Why RX Bandits’ farewell is not goodbye

Rx Bandits said goodbye in San Francisco on August 7, 2011 at the band's farewell show. The Seal Beach, CA group announced breakup plans earlier in the summer.

It happens to the best of us.

We get tired.

And that’s how it appears the road-weary RX Bandits are after a decade of constant touring.

The Seal Beach, California group is known for its transformation (see: evolution) from a late ’90s ska band to a four-headed beast of a band playing spacey, prog-rock with reggae and Latin influences.

At the height of the group’s career, RX Bandits played a trio of shows in New York and San Francisco, devoting each night to a full album performance of the band’s last three: The Resignation, …And The Battle Begun and Mandala.

Then, a few months ago, the band said they’d be calling it quits.

After 16 years and 7 studio albums, Rx Bandits announced on its website the following:

“Dear friends,
We would like to express our love and appreciation for all that you’ve done for us and how much a part of our growth you have been. We have all mutually decided that this summer will be our last tour. We love each other and love you all and hope to see you at the shows.

Much love & respect,
Rx Bandits”

When I heard the news, I was shocked and saddened. I’ve been following these guys since I saw them open for Reel Big Fish at the Fillmore in San Francisco around 2004.

The political messages about peace, not war, call and response sing-a-longs, extended jam outs, frenetic guitar noodling and improvisational drum solos are just a few of the

———- that make the bands’ live show a true performance.

I made it out to two shows on the band’s farewell tour — The Catalyst in Santa Cruz on July 30, where Berkley’s Facing New York opened and the FINAL PERFORMANCE at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco August 7.

The Regency Ballroom was a the perfect opportunity for the band to bring out the big guns — a two-piece horn section to beef up older tracks. Both shows were packed, but the energy and emotion in San Francisco was over the top. Each cord resonated just a little extra for both the band and the crowd.

There were no goodbyes, just “I’ll miss you”s and the four members hugged, held hands and bowed at the end of a high-energy, two-hour set.

With a group of such talented musicians — Matt Embree’s powerful croons and free-flowing guitar licks, Steve Choi’s flying fingers on guitar and keys (and sometimes drums), Chris Tasgakis’ tight rhythms, and Joe Troy’s bass grooves — its apparent that the great music these guys play together will not cease.

The four core members have been playing together so long (more than a decade), they’re basically brothers. Choi insists in interviews that this is not the end of RXB, just the end of touring.

Not to mention, members of the group are distinctly connected to rising independent record label Sargent House, which they helped form in 2006.

Embree already plays solo as Love You Moon, and has started a new project called ME & LP, which is sounding oh so sweet.

Check out ME & LP – Bonnie Says (No Shitty Ride) below:

Embree and Tsagakis also have a Sound of Animals Fighting-esque project called Biceratops, and Tasagakis plays in a group called Technology.

Other projects from band members include Apotheke and Coke vs. Bill. The group’s involvement with Sargent House will keep them fresh as they continue to collaborate with bands like current touring partners Zechs Marquise.

Here’s to the end of an era…can’t wait to see what comes next.

  • (Editor’s note: It worked out pretty well for Gatsby’s American Dream, a popular Seattle indie band that broke up in 2006 and went on to form Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Wild Orchid Children, Search/Rescue, RedRedBlue, Keith Ledger, Zero Cool, Razia’s Shadow, Princess Dinosaur, Places and Numbers and TickTockMan)

VIDEOS FROM TWO OF RX BANDITS’ FINAL SHOWS:

RXB “Only For The Night” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

RXB “Hidden Track” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

RXB “Drum Solo” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

Openers Facing New York play “Me and My Friendz” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

Pre-Coachella Party: !!! + Zechs Marquise @ Detroit Bar

Nic Offer of !!! likes to dance

Marcel Rodriguez Lopez and Marfred Rodriguez Lopez of Zechs Marquise chop it up at Detroit Bar

The two bands playing Costs Mesa’s intimate, chic-grunge Detroit Bar Thursday night were big. Too big.

Too big for the stage they took, in sheer size, sound and force. Big enough to play Coachella too, to thousands of screaming fans. But on the Thursday night before Coachella weekend, I caught these two astounding bands up close…and for a lot less money.

