Photograph by Bill Powell
Storming the Stacks
When was the last time you saw a Librarian shake his ass?
By Sara Bir
Sometimes it's tough to tell if the Librarians are joking. When you see a man dressed all in black down to the leather gloves, flailing around the stage with a tambourine, belting out backing vocals while the guitarist is dressed in a bad suit and applying an exaggerated Elvis Costello tremolo to the lyric "Ce-ramic lawn orn-a-ments," it takes just a wee bit of adjustment to figure out what's going on--particularly if you're acclimated to stoic bands that take themselves too seriously. This is, after all, only rock and roll, and that is exactly what the Librarians play.
The Librarians began inauspiciously enough with Damon Larson and Ryan Gan screwing around as a two-piece at parties and co-ops around Berkeley in 1999. By 2001 they were a full band, adding Lucas White on bass and Ben Adrian on drums, with Larson tackling guitar and lead vocal duties and Gan becoming part hype man, part "dancing monkey," as Adrian puts it. Gan plays the solid gold Rock Star, strutting all over the stage striking Mick Jagger poses, rubbing his ass, and pointing at the audience provokingly with his tambo stick. "The tambo stick is my scepter of power, so to say. I point at people with it, I shake it, it's really an extension of . . . yeah," theorizes Ryan.
It is refreshing to see a band provoking the audience, especially because the Librarians' approach is more tongue-in-cheek than, say, Madonna's when she's grabbing her boobies. They just want you to enjoy yourself, even if it means--God forbid--dancing! "You see these kids standing around, thinking, 'Oh, maybe I should go ahead and move,'" Gan says of an audience's typical initial reaction.
Not that they haven't been doing well for themselves. The Librarians placed first in UC Berkeley's 2001 Battle of the Bands and have since been winning themselves a growing following of fans by playing a blue streak of shows up and down the Bay Area, as well as getting radio play on Berkeley's KALX and Live 105's Local Lounge.
Recently they released their debut full-length CD, The Pathetic Aesthetic, on Petaluma-based Pandacide Records, which was recorded over the past year at Adrian's own studio, Feedback Loop Industries. "Do we want to say we recorded it in your studio, or do we want to say we recorded it in your bedroom?" Larson asks Adrian. "Both of which are true."
If that technicality qualifies the songs on The Pathetic Aesthetic as high-energy bedroom music, fine. Tracks like "Too Fat to Frug" and "Pissing on Your Party" are rife with a savvy teenage innocence that both mocks and celebrates sloppy parties where horny guys talk shit to pick up drunk art-school girls (and no, the Librarians are not teenagers). Last time I checked, that's what rock and roll was all about--having fun, trying to getting laid, and not caring that you're a dork.
In the meantime, North Bay crowds have been receptive, happy to have the chance to get in on a spirited show. "When we've played the Phoenix, kids know what to do," Larson says.
"It's become North Bay Dance Party," says Adrian.
"There's Nü Metal and hippy dance-jam crap, but kids just want to shake their ass," adds White.
And where do ass-shaking power-pop bands fit in the scheme of things? "We're very versatile. We've played raves--it's funny to see a bunch of rave kids moshing in front. We've played with the emo kids, we've played with the Velvet Teen," says Gan. "I like to call that the speedball show--we're the cocaine, Velvet Teen's like the heroin." You can try a speedball yourself at the Librarian's North Bay CD release on Saturday at the Phoenix, and you won't even get arrested for it.
Friday, June 21, 7pm. The Ghost, the KGB, and the Exit open. The Velvet Teen headline with Sin in Space playing the lobby. The Phoenix Theatre, 201 Washington St., Petaluma. 707.762.3565.
From the June 20-26, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.