Prog Out on Sunday, Dec. 14

Interesting progressive-rock-related bill coming up Sunday night, Dec. 14, at a venue I’m not familiar with: Leo’s Music Club (5447 Telegraph Ave, Oakland):

MiRthkon is a prog band mixing heavy guitars with saxophones and bass clarinets, a mix of rock intensity and cerebral whimsy. My last mention of them was a show with Kayo Dot. Here they are live in a more recent show: Rock in Opposition 2013.

Surplus 1980 is Moe! Staiano’s post-punk band, a spastic loudness that’s gleaming with intelligence. They’ve been on hiatus; the band’s most recent output was a 10″ vinyl record that’s available at Squidco, among other places.

Jack o’ the Clock — which mixes the bucolic and the highbrow in a stew of prog, folk, classical, and jazz, is the band I’ve seen the most often out of these three. They’ve been taking a break as well, woodshedding new material, according to the emailer they sent out. Here’s some audience video of a performance from September a year ago.

Surplus 1980 and ReCardiacs Fly: Raucous Musicks Coming Saturday

Cool avant-rock show happening Sat. Feb. 23 at The Starry Plough in Berkeley:

Moe! Staiano‘s Surplus 1980 is the headliner, and he’ll be preceded by ReCardiacs Fly, the Cardiacs tribute band make up of members of Reconnaissance Fly (plus others such as Moe!).

They’ve done a good job using Facebook as a promo hub for the show. Check it out here.

It’s a chance to experience new Surplus 1980 songs and rarely heard Cardiacs complexities, and to rock the Starry Plough (which happens with some regularity, admittedly, but is still a good cause).

Previous posts about the two bands, which have shared a bill before:

Surplus 1980: Update

Moe! Staiano is raising funds to do a 10″ vinyl release by his band, Surplus 1980.

This is the same 10″ mentioned previously, when I’d stopped by his Amoeba Records in-store appearance. It would feature seven songs.

The Kickstarter project Moe has launched asks for a modest $3,000 to produce two colored versions of the 10″ along with corresponding CDs.

Rewards range from the obvious (vinyl and CDs) to a live concert of the band, at your beck and call within 75 miles of Oakland.

WordPress is “disappearing” my attempts to embed the Kickstarter video, so you’ll have to go over there yourself to see Moe’s depictions of the musicians on the album, including players of percussion, keyboards, oboe, and clarinet. As with the first Surplus 1980 record, Moe is taking advantage of the local music ecosystem to build something beyond your average rock band.

Thirty Loud Minutes With Surplus 1980

It was just a half-hour show, but hey, it’s not as if Surplus 1980 plays all the time, and I’ve been wanting an excuse to spend some time at Amoeba

Moe Staiano‘s rock band got the stage at Amoeba Berkeley on Sunday afternoon, playing tracks from the album, Relapse in Response — plus one new song that’s earmarked for a 10″ vinyl release Moe is considering.

Neither the stage, nor the crowd, nor the pay (Amoeba gift certificates) are large, but I’ve always thought in-store record shows were a neat “community” thing to do, both for the stores and the musicians. Come to think of it, I seem to remember Moe doing a solo performance at Radio Free Records, a short-lived store in a strip mall down here in Campbell, Calif.

Anyway, Surplus 1980 this time had five members: Moe, Bill Wolter, and Thomas Scandura (the guitarist and drummer I’d seen at the band’s Starry Plough show) an added guitarist (a woman whose name I didn’t catch, sorry!), and Vicki Grossi on bass (who appears on the Relapse album).

It was a nice set of pounding, complex rock. See below for a few pictures — at angles that obscure Grossi and Scandura, unfortunately.  And from Moe’s Soundcloud page, here’s one track earmarked for that 10″.

The set covered a lot of the album, including some of my favorite tracks — “Let’s Put Another One There,” the instrumental title track (with guitars taking over the Morse-code horn line), the amusing “M.E.S. Shoe Contact,” and the Diagram Brothers cover “Aggravation.”

Moe!kestra and Surplus 1980

Moe! Staiano has back-to-back shows of note happening in just a couple of days.

Source: Moe on FacebookTuesday March 13: Moe!kestra comes to The Uptown in Oakland, performing “Piece No. 9: When Terrie Had Six.” The title refers to Terrie Ex of the Dutch band The Ex, whose songs served as inspiration for the piece. Expect a mass of 30 or so musicians following instructions written out by Moe. He’s a very physical conductor, so the piece will probably be visually as well as musically dynamic.

On Facebook, Moe is hinting that this will be the last Moe!kestra ever. That turned out to be untrue when he said it in 2009, but given the logistics of putting together a project like this and the difficulty of finding a venue that’s both capable and willing, you might want to assume (or at least pretend) he’s right this time.

