The Wild Buffalo

Choose your own adventure

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Having spent most of the past few months making our way from one outdoor venue, music series and homegrown festival to the next and then back again, we’ve been treated to a steady diet of mostly soul, funk, bluegrass and folk music, all bathed in the golden glow of a seemingly endless summer.

But summer is ending and we’re taking our show indoors for the foreseeable future.

For whatever reason—perhaps because children are no longer at risk of exposure or maybe our collective case of sun-drunkenness has worn off—when music is once again corralled inside four walls, things have a tendency to get weird. Such is the case during the coming days at the Wild Buffalo, where a wide range of musical genres—as well as music that defies genre altogether—can be found.

First up is Canadian pop-punk band PUP, who will play a Thurs., Sept. 14 show at the Buff with local openers No Guts. It is certainly true that I’m not what you’d call the world’s foremost pop-punk fan, but like so many other people, I find myself being won over by this band. Before they were PUP (which stands for Pathetic Use of Potential), the quartet of lifelong friends were called Topanga—and yes, that is a reference to Danielle Fishel’s character from Girl Meets World. Their high-energy music is what first drew attention to them, but it’s their even higher-energy live performances—bolstered by playing some 400 shows in two years shortly after getting their start—that have made the band a must-see. The fact that PUP is still going so hard is a minor miracle considering the band’s singer, Stefan Babcock, was told by a doctor that screaming his guts out night after night, hundreds of times over, had caused severe damage to his vocal chords. I’m no medical expert, but I’m guessing the warning was followed by a directive to slow his roll, which the band promptly turned into ample fodder for their breakout full-length, 2016’s The Dream is Over, before resuming their touring schedule.

All that is well and good, but if I’m being honest here, the truth is PUP earned my affection with a recently released video for a song from that album, “Old Wounds.” The video is styled like a 1980s Choose Your Own Adventure video game that somehow collages together 73 different videos—with 34 possible endings—into an interactive experience. I don’t know how—or why—they did it, but I lost about an hour of my life to their musical experiment and have now been probed on an alien spaceship, taken mushrooms and eaten pizza with various members of PUP. I also got the band members killed a bunch of times, but that goes with the Choose Your Own Adventure territory.

A couple of nights later, Yogoman (aka Jordan Rain) is throwing himself what he’s dubbed a “Deep Southern Sendoff” before he splits Bellingham for his new adopted hometown of Linden, Texas. You might recall my telling you of Rain’s somewhat imminent departure a couple of months ago, when I also urged you to check out his “final” performance in July at Boulevard Park.

Needless to say, my intel was wrong and that was not his last show here. And were I not so stunned by the news that Bellingham was losing someone who has become one of our musical institutions, I would surely have realized that Rain would never go out like that. Few people love to throw a party as much as Yogoman, and it only makes sense he would do it one last time on his way out of town. At his Sat., Sept. 16 show, he’ll pull songs from the past seven years of the Rain/Yogoman/Burning Band back catalogue. He’ll show us the good time we’ve grown accustomed to, and we’ll give him the sendoff he so richly deserves. Lest you think he’s gone for good, Rain intends to make the Southern Sendoff an annual event because into every Bellingham musical life a little Yogoman must fall.

Lastly into this roundup of musical oddities comes the oddest of them all, Deerhoof, who will be at the Buffalo on Sun., Sept. 17.

It’s not enough to say the critically acclaimed San Francisco band defies genre. Or easy categorization. Or any kind of characterization. Generally speaking, they defy any and all description entirely. In almost 15 albums, they’ve managed to break new ground with each one, innovation that’s not limited to just their sound. Band members have come and gone and come back again. They’ve swapped instruments and swapped them back. They’ve recorded in studios and hotel rooms and onstage. Each member has taken a turn as lead vocalist—and they’ve had no lead vocals at times. In an industry where it seems like every band is trying to lock in an indelible identity by doing the same things over and over in slightly different ways, Deerhoof has an almost pathological need for drastic reinvention.

Probably the best way to sum them up is to think of them as every band that’s ever made you say, “I guess I can see what they’re getting at. It’s just a shame it’s not fully realized,” except with Deerhoof everything is not only fully realized, but they are also astoundingly skilled musicians, individually and together. That astonishing ability has earned them stints touring with the likes of Radiohead, the Flaming Lips, Beck, Sonic Youth, Wilco, TV on the Radio, and other bands also known for being fearless innovators.

With everything that’s going on in the coming days, I’m inclined to think PUP was prescient with their video concept—music at the Wild Buffalo is definitely a Choose Your Own Adventure affair.

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