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 band of Secret Friends to the Bay Area for a homecoming show this Friday at the Elbo Room Jack London.
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 Radio NOPE 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 relocated to Milwaukee (he helped with the first PRF BBQ there in the summer of 2017), but has remained consistently busy with touring and the recording of his Proton and Electrons split single series with help from Ash and Crover. The even dozen limited edition 7-inch singles each 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 including Trophy Wives, the God Eaters, Cheap Sleaze, Cartographer and Crover’s solo band playing covers from the classic The Who Sell Out album. The now completed series was recently made available as a limited edition box collecting all 12 of the singles or as a double album on CD or vinyl that includes all of the Secret Friends songs on one disc and compiles the b-sides on a second disc.
On Friday, Neutron returns to the Bay Area with a different touring line-up of the Secret Friends featuring Ash on bass, drummer Nick Erickson from aforementioned Michigan-based noise band God Eaters, Erica Strout (of Motherf–ker fame) on guitar and Kevin Seal (of sadly defunct Oakland outfit Griddle). Neutron and company once again play the Elbo Room Jack London with support from local noise-punk acts Rip Room and Oakland experimental post-punk crew Antler Family prior to a headlining performance by one-man noise wrecking crew Reptoid. Neutron and company also play a free show at Winters Tavern in Pacifica Halloween night with Supernaut, Redline and Carol Blaze.
Conan Neutron and the Secret Friends
Friday, Nov. 1, 8:30 p.m. $10
Elbo Room Jack London