By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Former East Bay resident and noted purveyor of noise rock Conan Neutron brings his current tour backed by his Secret Friends to the Bay Area for a pair of homecoming shows this weekend in SF and Oakland.
A longtime Oakland resident, Neutron was the principle creative force behind the East Bay noise-punk outfit Replicator with bassist Ben Adrian (who later played in Cartographer) and drummer Chris Bolig during the 2000s. Echoing the lurching, dissonant sounds of such influential ’90s acts as the Jesus Lizard, Melvins and SF’s own Steel Pole Bathtub, the group built up a small but loyal fan base over the course of several albums and U.S. tours.
The group dissolved amicably in 2008, with Neutron initially working with Bolig in the still noisy but somewhat more traditional rock group Mount Vicious. Neutron would then spend a number of years touring and recording with anthemic post-punk band Victory and Associates, as well as co-founding and organizing PRF BBQ West, a series of multi-day festivals in Oakland that hosted an eclectic group of noisy, heavy bands from the Bay Area and abroad for several years running.
A few years ago, he began a new loose-limbed partnership with Melvins drummer Dale Crover and bassist Tony Ash (of Louisville, KY’s Trophy Wives) under the moniker Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends. Though their first effort The Enemy of Everyone in 2015 was more of a traditional power trio (with co-producer Toshi Kasai adding percussion and vocals and Oxbow singer Eugene Robinson providing vocals on the song “Fight Math”), their savage follow-up The Art of Murder drew on collaborators from a variety of bands including Crover’s partner in the Melvins, Buzz Osborne. Neutron also launched his punk-focused Nope Radio podcast Protonic Reversal featuring interviews with such renowned musicians as Black Flag/OFF! singer Keith Morris and Eagles of Death Metal/earthlings? guitarist Dave Catching.
Neutron has since left relocated to Milwaukee (he helped with the first PRF BBQ there last summer), but this week he returns to the Bay Area with the touring line-up of the Secret Friends featuring Ash on bass, his former Replicator/Mount Vicious partner Bolig on drums and Erica Strout (of Motherf–ker fame) on guitar. Instead of a traditional album, Neutron and company recently launched their Proton and Electrons split single series. The even dozen limited edition 7-inch singles set to be released over the next year will feature a new Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends song on one side and a tune by a band that has collaborated with Neutron and friends on the flip.
For the show at the Hemlock Tavern Friday, Neutron and the Secret Friends will be joined by like-minded SF band Quivers (who are the band featured on the just released second Proton and Electrons single) and experimental prog/punk project Lords of Sealand. On Saturday, the group plays the newly opened Elbo Room Jack London with an opening set from SF instrumental quartet Roland and a headlining performance by one-man noise wrecking crew Reptoid.
Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends
Friday, March 23, 8:30 p.m. $8
Saturday, March 24, 9 p.m. $7
Elbo Room Jack London