Exuberance with bite

Pub date October 29, 2008
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

They once were distant from the excitement, 40 blocks beyond 82nd Street — a dividing line that Erik Gage dramatically refers to as the "Berlin Wall of culture" in Portland, Ore. He and his bandmates in White Fang grew up in the PDX ‘burbs round 122nd Street, starting a CD-R — or, rather, "CD-Gnar" — label in high school. As popular as they were round the cafeteria — they’d hop up on the tables and sing — the attention they’ve lately received is even more impressive: MTVnews.com, XLR8R, and Billboard have all knocked at Gage’s phone line, over which he gladly engaged with the Guardian shortly before the launch of the band’s national fall tour.

Of all the coverage, the write-up that Gage, now 19, seems most proud of is the review they got in The Oregonian, which gave their new Marriage Records debut, Pure Evil, an A-. "My girlfriend’s mom read it," he exclaims. His enthusiasm speaks to White Fang’s whole deal: if they can excite those right around them, whether the numerous friends’ bands Gage mentions or his lady friend’s mum, they’re happy. This earnest eagerness was particularly striking at their summer gig at the Lobot Gallery in Oakland, where a crowd of less than 10 got utterly whomped with a two-drummer, extra-intimidating lineup including second kit-man Chuck Hoffand. White Fang’s core membership — guitarist Kyle Wolfgang, drummer Jim Leslie, and Gage, who sings — have had several members pass through their ranks, lately counting six members for their touring group. Only one drummer this time out, but Gage promises it’ll be great.

"It still gets pretty damn crazy every show," Gage says, citing a gutter-punk fistfight at a recent house show as a particularly frenzied example of this. Fang used to be more mild-mannered, he explains, playing "twee-ish, K Records-type stuff," before they picked up electric guitars to channel their "African tribal drum music" influence for "Pterodactyl," a contribution to the guilty pleasures-themed Grown Zone comp on States Rights last year. "Twee-ish" has since given way to Pure Evil, with a freewheeling energy that takes mere moments to adore: "Breakfast" hobbles from Black Flag riffing into an exuberant, infectious three-chord collapse.

After the tour, they’ll record an LP titled Cheerful Poetry of the Cosmos for States Rights, and alongside Gage’s Gnar Tapes and Shit label, Fang will initiate a new imprint under Marriage’s wing: Chips, which will be dedicated to releasing split singles. Evil? More like pure genius.


With Mount Eerie, Thanksgiving, and Common Eider King Eider

Sat/1, 8 p.m., $8

Million Fishes Art Gallery

2501 Bryant, SF