Eagle-eyed Salem residents may have noticed that we’ve had a couple of shows that stuck out in the usual listings you’ll find in the area, and with good reason. “Salem isn’t getting cool; it’s always been that way,” said Kati Geisler when I asked her about the DOA show last May, and the Agent Orange gig in November. To someone who is still getting their bearings, they seem out of place compared to the usual Rock ‘n’ Roll that’s happening locally. Usually, groups like that will hit Portland or Eugene due to the guaranteed draw in those places, skipping towns like Salem and points in-between due to their “untested” nature as a place to play.
But the recent Blast Off Vintage gigs have certainly proved otherwise, and were not only well attended, but are just the tip of the iceberg regarding what’s on the horizon. On February 21st, Canadian punk veterans DOA are on tour again, stopping at Shotski’s to deliver their ferocious sound to the denizens of our fair city. Clearly the last show was memorable enough that they’ve brought the controversial MDC along with them. (Probably best known for their name – alternately given as Millions of Dead Cops or Millions of Dead Christians, depending on when you ask.) Rounding out the bill are local boys Midnight Persuasion, a band so nice that I was gifted their 7” at a record swamp by their guitar player just because I asked about the band. (Turns out: the record is great, too.) If you spent years of your life skateboarding to the DOA / Jello Biafra record like I did, this show is pretty much essential, no matter what your bed time might be.
But don’t think that is it. “There’s a lot more in the works,” Kati mentioned. March 25th is bringing the incredible sounds of Zeke and Nashville Pussy, group that I’m pretty sure have never played in Salem before, but are about to find out how crazy our berg can get. And in April, the Interweb-A-Tron style meme-band styles of Okilly Dokilly – that’s right, the Ned Flanders inspired metal ensemble – will be playing with Beatallica, the only Beatles / Metallica mash-up band.
While I should never complain when there is a wealth of excellent shows coming to town, part of me really wondered how a vintage shop in my home town could pull all of this off. It seemed crazy to me. Yet, the answer is astoundingly simple, almost too simple, in fact. Kati has been a junk-shop junky for years, who would find and seen odds and ends (mostly clothing) for years. She met Pete when he was making his own rounds, doing essentially the same thing. After years of bumping into each other, they decided to join forces, which prevented them from sniping new finds from each other. Then a local thrift store was about to get sold by a mutual friend, they decided to take over the place together, largely because a lot of their own finds had wound up in that very same shop. In a way, it was karma.
Both Kati & Pete love punk rock, and on a lark, Kati decided that she should just ask DOA if they could play for Pete’s birthday. The rest, as they say, is history. It’s funny how all it takes to get groups like this to come is just to show interest, and ask politely. And more and more bands are open to playing shows like this, since the old music industry methods of booking shows has essentially fallen apart. It used to be that management contracts and label agreements prevented bands – even so-called “punk” bands – from playing gigs that were too close to each other, preventing bands from going to “in-between towns.” However, these modern times have not only made those kinds of short-sighted tours ridiculous, but have prevented groups from playing to fans who desperately want to see shows, and are rarely afforded the opportunity to do so. Not everyone can go to Portland or Eugene for a good rock show.
And, now they don’t have to.
“It’s Salem’s turn,” Kati said several times when I spoke to her, and I certainly get that feeling with the kinds of groups that are showing up here. And it’s nice to know that there wasn’t any backroom handshakes, strange deals met, or even insincere promises made. Sometimes, if you ask someone to give your town the opportunity, a huge crowd of supporters will turn out for your show.
You can get tickets for DOA / MDC / Midnight Persuasion for (and all of these shows) at Blast Off Vintage. Doors open at 8 PM, $13.
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Addendum / Correction:
I made a mistake when writing this story, and did not turn on a tape recorder when I spoke with Kati. That lead to a couple of inaccuracies in the story that I would like to correct.
Kati did not take over a friend’s shop. She opened Blast Off! after her friend closed a separate vintage store, so as to not step on the toes of a friend. In my memory I conflated the two shops and mixed up the story.
I also may have misrepresented how easy it is to arrange shows like this, and I should know better as someone who books shows myself. Again, I was conflating two things: the initial show that Kati put together with DOA was relatively easy, all things considered, for a variety of factors. But it should be stressed that organizing any event is not “simple” by any stretch of the imagination, and I shouldn’t have suggested otherwise. I was merely impressed that anyone was asking bands, and that the bands said yes. To me, that is pretty cool, and we’re lucky to have people who are working to make shows like this happen in our community.
It’s not my intention to make mistakes like this when I write stories, and there’s no excuse. My hope is that I can learn from this experience, and continue to find the interesting stories that are happening in my community. But I don’t want inaccuracies like this to haunt the weekly. The core of this story is still 100% true: awesome things are happening in town, and we are very excited about them. But in this case, here’s a few details I’d like to get right, too.