Jabber sings sweet pop-punk love songs. Photo by Marc Gartner.
The Clash sang about the plight of the working class, Bikini Kill advocated for women’s rights, Minor Threat gave a voice to straight-edge kids and Earth Crisis were staunch environmentalists. There has always been a segment of punk rock dedicated to advancing progressive political ideologies.
As times change, so do the issues. Christine Tupou, one of the organizers behind the four-day punk and indie festival Think and Die Thinking, is excited about the direction punk rock is taking.
“It seems like identity politics is playing a huge role in the punk community right now and no matter what aspect of the punk community you’re involved in, you can’t really talk about punk bands without talking about people of color or women or queer folk. It’s just a really interesting time right now,” Tupou says.
She and her bandmates in Sourpatch created the Think and Die Thinking festival in 2011 specifically to provide space for bands with members who are queer, women, trans and people of color because they felt like such bands were under-represented in the punk scene.
And in its three years, Think and Die Thinking has only continued to grow. This year’s lineup of 50 bands more than doubles the number that played at the inaugural event, and the festival also has expanded its schedule from three days to four. Here’s a small sampling of festival highlights:
The members of Sourpatch founded the festival, so their performance at Think and Die Thinking might be especially bittersweet: it’s their last show, ever. Though the years they’ve built a loyal local following as one of the few bands to pull heavily from the ’90s twee-pop sound. The members are all still friends, they’ve just moved on to other bands, several of which are playing the festival (Bascom, Crabapple, Permanent Ruin, Salt Flat and Itzel).
Hot Tears (ambient-pop)
This project out of Olympia, Wash. is the brain-child of Molly Fischer (Songs for Moms, Fisting Crystals). She creates lo-fi, ambient, melancholy arrangements with just herself playing the guitar, drums, percussion and singing—at the same time. Her songs are moody, dreamy, weird yet actually quite vulnerable.
Pop-punk is a crowded sub-genre. East Bay’s Jabber formed in late 2012, and are one of the best pop-punk bands going on right now. Their songs are fun, catchy and drive hard. They nail their harmonies every time, even when playing basement shows with no sound system. Their songs are mostly sugary-sweet love songs with some serious introspection mixed in. Though they claim Oakland as their hometown, San Jose ex-pat Danielle Baily (the Pillowfights) plays bass and sings in the band.
The band members of this group range in age from 17 to 21 and yet they are currently one of San Jose’s best punk bands. They mix highly nuanced math rock with hyper intense screamo. The music is surprisingly complex, and executed so amazingly well. Meanwhile, lead singer Brandon Holder screams at the top of his lungs emotional lyrics in their rawest form of expression.
The riot grrrl scene was a major driving force in the ’90s in giving a voice to feminism and female empowerment in music, yet the term eventually came to connote a very specific high-energy, catchy punk rock sound. Oakland’s Stillsuit are a feminist political riot grrrl band à la Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, yet their music sounds nothing like either band. They play really bizarre, experimental noise-rock. It’s rhythmic, dissonant and challenging, but totally original.
Watercolor Paintings (Acoustic-punk)
Plan-It-X duo Watercolor Paintings formed in Berkeley in 2005, but have since relocated to Santa Barbara. The group consists of brother and sister, Rebecca and Josh Redman, who play gorgeous tunes that are whimsical and eccentric, generally sweet and adorable, and occasionally heartbreaking. They’ve been known to perform frequently with a harp and a ukulele, but their latest album is much more guitar-bass-drums-focused.
$7-10 per day sliding scale; $20 full fest pass
Café Stritch, San Jose, 9pm
Billy DeFrank Center, San Jose, 5pm
Billy DeFrank Center, San Jose, 3pm
Billy DeFrank Center, San Jose, 3pm