Between 2/26 and March 7, two Narcs were out
vacationing working on a piece on Portland’s and San Francisco’s music scene. This second of three parts finds our young adventurers in search of San Francisco’s best New Jersey-style pizza.
It’s always a nice surprise: You go to a show to see one band, but another band on the bill gives such a killer performance that the other sets pale in comparison, and you wonder why you weren’t there to see that band all along.
During Noise Narcs’s visit to San Fran back in early March, we hopped on a bus on a Wednesday night and headed down to Bernal Heights to hit up a show at the Knockout. It’s a no-frills dive bar & venue, with the bar and the stage/dancefloor separated by a cut-out wall. A tight grid of album covers adorns the top section of the bar side of that middle wall, and below that, “LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL” is painted right-to-left in backward letters, which become legible when you look into the big mirror above the bar.
The bar had an okay selection of draft beers, but the most popular beverage choices seemed to be Tecate tallboys and 12-oz cans of Hamm’s, which was a new one for me in the pantheon of cheap, hipster-certified brews. Wikipedia says it’s a Minnesota beer but that it had plants in San Francisco:
The Hamm’s brewery in San Francisco opened in 1954 at 1550 Bryant Street, close to the Seals baseball stadium. The brewery closed in 1972. In the early 1980’s, the beer vats were rented out to punk rock bands, and it was a used as music studios until the building was renovated and turned into offices.
Also, you must check out this old Hamm’s commercial.
When we first walked in, we caught the tail end of Tim Cohen’s Magic Trick. The little we heard was gentle, pleasant rock; it would turn out to be quite a contrast for what was up next.
As the second band was setting up, a few things diminished our expectations for their set: (1) The drummer took his sweet time to tune his snare, and played a loud flam after each turn of the drum key; (2) The guitarist’s strap was made of chain — like, regular chain.
Rocking Wayfarers, the lead singer/guitarist, greeted the crowd with, “Alright, you turkeys. We got some music for ya,” and launched into some straight-ahead rock’n’roll, a I – IV – V tune called “Pepperoni Eyes,” as in, “Pepperoni eyes / She’s got those pepperoni eyes.”
The band was called Personal & The Pizzas, as in, “I’m Personal, and this here’s my band, The Pizzas.” The jokey name, dumb lyrics, and strict adherence to the Stooges/Ramones formula of no-frills, two-and-a-half minute songs could have gotten old fast, had it not been for the band leader’s compelling stage presence and the gusto with which he served up his Jersey greaseball shtick.
When an audience member rudely called out the bassist — a tall, lanky, balding, gum-chewing dude in a leather jacket — for sporting a slightly uneven handlebar mustache, the singer turned to his bandmate and said, “You just stand there and look pretty and blow some bubbles for me.” It might not be that funny on the page, but when delivered with an exaggerated Jersey accent from another era (cf. intro to “Brass Knuckles”), it killed.
The band has an album, Raw Pie, out on Oakland’s 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. It’s a slice of what they’re about. But for the full meal, this is a band best experienced live.