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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Pee Chees
Cathy Bauer

Playing Games: Molly, Carlos, Rop and Christopher of the Pee Chees.

Keen Josephine:
The Pee Chees rock & roll over

THREE YEARS AGO, I walked into the Knights of Columbus Hall in Cupertino and saw the Pee Chees earning their keep. The Oakland band evoked 1977 punk-rock purity and simplicity. Guitarist Carlos Cañedo was shuddering like Pete Townshend in the "Won't Get Fooled Again" portion of The Kids Are Alright. I recognized Molly Neuman (from Bratmobile) banging her kit. Rop Vasquez burnished his bass to a fine shine. Then there was vocalist Christopher Appelgren with his little-boy nasal whine possessed by Nancy Sinatra and Lux Interior.

First impressions last. I recently caught up with the Pee Chees opening for Sleater-Kinney. The band showed off choreographed routines and even tighter arrangements. Christopher shimmied, hands on hips, lips pursed, doing a modified Swim. Carlos exhorted the crowd to be "impregnated" by the sound. (The band opens for Bis at the Edge on Aug. 7.)

How does one maintain such a torrid pace for three years? Is it real? "If his rant doesn't make sense," says Neuman about Cañedo, "it's real." Games People Play, set to be released on Kill Rock Stars on Aug. 26, is the band's second full-length album. "Antarticists" and "Lose the Motorcade (and Live It Up)" get over on raw power; call it pressure over grace in the second round. Although the Pee Chees are on KRS, they are also something of a Lookout! farm team. Christopher replaced Lawrence Livermore as head honcho at Lookout!, Molly works days as the general manager and Rop toils in the shipping department.

The press attention on Kill Rock Stars, with Sleater-Kinney the current object of affection, has made the Pee Chees more of a commodity, but it hasn't gone to their heads. "I'm proud of my friends and I support them," Molly says of her labelmates. "I always felt that the reason why I got in a band is because there weren't enough women in bands and because men weren't paying respect. There's no reason why mainstream media shouldn't respect women artists, especially when they're really good. I'm stoked on Sleater-Kinney because they don't seem to be letting what white, middle-aged men say have an impact on them."

The Pee Chees are learning that punk ethics and good business sense, once thought of as incompatible, can mix. Back in the day, a reporter would risk getting hung up on when calling a punk band for an interview. Today, a publicist will joyfully set everything up. "We're not the type of band who has lofty goals or airs about us," Neuman explains. "Even having someone set up press for us is weird. That's not very punk, but it's nice to have."

Maxim Reality

As part of the San Jose Jazz Festival this weekend, Gordon Biersch is hosting a number of cutting-edge acts such as torch songstress Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers (Friday, 7pm) and our own Wally Schnalle Quartet (Sunday, 3pm). Of special notice is the South Bay debut of Impulse! artist Teodress Avery, who will be performing solo (Friday, 9pm) and with the Marcus Shelby Trio, an L.A. aggregate featuring members of Blacknote (Saturday, 5pm).

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From the August 7-13, 1997 issue of Metro.

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