I’ve got some friends from the East Coast in a folk punk band called Tail Light Rebellion that seems to be constantly touring. Constantly to the point of I don’t even know where they live anymore. Turns out lately it’s been either in Memphis or in their van, because yes, you guessed it, they’re touring.
It’s been a few years since I’ve seen these guys (Jonny and Rob—just two guys in the whole band) and they were playing at my favorite venue, 924 Gilman. I slept in pretty late and didn’t work much that day, so I wasn’t sure if I could make it to their show. But at the last minute I decided I needed to be there.
My first stop was Walgreens down the street from Gilman to get some cash for cover, and of course, I ran into Jonny there. He was happy to see me, so I know I made the right decision in showing up.
Gilman is an all-ages venue with a set of rules. No racism, no sexism, no homophobia, and no drugs or alcohol. The boys were not prepared for that, so we ended up outside drinking at their van before their set. Doors opened at 7, but they didn’t go on until 9:45, so we had plenty of time to kill and catch up.
We met with another of their friends, Marley, outside, and between the three of them, I felt like I learned so much punk history. They’re what I consider “real punks.” They know important people in the scene, and were name dropping like it was nothing. Apparently Ben Weasel and Joe Queer aren’t good people. Ya never wanna hear that. They also mentioned Billy Brown, to which I instantly thought of the St. Ranger song, and told them about the line “drunk as a punk, high as a hippie.” They laughed and agreed, that sounds like him.
They told me Billy Brown works at the Thirsty Crow in LA, which completely blew my mind. St. Ranger played a show at the Thirsty Crow last summer. How did I not know the two were connected?
Marley’s a skinhead. I always thought skinheads were all Nazis, but he gave me a brief history lesson explaining that they’re not. He’s a communist, which is a much smaller and less liked sect of skinheads it sounds.
We were soon joined by Dominic Davi from Tsunami Bomb. He has a podcast called 3 Gigs that I definitely need to check out. (I mean the top video on the website is Bad Cop Bad Cop. Come on now. I adore them.) He asks musicians about their best gig, worst gig, and first gig.
Jonny and Rob talked about tour and some of the best places they’ve played. They love the West Coast and want to move out here some day, but for now they’re just planning another tour this way in a few months. Jonny said a lot of places like Gilman are closing their doors across the country due to gentrification, which is a big concern of mine here. I told him that 924 Gilman is historic, and it won’t feel like the same place to me anymore if it’s not physically 924 Gilman.
They said the Midwest is the best place to play music these days. I thought the Northeast used to have a good punk scene, but Rob told a story about how he once accidentally started a fist fight at a show in Boston.
“I thought we were just having a good time!”
They said the best punk scene in the country today, however, is in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I wish I had known that when I was there a few months ago. I would have never expected that.
Soon enough, the boys needed to go get ready for their set, so we headed in the venue.
Before we left the venue to down some beers down the street, I caught part of the first band. They played a cover of Cage the Elephant’s “In One Ear.”
Tail Light Rebellion
Tail Light Rebellion is super talented. It’s just the two of them, but they are not acoustic. They each play instruments with their feet as well as their hands. Rob’s on mandolin with his feet playing tambourine and keys, and Jonny’s on guitar with his feet playing drums. It’s impressive.
Their first song had a beautiful crowd reaction. I love seeing my friends get reactions like this. We’re all standing in about the middle of the room, a decent distance from the stage, and once they start playing, everyone’s looking around at each other and then running forward to the stage.
There were a few pits going during their set. There was a circle pit for “Three Minutes,” which I might have accidentally been recording from my pocket. Whoops.
Dominic: “Of all the shows I’ve seen at Gilman, I’ve never seen a pit open up for a band with a mandolin and an acoustic guitar.”
They had some tshirts for sale, as well as CDs for $1, and it made me so happy to see a line form immediately for merch as soon as they were done playing. Dom jumped behind the table to sell it, and I had to buy a $1 CD.
“We normally play originals, but we thought this was a cover show, so we’re gonna play some Foo Fighters for you.”
They called a guy onstage before “Up In Arms” so they could “sing him a love song” and then told him to go crazy.
I was dancing throughout their whole set, loving every bit of it, but it seemed like the rest of the audience didn’t know the songs. I was so confused by that. It’s Foo Fighters, come on now.
After the show one of the guys in the band thanked me for dancing.
“Dude, I’m surprised no one else was! I’m like how do you not know these songs?!”
“They’re great songs!”
I thought they were really awesome, and I almost wish they would’ve played some originals as well, because I probably would’ve liked them I’m sure. They were talented dudes.
At the end of the night, Tail Light Rebellion was too busy socializing with their new young fans to bother loading out until they were about to lock up the venue. They thanked me for coming out and promised they’d be back in October. I’m going to actually plan on making it to this next show. They’re wonderful people and amazing musicians.