Living For Logan: Jolly Fuckers/Laser Mouth/Broken Things/Low Season
Friday, August 17th, 2018
Fubar, St. Petersburg FL
Another Friday and Fubar is continuing to fix all that is fucked up beyond all reason with the world. Last week was a pro-immigrant fundraiser for RAICES, while this week the beneficiaries are the good people at Living For Logan, a foundation that pushes for an end to the dangerous practice of distracted driving. The soon-to-be national organisation began in honour of nine year old Logan Scherer, who was killed in 2016 in a particularly heartbreaking case of vehicular violence, on I-75 in nearby Brooksville. Over the years I’ve begun many reviews with some kind of transport anecdote or rhetoric; it’s a pet subject for me, and it helps encapsulate the whole evening as an event. In this instance however it is especially pertinent.
Cars and cell phones are both responsible for a wide variety of suffering, so it stands to reason that when combined the results are devastating. In the case of the automobile — described by the novelist Ilya Ehrenburg as a machine “destined to wipe out the world” — we have over a century of inconvenient data. Every year, approximately 1.2 million people are killed on the roads globally. Most of these deaths occur in the Global South, but in the U.S. the numbers are still staggering. According to the National Safety Council, in 2017 there were around 40,100 road fatalities: 110 souls violently ripped from their bodies every single day, with thousands of people left behind to mourn them. Every year, this group includes several thousand children. (For the sake of comparison, Britain, with a population one fifth the size, had a toll 22 times lower in 2016, at 1,792; a mere five families a day had their lives changed forever.)
We are told that this is a great victory, because the number of deaths per vehicle miles travelled (VMT) has dropped significantly in recent decades, even though total deaths are still higher than almost every year before 1950. In other words, the growth in the number of vehicles and miles travelled has heavily diminished the influence of improved safety regulations. We treat these deaths as the tragic but inevitable results of an unbending transport system (what Bush Sr. dubbed a non-negotiable “way of life” at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992) rather than making deep efforts to move away from the policy and infrastructure choices that are killing us. In light of all this, I don’t think it’s unreasonable that my opinion about the private car can be best summed up by the new Turnstile video for Bomb / I Don’t Wanna Be Blind.
Mobile phones are responsible for their own grisly death tolls (such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where armed groups have often fought over cobalt mining, a battery mineral essential to phones, electric cars and other devices). But they have come under increased criticism lately for their viciously addictive qualities. Seemingly innocuous features such as red notification icons and the pull-down-to-refresh mechanism have been purposefully designed to maximise the desire for repetitive checking, the Silicon Valley equivalent of filling your food with as much salt and sugar as possible. And these tricks work, even when they pose a massive danger to life. Research from the government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2013 found that at any given daylight moment in the United States, 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or other electronic devices (I have been unable to find more recent reliable numbers, but looking at NHTSA documents from 2016 suggests to me that this figure may now be approaching a million). Locally, Florida is just one of four states where texting and driving is not a primary offence (meaning a driver cannot be pulled over for it).
These factors show that simply shaming or fining individuals that text and drive is not enough, as the blame does not lie solely upon their shoulders, but upon a lack of control over corporations (they might also be worth bearing in mind next time someone is ignoring you and you go to smash their phone to pieces with a hammer). Tech industry insiders responsible for some of these very “innovations” now put serious limits on how much they let themselves and their children use these devices, and companies are making very public efforts to move us away from screens, even if it is over to other kinds of digital trappings. Which, at the very least, is a fein towards action that the car manufacturers might consider now that the forceful normalisation of their products has been going on longer than any of us can remember.
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That’ll be a cold season in hell though (another reality the motor companies are helping to bring about). At least we here in St. Petersburg have a comfort blanket in Low Season, providing a thick melodious excellence on par with a good Dag Nasty record. This is evident right off when Chad, Eric and Andy smash out an unabashed three minute instrumental (is this a trend right now in punk, especially for opening bands? Did I miss the Pitchfork article? Because if so I want to encourage it). Vocalist Todd then strolls up out of nowhere, part Greg Attonito from Bouncing Souls and part Glenn Danzig, and despite my not being a massive fan of the work of either of those guys, hot damn it works here. As usual, supporting front and centre is Dave of Car Bomb Driver. You won’t see an actual car bomb driver being distracted by their phone. In fact, it might be worth thinking of all cars as low level bombs of sorts, and acting with caution accordingly. Anyway, back on point, Low Season make consistent mid-tempo solid punk, with enough references to local culture to feel legit. Fucking quality. They’re working on an unnamed 7” and tape for which I am pretty excited. The four member act with four letter names also released Four Songs a few years ago and I suggest you listen to it.
