Noise Rock shows its Pride: Japanther, Early Humans & Black Eyes in DC, 2002


Once upon a time, 20 years ago, New Lou Reeds main man Stephe DK (who was also our 100,000 Years Of Sean & Ian cover artist and a Speak In Tongues resident artist), Coffinberry‘s Nick Cross and I set out from Cleveland, seemingly without warning, on a multi-state kamikaze convoy to Washington, DC.

Our objective: to see three of the best Noise Rock bands of all time play a Gay Pride party right on haughty Dupont Circle in our nation’s capitol.

Japanther, Early Humans and Black Eyes were the stars we sought—all incredible groups who were pushing the envelope fucking hard at that Y2K / early Oughties moment in time.

Classic sounds, people.

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Coffinberry’s Nick Cross & Stephe DK take a rest stop pitstop on the dash to DC Pride, 2002. Photo: Sean Carnage.

I miss spur-of-the-moment trips like this!

Our friends in DC had told us about this incredible show, so we threw some shit into my ’89 Camry, and set out at the ass crack of dawn. The date was Saturday, June 8, 2002.

Sean Carnage 1989 Camry Wagon[Credit-where-credit-is-due side note: This Camry was the same workhorse that got stolen outside of Speak In Tongues (read the tale) while I messed with the window displays for what was the venue’s penultimate show.

The second to last Speak In Tongues show was the best Christmas of all time

This was also the wagon which carried my belongings to L.A… And later still helped me carry the junk necessary to get the weekly Il Corral Monday Night shows off the ground week after week.

She was a great wagon. Let’s pour one out for this (now) long-gone, rock ‘n roll vehicle…] 

Despite driving 100mph we freaking missed most of the Pride Parade. We got to DC in record time but I think Dykes on Bikes were bringing up the rear when we got there.

Fortunately the celebration was really just getting going and we had a blast cruising the boulevard at what was only my second big city Pride event (my first being Seattle in 1999).

Now here’s a paradox: I was, for this short period in my early life, not boozing or drugging. But can I remember ANYTHING about this special event? Fuck no. What the hell?

Such is the mystery of life.

Fortunately—and this is damn incredible—Metro Weekly has photos—teeny, tiny, Y2K-era early digital snapshots—still online from 2002. Amazing. Check ’em…

You can see the original post on Metro’s site here (photos by Randy Schulman & Michael Wichita)

The image to pay attention to, however, is this one:

Notice the balloons? Pay attention to those. They make a cameo appearance later.

Now on to the music:

There are a lot of Noise Rock Nuggets and probably bazillions of backstories to fill in here—D.I.Y. scene escapades, deafening concert gigs and tales of friendship—to truly bring you up to speed on how we originally got connected to all these DC folks.

But the short answer is that it was through my ancient band The Divine Invasion (with Bobby Bertalan, Chris Young and Mike Shumaker) playing George Washington University in 1999 with Exaspirin, whose members went on to form Early Humans (Matt Vanek, Wells Bennett, Kevin O’Meara) and The No-Gos (Hugh McElroy), which later transitioned into Black Eyes (adding Daniel Martin-McCormick, Jacob Long, Mike Kanin and Dan Caldas).

Read about & see some photos of The Divine Invasion

Mike Shumaker recorded all three bands at our studio in Cleveland, The Invisible City, and I helped out here and there.

We got especially tight with Early Humans, whose alternately quiet-calm and thrashing-loud music I still find aspirational.

Through Early Human—and middle Vanek brother—Matt, we met younger brother Ian Vanek and his best bud, Matt Reilly, aka Japanther, who we also recorded extensively in Cleveland.

That all these excellent NYC and DC-area musicians journeyed to Cleveburgh to have us set up mics and press ‘record’… well, I am still impressed and grateful they made the trek. It was such a pleasure that we got to collaborate.

Eventually we met oldest Vanek bro, Josh, who ran Wäntage Records, our of Missoula, Montana. That’s yet another chapter for another (series of) post(s).

Recently, Josh Vanek re-released the now-classic Wäntage USA’s 21st Release Hits Omnibus comp of all the great Noise Rock bands of 2003 on Bandcamp.

Included are tracks from Japanther…

 

…And Early Humans:

 

I’m not sure if we recorded these tracks at The Invisible City or not, but the songs are contemporaneous with the photos below. They may even have been part of the sets that were played.

BONUS: Stephe DK just released a new New Lou Reeds cut which I’ll paste right here:

 

Listen and look—I’d love your help identifying folks in the photos, or recording your stories from this excellent day long ago.

Got info or photos or video to share? Hit me up.

Happy Pride, everyone!

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Japanther’s Ian Vanek. All photos: Sean Carnage.

Japanther’s Ian Vanek ready to drum at the Noise Rock house show right on Dupont Circle.

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Stephe DK has arrived.

Stephe DK was obviously delighted by the house party chaos…

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Daniel Martin-McCormick of Black Eyes.

Daniel Martin-McCormick of Black Eyes, who later played Sean Carnage Monday Night shows in L.A. with his band Mi Ami (see all the photos).

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Ian Vanek / Japanther.

Let the noise commence! Ian Vanek turns from bro to brawler as Japanther kicks into gear…

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Japanther’s Matt Reilly & Ian Vanek.

Japanther’s Matt Reilly & Ian Vanek—an incredible musical bond and an incredible band!

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Japanther.

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Japanther.

Japanther had this thing they did with an old phone-as-tinny-microphone—slayed the audience every time.

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Matt recoups.

Great show, guys!

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Black Eyes in action.

The angle of this photo is weird because it was SO packed for Black Eyes, who were at the zenith of DC popularity. I was shooting blind with my camera above my head.

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Black Eyes.

Black Eyes was a really special band that was equal parts post-hardcore, post-rock & spacey dub.

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Somewhere under the rainbow balloons…

Okay—I told you to remember those balloons.

Well, here they are INSIDE the house show!

In the ultimate act of recycling, some punk went and grabbed the official Pride balloons and brought them into this tiny ass space…

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK
Colorful chaos ensued!

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Wells Bennett of Early Humans (you can see Matt Vanek a bit in the background).

I may be biased, but I feel like Early Human’s music has worn extremely well. Bewildering sounds never go out of style.

Japanther Early Humans Black Eyes Washington DC Pride 2002 Sean Carnage Stephe DK

Kevin O’Meara, Wells & Matt let their tighty-whitey freak flag / Pride flag fly!

All hail, Early Humans. Great party, DC Pride.

Get all your Y2K Noise Rock classic tracks in one place

Read another Carnage tale from the road—9 Shocks Terror’s SoCal tour, 2002

After The Divine Invasion, Bobby Bertalan formed Junking Theory, one of 1999’s greatest bands

All of the folks pictured in this post hung out & played at Speak In Tongues—celebrate that late great venue

Check out all my Pride & LGBT-related posts

Noise Rock is OUR rock—get all the Nuggets!

Follow me on Instagram for classic photos & more

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