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No time like the present

The Sonics return - to rock Capitol Theater on their own terms

THE SONICS: They could probably still kick your ass.

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The present is a time when literally anything is possible - really crazy, sometimes scary shit. Information can pass from one end of the globe to the other in a fraction of a second. Music can be made and shared with an ease not just impossible, but unfathomable, only decades ago. Worldwide fads can explode, reach a frenzied status and burnout in the time it used to take to develop actual film.

Pearl Jam can strike deals with Target. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros can be most famous for their commercial work. Steven Tyler is a judge on American Idol. "Chill-wave" is an actual term.

Why the fuck shouldn't the Sonics, Tacoma's own fathers of garage rock, finally play that long (loooooong) awaited South Sound comeback show? Far crazier things have happened, after all.

The band will do just that - on New Year's Eve, no less - at the historic Capitol Theater in Olympia. The performance, with a bill that also includes Olympia‘s the Dirty Birds and November Witch, will mark only the second Sonics appearance in the rainy, gray region that spawned the band way back in 1960 since the seminal act officially mounted a "comeback" in late 2007. And, yes, there's a mild amount of sarcasm in those quotation marks. This "comeback," as with almost everything the Sonics have done (with a probable exception to Introducing the Sonics), has been on the band's own terms.

First, New York got a taste of the reformed Sonics in 2007 at Brooklyn's Cavestomp garage rock festival. In 2008, the Sonics performed with Girl Trouble on Halloween at the Paramount Theatre. Aside from that show, and a show in the ‘70s in Seattle, most fans of the bands' music - and there are plenty - have never had a chance to see the Sonics live. This is a band - from Tacoma, mind you - who's raucous, blue-collar take on rock ‘n' roll may have done more for what garage rock has become than any band in history ... ever.

The Sonics called it quits in 1968. It wasn't until years later that their full impact would be realized. 

"The first time I heard the Sonics was probably like lots of other kids, on KJR," says Girl Trouble drummer Bon Von Wheelie. "I loved all the NW bands but when the Sonics came on, it was like being on another planet. There just wasn't anything that raw and wild. ... It was the toughest music I'd ever heard ... KJR always played ‘The Witch' at a certain time. I'd wait all day to hear it. It made me want to punch something."

As far-fetched as a South Sound Sonics show may have seemed at various points in history, the timing makes sense. Now managed by Buck Ormsby (bass player for another legendary Tacoma band, the Fabulous Wailers), the Sonics released a new EP, 8, in November - an effort co-produced by Sonics guitarist Larry Parypa and Northwest icon Jack Endino. Opened by four new tracks (yes, new tracks) including disc highlights "Bad Attitude" and "Vampire Kiss", 8 isn't simply the effort of a band trying to cash in on past greatness. It's a rock record, albeit it one aided by a back end of live takes on classics like "Strychnine" and "Psycho," from a band seemingly at peace with what they've done, but not interested in resting on any laurels.

"The first song I heard (from the Sonics) was their version of ‘Louie Louie.' I couldn't even believe it was a white guy," says Rockin' Rod, of long lost Olympia and Tacoma garage rock band Rockin' Rod and the Strychnines. "And those guitars. I thought, man, this is rawer than the Kinks."

"The thing about the Sonics is, during those first few years, all they ever did was crank the amps."

"When we started Girl Trouble, the Sonics were mostly known by the hardcore garage fans. But as the newer garage scene developed it was pretty obvious that the Sonics was the yardstick everybody should measure their band by," adds Von Wheelie, talking about the Sonics‘ influence. "Everything about (the Sonics) was perfect, from the way they looked to how they played to the stories about them, to the fact they dropped out of sight for years. You can still hear their influence in the cool new bands today."

Naturally, everyone interviewed for this piece will be in Oly on New Year's Eve to see the Sonics tear into the Capitol Theater.

"All four of us (in Girl Trouble) wouldn't miss this for the world. Seeing the Sonics on New Year‘s? I don't think it could get any better than that," says Von Wheelie. "Well, other than seeing the Sonics on New Year‘s ... in Tacoma that is. We need to convince them that they need to come home. We're all waiting for them to come back home."

The Sonics

With: The Dirty Birds, November Witch
Friday, Dec. 31, 8 p.m., all ages, $20-$25
The Capitol Theater, 206 Fifth Ave. SE, Olympia, 360.754.6670

Comments for "No time like the present" (3)

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Jason Trent said on Dec. 30, 2010 at 6:57pm

In Austin there was a Sonics cover band called The Soniks. One of a few, I am sure, When the 80's hardcore scene divided itself into either criminals or record collector nerds, Sonics records were the litmus test for if you were cool or not. My band ("Daddy's Drunk", we lasted one short, sweet summer) played the Witch. Mr. Driscoll is gracious enough not to name names but the bands in that second wave of garage rock included (in Austin) the Inhalents, The Collegians, The Motards, The Drop-Outs, The Sons of Hercules. Then there were the Mummies, the Rip-Offs, the Drags, The Fells, The list goes on. Point: The Sonics may not have been a band that made people go out and by guitars like the Ventures or the Beatles, but I suspect that the Soncis made a lot of people actually play those guitars...

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J. Baldridge said on Jan. 01, 2011 at 11:28pm

I was there at the New Year's show, and a rockin' time was had by all. The Sonics left everyone wanting more, and the opening acts contributed, as too--especially The Dirty Birds, who seemed like a stripped-down but full throated heir-apparent to the Sonics themselves. When, during the final number, the Birds' lead vocalist and sax player came out to jam with his Sonics counterpart, it was almost like a generational handoff. While the first opener, November Witch, didn't seem to fit in so well, stylistically, the rest of the show was solid, straight-ahead, can't-be-argued-with, old school rock and roll.


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jasonatrent said on Jan. 04, 2011 at 9:27pm

November Witch (to people with an interest in music outside the scope of 'classic rock') were great and showed the influence of the Sonics on punk, alternative and neo-garage rock

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