In the opinion of Anthony of Broken Things, it’s almost a relief to do a benefit for a pre-Trumpland issue such as this. Yeah: there’s nothing like the comfort of working on an overwhelming structural problem that isn’t going to be solved by kicking one man out of office (keep dangling that increasingly wilted carrot, Democrats). Indie-punks Broken Things have been both the most consistent and least consistent feature of my writing in the almost-decade that I have lived in St. Pete. An incredibly slow and steady friendship, I actually wrote that previous line in March when I was intending to see them at Lucky You Tattoo, but ended up not being able to go. Anthony was one of the very first people in the local scene that I communicated with (via email) but it took until this event for us to meet. It’s appropriate for a band that makes a thoughtful, no rush bluster, their relatively small canon filled with a disproportionate number of references to car-clogged streets that cannot help but be illuminating. Tonight’s is another smooth ride, even if the stereo’s blaring. Funnily, one review that I actually managed was their EP Four Songs (not to be confused with the Low Season one from sixty seconds ago). A full length album in need of funding is hopefully almost with us.
I don’t know at all what to expect from the Safety Harbor-based Laser Mouth. Their name sounds like a fashion choice for ecstasy riddled clubgoers, with the white sheet they’re erecting on stage encouraging me in a similar direction. The resulting “bandimation” that is displayed throughout their set can only be described as a rathergood.com ode to Super Meat Boy, and to meat, and to other banal topics given colour. The duo’s music is as equally bafflingly pleasurable, with a Big Black-inspired drum machine and aggressive guitars giving everything a punk-meets-electronic industrial noise feel. There’s a traditional structure to the songs, but it’s loud and entertaining as a bastard, with guitarist-singer Marinda Rights baton-passing between them as fast as machinist member Mr Drumz compels them to. It’s a wonder how two people can make this much noise so casually even with mechanisation, and I find myself in a rare instance of not understanding what is really happening and not caring. I’ve experienced this before in recent years when seeing the likes of UFO Sex Scene and Reality Asylum for the first time, so the key seems to be getting women up behind the mic and supporting the weird. (As it happens, Laser Mouth are playing with Reality Asylum at Emerald Bar on September 24th, along with the incredibly interesting sounding Slow Code from Seattle. Score.)
My joyous smile should presumably transition perfectly into our final act, Tampa’s Jolly Fuckers, a name that I have to imagine came about during an early conversation between the transatlantic members and caused much hilarity (and only possibly regarding the track by Sleaford Mods). Yeah yeah, the yanks love your lingo until there’s a confrontation, then you’re a pretentious dickhead straight out of a bullshit period drama! Less royal baby coverage, more Peaky Blinders! Anyway, the further influence of Brighton’s son Simon can be heard on the likes of Custard, Bulgarian Cleaning Lady, and a last minute cover of Leave Me Alone by 77 punks The Scabs. The drummer/singer/Living For Logan volunteer also sounds a bit like Mark E Smith. Bassist Eric is wearing sunglasses even though it’s one in the morning and the sun hasn’t yet managed to absorb Florida in a 24-hour ball of permanent light. All this should give you a good idea of the Jolly Fuckers’ aesthetic and sound — humour punk of the street language old school but not ill advised pirate nonsense. It’s not exactly my normal bag, but it’s undeniably welcome short and sweet entertainment when you consider the grim subject matter of this fundraiser, and they kindly gave me a couple of free downloads for their Three Cents and a Cavity EP, so poke me if you’d like the spare.
The event ended up netting a cool $270 for the Living For Logan Foundation. On September 15th they’ll be having their first annual (and much more kid friendly!) Logan’s Drive fundraiser at Rascal’s Fun Zone, in Whiteland, Indiana. If you would like to donate to the group in their push for less suffering through both education and legislation, you can do so at Donorbox.