The bombastic, tireless, and occasionally goofy Fleshies are playing a rare show at the Elbo Room in San Francisco tonight. A Fleshies show brings the promise of a boisterous performance, exuberant fans, and punk rock anthems. When I leave a Fleshies show, I frequently find myself thinking that it was the best show ever. It's because of the excitement from the audience and from the band, a sense of bonhomie and good times mixed with the ridiculous volume and antics of any good punk show.
The Oakland quintet has been playing fewer live shows in the last couple years, but they haven't been completely inactive. Instead they've been holed up recording a new album, Brown Flag, which is coming out later this year on Recess Records. Plus members of Fleshies are in other bands, including Triclops!, and Bikefight that play more regularly. So while the Bay Area hasn't gotten to see much of Fleshies lately, it's not because they haven't been around.
And that's lucky for us, because Fleshies have been a pillar in the Bay Area's roiling punk scene for close to a decade. In their earlier years they founded S.P.A.M. Records, which put out joyful, strange, and alienated albums by young local bands, and hosted Geekfest, a festival featuring more of the same. They've stuck with punk record labels, small clubs, and dark basements throughout their years of creative success. And that means that punk's young fans, in addition to those who have stayed around since the '90s, continue to rally around them (disclosure: it's a tightly knit scene; Fleshies' drummer Brian Hamilton has a recording studio, and one of the many local bands he has recorded was mine).
Fleshies shows are loud. The phrase "wall of sound" has always made me think of the pure buzz coming from their duel guitars, rather than Phil Spector's orchestral pop arrangements. They're exuberant. Lead singer Johnny can barely make it through a song without hurling himself into the audience. He frequently ends up naked by the end of a set, and his acrobatics and energetic performance would be exhausting without the addition of his shouting and singing. And they're fun. Fleshies do not take themselves deathly seriously, and though most songs are heavy, melodic rock, they don't shy away from more nimble tunes (for instance, they frequently cover cult glam band Sparks). Fleshies attract a mosh pit-prone crowd, but it's a friendly one.