The night started with instrumental mind-melting jams from Zechs Marquise, the buzzworthy El Paso, Texas prog-rock outfit that not only sounds like The Mars Volta’s little brother, but actually includes three of them. Marfred, Marcel and Rikardo Rodriguez-Lopez play bass, drums and keys respectively, and happen to be the younger siblings of infamous Mars Volta guitarists Omar Rodriguez Lopez. (Drummer Marcel Rodriguez Lopez plays in the Omar Rodriguez Lopez Group).

I discovered these guys when they opened for friends and Sargent House labelmates RX Bandits at The Glasshouse in Pomona a few months back. And while I was blown away then, Thursday’s set was insane. Grooving basslines meshed with frenetic guitar riffs, while Marcel was astoundingly able to keep up to constantly changing rhythms. No singing, but a great prog-rock fix when you’ve already mastered the entire Volta collection.

Next up was veteran psychedelic dance-funk !!! (pronounced Chk Chk Chk). The Sacramento-based band has been starting parties since 1996 and continues to put on an extremely energetic and fun live show. Lead singer Nic Offer handles most of the entertainment with his sexual dance moves that look a little like humping. By the second song, Offer was in the crowd singing face to face with all the fans. It was nuts.

!!! released a new album recently, entitled “Strange Weather, Isn’t It?” Standout tracks are “AM/FM”, “Jamie, My Intentions Are Bass”, and “Hollow”.

Zechs Marquise, formed in 2009, has been touring on their first full-length, “Our Delicate Stranded Nightmare.” A new record on the way. Expect your mind to be blown.

LIVE VIDEOS from both performances below:

I Am A Wild Orchid Child!

With a nod to old school favorite “Three MCs and One DJ” by the Beastie Boys, my latest musical obsession Wild Orchid Children recently released a new music video for the song “Ahead Of Us The Secret.”

It’s a front-row seat to an 11-minute-long, epic jam session that is nearly triple the length of the original video for the same song (watch that one below). I can’t help but smirk at the Seattle seven-piece’s ironic sense of primal Americana, noted by the flags, ponchos and Minnetonka-style fringe boots.

I wasn’t complaining about the first one, but they definitely cranked it up to a whole new level with this one.

This supergroup, formed from Gatsby’s American Dream, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground and Forgive Durden, has got to be the new Sound of Animals Fighting — another epic, prog-rock super band with members from Circa Survive and RX Bandits.

Three MCs and One DJ:

Ahead Of Us The Secret (Original):


Ratatat rocks the Fox, RX Bandits polish off third straight night at the Troubadour

Ratatat @ The Fox Theater in Pomona. Photo by Daniel Ucko.

IT was a double header concert weekend Friday and Sunday with RATATAT and RX Bandits.

AMAZING visuals from Ratatat, the electronic duo that combines video game synths with blazing guitar riffs to create a monstrous, head-bobbing sound.

There were two giant glass panels on either side of the stage, probably a good 50 feet high. Each one had a projector pointed at it from behind, creating ultra-real 3-dimensional images like a violinist and celloist dressed in Victorian-era white wigs and getup. Cue in the X-shaped neon lights on the back of the stage and add the massive pull-down screen with music videos and strange visuals being projected to match or contrast the panels.

For a band that makes completely instrumental music, the sounds are funky enough and change frequently to keep the ears tingling all night long.

RX Bandits was a completely different style concert at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.

The Troubadour has got to be my favorite venue simply because of its size. Its a tiny, divey club on the outskirts of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood and you can get so close to the bands there that you taste the sweat from stage.

RX Bandits have been a favorite of mine for a few years now, since I re-discovered them in college and realized their music style had progressed along the same line as my own tastes. No longer ska-punk, and more reggae-funk experimental prog-rock, it must have been a career milestone for the Long Beach fourpiece, celebrating their growth and indie-level success by performing their three previous albums in entirety from Friday thru Sunday.

So they played “The Resignation”, “…And The Battle Begun” and “Mandala” from front to back, side to side and kept the crowd moving, grooving and singing along.

LA Weekly put it nicely HERE in a weekend highlight.

Love these guys and love how far they’ve come.

They never put on a bad show and since interviewing them at Cal Poly Pomona a couple years ago, I still feel like I know the guys – Matt, Steve, Joe and Chris.

“Mandala”, which I reviewed HERE on its release, is RX Bandits’ most melodic and transcendental album, blending Embree’s soulful voice with flying guitar solos, smooth Rhodes keys and ever-changing rhythms.

Check out one of the awesome percussion jam-outs below:

Now have a listen to “White Lies” by RX Bandits and see what I’m talking about. Click below or on Box.net widget on the right to download the track.