Everyone’s story about their first Shannon and the Clams show is a lie. Your senses are overwhelmed and you probably took too much. It smells like stale malt liquor, you’ve never seen such a large gathering of sweat-soaked gold lamé booty shorts, and you’re beginning to see the wisdom in those old punks that told you to start wearing earplugs at shows. Future me’s hearing loss isn’t twenty-year-old me’s problem though because Ronnie Spector is playing in an Oakland warehouse right now and it’s okay if it’s the last thing I ever hear. At least, I think it’s Ronnie Spector, but I’m half-blind from the light reflecting off the shiny pants on the dance floor.
It’s been over ten years since Shannon Shaw’s voice reached my crusty hipster ears like mana from heaven, and that warehouse down the street from my sister’s apartment in Oakland’s Ghost Town is probably a tech startup now, but Shannon and the Clam’s latest release Year of the Spider proves their sound will endure for many years to come. Although, it’s unfair to compare them to the Ronnette’s or to describe them as girl group revival, or rockabilly, or garage–it’s all and none of them. They come from a city whose beauty lies in its diversity, and whose artists compulsively subvert genre expectations. One without adventurous tastes will never fully appreciate what Oakland music has to offer. You also have to be a little weird.
In the Bay Area dancing like your soul is leaving your body is cool if you’re listening to hyphy; Sleep decided doom metal wasn’t slow enough; Green Day and Jawbreaker showed that punks can have feelings and pop sensibility too, and of course, in 2021, Shannon and the Clams can make music like it was made for a John Water’s film soundtrack.
All these words don’t mean much though, you really have to listen to Year of the Spider to understand what I mean. Better yet, see them live and you’ll get the whole picture. Good thing they just dropped into Studio 1A in case you missed them during this year’s Levitation fest. For better or worse, skintight lamé garments are not required (although recommended) if you’re watching from home. Check out the video below.
Shannon Shaw: vocals, bass; Cody Blanchard: vocals, guitar; Will Sprott: keys; Chris Icasiano: drums
Audio: Jake Perlman; Cameras: Michael Minasi, Patricia Lim; Video Edit: Michael Minasi
Producer: Deidre Gott