By Dave Pehling
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Tuneful Toronto-based hard-rock trio Danko Jones pays a visit to the Bay Area this weekend, headlining the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco Friday night with LA blues rockers Junkyard and the South Bay’s own ZED.
Founded by namesake lead singer and guitarist Danko Jones, bassist John “JC” Calabrese and drummer Michael Cari Cari in 1996, the trio developed a hook-laden, cowbell-banging sound that drew influence from such classic acts as AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, Kiss and Motörhead while touching on the propulsive energy and raw aggression of punk. Initially insisting they would only be a touring act and had no plans to record any of their original songs, Danko Jones built a solid following playing in Canada and the northwest with like-minded punk upstarts including the New Bomb Turks, Nashville Pussy, the Dirtbombs, the Chrome Cranks and the Demolition Doll Rods.
The band would eventually relent and release an eponymous EP in 1998 that featured several of their brief, raucous salvos that showcased Jones’ knack for writing singalong choruses, cheeky lyrics and punchy guitar riffs. A second EP followed before the trio was signed to Swedish label Bad Taste Records, which repackaged the two EPs together on a single disc (I’m Alive and On Fire in 2001) with wider distribution prior to issuing the band’s proper debut album, Born a Lion, the next year.
Though the band was already enjoying rising popularity in its native country, their radio-ready hard-rock tunes didn’t really fit into the format of most U.S. stations playing rock music. Danko Jones would concentrate their efforts on Europe, releasing a string of albums through the decade and becoming a popular enough festival act to earn stints opening for the Rolling Stones, Motörhead and Guns n’ Roses on both sides of the Atlantic.
Despite a steady turnover of drummers (current member Rich Knox has held down the stool since 2013), Danko Jones has maintained it’s status as one of the leading lights of modern hard rock, thanks in large part to their explosive, high-energy stage show. Jones has also branched off into spoken word, moving from being a part-time radio host and releasing his spoken word album The Magical World Of Rock to touring his self-described “lectures” and starting a podcast with frequent co-host, Toronto comedian Nick Flanagan.
In 2018, the band teamed with noted heavy rock producer Garth Richardson (Rage Against the Machine, Kittie, The Melvins) for the band’s ninth album, A Rock Supreme. The trio’s first for new label M-Theory Audio, the effort was released in late April of last year, presenting another fist-banging salvo of crunchy, hard-rocking ear candy including the opening high-octane raison d’être anthem “I’m In a Band” and the swaggering “Fists Up High.” The band will play classic hits and tunes from the new record at this show at the Bottom of the Hill Friday with LA-based blues rockers Junkyard and the South Bay’s own ZED.
Founded in Los Angeles in 1987, Junkyard shared a similarity with Guns ‘n’ Roses in that both bands explored a more blues-focused take on hard rock and had members with connections with notable punk bands (guitarist Brian Baker had played in Dag Nasty and pioneering D.C. hardcore band Minor Threat, while GnR bassist Duff McKagen played in the Fastbacks and the Fartz). Anchored by the songwriting partnership of singer David Roach and guitarist Chris Gates, Junkyard echoed the sounds of southern rock and AC/DC on its hard-hitting eponymous debut for Geffen in 1989 that featured minor hits “Blooze,” “Hollywood” and “Simple Man.”
The band earned some MTV airplay and continued to refine it’s style of driving, catchy hard rock on it’s sophomore album Sixes, Sevens & Nines which included collaborations with country maverick Steve Earle. But with the rise of grunge bands, Junkyard would become a major-label casualty in 1992 by Geffen with a third unreleased album already recorded.
It wouldn’t be until 2000 that Roach, Baker and original drummer Patrick Muzingo reunited the band with a new line-up, issuing a live album, re-recording tracks from their 1987 demo that got the group signed and touring regularly, including occasional European festival appearances. While only Roach and Muzingo remain from the musicians who started the quintet over 30 years ago, Junkyard put out it’s first collection of new material since 1991 with the release of High Water on Acetate Records back in 2017.
Core players of opening band ZED Pete Sattari (guitar/vocals) and Mark Aceves (bass) have been making music together since the late ’90s. They had collaborated in the metallic, alt/indie-rock outfit Stitch — which had their self-produced debut picked up by Metal Blade/Prosthetic Records in addition to recording with noted producer Alex Newport (Melvins, The Mars Volta) — and the group Mercury Sound prior to founding ZED with Stitch drummer Rich Harris and lead guitarist Greg Lopez in 2007.
Taking their time to develop a sound that drew on both classic ’70s metal and hard rock influences as well as the more modern sounds that emerged in Seattle in the late ’80s (particularly Soundgarden and Alice In Chains), the quartet released their debut album The Invitation in 2010. Embracing a crunchy, groove-oriented attack on tunes like “Lunatics and Liars” and “Leave Me Alone,” ZED crafted a style of tuneful heaviness that fit comfortably alongside established bands like Clutch, Audioslave and Queens of the Stone Age.
The group further refined its approach over the next three years of writing and recording its sophomore effort Desperation Blues, an accomplished effort that added elements of funk and languid balladry to the mix. The album also caught the ear of East Bay heavy rock imprint Ripple Music, who signed the band and released the third ZED album, Trouble In Eden, in 2016.
Another exponential leap forward, the recording garnered the band critical praise and paved the way for some of ZED’s most extensive touring yet with trips to Texas and Europe. While Harris would depart from the band following the album’s release, the quartet landed on its feet with the addition of veteran Bay Area drummer Sean Boyles (Death Angel singer Mark Osegueda’s side project All-Time Highs, Bloodline, Insolence).
Since then, the band has continued to spread the word of its muscular sound, making multiple appearances at South By Southwest as well as playing such notable metal festivals as the Maryland Doom Fest and, most recently, DesertFest UK in London last May. ZED released their latest heavyweight collection of hard-hitting grooves last summer when local metal imprint Ripple Music put out the band’s acclaimed fourth effort, Volume.
Danko Jones with Junkyard and ZED
Friday, Feb. 7, 8 p.m. $20
The Bottom of the Hill