ONE OF THE weirdest bands to emerge from San Jose in the late ’80s was Dot 3. The local music scene at that time was growing and the bands were all working closely together to make it a lively scene. Dot 3 though, just kind of did their own thing.
“We lived in Dot 3 Land. We didn’t have a lot in common with the other bands musically. We were just different,” says guitarist Kenny Schick.
While most of the bands were playing post-punk or roots-rock, Dot 3 were mixing funk, afro-beat and new wave, usually doing so in strange keys. There was little singing, mostly just chanting vocals and long instrumental sections. Still, despite the peculiar ingredients, Dot 3’s songs were actually catchy and the band drew well. They opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Faith No More and Primus. Actually, Primus opened for them on several occasions.
“They were unknown. We thought, man, here’s a band that’s even weirder than us—what chance do they have if we are having a hard time getting famous?” Schick remembers.
Fame was indeed just out of reach for Dot 3. They had labels interested, but the only one willing to sign them was All Ball Records, a small indie run by former Pere Ubu guitarist Tom Herman.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ management was seriously considering signing them, but then Chili Peppers leapt into mainstream success and Dot 3 got left behind. They broke up in 1991, but will reunite this Friday at Blank Club with Neosoreskin, an even weirder band formed by former Skankin Pickle bass player, Mike Mattingly. They were a highly technical, chaotic circus-ska band that wasn’t too far off from Mr. Bungle.
“I ended up hooking up with a lot of really interesting musicians that were capable of doing things that I felt most people I had been playing with weren’t able to pull off. It pushed me to go farther,” Mattingly says.
Some of those musicians came from Dot 3, including Kenny Schick. By the mid-’90s, their bizarre live set and complex song structures earned them quite a reputation locally.
“We had a run for about 8 months where I thought it was going to take off. And then it didn’t,” Mattingly says. Since their breakup in the late 90s, they’ve reunited once, at a memorial show for Brownies lead singer Tim Kahihikolo.
The third band on the bill, Bad Dog Sit were a quirky, new wave pop band also part of the late ’80s local scene. Their lead singer, Steve Devlin actually taught Mattingly how to play music back when they were teenagers. They’ve played only one reunion show since their breakup in the early ’90s.
A community as privileged as Palo Alto, where controversies rage over the legality of electric leaf blowers, doesn’t seem like a ripe breeding ground for ethnically-inspired dance music. But Dot 3, a quartet of Palo Altans, play a satisfying pure of juju and urban funk. It’s densely percussive, but boosted melodically by Jim McKensie’s trumpet and Ken Schick’s saxophone. It’s also angry and anarchic which may explain why. more than geographic distance, Dot 3 have been excluded from the World Beat club. Lyrically, they tend to be plainspoken, to the point of hardcore bluntness. Still their self-titled LP, produced by Tom Herman of Tripod Jimmie, is a mostly satisfying collection of ten originals. It has a few self-conscious lapses (the forced goofiness of ‘Dada Mama’ and a bogus tribal chant ‘In The Desert), but these are easily offset by the lilting swing of ’99 Monkeys’ and savage bottom-heavy attack of ‘Thrown Bones’. KM
So I went to go see Dot 3, Neosoreskin and Bad Dog Sit on Friday night at the Blank Club in San Jose and I had a great time. Let me rewind a tad…
Back on April 20th (420) I wrote a post about Dot 3 (here) as I prepared to go see Cypress Hill and celebrate the 11th anniversary of the release of Rain Station’s “Stonedozer” CD (here) with Jay. As I said in that post I was a big fan of Dot 3 (still am) and thanks to some video footage I was able to check ’em out “live” when I got the hankerin’. I digitally encoded their LP years ago and their tracks pop up on the iPod now and again. Good times.
On September 30th I got a comment on my Dot 3 blog post from Mike Freitas, the drummer in Dot 3 thanking me for the kind words and support back when they were active and letting me know about their show on November 18th. Needless to say I immediately bought tickets. Soon after Mike’s email I got an email from Kenny Schick, the guitarist in Dot 3 (Kenny also plays sax) who gave me an update on where the guys from the band are and some links to the music he’s working on. We traded a couple emails and it was good to hear what Kenny’s been working on. Check it out here.
From their Facebook invite:”After 2 decades, one of the most popular bay area bands of the 80’s will reunite for this epic show. Also reuniting will be the amazing and zany Neosoreskin and the fun and furious Bad Dog Sit. The capacity of the club is only 300, so get tics before they sell out! sounds like folks will be coming in from all over the country for this one….”
Upon entering the club (and after grabbing a beer) I made my way over to the “table” and bought a copy of the Dot 3 “Special Reissue for 2011 Reunion Show”. Even though I had digitally encoded their LP years ago I wanted it for collector purposes (and there were four more songs on it). Worth every penny!
Then…the moment we were all waiting for! After 20 years Dot 3 was about to take the stage. I was absolutely thrilled to be there and was feeling a tad bit giddy.
They played an amazing set (set list to the left). Time has done wonders for these guys. The beats were heavier, the horn section was nothing short of stupendous – essentially they sounded better than I remembered (and I was a huge fan and thought they were flawless back in the day). How does that happen? Musicians mature and like a fine wine Dot 3 has aged impeccably. The crowd drank it up. They played a million dollar set. After each song I had a huge grin on my face.
These guys were back and better than ever. I can’t say enough about them – Mark Renner’s bass lines were slammin’, Kenny Schick is a guitar GOD, Mike Freitas is one of the heaviest and most incredible drummers I’ve seen in a long time and then there’s Christopher Sharron – another guitar GOD, the horn section was seriously one of the best I’ve heard (Dave “Swampy” Ryle on sax, Jim McKenzie on trumpet, Christ Mondt on trombone, Les Harris on sax, Jackie Watson on trumpet) and some nice added percussion from Mike Vondran. It was one of the finest lineups and best shows I’ve been to…ever…
After the show I wondered if this was a one time thing or if they’d be playing any more shows. A band as good as this one should keep it together. Sure, people grow up, move on, move away, but these guys were pure magic on stage.
Two guys were videotaping the show and I sure hope someone was recording off the soundboard. If this is the last time Dot 3 plays together there needs to be a record of it.
I asked Christopher Sharron if I could take the set list (man, that takes me back – I have a huge collection of set lists from back in the day) and he obliged.
I do hope they play again.
The next day I popped the CD into my car and played it for my five year old son. Well, folks, we have a new Dot 3 fan. He kept asking me to play it over and over again. Later that night “99 Monkeys” came on the iPod and my son ran up to my wife and said, “Hey Mama…that’s Dot 3…Daddy saw them last night…aren’t they COOL?”. Yes, son…they ARE cool.
Thanks Dot 3 for a memorable evening and for keeping the beat alive for the next generation. I hope it doesn’t take 20 more years for you guys to play again.