Primal Tribe, opening for Blackworm at the Brewhouse, should be fun. But the Upbeat would be Party People's choice, especially if one wished to establish a Carpinteria connection and at the same time cast a legendary, somewhat mysterious aura over the proceedings.
Blackworm has only played half a dozen times in the last year, making this gig something of an event. The only other band in no danger of overexposure while still remaining a band is the Upbeat.
The Upbeat is eight guys, eight years, two sets (but two really good sets). Blackworm is four people, one year, 25 songs (really good ones, too). The Upbeat is from Carpinteria. Blackworm practices in Carpinteria. Every week, it seems, the Upbeat is on a club owner's itinerary. They hardly ever play. Blackworm hardly ever plays either, but when they do, they don't tell anyone. That's about to change. Also, it's hard to hide out in The Times.
"Before, when we'd play, we'd never tell anybody but our friends," said singer David Walker. "The first time we played at Zelo, about a year ago, people seemed to like us, but then we hid out for a few months. Maybe that's why we're so popular.
"Then we made a tape and sent it out, and people wrote good things about us and got good things in the air. After that, people wanted to see us live. Now, we get offers to play all the time, but we just keep saying no. In fact, the last time we played the Brewhouse, it was the first show we ever advertised."
Bass player Mark Wagner is a professional illustrator and creates the band's trippy posters. On the wall of the band's practice room there's plenty of room for about 500 more posters. Blackworm has played without posters at Buster's in Goleta, the Safari when it used to be the Prime Directive and even opened once for Spencer the Gardener at the dance-crazy Beach Shack.
"They just sort of stood and stared at us at the Beach Shack," said guitar player Eric Moser. "One very drunk kid came up to me and asked me what kind of music we played. Since anything more than a one-word answer would've confused him, I just said 'Loud.' "
Blackworm isn't confused about the Santa Barbara scene. Generally speaking, they use a different set of adjectives to describe it than the usual glowing testimonials of which "oh wow" would constitute downright pessimism.
"The local scene is different if you really hang out there," Walker said. "I don't want to sound pretentious, but there's no bands here we'd go out to see. I think you can play too much in a small town. It may seem like it's happening, but it's more like a spectacle. Everyone seems so preoccupied with making it and becoming the next Ugly Kid Joe; I don't think there's that many bands that even care about their music."
OK, so here's a band with a plan, right? Saving themselves for the Really Big Show in L.A., no doubt. Well, not exactly.
"We were supposed to headline a show at the Troubador in L.A. two weeks ago, but we didn't play," Walker said. "We backed out at the last minute because we felt the show had turned into some kind of showcase for MCA Records, and we just didn't want to do that. We don't really care about making it as a Santa Barbara band. We'd rather go into the studio and record."
They better be good, huh? They are. They practice religiously twice a week. Blackworm is probably the best new band in Santa Barbara whether they like it or not, whether they show up or not or whether you show up or not. Don't worry. They'll be there--Wagner drew a poster for the Brewhouse gig.
"Something just seems to happen when we play, some sort of spiritual bond," Walker said. "After we play, and we all wake up in the morning feeling better. If we somehow couldn't deliver the goods, I'd feel guilty and I'd feel like we misrepresented ourselves."
As his wife, Darby, hits those drums, Walker becomes an animated front man with a vein-popping vocal style that makes you think he's going to spoil the posters on the wall by blowing a big hole in his neck. But he hasn't yet. In sort of a Neil Young-meets-Iggy Pop-at-Jane's Addiction's house style, Blackworm rocks hard, yet they know what a song should sound like and you may find yourself scaring the termites by singing "Hard to Take" or "I Slit Myself" in the shower.
"Our music is slippery and loud," Wagner said.
So today the Brewhouse, and tomorrow, who knows?
"We'd like to make a good recording soon and get something out there," Walker said. "We'd like to open for the Velvet Underground in Paris, then tour Europe. Actually, our real goal now is to quit being an opening act. It doesn't matter how good you are because nobody cares about the opening act. I could see us on the Lollapalooza Tour. We'd be on the second stage in the afternoon with some 14-year-old kid puking on the grass. Still, the worm is creeping along."
* WHERE AND WHEN
Blackworm and Primal Tribe at the Brewhouse, 202 State St., Santa Barbara, 963-3090. Saturday night at 9. $2 or $3.