Class of 2007: The White Barons

Pub date August 28, 2007
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

CLUBS Detention hall, Saturday school, Motörhead Appreciation Society

QUOTE "We’re all fuckin’ wasted. It’s one big van full of trouble, comin’ to a town near you."

"Yeah, I just rolled out of bed," Baroness Eva von Slut says when I give her a call at 2 p.m. the day after the White Barons’ show at Thee Parkside. Ah, the White Barons. The fuckin’ White Barons. They were a marketing machine of dubious T-shirt messages — rolled bills, razor blades, powder piles, and crossed keys — before they played their first show, and if I didn’t know von Slut from Thee Merry Widows, I might’ve been reticent to check them out: bands who have their swag down pat before playing out usually blow their nut before anything exciting happens.

Not so with the WBs. With von Slut on vocals, Baron Johnny One Eye and Nate von Wahnsinn from the Whiskey Dick Darryls on guitar and bass, respectively, and Baron Adam von Keys, formerly of All Bets Off, on drums, the group was pretty much a lock to achieve rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut status before playing a note.

Sure enough, when I caught them opening for the Dwarves during Noise Pop, though I thought I knew what to expect, I was laid out by their raw-boned punk ‘n’ roll brutality. I don’t mean to blow too much smoke up her ass, ’cause I’ll have to live with it when I see her around town, but von Slut’s got some goddamned pipes, like a ’65 Triumph chopper without mufflers, like Glenn Danzig if he drank more whiskey and weren’t three feet tall. Her vocals with the Barons are nothing like they are with the Widows: stripped of the comparatively genteel stylings of psychobilly, they range from a throaty wail to a flesh-peeling scream. Perhaps more surprising is that underneath the band’s power lurk solid hooks, as evidenced on this year’s Gearhead debut, Up All Night with the White Barons. The songs range from broken-hearted barnstormers like the opener, "You Never Were," with bassist Nate’s hilarious mongo-gorilla background grunts, to a battery of unapologetic drinkin’ and druggin’ party anthems — "Wicked Ways," "Champagne & Cocaine," and "How High."

So are the White Barons a one-trick-pony party band? Do you need a key bump and a shot of Jack to smell what they’re cookin’? I’d say no. In a town where people front so-called rock groups while sitting in chairs, where the vocalist’s outfit is often (intentionally) more memorable than the music, where freak folk acoustic scruffy beards in their grandpa’s shuffleboard action slacks have elbowed out the rock ‘n’ roll impulse, the Barons hearken back to a time when seeing a band live was like a good, honest fistfight, not a chess game with Noam Chomsky.

"Should I talk some shit?" von Slut says. "I would say the lamest thing about the SF music scene is some hipster-ass, girlfriend-jeans-wearing motherfuckers. That seems to have taken over — the most important thing is the image and the fashion.

"Man, we’re livin’ it. We’re livin’ the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. We’re down in the trenches. We’re making rock ‘n’ roll happen." (Duncan Scott Davidson)

WHITE BARONS Soapbox Derby preshow. Oct. 27, 8 p.m., call for price. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. (415) 282-3325,