By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Instead of no brown M&Ms or odd-numbered packets of girlie herbal tea, Zen Guerrilla's contract rider has a different kind of stipulation: the stage must be reinforced. This is because their singer, Marcus Durant, is a big, frenetic, blistering, lumbering, 6-foot-5-inch brick of hot, gritty, saucy, dirty Delta-blues action who could easily crash through the stage. He moves around a lot, you see. He has to: according to Everyone, he and his fellow band mates are, like, the Best Live Band Ever.
"Oh, man, Zen Guerrilla are, like, the best live band ever!" said Steve Manning, who works at the band's label, Sub Pop, but who also seemed to be telling the truth. You might think he's exaggerating, but fear not, reader—I have amazing powers of bullshit detection, and I'm not about to let such a simple statement as that go unchecked.
"Really?" I asked.
"Oh, yeah!" he gushed.
See what I mean? He really means it! And he's not the only one.
"Zen Guerrilla are one of the best live bands playing right now," said Mike Torribio, who went on the road with them for six weeks. Of course, I wasn't just going to leave it at that. It was time to ask the hard questions. Time to throw a curve ball. Time to probe.
"They are?" I asked, eyes like laser beams, voice matter-of-fact.
He recovered nicely: "Oh, yeah, they're amazing live."
Durant—the aforementioned potential stage-breaker—is supposedly a formidable front man, howling his indecipherable lyrics with the conviction of one possessed. And the musicianship with which he's backed up is inspiring: blistering, dirgy blues riffs; grinding low-end; and crashing, propulsive drums. It's music to have sex to. Or to think about having sex to. Or to remember what sex is like to. Or to get drunk to. Or just to watch, if you don't drink or have sex. Actually, you probably wouldn't want to have sex while watching them play because that would be uncomfortable. Yeah, forget the sex.
Anyhow, the band got their start eight years ago in Delaware, then moved to Philadelphia and then to San Francisco, where they hooked up with Jello Biafra, who rereleased their EPs Invisible "Liftee" Pad/Gap-Tooth Clown and their full-length Positronic Raygun on his Alternative Tentacles label. From there, they switched to Seattle's Sub Pop, and we don't really know why, but then, we don't really care, either.
The full-length product of this label switch, Trance States in Tongues, is 12 frenzied cuts of music to have sex to or not to have sex to, depending on how you feel about sex. It's music to rock out to, if "rock out to" actually had any specific meaning, which it doesn't. Hell, go ahead and kick out the jams to this music! While you're at it, get your groove on, put it out there, get down with your bad self, get jiggy, go ballz-out, and get Y2Krazee! No, really! Just do it!
And go see them live. They've reinforced the stage and everything!
ZEN GUERRILLA PERFORMS WITH THE DAMNED, THE MISFITS, SUPERSUCKERS, ZEKE, THE BLEEDERS, HELLBOUND HAYRIDE, THROW RAG, THE AMAZING CROWNS AND OTHERS AT THE BLOOD DRIVE 2000 HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL, HIDDEN VALLEY RANCH (ADJACENT TO VERIZON WIRELESS AMPHITHEATER), 8808 IRVINE CENTER DR., IRVINE, (800) 583-8700; WWW.BLOOD-DRIVE.COM. SAT., NOON. $40. ALL AGES.