In Praise of Bowling Alley Shows: Eddy Current Suppression Ring and more. By Federico

Aug 17, 2010

Last Saturday I, and many others, went to a free show at Serra Bowl ( in Daly City, which is about three metro stops outside San Francisco’s Mission District.

Because Serra Bowl is metro-accessible and the show was all-ages, it was pretty crowded. Of course, it certainly didn’t hurt that the line up consisted of: the Fresh And Onlys (, Sic Alps (, Eddy Current Suppression Ring (, and Thee Oh Sees (

Not a bad lineup for a free show, eh?

My friend and I arrived early, as the flyer advised it would begin at 8 PM sharp. Things weren’t too out of control at that time. We got some crappy bowling alley food, which we had been looking forward to all day, and waited for our other friends to arrive. In the meantime, the Fresh And Onlys started.

As they hail from San Francisco, I have seen the Fresh And Onlys numerous times, and usually enjoy their live sets. However, I don’t own any of their records (mostly due, I suppose, to a gigantic list ahead of them of other records to seek out), so I’m not super familiar with their stuff. For that reason I was a bit confused when they were playing, as I was expecting a female vocalist (in addition to their male vocalist), but there wasn’t one. I later learned that she’s been out of the band for awhile. Alas, I am out of touch. But they still played a nice set.

The Sic Alps are also from San Francisco, and I’ve also seen them before, but I recall liking them better the first time around. They have a lot of psychedelic stuff going on and I felt like it wasn’t lively enough for the bowling alley. You’ve got to have something to override the crash of the pins, after all.   

Ah, the sound of a strike, the glitter of a pink flecked ball, the symmetry of the lockers outside the ladies room, the pure loveliness of the black and white photographs of bowlers past lining the walls. Reminds me of when I was about nine or ten years old and I used to go with my best friend and her parents to Bowl America (“Where thousands cheer”) in Virginia, where they were in a league and went frequently for Friday games. They would smoke and drink beer and carry on with teammates and my friend and I would run around playing video games and eating french fries. Recently, it occurred to me that they must have been pretty hammered when they drove us home, but those were simpler times.

Next up was Eddy Current Suppression Ring (from Australia), and they were just the liveliness I had in mind. By this time it was quite crowded

….which was particularly evident in the tragic length of time it took to get a beer (and in the fact that they ran out of pitchers so we had to go hunt an empty one down and bring it to the bar). It was impossible to see the band unless you were right up against them or you had decided to stand on top of a counter (which many people did) or on top of pool tables (which people also did).

Unsurprisingly, the temperature increased dramatically the closer you got to the band. From where I was I could see those lampshades—the long, rectangular ones that hang from the ceiling and say “Budweiser” or whatever on the side of them—swinging back and forth, because some peoples’ heads were inside them. Apparently, if you put your head underneath the lampshade it provided a bit more space, and the shade didn’t go as far down as your eyes, so you could still see the band. 

Eddy Current totally rocked and the crowd was enthusiastic. A friend I was with said their guitar sound reminded her of an awesome combo of Fugazi, Joy Division, and the Strokes. My other friend went to their merch table straight after their set and picked up two of their records. It was a good time.

(And Eddy Current was also recently on the cover of Razorcake!: /catalog/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=612)

Meanwhile, people bowled on. I felt a little bad for some of the families that were there, as it did not seem like they were expecting a live show, nor a huge crowd hogging up all the free space, chattering away in between (and during) bands, making the food and drink lines incredibly long and creating a significant cloud of smoke right outside the exit. I spied a Daly City cop making his way through the crowd now and again, probably to keep an eye on underage drinking, but I think everyone was pretty well behaved. Hopefully it did not interfere too much with the people who were there to sling on some bowling shoes and get down to business!

Thee Oh Sees played last and it was probably one of the best times I have ever seen them. Their set was somewhat abbreviated and that may have caused me to be more happily engaged the whole way through. The bass was awesome and one song in particular rocked this excellent rhythm for a really long (though not at all too long!) time and got the crowd dancing.

I think it’s only the second show I’ve seen at a bowling alley in the past five years, which is a shame, but it was really, really fun, and it gave me a bit of the warm fuzzies. A friend who was with me told me about how she used to play shows in an old bowling alley in Chicago and what a great time it always was. Even though it was free, the bowling alley (and hopefully, by extension, the bands) must have made a pile of money off of all the food and drinks that were sold, so it would be cool if they decided it was worth their while to have more shows there in the future. Rock on, Serra Bowl!