Colorado band, Bad Weather California, embraces chaos, crafts accidental rock masterpieces
“I died once,” Chris Adolf says matter of factly. It was the winter of 1999 as best he can recall. While winding down Highway 65 from Mesa, Colo. on the way to Grand Junction, the driver of the Jeep Cherokee he was in overcorrected and sent the vehicle rolling. He flew out of the sunroof and landed 30 feet from the vehicle, airways clogged with mud and snow, his face mangled, struggling to escape the clutch of death that ultimately came, if only fleetingly.
Adolf, lead singer and songwriter for the Denver-based band Bad Weather California, can hardly recall what happened next. Apparently, a team of ski patrol medics and vacationing doctors came upon the accident and kept him alive until the helicopter lifted him from the cold, icy road.
When he does remember the crash, he recalls it in brief flashes. Adolf surveys the entire scene from an elevated vantage point—floating high above the Jeep, the doctors, and his mangled body. He also remembers the words “he’s gone” being uttered by one of his caretakers.
“I believe in the spiritual side of the world,” Adolf says. “I know that there is a magic in the world. But that’s not what our band is about. We’re just normal dudes who go skateboarding and stuff.”
This is the essence of Bad Weather California—a band that positively hums with American mysticism—with the kind of energy that drove Jack Kerouac and Ken Kesey to pack up everything they could fit in a weathered suitcase and just go. It is a devout existentialism, thought up by a post-modern Preacher Casey in a half-drunk fever dream.
“Hush, baby! Don’t you cry. You know we’re all bound to die,” Adolf half croons, half shouts on “I’ll Reach Out My Hand,” the first track off the group’s first LP on their new label, Family Tree Records.
So begins Sunkissed—a joyous ode to doom and destiny. It is a record that proclaims with every vibrating, reverb-drenched, jangly, surf-guitar riff, that if you ain’t busy living, you’re just busy dying.
“He don’t know nothing about riding a skateboard/ but he stepped on anyways/ when urethane gets under your feet/ you can’t help but hit the street,” Adolf wails on “Skate or Try.” The 44-second song ends with a nasty spill and a bag of ice, but the hero of the tale isn’t fazed: “He said, ‘My ankle is broken and foot is fucked, but life is nice.'”
It’s a boogying, foot-stomping track, that owes as much to ’60s garage psychedelia as it does to skateboarding and punk rock. They are three of the band’s biggest influences, Adolf says.
“Skateboarding is really where I discovered punk music,” he says, remembering sending away for records he would read about in Thrasher Magazine. Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. were two of his early favorites.
The singer grew up in Colorado, just over the boarder from Utah, in a small desert town. His family owned a farm and grew “greenhouse plants—flowers, trees, and stuff like that.” The rural setting wasn’t the friendliest place for a skateboarding, punk rock kid like Adolf.
“You could get your ass kicked for being a skater,” he remembers. But he and his skateboarding friends didn’t care. They created their own scene and discovered their own music by trading mixtapes.
That DIY aesthetic is easy to hear all over Sunkissed, which incorporates a variety of disparate genres and strange found sounds, without regard for convention. The record seems to fall together almost by accident—a beautiful accident, that is.
Just like Dean Moriarty, the record makes order and sense out of the senselessness and chaos.
Bad Weather California plays at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Moe’s Alley, 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $7/adv, $10/door. For more information, call 479-1854.
Photo: Cory Gustason