- Photo by Darren Barker
Rock ‘n’ roll is practically synonymous with drunken debauchery. From Ozzy Osbourne gnashing off doves’ craniums to Jim Morrison’s infamous indecent-exposure arrest, rock music has long been paired with raised blood-alcohol content and shocking unpredictability.
But it takes a special band to get kicked out of a venue on the night of its very first gig.
In April 2011, the recently formed San Diego punk-rock band Coda Reactor played a volatile set at Slab City Fun Fest in the California desert 50 miles outside of Coachella. They raged through originals and Misfits covers, and then guitarist Riff Vomit and then-drummer Tim Helton (Vomit’s cousin) came to blows after some late-night pranksterism went awry.
“The guy who put on the show, who lives out there, saw the whole thing and was just shaking his head,” recalls Miles Orff, Coda Reactor’s singer, over a round of beers at Toronado in North Park. “We were supposed to play for two nights,” he adds, but the band was sent back home, and the second show never happened.
One of the rowdiest, most hedonistic punk bands in San Diego, Coda Reactor are not for prudes, teetotalers or anyone with a delicate sensibility: Orff jokingly describes them as “a machine built to destroy music.” Like any rock band, all they’re really looking to do is play some tunes and have a good time. A word of warning, though: The band has high expectations from their crowd.
“We don’t encourage audience participation,” Orff says. “We demand it.”
Indeed, Coda Reactor are some wild dudes, and they look the part as well, adorned with tattoos, beards, sideburns and long hair. In the beginning, Vomit and bassist Scott Jones were playing in other bands, and they both played in punk outfit Nuclear Tomorrow. But they opted for Coda Reactor as their full-time musical gig.
“We all mesh well,” says Jones, who’s been playing in punk bands since the 1980s. “We had great times every time we went out. We always had a great story.”
The band plays a raucous, rowdy hybrid of Motörhead-style heavy metal, Misfits-style punk and the heavy space-rock of Monster Magnet. Parasite, their debut album, which came out in April 2012, is an aggressive but remarkably tight set of escapist thrash ’n’ crunch, with tracks like the throat-grabbing rocker “Brain Rape” and the groovy, psychedelic thunder of “The Pyramids Were Built in the Future.”
Vomit says the band maintains a three-drink minimum for each show, which ensures that they’ll be at least a little toasty before getting onstage. After all this time performing, though, they’ve brought some razor-sharp focus to their debauched ways.
“It started out, each show was just destruction—just a reason to fuck it up,” Orff says. “But, over time, we got more musical and started getting tighter…. Then it turned into a drunken sloppy mess again. Right now, we’re tight—tighter than we’ve ever been.”
Since the release of Parasite and the addition of new drummer Jason Clifton, Coda Reactor still know how to get crazy. In a recent, near-empty show at the Royal Dive in Oceanside, their set got cut short after the band started “breakin’ shit,” as Orff puts it. Before that, on Nov. 1, Orff says they earned a lifetime ban from Boar Cross’n in Carlsbad.
“We were booked to do Boar Cross’n months in advance,” Orff explains. “We were told we had a 45-minute set. When we get there, the sound guy told us we had 30 minutes. So, we get on stage [and] about 20 minutes in, he says we got one more song. And we were just like, ‘Screw you, dude.’”
As the band recalls, they kept playing while Orff jumped into the crowd and stripped down to his birthday suit. He proceeded to grab a handful of maraschino cherries from the bar, and smashed them onto his body.
Not amused, bouncers kicked the singer out of the club. However, the band didn’t flee the scene without getting paid first.
“They originally wanted us to wait until the end of the night to get paid,” Jones recalls. “And Jason’s famous line was ‘Do you really want us to hang out all night to get our money?’”
Justin Burnette, general manager at Boar Cross’n, confirms that Coda Reactor’s been blacklisted from the club. And to prevent further acts of nudity, he says the club has added a clause to the contract that every band signs before going onstage: If a band member exposes him or herself, the band won’t get paid.
No doubt with a sense of pride, Orff refers to this new policy as the “Coda Reactor clause.”
Coda Reactor’s shows aren’t always this chaotic, but North County hasn’t seen the last of them. The band hopes to make its way back up north for another round, eventually.
“We’re two for three,” Vomit says. “We’ll see how the third turns out.”
Coda Reactor play with The Fuzz Bombs and Oddball at The Casbah on Tuesday, Jan. 22. facebook.com/coda.reactor