When SoCal punk-funk outfit Year of the Dragon chooses to make a musical point, they always take it to the stage.
Rising from the depths of the California underground with a mix of heavy funk and metal, the quintet bring their freaky firestorm to Riley's Tavern Friday night. You'll be hard pressed to find a wilder show.
Fronted by vocalists Roderick Palmer and Walter Adam Kibby II, a founding member of iconic Los Angeles alt rockers Fishbone -- a group that defied musical classification -- Year of the Dragon, too, prides itself on being wholly original.
"If you're coming to see something Fishbone-related, you may be like, 'I don't know.' But the live show we have is something we do have in common," said Palmer during a recent phone interview. "We come out and play with maximum intensity."
When Kibby abruptly left Fishbone in 2006, he was intent on joining forces with another artist with a similar no-limit approach to art. Kibby, who also uses the stage name "Dirty Walt," found that kindred spirit in Palmer, a longtime associate he'd known since Fishbone's formative high school years.
"We weren't trying to be the second coming of Fishbone," said Palmer. "Only they could throw together all those styles and get away with it. No other group has managed to do it successfully like that. No matter if you have an original member or not, you're never going to be able to do it again the way they did. So we said, 'Let's find our groove and go from there.'"
Joining the duo was temporary Fishbone guitarist Tracey "Spacey T" Singleton, who left the group with Kibby to help form the first incarnation of what would become Year of the Dragon. Working to develop a unique sound built on their range of influences, the trio entered the studio to find out what would happen.
"We had really good chemistry; we were both born in the Year of the Dragon, and our birthdays are just a few days apart," Palmer said. "That helped us decide to go with the name."
The result of their first studio venture was an EP titled, "A Time to Love is a Time to Bleed," which made just enough noise with Kibby's Fishbone fan base to build momentum. Soon the band would develop into a full-time operation with a revolving cast of backing musicians.
"This band has definitely evolved," said Kibby. "Our first record we had a lot of experimental funky sounds. You hear us today and it's a little rougher, a little harder, guitar-oriented, with a little more angst, the way I like it."
A blend of hardcore rock with a funk groove and soulful tag team vocals, the band is a reminder of the black rock explosion of the late 1980s, when African-American artists such as Living Colour, 24/7 Spyz, Body Count, Fishbone, and Lenny Kravitz were breaking down racial barriers in rock music. Blazing with energy and razor-sharp guitars, they shook up the music industry the same way Jimi Hendrix had 30 years earlier.
"There's a few groups still around today, but a lot of them are in the underground, and not where you can catch 'em easily," said Kibby of the notable absence of African-American rock artists on major labels.
Fishbone, signed to Columbia/Sony from 1983 to 1995, enjoyed success on the college radio and festival circuit but never managed to outgrow their cult-band status. Kibby rejoined Fishbone full time in 2010.
"I like doing a lot of different things, because I like to expand what I like to do musically.
I'm really deep into that George Clinton, P-Funk flavor. I'm also into deep, angry music, and whatever moves my soul in a funky way," he added.
"Walt is one of the friendliest guys in the group -- he'll talk to anybody," said Palmer of his bandmate. "You wouldn't even know his accomplishments. When we opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Flea saw Walt, he ran up to him like he's his brother. The love he gets is like that of an innovator."
Year of the Dragon have since added two full-length releases to their discography, including "Blunt Force Karma" and their latest CD, "Five Fingers of Death," produced by Circle Jerks/Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson.
On record, the band shreds as much as it grooves. Their influences are clear: early Funkadelic, various degrees of metal guitar riffing that at times teeters towards a nu metal rap-rock style, but thankfully more 24/7 Spyz than Limp Bizkit, and without a wasted ounce of soul in the mix.
"It's cool when people come to see us and they have no idea who we are," Palmer said. "We usually just blow them away. Walt is coming from one of the most hardcore live bands of all time from any genre, so when we get on stage it's our duty to tear it up. Bakersfield can expect a loud, high-energy show."
Joining Palmer and Kibby onstage is bassist Latif "T-Bone" Van Lowe, guitarist Marc Rey, and drummer Kerim Imes.
Friday's show kicks off at 9 p.m. Also appearing is Bakersfield band Crooked Folk. Admission is free. Riley's Tavern is located at 1523 19th St. For more information, visit facebook.com/YOTD12.
Pepper coming to Bako
Fans of reggae rock trio Pepper should take note: Tickets to the band's Jan. 18 show at B Ryder's are now available through ticketweb.com for $23, plus service charge.
Although the show isn't being advertised much, it's guaranteed to be a sell-out. Bakersfield is notorious for last-minute ticket buying, so I suggest you do not wait. Once you get your tickets, you can laugh at everyone begging to buy anything available after it sells out. The band's latest self-titled CD is available now, and although it is more pop-oriented than their earlier reggae-heavy releases, it should be enough to satisfy their backyard-party-scene fan base. B Ryder's is located at 7401 White Lane. 397-7304 or visit numbskullshows.com.
Club Heresy 2nd Anniversary at Replay Lounge, 4500 Buck Owens Blvd., 10 p.m. Saturday, 18 and up, $10.
This monthly gathering for fans of all things alternative caters to those who dare to dance on the wildly darker side of life. Since making a successful move from downtown to the glitzy new location, fans of the popular gothic-themed dance and fetish night are about to celebrate another milestone with a big second anniversary party. The club's floor plan features an ample dance and lounging area, two rooms of music with dance floors featuring guest go-go dancers, deejays spinning the best of dark wave, industrial, punk and more, all against a multimedia explosion of surreal screen projections. Appearing live are Los Angeles death rock quartet Christ Vs Warhol, KSVG deejays Princess Darkness, Squab, featured fetish artist DivNotDead and more. No cameras allowed, for fear of frightening the children of the night.
WMDs at J&M's, 10801 Rosedale Highway, 9 p.m. Saturday, free, 589-3042.
You can bet when a particular group of local bands have the night off that Bako supergroup the WMDs will join forces for an evening of blues rockin' and riffs at some area watering hole. Showcasing the combined talents of guitarist Dustin "Catfish" Meridith, bassist Gary Rink, drummer Cesareo Garasa and multi-instrumentalist Paul Cartwright, WMDs shows are unpredictable evenings of improvisation, technical finesse, complete with continuous "heck yeah" shot rounds sent to the band.