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Call it a day

Red Planet Rebels end things on their own terms

The band relaxes after their final practice, in preparation for their last show Saturday in Tacoma. Photo credit: Red Planet Rebels

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In a place like Tacoma, it can be easy to get a little cozy and start taking things for granted. There are certain businesses, people, bits of natural beauty, artists and bands that we all collectively assume will just be around forever. When it comes to bands, it's easy to see why we might think this, with local legends like the Sonics, the Fabulous Wailers, and Girl Trouble setting examples as groups that will play music until the day they die. The truth, though, is that all bands exist under a looming clock, and sometimes a band that's lived reliably on the music scene has to call it a day.

Red Planet Rebels will have their final show this Saturday at the New Frontier. Thankfully, this is far from an acrimonious split, and more of a practical concern, with job opportunities likely beckoning frontman Riley Gratzer away from Tacoma. Still, it's hard not to be a little saddened at the forthcoming loss of a group that has humbly chugged along in the City of Destiny's intimate music scene for several years. A beautiful illustration of some friends getting together to play music for the hell of it, Red Planet Rebels never erred toward flashiness, rather choosing to embrace stripped-down presentation and sincere songwriting - no personas and egos, just four guys (Gratzer, John Sommer, Nate Rich and Kevin Kildun) making big-sounding songs for local stages.

"Keeping up with the band, on a regular basis, while I'm living in Seattle, or Portland, or wherever I end up, just isn't really that feasible," said Gratzer. "We're just calling it on our own terms, instead of waiting until I get a job and just having to throw together some sort of last show."

During their time in the Tacoma music scene, Red Planet Rebels embraced a sound that wasn't quite in style for these parts - namely, ‘90s-leaning heavy alternative radio rock in the style of Queens of the Stone Age, Rage Against the Machine, and Stone Temple Pilots. Recently, they began incorporating Darren Struthers' saxophone, lending a bit of fanfare and a Morphine-esque edge. Struthers will be joining Red Planet Rebels for every song in their extended farewell set they'll be performing on Saturday.

"I'll miss the songs, for sure," said Gratzer. "I'm pretty proud of a lot of the stuff we put together. Just playing with this group, in particular, has been a little less drama-filled than some of the other bands I've been in. Everyone's super chill and enjoys playing together. It's always been a super easy process."

Having known Gratzer and some of his friends, dating back to when I first saw them competing in what was once known as the 72-Hour Film Festival about a decade ago, I think I can safely say that this is a group of people deeply passionate about music, but decidedly unpretentious about it. When Gratzer says it was easy to make music with the rest of the guys in Red Planet Rebels, I believe it. There are few bands, even in a small scene like Tacoma's, that embody the simple, jubilant spirit of getting onstage and playing with likeminded people.

"I don't want to spoil anything," Gratzer said of the farewell show. "We've probably got a couple surprises, but we're also planning on playing a really long set."

Unlike normal shows, where start times are meant to be flexible, this show will be starting in time for Citizen Z and Civilized Man to have full sets before Red Planet Rebels go out in style. Anyone wishing to send them off should arrive on time.

Red Planet Rebels w/ Citizen Z, Civilized Man, Saturday, Oct. 8, 8 p.m., $5, New Frontier Lounge, 301 E. 25th St., Tacoma, 253.572.4020

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