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Clip: Windy Chien on Dieselhed

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  • Carl Z.
    Real huff Dieselhed revved our motors By Windy Chien There was a period in the early to mid- 80s when Dieselhed
    Message 1 of 1 , May 11, 2006

      Real huff
      Dieselhed revved our motors
      By Windy Chien

      There was a period in the early to mid-'80s when Dieselhed absolutely
      ruled the San Francisco music scene. Like the previous generation's
      Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 or Primus, or maybe today's Joanna
      Newsom or Deerhoof, fans enthusiastically lined up to catch the
      popular quintet every time the group played. To see Dieselhed once was
      to love them forever. You've got that chance, as they're re-forming
      for one night at this year's Mission Creek Music Festival.

      What made them so fucking great? For starters, the music: crashing
      cow-punk guitars alternating with twangy tearjerkers and, over it all,
      Virgil Shaw's and Zac Holtzman's sweet, incandescent harmonies.
      Dieselhed was a band with a fully formed aesthetic whose keenly
      observed stories (and all their songs told stories) wheeled out
      quintessentially quotidian Northern Californian lives: dreaming of a
      world beyond Humboldt County, summers spent working on fishing boats
      in Alaska, weddings on the Hornblower, buying titty mags at the
      7-Eleven, touring Sonoma Valley small towns and playing breweries, the
      guy who makes the hash browns at the local greasy spoon.

      It was easy to imagine they were singing about you, and sometimes they
      were: Dieselhed's number one fan was always the taxi dispatcher and
      perpetually tipsy Corinne, and, heck, they wrote a song about her:
      "Corrine Corrine/ Look at you spin / You've got me in a half nelson."
      The shit was funny — because it was so real — to everyone, including
      the characters they sang about in their songs: the girl who whispers
      into her poodle's ear, the waitress at the truck stop, the guy
      studying for the forklift operator's exam.

      The band was wonderfully inclusive: Sing-alongs quickly came to
      include audience-participatory gestures, like the big O-shaped
      upstretched arms we all flew to represent the diamond ring in "The
      Wedding Song." Shaw's then-adolescent sisters, who were budding
      songwriters in their own right, made guest appearances.

      In another example of Dieselhed's absolute command of who they were
      and what they meant, there were the improv numbers that charted their
      growing popularity and the changes in their lives. In "Someday We
      Won't Be a Band," each member took to the mic to weave an always
      different story of what someone else in the group would be doing years
      hence. What will that tune sound like this time around? It's
      guaranteed to have us laughing and crying.

      The main thing is this: Dieselhed will always be relevant, and they
      never fucking lost it. Shaw's now an acclaimed solo act. Holtzman
      formed the Cambodian pop group Dengue Fever and is licensed in Chinese
      medicine. Drummer Danny Heifetz up and moved to Australia. And I can't
      wait to hear what bassist Atom Ellis and guitarist Shon McAllin are up
      to. "Someday we won't be a band," Dieselhed sang, "but for now, we
      totally exist!" SFBG


      With Fantasy, Sonny Smith, and Marc Capelle

      May 21, 8 p.m.

      12 Galaxies

      2565 Mission, SF

      $10 advance, $12 door

      (415) 970-9777
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