Make a Scene: Not even bodily harm can keep Kramer down
// See the band play live at Rocket Records on Dec. 8
Not even crushed legs can slow Kramer's ascension through the ranks of Tacoma's punk scene. Granted, singer-guitarist Brandon Birkedahl has had to tone down his stage antics in the months since a hit-and-run accident left him with screws and a titanium rod in his shins. Sitting in the back of Hilltop neighborhood pub, Peterson Brothers 1111, he lifted a pants leg to show off his scars. “It's a little bit disappointing because I can't move around that well now. I used to be able to move around a lot and go into the crowd,” lamented Birkedahl, who will perform with his band mates – drummer Spencer Hicks and bassist Drew Nelson – at Tacoma's Rocket Records on Dec. 8. “Now I do a lot of, like, taking a step and then stepping back,” he said, causing Nelson to crack up beside him. “So at the moment it's not too exciting.” “He looks like a white guy trying to dance,” a grinning Nelson teased. “That's what it is.” The accident in question occurred in July after a gig at O'Malley's Irish Pub on 6th Avenue. Birkedahl was loading gear into a truck when a car swerved around the corner and smashed into the car behind him, pinning his legs between bumpers.
Nelson was also struck, though not injured as badly. They driver was caught the next day, they recalled. But despite the severity of Birkedahl's injuries, he did not remain on injured reserve for long. The trio returned to the scene of the crime for another gig just a month later. “They were doing a Brandon benefit show, and they wanted to know if Kramer wanted to play because they couldn’t find any other bands to do it,” the singer recalled, laughing. It was but a temporary setback for one of Tacoma's freshest and rowdiest young bands. Kramer's front man was back on his feet in October, in time to play shows in support of the new “Here We Go” EP. The six-song mini album builds on a compelling aesthetic established by Kramer's self-titled debut album in 2011; that is, the intersection of euphoric, reverb-drenched surf jams – the new EP closes with a remake of Chantays classic, “Pipeline” – and the hooky mania of First Wave punk. Kramer has its roots in a short-lived Ramones tribute band that formed to play defunct Tacoma all-ages venue, the Viaduct, in 2010.
Lyrically, Kramer cuts typically burst at the seams with party-hearty irreverence, a la “Crocs,” a goofy, high-octane account of a fictional beach party at which the aforementioned footwear gets stolen. Its underlying message: “F---|||| Crocs! Get chicks! Drink beer! Get blitzed!” But social commentary does surface here and there, a la “Kill the I.R.S.,” a punk rant against materialism and a mosh-worthy favorite during last weekend’s set at McCoy’s Tavern in Olympia. “Trash a bank / burn a bridge,” Birkedahl sings, “Stop the war / adopt a kid / kill the I.R.S.” But the band’s most infectious cut comes from its first album. Between epic blasts of guitar echo and its observation of local street life, “Pac Ave” is one of the coolest odes to Tacoma grit since Girl Trouble’s 1994 anthem, “My Hometown.” “The song is just, basically, about driving in the morning, kind of tired and stuff, and all the transient people you see walking around,” Birkedahl explained. “The people walking around Pac Ave at 5:30 in the morning are usually doing something that is not looked at highly by society – a lot of hookers, you know, people that are kind of drugged out.” Grinning, he also copped to one of the song’s less obvious influences: “When I wrote that song I was listening to (Dr. Dre’s) ‘The Chronic’ probably every single day,” he said. “Eazy E isn’t on the record, but he always had, ‘Me and my six-four’ (as in ‘64 Impala.) So in the song I write, ‘In my ninety-fooooour.’ I had a ‘94 S10 I was driving, so I thought I would throw that in there. “I'm a little embarrassed because I’m a white guy. It’s like, oh yeah, of course you listen to ‘The Chronic.’ It’s 20 years later! But it’s true. That’s what I was listening to at the time.” The Dec. 8 performance starts at 3 p.m. It is free and open to all ages. Meanwhile, Kramer’s “Here We Go” is available on vinyl or for free download at http://www.Kramer1.bandcamp.com.
Kramer in store performance
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