San Francisco

Punk Band Flipper Celebrates 40 Years With NorCal Swing

"Oh, my Captain! my Captain! noble soul! grand old heart, after all! why should any one give chase to that hated fish! Away with me! let us fly these deadly waters! let us home!" ― Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Flipper, the veteran punk rock band and Beast-Of-The-Bay, returns to San Francisco, San Jose and Sacramento, with three shows for their 40th anniversary tour, this time with legendary noise rock front-man, David Yow (Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid, Toxic Shock) at the helm.

The band already has a string of West Coast tours under its belt and has sold out every night of its Midwest tour.

More U.S. dates are yet to come, and there is a European leg in the works.

Along with Yow, Flipper has had more celebrity guests onstage this time around. Martin Atkins (Public Image Ltd, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Pigface, and Killing Joke) just sat in at a recent gig. More surprises may just be on the way.

Steve DePace quipped: "The booking agent was like. 'Who's in the band, who's in the band?' I'm like I don't know. Just book Flipper. It's me and Ted for starters!"

For those not familiar with the band’s history, Flipper's lineup has changed over and over since its inception with Ricky Williams as the original vocalist in 1979.

The classic lineup of Will Shatter, Bruce "Loose" Calderwood, Ted Falconi and Steve DePace ended when they lost co-frontman-bassist Shatter to a drug overdose in 1987. They continued on, producing about five more albums and touring off and on with Calderwood fronting the band until 2012. He has since taken time off due to back surgery after a car wreck.

The roster of past band members includes Shatter, Calderwood, John Dougherty, Bruno DeSmartass, and even includes Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, who recorded two albums with the band in 2008 but was eventually replaced by Rachel Thoele (G.O.D, Frightwig, Mudwimmin, VanGough's daughter) for remaining tours.

Like the band's ever-changing cast of players, the recordings all sound different from each other. Phone pranks, heavy studio effects and raw live recordings often give their work a "musique concrete" sensibility. They've often been cited as an avant garde punk band, influencing acts like Nirvana, Butthole Surfers, and even Moby (remember him?).

With the original rhythm section of drummer DePace and guitarist Falconi remaining, they're still creating new, outré work. A recent EP with Melvins brings new material to their oeuvre and updates tried-and-true Flipper material. The cover art alone is quite a spectacle.

I caught up to DePace and Falconi for an interview at their Oakland rehearsal space. While setting up their gear, the two sparred against each other like brothers, or maybe like two fighting fish who have spent so many years in the same tank. See the video on this page.

Bay Area dates include:

  • July 11 at San Jose's The Ritz with Infirmites and RIZBY.
  • July 12 at Sacramento's Blue Lamp with The Bananas
  • July 13 at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall with SF 80s punk heavy hitters and old friends, Frightwig and 70s SF punk legends, The Next; also old friends.
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