Sunday, November 19 , 2017, 2:49 am | Fair 42º


Jeff Moehlis: Peter Case Returning to Sings Like Hell

The acclaimed artist will perform at the Lobero Theatre

Artist Peter Case will be at the Lobero Theatre on Saturday as part of the Sings Like Hell series. Click to view larger
Artist Peter Case will be at the Lobero Theatre on Saturday as part of the Sings Like Hell series. (Greg Allen photo)

Peter Case is kind of hard to categorize. For the past 30 years, he has primarily been a solo artist in the Americana vein, but with a bit more bite than you might expect from that description. That bite probably comes from his earlier musical adventures as a founding member of the short-lived power pop band The Nerves, which toured with The Ramones, and The Plimsouls, whose best-known song, "A Million Miles Away," was on the soundtrack to Valley Girl.

Case will make a return visit to these parts to perform at the Lobero Theatre on Saturday as part of the Sings Like Hell concert series. Tickets for the show, which also includes Sam Baker, are available online by clicking here.

The following is adapted from an interview with Case from about a year ago.

                                                                        •        •

Jeff Moehlis: Is it true that Peggie [Jones] got the name Sings Like Hell from your album?

Peter Case: Yeah, that is true. Sings Like Hell No. 1 I played on. Then I played on No. 100 — that was the next time they had me back.

JM: What can people look forward to at your performance?

PC: I'm going to be playing songs from all different parts of my career. I go back from the beginning to the most recent things. Besides being sort of a singer/songwriter show, it's also really like a musical thing. My heroes in music have been people that really brought a lot to acoustic music, like a lot of the old blues players. I don't play a whole lot of blues, but I definitely grew up playing that. So I bring a lot of that kind of intensity — not just intensity, but dynamics to the show. It's an entertaining thing, and I think that people dig it. It goes through a whole lot of different kinds of music. It's melodic as well as storytelling. I think people will enjoy it.

JM: Can you reflect a bit about your first solo album, which turned 30 years old last year?

PC: It was a very exciting thing, and it was a big period of growth. It was sort of the basis for everything that was going to come, to follow that, in a way, for me since then. I think I was the first person from my generation ... . I was out there on tour with The Ramones in '77, a part of the punk generation. I was a little ahead of the punk generation, with The Nerves, you know? I think I was the first person from that age group to bring back the idea of being a singer/songwriter, to go out and tour like that as a solo singer/songwriter. It was a thing that caught on with a lot of people. It sort of gave people an idea that they could do a new kind of music. So I felt like I was part of a cultural change there.

JM: Speaking of anniversaries, the EP by The Nerves turned 40 last year. Can you tell me a bit about what the music scene was like at that time, and how The Nerves fit into that?

PC: Well, The Nerves started in San Francisco in the mid-'70s, and we recorded that record and it came out in the summer of '76, you're right. That's pretty far out. The same way I was sort of ahead of the acoustic movement, at that point we were sort of ahead of the punk rock ... . The Nerves were a very stripped-down vision of rock 'n' roll. We hadn't heard The Ramones yet, but we played a very stripped-down version of pop songs, rock 'n' roll with a melodic and driving kind of music.

We played up here, and then on the very first day of 1977, we got played up here on the radio on KSAN, and then we drove down to L.A. and moved in down there. There really was nowhere to play. We couldn't get booked down there. We discovered a few bands like The Germs and The Weirdos, and we put them on. We had a little bit of money left over from some gigs we'd done up here, so we rented a hall and put on The Germs and The Weirdos and The Zeros — everybody's first gig, you know? We did that all with everybody.

Then we went out and toured with The Ramones, as an opening act. We played all around the United States with Devo, and different people who hadn't even made it yet. We were just playing. We were at the very front of that whole movement. It was very exciting, and really a lot of fun. That was really, for me, sort of like my Merchant Marine experience, just going out on the road for the first time, driving long distances and hooking up with all these different musicians. It was my very first experience with the music business, so it was really exciting and fun.

JM: What were you going for when you started The Plimsouls?

PC: The Plimsouls thing — I was injecting another element, there was an injection of soul music and an injection of sort of some folk-rock. I was spreading out the palette, and adding to it. It wasn't as minimal. It was more of a real full-service rock 'n' roll band, The Plimsouls. So that was the vision of it, to make a version of The Nerves that would totally be a full-on rock 'n' roll band. We could play everything, all kinds of rock 'n' roll. The Nerves was more of a vision of minimal teenage rock 'n' roll that we had when we were younger. As I got into The Plimsouls, it was like we were going to be full-service. That's what it was, and it was pretty successful, too. It was fun.

Click here for the full interview with Peter Case.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, The opinions expressed are his own.

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