Guitar Wolf, Rookery, The Transistors: April 13th at The Shakedown

by Lance Belka

Since its opening a little over a year ago, The Shakedown has given the local music scene a kick in the butt, not only by providing a stage for local bands but also by bringing a number of unique and unexpected touring acts to town. There’s something great about being blown away by a band you didn’t even know existed on a random weeknight, and there’s something even better about having it all happen in a small bar in Bellingham. In the past 13 or so months, The Shakedown has played host to a slew of exceptional touring bands, and Japanese garage trio Guitar Wolf, as evidenced by their April 13 show, was no exception.
Rookery opened the evening with a hot and nasty blast of their by-now-trademark down and dirty punk rock. The band set the pace for the night with a solid set of sweaty, swaggering guitar rock accentuated by the caterwauls of lead singer Brenda Beehler, who marched and gyrated like a spastic drum majorette. If you haven’t seen this band of pedigreed Bellingham locals yet, you probably should–they pretty much kill it every time.
New Zealand band The Transistors dialed it back, giving us a hook-laden brand of pop-punk that was as catchy as it was tight. Their music was nothing groundbreaking, but it was certainly well executed. The drummer set the pace with metronomic precision and the band followed in lock step, kicking out a set that wasn’t breathtakingly original but had a lot of heads nodding to the beat.
Then of course came the main event: Guitar Wolf. As U.G., the band’s bassist, took the stage, it was pretty clear what we were in for: not only was he wearing tight pants and sunglasses at night (both of which are pretty rock and roll), he had also removed the fourth string from his bass, as if to say, “Oh, high notes? I don’t play those.”
As the rest of the band took their places and launched into their first song, they quickly got down to the business of playing noisy, aggressive garage rock. Their performance was loud, perhaps the loudest the Shakedown has seen thus far, and their stage presence was captivating. Guitarist Seiji worked the crowd, at one point pulling a guy from the audience to play his guitar. The band slammed through their set full speed ahead, rarely breaking to let us catch our breath unless it was to allow their drummer to pull out a comb and perfect his hair.
This show, for me, highlighted some of the things that make music in Bellingham so exciting right now: touring bands you wouldn’t expect to see visiting such a small town, local bands putting out solid music, and show-goers having a great time. Thanks are definitely due to the folks at The Shakedown for bringing us yet another awesome touring band.