Opening will be the free-jazz quartet of Mark Clifford (vibraphone), Anton Hatwich (bass), Aram Shelton (clarinets), and Jacob Wick (trumpet).

Wednesday March 14: I love it when the Hemlock Tavern (San Francisco) opens its backroom stage to jazz/improv acts. This is going to be a great show:

  • Surplus 1980, at the Starry Plough in BerkeleySurplus 1980 — Moe’s avant-rock band, pictured at right. Read about them here; listen to them here.
  • ReCardiacs Fly — The Cardiacs cover band that I keep writing about (with Moe on drums). More here.
  • PG13 — The (apparently rather loud) trio of Thomas Scandura (drums), John Shiurba (guitar), and Phillip Greenlief (sax). They’ve played together quite a bit, and while I’ve never heard them, I’ll point out that Scandura and Shiurba were in the last version of The Molecules. So, they’ve got loudness-and-craziness cred.

Surplus 1980

Surplus 1980 [Moe! Staiano] — Relapse in Response (Dephine Knormal, 2011)

If you know Moe’s solo percussion act — relentless energy, loud and fast but high-precision — you have an idea where this music is coming from.

The word that comes to mind is “manic.” Even when the tempo isn’t that fast, Moe F-I-L-L-L-L-S the space with drums. Fast, loud, madcap drums. He also packs the room with guitar blasts and some evil, rubbery bass.

As mentioned before (see links below), Surplus 1980 is a rock band, the second coming of the instrumental punk band Mute Socialite. Surplus 1980 is a thicker brew, this time with vocals, horns, and strings added here and there, courtesy of a host of Bay Area talents. It puts an out-jazz touch on the punk ferocity, but this is still a high-energy rock band at heart.

That he hangs out with these folks shows in the composing, too — complicated single-note guitar riffs or repeated odd-time-signature blasts. Much of this is played by Moe himself, but he does enlist other guitarists and bassists to flesh out the sound, or just to provide another point of view.

Some of the lead vocals consist of overdubbed Moes, barking out the words. Self-deprecation is a common theme. “M.E.S. Shoe Contact” is basically about the awkwardness of trying to write lyrics; “Trying to Succeed, Waiting With Little to No Results” is pretty self-explanatory. “Let’s Put Another One There” is a good piece of satire about overbuilding and anti-environmentalism, told in aggressive punky blasts.

Relapse includes some covers that seem worth researching. “The Gooseneck” is one I know, from Amy X. Neuburg, here turned into a buzzing and raw fast-forward dance. I’m not familiar with the spiky no-wave sound of Diagram Brothers (“Aggravation”) or the almost ska-sounding Bogshed (“Excellent Girl”).

As far as the music writing goes, the pinnacle might be “The Mechanics of Mathematical Courtings,” a madcap clockwork with lots of interlocking parts. Strings and horns pop up in tiny blips  among the guitar, the percussion, and yes, those drums (maybe less so than on other tracks).  I also liked a middle segment of “Ed Saad” where thick pulsing bass (Vicky Grossi) becomes the backdrop for some cool guitar effects from Ava Mendoza. It’s a nice little departure.

The album appears to be buyable through Moe! at, and you can hear many of the tracks on Soundcloud.

See Also:

Moe Rocks It

Surplus 1980, the new Moe! Staiano art/punk band, rocked the house at the Starry Plough Friday night. The band was energetic and tight. They were a quartet — bass, guitar, drums, and Moe on vocals, keyboards and extra guitar. I arrived mid-set, and through the door, it sounded like a lot more than four people.

Rhythmically, a lot of the songs moved in bursts, with barked staccato vocals and jagged guitar and bass parts. The drumming was terrific — loud but with a surprisingly light touch. (I don’t have the band members’ names down, sorry.)

I haven’t yet listened to the Relapse in Response album, copies of which were available at the show. It’s going to be a different experience, packed with horns and with Moe himself on drums. I’m glad I caught the band in straight rock format, though. They put on a solid show.

Surplus 1980

Moe takes to the guitar.

I’m pretty sure that’s Alee Karim on bass.

Moe owns an Invader Zim bag. I’m so jealous.

I expected White Pee to be noisy and bristling. The noise elements were there — guitar feedback, some keyboard/electronics — but the overall vibe was a more easygoing jam, drifting along with the rhythm. The band’s lineup varies every time, and this edition included a violin and cello, which I gathered was unusual. The strings might have helped define the mood of the show, and their contributions were great, often twirling well outside the determined rhythm and drone-chord to add all kinds of exciting color. They weren’t a jam band and weren’t a noise band — I thought of them as something closer to The Necks but with less looping.

White Pee, the sextet version. Dig the cute little amps.

I didn’t catch Aram Shelton’s Marches, which opened the evening. My kids had discovered the board game Clue and wanted to play a couple rounds before bed. Much as I enjoy seeing music, sometimes a better offer comes along.