Thorns of Life Secret Shows

Thorns of Life Secret Shows

Photo by Andrew Youssef

So maybe neither of the two secret Thorns of Life shows this weekend were in Orange County proper, but that doesn't matter because the influence of the members who comprise this new band stretch much further than any invisible lines.

If you don't know, now you know...Thorns of Life is a trio featuring former Jawbreaker/Jets to Brazil singer/guitarist Blake Schwarzenbach, former Gr'ups bassist/The L Word actress Daniela Sea and Pinhead Gunpowder drummer/punk zinester extraordinaire Aaron Cometbus. If that isn't enough to tickle your punk rock fancy, then you can quit reading this post starting...right now.

Saturday's show was in a Long Beach warehouse that would be the city's best venue if it was legit. But it wasn't, so I can't say anything more about the place.



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I got there late and missed the Underground Railroad to Candyland and Off With Their Heads, but luckily for me, Thorns of Life was setting up as I walked in. Kids and old folks were drinking beers and, hmm - what was that smell? Ah yes, I remember now. Just like the DIY shows in high school, the scent of sweaty punkers and cold beer (and maybe a lil' something else) permeated my nostrils and penetrated my very un-punk Old Navy shirt.

Thorns of Life began with a song Schwarzenbach said was about losing his virginity in 11th grade to a 9th grade girl in Venice. As he said this, I wondered to myself, "Self, do you think this girl pierced her nose way before it was cool?"

The remainder of the set was exactly what anyone familiar with the singer and the drummer's previous bands would imagine, ie Bay Area punk/pop. In fact, if you're the type who was bummed on Jets to Brazil because it wasn't Jawbreaker 2.0, then you're in luck because Thorns of Life take the best elements of Jawbreaker's four full-length discs and mash it into one band. In all honesty, I'm still a bit confused as to how I feel about Thorns of Life because as much as I LOVE Jawbreaker (and believe you me, I LOVE me some Jawbreaker) and Jets to Brazil to a slightly lesser degree, the vibe was so similar that I longed for Kiss the Bottle, Jinx Removing or Chesterfield King.

Jets to Brazil was a new direction for Schwarzenbach, the kind fans understood wasn't Jawbreaker. But these new songs reminded me of the feeling I get going back to my parents' home and my old neighborhood: familiar in a maybe-I-never-should-have-left-this-place kind of way.

Schwarzenbach closed the show with a solo tune featuring a harmonica. It was simple and beautiful and I liked it a lot.

It's never easy to sit through an entire set of a band when you've not heard one note from them, but there are a few bona fide hits in Thorns of Life's 40-minute set. So much so, I went to see them the next day in Wilmington at a placed called Sis's Bar.

I go there early and there was about five longshoremen drinking at the bar. The bands weren't even there and I thought I was in the wrong spot. Slowly but surely, people who looked like they'd never stepped foot in this place before trickled in and I knew I was ok.

San Pedro's Killer Dreamer opened. They combine punk, pop, surf and a little bit of sped-up Sabbath riffery for a really fun sound. I hadn't seen them in years and was glad I got the chance to see them again.

Up next was Toys that Kill, who I also hadn't seen in years. But I got 'em on the iPod and man, is that some good shit when I'm on a treadmill. TTK played the hits, including Run Away... and Liar's Hook, both sung by guitarist/singer Sean Cole, aka the "other" singer. Todd Congelliere handled Bomb Sniffin' Dogs and They Tied Up All Our Lace and some blonde in the front was losing her shit.

Sis's filled to about 40 people by the time Thorns of Life played. The set was nearly the same, but a tad bit shorter. And a lot more Bud Light signs. The band was tighter than the night before and after back-to-back nights, it's safe to say Thorns of Life is going to continue my nerdy fanboy obsession with Schwarzenbach once they record these tunes.

Just to prove I didn't make this up, here's a link to some photos taken by "Shanty" Cheryl Groff, who was kind enough to tip me off to these unannounced shows: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shantycheryl/. And here's a link to some pictures taken by OC Weekly contributor Andrew Youssef, who was as excited about these secret gigs as I was: http://stereogum.com/archives/photo/thorns-of-life-center-for-the-arts-eagle-rock-1230_048081.html.


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