, Ha-ha! We told you so!!! Ha-ha!” with enough old fashioned black humor to poke a dead dog in the guts with a stick. The Bad Things debut album came out in 2004, and according to lead singer Jimmy “the Pickpocket” the album is kind of dated, They have a new album coming out soon, with plenty of new band members, so look for a second review in the near future. In the meantime, if you’re looking for junkyard polkas in the graveyard at midnight, look no further. The Bad Things have dug up the remains of all the Gypsy-folk Klezmer bands in the graveyard, set them a blaze, and danced around the fire singing some alcoholic hillbilly rave-up about dust, death, and the devil!
Drunk By Noon – The Stranger The punk influence…courses through the sensibility of The Bad Things…the outfit mixes folk, mountain music, and Klezmer into a seamless and delirious live show…the (instruments) might all be acoustic, but the energy is bare wire punk, with a joy buzzer of hillbilly thrown in for good measure.
Live Review – The Crocodile with DeVotchKa – Three Imaginary Girls I never would have imagined such a display of carnival-esque debauchery. I was simultaneously delighted, amused, turned-on (!!), horrified, and inspired. The audience this band draws to shows are as much a part of the circus scene as the band itself.
Live Review – House Show at The Firebreathing Kangaroo House – FatalBeauty.com I was invited to a show by the band The Bad Things on Saturday, the 11th of December. My friends and I headed out to a place called The Flying Kangaroo in Georgetown, Seattle. (editors note: it’s actually the Firebreathing Kangaroo!) When we arrived we discovered it was basically a party house for squatter punks, but that the place had hosted plenty of shows and earlier that day had been the end destination for a performance group of bicyclists who dressed in war-paint and odd costumes. Many of them still lingered around for the upcoming show. The only bands on the bill were The Bad Things, with a guy by the name of Pipsqueak as an opening act. I was looking forward to The Bad Things after hearing their music for the first time about a month ago and having several friends claiming to be true fans. (The Bad Things) are a band of misfits making a sound similar to old world European gypsy music, with just a hint of the punks they keep company with. The band was comprised of a male and female singer who played washboard and accordion as well, a banjo, a drummer, a guitar, a stand up bass, and a wheel-chaired dwarf vocalist with a tambourine. Their look alone deems them cooler than most. Their set was solid with lots of folk styles alike to polka and waltz formats. Occasionally one of the band members took breaks from their preferred instruments to play the saw or the liquor bottle handed to them. Their songs mustered images of sad faced vaudeville characters and farmers singing to their sheep beneath paper moons. PickPocket and DiTolvo, the duet who sang such sad songs looked a perfect match for the words they gave forth. He appeared as a drunken dirty-faced young man who could have just returned from the coal mines to put down a few pints before the pub closed. And lovely DiTolvo though beautiful in so many ways had a curve to her smile that hinted that everything wasn’t all together upstairs. The occasional lyrical interludes by the little man in the chair they call Danny Dead were always clear and haunting, adding another notch in the spooky belt The Bad Things wear everywhere they go. Although by this time I was two sheets to the wind with my friends Johnnie Walker and Bier I remained clearheaded enough to count the performance as one of the best shows I had seen in a year or more.
Live Review– Aradia Rock 4 Choice – Three Imaginary Girls Next up, The Bad Things performed a blend of what can only be described as Drinkin’ Music. Ditty after ditty was churned out by this motley crew of musicians, who in their “Cool Instrument Arsenal” regularly employ banjo, accordion, stand-up bass, and makeshift percussion consisting primarily of pots and pans played by Token Woman Miss Holly. The band as a whole was certainly talented, and the quirky tunes succeeded in making everyone want another beer, but unfortunately for the praise that is ready and waiting to be heaped upon them, this reporter developed a nasty case of tunnel vision through which he was only able to see Miss Holli as she pounded her solitary drum into a proverbial pulp. When she sang it was with the voice of an angel (albeit a drunken one, representing the spirit of The Bad Things who were still performing somewhere in the distance), and over the course of the half-hour set, I came to realize that I love her so desperately, I have since filed a preemptive restraining order against myself to keep her safe.
It’s a Long Black Train – The Bad Things Bring Folk to the Forefront – The Tablet People that claim that folk is dead in the Northwest have one thing in common: they have not seen the Bad Things play live. Formed from the ashes of Seattle underground favorites A Midnite Choir, the Bad Things have been performing in pubs, clubs, and your local Seattle sidewalks for the past year and a half. Combining elements of gypsy, folk, klezmer, hillbilly ballads, mariachi crooners, and a vaudeville theatrical aesthetic, the group has a reputation for drunken debauchery and feverish dancing at their live shows. The instruments are all acoustic: banjo, percussion, accordion, guitar, and upright bass, and the group blends their old-fashioned style with a post-modern sense of black humor in the lyrics. Their name is derived from the Midnite Choir song “Physical Withdrawals” a twisted fable of being attacked by a demonic legion of supernatural beings in the night (Pickpocket’s note: The song is actually about alcohol withdrawalsÂ…courtesy of Mr. Greg Adair!). “There’s definitely a punk influence just in the way we go about it, just not with loud guitars or anything.” notes Jimmy the Pickpocket, the group’s lead singer and accordion Player. “It’s all based (in) different kinds of folk music-Mexican, Russian, Tango, and Hillbilly. Now it’s become more of our own sound.” In addition to regular appearances at the Nine Pound Hammer, The Beacon Pub, and the Funhouse, it is not uncommon to stumble upon the Bad Things playing outside Westlake Center or at the Pike Place Market in the spring and summer. “That’s what this music is about, it’s meant to be played on the streets.” When I traveled through Europe, the one thing I really loved was seeing the gypsy musicians and accordion players out on the sidewalks. There weren’t people just brushing them off; they were part of the culture. That’s something that doesn’t happen in America enough,” adds Jimmy. However, the group has limited their appearances on the waterfront and at Pike Place because of new permits that buskers and street musicians are now required to purchase before performing. McBee (the banjo player) remarks, “The crowd you’re going to encounter on the street is so different from when you play a show; it makes you proud to be a musician, especially when someone stops and pays attention. You’re just kind of naked out there.” The Bad Things plan to record a full length album in May with producer Kearney Barton (known for his work with The Sonics in the sixties!), with intention of releasing it on Silent City Records, their own label.