Shannon and the Clams: The best pulp prom you’ve never been to

By Phillip Wyatt – News Asst. Editor – pwyatt@unca.edu

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Oakland, California garage-punk trio Shannon and the Clams brought their lo-fi, doo-wop inspired sound to the Mothlight in West Asheville Thursday night.

The band features Shannon Shaw on bass and vocals, Cody Blanchard on guitar and vocals and Nate Mahan on drums and vocals. The tour was in support of this year’s full-length effort Gone by the Dawn.

Asheville punkabilly outfit Charlie Megira and the Bet She’an Valley Hillbillies opened the show in an exciting fashion, sharing their sporadic, writhing guitar riffs and upbeat snare hits in front of an enthusiastic crowd.

The band is comprised of Charlie Megira on guitar and vocals, Lance Willie on drums and The Dead Girl on bass. Megira grew up in the Bet She’an Valley in Israel near the Jordan River.

“Charlie Megira was a really solid surf band,” said Alex Smith, literature student at UNC Asheville.

A friend of Smith’s was planning to open for Shannon and the Clams, but that fell through. Smith said he was glad he decided to attend the show anyway.

Megira and Clams front woman Shannon Shaw became acquainted via MySpace after they both appeared on an Italian compilation CD, Shaw said. Willie and Shaw previously played music with Philip Sambol and Ty Segall in a rock ’n’ roll cover band called The Togas in 2012.

According to an official biography, the band was created for The Bruise Cruise, a garage rock theme cruise.

Sixties psycho-rock four piece Cool Ghouls from San Francisco also opened for Shannon and the Clams. Their influences include “tall cans, 40s, blunts, parties, guns, 40s and crime,” according to the band.

During the Hillbillies’ set, my eyes fixated on the blonde, pin-up style half-bob hairstyle in front of me.

I quickly realized this was Shaw herself and became plagued by internal turmoil — should I shower Shaw with words of praise in a total fangirl moment or professionally request a quick interview? I did both.

To my complete and utter shock, Shaw obliged.

We met up after the Hillbillies’ set in the back of the Mothlight near the restrooms.

Shaw said she became mesmerized by Asheville’s beauty when the band played a show in 2013 at the defunct Emerald Lounge, now the location of Tiger Mountain.

“It’s a small town but is well balanced with culture and art,” Shaw said. “That’s why I like it.”

Shaw also sings, plays bass and writes for queercore punk band Hunx and His Punx and explained how much more of an intimate experience Shannon and the Clams is.

“Hunx was a space where I could be more of a character and I felt more comfortable experimenting with an onstage persona,” she said. “It felt more like performance and humor, whereas this is deeply personal.”

A very intense breakup inspired most of the new album’s lyrical content, she said.

“It’s hard for me to do Shannon and the Clams; it’s just draining and scary and I get anxiety before every show and really stress about it because it is so personal,” Shaw said. “But, I like doing it and it’s very fulfilling. It feels like a shared experience with the audience.”

Gone by the Dawn is filled with metaphors to ‘the dawn,’ interpreting whether or not dawn is a beginning or an ending,” Shaw said.

The band’s van blew up days before their tour was set to begin, stranding them in Washington until they could purchase a new one, Shaw said. They drove the new van to Oakland and had a mechanic check it out, who informed the band the van needed $9,000 worth of repairs.

“So we dumped all this money that we really didn’t have, we had to borrow it, into fixing the van,” Shaw said. “Our mechanic was like ‘don’t worry; this van is good for years now.’ We drove five hours and it blew up on the Grapevine, which is this notorious highway on the way to Los Angeles.”

The band caught a ride with a tow truck for the final two hours of their trip to Los Angeles and ended up having to rent an expensive van.

Two days later, the van was broken into while parked in a secured lot in Las Vegas.

“They smashed a huge window and stole anything personal we left behind,” Shaw said. “I guess we were naïve. We fuck up all the time. We’re constantly getting into pickles like this.”

The band spent their only day off so far this tour replacing stolen items, talking with their insurance company, getting the van window replaced and cleaning out glass, Shaw said.

“Since then, somebody saged the inside of our van, and all of our shows have sold out,” Shaw said. “Out of 17 shows, 15 have sold out. I’m gonna knock on wood, but things feel really good right now.”

Thursday’s show at the Mothlight was no different, adding to their list of sell-outs this tour.

Shannon and the Clams were met with screams and applause as they finally took stage.

Shaw rocked a black nylon apron over a black shirt, skirt and tights. She accessorized with white flats and glittering gold suspenders while sporting her signature cat eye makeup.

She slapped her matching glittering gold bass with fiery fervor, sliding her fingers down the bass neck in an effortless display of pure talent.

Blanchard donned a blue Oxford button-down shirt paired with a sparkling gold bowtie and blazer and a pencil moustache worthy of making even Freddie Mercury jealous.

Shaw’s raw and powerful vocals were complemented by Blanchard’s raspy croons, creating harmonies reminiscent of ‘60s doo-wop girl groups the Supremes and the Ronettes but with a touch of grimy garage punk.

The band created an atmosphere perfect for a ‘60s punk prom, even provoking a few couples in the audience to cut a rug together in a sea of dance moshing.

“I enjoyed their set,” Smith said. “I could tell they really enjoy performing.”

Erika Kuntar, server at Heiwa Shokudo in downtown Asheville, said she first saw Shannon and the Clams four or five years ago at a house show in her hometown of Flagstaff, Arizona.

The show was in a friend’s “crowded, black mold-ridden, dark and damp, claustrophobia-inducing basement,” Kuntar said.

She said she has been a fan ever since.

“I am so stoked that she is still just as enthusiastic as she was all those years ago, playing tiny punk houses and probably not making a ton of money,” Kuntar said.


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