Enlarge Photo Credit: Alyssa Herrman

CRUSH YOU: Gaytheist, There’s No One Else Like You And I Hope You Never Change

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Photo Credit: James Rexroad

When I first moved to Portland, there was a bar called East End about a 20 minute walk from my apartment. It was later lost to a fire in 2014, and subsequently replaced with a beautiful, retro bar called The Elvis Room, but back then, it was a staple in the heavy-music community. It was the type of place where, upon saddling up to the bar, if someone matter-of-factly told you that everyone around you was a vampire, you’d just sort of shrug and go, “Makes sense.” It was dark, delightfully unkempt, and had two levels where the bartenders — usually longhaired heshers, hardened by their Old Portland misadventures — had equally heavy hands while pouring your drinks. The lower level was also a music venue that hosted underground (literally and figuratively) metal, punk, goth, and noise shows.

Every year, they’d host a block party on the fourth of July where they’d shut down the street behind the bar and have an all day rock ‘n’ roll fest. In 2013, the lineup featured Danava, Long Knife, Paradise, the Suicide Notes, and a band whose ridiculous name I’d seen around a ton, but I’d never checked out: Gaytheist.

Having no prior knowledge of Gaytheist, I was intrigued at the thought of what sound would come out of a band with such a name. When it was time for their set, the three men came out onstage to unanimous cheers from the crowd, and vocalist/guitarist Jason Rivera was wearing a full three-piece suit and a bowtie. He grabbed the mic, other hand gripping his late-‘70s Gibson L6, and said, “This song’s about Def Leppard and sucking cock!” Without wasting a second, they launched into a sassy, KARP-esque reclaiming of Def Leppard’s “Rock Of Ages” where “I want rock ‘n’ roll” was swapped for “I WANT COCK ‘N’ BALLS!”

Ah yes, “Gaytheist.” Now it all made sense.

Their music was so infectiously catchy, and right in the middle of the sludge, pop, and punk Venn diagram that is so ingrained in the history of Pacific Northwest heavy music, yet manifests itself so differently in each band. The drummer, Nickolis Parks, was (and still is) one of the best drummers I have ever seen, adding blast beats to anthemic pop choruses. Combined with Tim Hoff’s warm, Jesus Lizard-like tone and happy punk bass lines, the whole experience was transfixing. The joy in the crowd, despite the muggy July heat, was palpable.

Now that I’ve lived in Portland for nearly six years, I’ve seen Gaytheist at least 20 times. They’re still one of my favorite bands, and every time they play, they just seem to get better, sassier, and more clever — with even funnier song titles.

Photo Credit: Cat Jones

So today, I’d like to share with you my ten favorite Gaytheist songs.

10. “Stomach Pains”

This video was made by Whitey McConnaughy, the same dude who brought you all those early, ridiculously funny Red Fang videos. A corner store employee (played by the hilarious Portland-born comedian Ian Karmel, who now writes for The Late Late Show with James Corden on CBS) sells a kid some Extenze-esque “Gaytheist pills,” and when he takes them, the band explodes out of his stomach, Alien-style. It’s a lot to pack into a two minute song, but somehow they pulled it off.

9. “Spread ‘Em”

This song is super fun, but also shows what a fucking insane drummer Nick Parks is. Also, I like this “Live From Banana Stand” video because Jason Rivera in a Pope outfit is just…*chef’s kiss*

8. “Let’s Get Astrophysical”

Gaytheist have always been a ridiculously fun sludge-pop band, but this track shows the far-more-metal territory they wandered into on their latest record, Let’s Jam Again Soon.

7. “Post-Apocalyptic Lawsuit”

The irony of the age we live in is that by the time we’re all poisoned to death from the stuff being sold to us there won’t be anyone left to market poisonous shit to. So here’s a happy, catchy-as-hell song about that!

6. “Ock Of Rages”

As I mentioned in the intro, this is essentially a gay homage to Def Leppard’s “Rock Of Ages.” It’s a triumphant, poppy pit anthem perfect for those summer nights when everyone is drunk, sweaty, and holding onto each other to sing. The song was released as a b-side to their track “MANhattan,” from Hold Me…But Not So Tight.

5. “Avenged Seven-Minute Abs”

Even if this song weren’t a brilliant skewering of American ideals and diet fads that somehow belongs at both a sludge show and emo night… that song title!

4. “Hand-Holder” 

Gaytheist’s record Stealth Beats is, for the most part, about the end of the world. This song is about two people who realize they’re the last two on Earth, and they decide not to repopulate the planet because, frankly, we don’t deserve a second chance at existence.

“Fuck sex, let’s dance and call it romance,” Rivera sings.

3. “Condemn The Condemners”

This is almost always the song they play last live, if that gives you any idea of energy level. It starts with a cute, almost nursery rhyme-sounding guitar line, explodes into yet another excuse for Nick Parks to show off his drumming, and ends in a bombastic bunch of anthemic yelling. This song works best with a Rainier in one hand and the other fist in the air.

2. “I Quit”

“I Quit” is the first track from their second album, Rainbows Have Nothing To Hide, but it’s reborn in a much heavier way on this version with Josh Hughes from Portland noise-rock band Rabbits doing punchy guest vocals. It’s the inner narrative of a person fantasizing about quitting a shitty job, even though they know they’re too spineless to actually do it, and, you know, need it to pay rent and live. A hopeless capitalist feedback loop we’ve all found ourselves in once or twice, no doubt.

 1. “Elderly Assassin”

This song is about an assassin who gets hired to kill a guy, but when he gets there to make the hit he realizes the dude is too hot to kill. “Say goodbye ‘cause I’m gonna fucking kill you…OH SHIT!” he yells. Then, “Say goodbye ‘cause I’m taking you to dinner, wear something nice!”

.           .           .

Gaytheist will go on tour next month with equally amazing labelmates and fellow Portland-based noise-rock band MAXIMUM MAD, and if they’re coming anywhere near you, drop everything and go:

6/15 Seattle, WA – Clock-Out Lounge
6/16 Portland, OR – Kenton Club
6/22 – Boise, ID – Neurolux
6/23 Salt Lake City, UT – Metro Music Hall
6/24 Denver, CO – 3 Kings Tavern
6/25 Colorado Springs, CO – Triple Nickel
6/26 Omaha, NE – Lookout Loungs
6/27 – Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews
6/28 Minneapolis, MN – Terminal Bar
6/29 Billings, MT – Smiling Dog Records
6/30 – Libby, MT – Mosh In The Mountains

Have you ever seen Gaytheist before? Tell me about it in the comments.

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