Rude awakening

The rousing sounds of Coma Coma
By CHRIS CONTI  |  April 22, 2009

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Coma Coma singer/bassist Eric Sampson brushes off the notion that Rhode Island's music community currently lacks quality acts.

"As far as having great bands, the current scene is alive and kicking," Sampson recently told me. "It's the fans who have died. People just don't go out to shows like they used to, and I wish more people would."

Recession aside, Sampson has a valid point: local clubs have been stepping up after the closing of the Living Room and Jake's (the site for Coma Coma's new EP Live at Jake's, available at 75OrLessRecords.com), hosting low-dough weekend shows. The three-dozen or so people rocking out with the High Seas, Girl Haggard, Six Star General, and Coma Coma at Firehouse 13 two weeks ago sure-as-hell got their $6 worth. Sampson, guitarist Steve Demers, and drummer Dan Ulmschneider took the stage while fans were still buzzing about the face-melting performance provided by Six Star General, who closed their set with a kinetic cover of the Flaming Lips' "Jesus Shooting Heroin." Coma Coma opened with "Urban Death Maze" and "Binary Code" from their debut six-song EP, Does Your Remote Control Have a Remote Control? ("My brother has a crazy $300 TV remote," Ulmschneider explained). The trio, together for just over a year, locked in from start to finish, which was impressive considering Ulmschneider had just played with Six Star General on short notice, and after witnessing that set the fact Ulmschneider had zero practice time with SSG still blows my mind.

But what followed sent us older folk into a frenzy — a cover of "In the Mouth a Desert" by Pavement. And as Demers nonchalantly carved out that slowly-churned, lackadaisical riff, friends yelled out "No fucking way" as Sampson pridefully declared, "I told you it was a surprise." The bassist looks like a dude you'd find doing keg stands in the basement or stumbling down Lansdowne Street after a Sox game, the kind of guy who'd be in a band called Mustache Ride (on RedTide Records) — which happens to be the name of the other band featuring Sampson on bass.

"Playing in Mustache Ride is a blast, but I wanted to do something closer to the music I grew up listening to," Sampson told me. Coma Coma clearly caters to the trio's influences, namely Silkworm, the Minutemen, and Ween; Live at Jake's opens with their rendition of "Baby Bitch." When I asked Sampson to pick any band he could open for, he declared "Hands down — any band with Mike Watt." The 75OrLess Records press release for Live at Jake's states: "The improvised guitar solos meld seamlessly with a pulsating rhythm section that explores their sonic landscape." In other words, high-quality improv jams most likely fueled by Narragansett tallboys and bong rips.

"Mustache Ride is straight-up pop-punk, we drink and make fun of ourselves," Sampson said. "Coma Coma is a little more eclectic and experimental. We tend to jam out a little more and put more time into the songwriting aspect."

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