Trendspotting: Cassettes Are The New Vinyl

Dig out your boom boxes, tape decks and head cleaners because another almost obsolete music format, the cassette tape, is quickly being brought back to life. They’re turning up everywhere, being released by bleeding edge DIY hipster indie bands with a penchant for the self-released EP.  Dive deep into your local indie music scene and you’ll see what I mean. Merch tables are filled with them and the frequency of the cassette EP press announcements in my inbox are quickly rising. If vinyl is the format for the high browed music snob, then the cassette is the format for the DIY, crafty crowd.

It’s been a source of great frustration for me of late to discover fabulous up and coming bands live, then realize the only option for continued enjoyment of their music is a format I haven’t owned equipment for in a good decade. Grass Widow, The BathsBlank Dogs. These are all bands that released music on cassette that I would have liked to have in my music rotation but couldn’t do so because….I DON’T HAVE A CASSETTE PLAYER!  God dangit. Who still owns a cassette player? (Besides Blogger Mike who has three. Sheesh.)

Frustration turned to anger after my third attempt to buy music from a band with a cassette only option. (Why, why, why are you making it so difficult to support you?!) Then the anger turned to action.  I needed to understand the rationale these artists had for adopting a format that is clearly not widely used. Was it a cost factor? Cool factor? Sound factor? Did they want to languish in obscurity because no one could readily appreciate their music? What…what was the allure?

Welcome to The OCMD trendspotting series, “Cassettes Are The New Vinyl”, where we’ll explore the rational of artists and labels reviving this nearly dead format that so dominated my youth. Tune back in for Part 2 where we’ll get insight from a band and their reasons behind choosing cassette for their physical format.

Ty Segall, JEFF the Brotherhood, The Baths @ The Eagle Tavern

Last Thursday night The Eagle Tavern played host to a great night of down and dirty garage rock featuring local acts Ty Segall, The Baths, The Splinters and Nashville-based Jeff the Brotherhood.  First off, I need to say that The Eagle Tavern is my new favorite bar.  As one of San Francisco’s better known gay bear/leather bars, it’s not a destination that was on my radar.  But what a great venue, vibe and fun people! They have the best beer garden in town. And I got a kick out of teasing the bartender, who handed me the beer list, by ordering ‘whatever’s most popular with the ladies.’ After a momentary blank stare, I got a Stella Artois.

It was my first time catching up with The Baths and look forward to hearing more from this group.  Especially when they put out music on some other format than cassette tape. (I feel a trendspotting series coming on.) Luckily it appears the uber cool label Woodsist will be putting out their debut LP soon…which is a very good sign.  I dig their sound and something about them gave me a Girls vibe, but maybe that was just the lead singer’s dress and shawl getup and the fact that Christopher Owens often takes the stage in similar attire. Whatever the case, file them under one to watch.

The band of brothers, JEFF the Brotherhood, took the stage next and delivered a scorching set.  If you haven’t checked these guys out, do so.  How can you not like a band that tapes Jeffro Tull on their drum kit? Always a crowd pleaser, these guys know how to work the audience with Jake spending more time off the stage than on it.  Then there’s Jamin on drums who wails on his set with the kind of bounce and enthusiasm as Animal of The Muppets. Seriously, check it out.

Ty Segall closed out the night with a kumbaya set of old tunes and a handful of new ones. Members of The Baths joined in on the fun.  And if Ty wasn’t already adorable enough, the love and sweetness he was throwing down for his girlfriend (the bassist for The Baths) throughout the night was just too cute for words. When he dedicated “Lovely One” to her my heart melted too.  So uplifting and inspiring it was that I almost regained my faith in humanity. Almost.

My Garage Rock Fantasy

JEFF the Brotherhood“U Got the Look”

Ty Segall – “Cents

Thursday night San Francisco’s The Eagle Tavern (for real) plays host to a garage rock orgasm featuring not one, but TWO of my obsessions, Ty Segall and  JEFF the Brotherhood,  along with local up and comers The Splinters and The Baths.  I caught this tour de force in Austin last week at The Mohawk and, like a junkie, am ready for another fix. This one’s as good as it gets, folks. Be there, if you’re man enough. And bring your bare ass and chaps.