SAN FRANCISCO The audience didn't speak much Japanese, and
Tokyo punks Guitar Wolf didn't speak much English, but on one level, they
understood each other just fine.
The common language at the Bottom of the Hill on Tuesday night was rock
After guzzling a ceremonial preshow beer, Guitar Wolf's singer/guitarist
Seiji cast the empty can aside and riled up the crowd with a chant of
the universal rock mantra "Hey! Hey! Hey!" before crashing into the title
track of Jet Generation (1999).
The leather-clad trio also includes Billy (a.k.a. Basswolf) and
Toru (Drumwolf) all go only by their first names. They careened
about the stage as they crashed through a set of down-and-dirty rock,
straight from the garage. They shouted out countless classic rock calls
to arms: a Ramones-style "1,2,3,4!," a rockabilly "Bayba, Bayba!" and
the defining "Rock 'n' Roooolllll!"
Alex Walker, 24, a fan from Oakland, Calif., said he was worried for the
band's safety, though, as it tore through screeching, distorted songs
such as "Teenage UFO" (RealAudio
excerpt) and "Fujiyama Attack" (RealAudio
"Guitar Wolf were just so out of control!" Walker said afterward. "I wasn't
sure they were going to be able to continue. All the equipment was breaking,
and they were rolling around in broken glass!"
Perhaps that explains why after the overheated guitarist removed his
shirt, he put his leather jacket back on.
The members of the band all wore leather pants and sunglasses and played
loud and loose. They sometimes shouted lyrics while yards away from their
microphones. Fans at the front ate it up, often commandeering the mics
Walker's friend Graham Brown, 25, also from Oakland, said the band seemed
anything but tight. "As 'apart' as possible is the idea," he said. "I
don't think it's about 'together.' "
During a thrashing, barely recognizable cover of Detroit punk forebears
the MC5's "Kick Out the Jams," Seiji yanked a reluctant fan onstage,
handed him the guitar and turned him loose. As Seiji thrashed about and
shouted unintelligible lyrics, the new recruit gamely tried to match the
rhythm section, but to no avail. Off-key and off-kilter, the song continued
for several noisy minutes, until Seiji reclaimed his instrument.
Guitar Wolf also covered the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
and Eddie Cochran's rockabilly classic "Summertime Blues."
During their opening set, the Woggles, from Atlanta, displayed a garage
sound of their own, influenced by early soul, blues, surf and rockabilly.
The simple, shimmy-intensive sound had many in the crowd shaking it to
catchy, rhythm-based rockers such as "Tear Me Down" (RealAudio
Clad in matching turquoise tuxedo shirts, members of the quartet made
several excursions into the crowd, wielding tambourines and harmonica in
a style reminiscent of a gospel revival.