Kai Kln, Brubaker and Hamm's beer at Harlow's

Local ‘90s rock legends Kai Kln reunite at Harlow’s.

By Paul Piazza

I have been listening to Brubaker’s self-titled album steadily since drummer Neil Franklin first sent a copy in late July. That might be a surprise to fans, since Brubaker just celebrated its release on Friday, Oct. 17 at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub.

According to Franklin, Brubaker recorded the disc in late 2013 and finished mixing it in January. But its release date was delayed by a variety of obstacles regarding band member schedules and finances. And that’s a crying shame—it’s one hell of a great heavy rock and roll album from four crafty music veterans.

In fact, the album really clicked with me on an early morning commute only days later when I came across a caravan of carnies rolling out of Sacramento the day after the State Fair ended. The down and dirty track “Cauliflower and Beer” was blasting on my car stereo and the song’s slightly deranged- and grumpy-sounding chorus of a heavily burdened Brubaker (the band’s inspiration is Robert Redford’s character in the 1980 movie of the same name) growled “I am the MAAAAAN” out of the speakers as the band blasted a dark, bluesy power groove. At that moment, it all made sense.

So it came as great news when I heard the band were finally going to have a CD release party. As an added bonus, Franklin and bandmate Gene Smith’s former band, the legendary Sacramento rockers Kai Kln, would also reunite for this big night at Harlow’s.

Brubaker consists of locals Franklin and Smith, along with bassist Larry Boothroyd (Victims Family) and Christian Riley (Walrus, BlüChunks), both of whom live and work in the Bay Area. So although practice has been a little bit of a challenge, the four friends and musical veterans have jelled seamlessly-first with bountiful songwriting, then with powerful live shows such as the band’s recent one to celebrate the Victim’s Family 30-year anniversary in Petaluma.

So hearing these great songs live in a crowd where some already knew them (Franklin wisely shared a few copies over the past ten months) and others were hearing them for the first time, validated the greatness of this album based on the powerful reactions to the music from both. With the quartet blissfully blasting away, one was overwhelmed by a sound that is raw, immense, intricate and catchy all at the same time.

Gene Smith during Brubaker’s set.

Christian Riley of Brubaker.

Following Brubaker’s set, Franklin and Smith toweled off and were right back on stage for a lengthy set with their old Kai Kln bandmates Sherman Loper and Scott Anderson. Loper lives in Sacramento and plays in a band called MAU. Anderson came up from his Southern California home.

Kai Kln are historically regarded as one of the area’s best rock bands. Back in the 90's, they were contemporaries of local acts like the Deftones, Far, Cake and Phallucy, and they opened for bands like Nirvana and Primus. They were the first local band to sell out a show at the Crest Theatre. The band called it quits in the mid-90's due to rising pressures and family and work obligations. They have since reunited and split a number of times over the years. But it had been awhile since they’d last played in Sacramento.

They didn’t sound rusty at all. The previous week, both bands had played at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill in a benefit show to help musician friend Garth Petal with medical bills as he battles cancer. Also on the bill were Riley’s former band BlüChunks and Boothroyd’s former side project Hellworms. Both bands hadn’t played in many years, but they are part of the same tightly knit musical community of friends (and genuinely nice people) that Kai Kln belong to and were all willing to do something special for the benefit.

Kai Kln’s Scott Anderson and Sherman Loper.

On this night, Kai Kln plowed through a number of old favorites and even designed a new Hamm’s beer (the band’s go-to practice beverage in the early days) inspired T-shirt for the occasion. Appropriately, they closed the show with the Hamm’s jingle.

“Aged for many moons, gently mellowed, Hamm’s the beer refreshing…”

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