Friday, July 1, 2011

The Daily War

During the spring and summer of 1995, Cancer Alley was the new Oakland band to watch out for, and rightfully so. Ex-Econochrist guitarist Jon Sumrall had teamed up with Grimple’s rhythm section and they had been playing at house parties around North Oakland. As far as I know, Cancer Alley’s only club gig was opening for Neurosis at Gilman Street that summer. One could make some lofty musical comparison if they wanted to, but the truth is that Cancer Alley’s dark hardcore was a progression of where their previous bands left off. As a fan of both bands, that was just fine with me, so I bought a demo from them at the show. Wow! I was shocked that this demo wasn’t actually being released on vinyl instead. The recording was really good by any hardcore band’s standards, certainly better than either debut seven-inch from Grimple or Econochrist. Cancer Alley was here and they were gonna kick some serious ass.

I think it was several weeks after the Neurosis show when I was told that Cancer Alley had broken up when their vocalist Adam—future investigative reporter A.C. Thompson—left the band. Already? Damn, that was quick. I was bummed to hear the news, but got over it quickly when Eldopa started playing shows later that month and took over as Oakland’s sickest crusty hardcore band. That’s another story for another time though.

In the fall of 1995, word on the street was that Cancer Alley had regrouped without Adam and was changing their name to Ojorojo. I was never quite sure what a cancer alley was, but calling your band “Red Eye” in Spanish was even stranger to me. One would figure that it was some kind of silly weed-related reference, but you never know. Ojorojo played a couple gigs as an instrumental band before making the good decision to go with Jenean, who had been singing for Multi-Facet not even six months before. After getting a second guitarist in Grant from Demise and Animal Farm, Ojorojo seemed to be on their way to giving Eldopa a run for their money. Unfortunately, they crashed and burned about a year or so later. That’s just how it often was in the Oakland punk scene of the mid to late ‘90s. For one reason or another, most of the bands were not built to last. However, Ojorojo did record a great LP for East Bay Menace, as well as a split LP with Inflicted during that time. If I recall, they also did a US tour in the summer of 1997.

After Ojorojo’s demise, Jon played guitar for local bands Pig Iron, Hell After Dark, and I Love a Parade. Currently, he has a new band called Vulvalard with members of Eldopa, Scurvy Dogs, and Fix My Head. Grant played with Fields of Shit and Talk is Poison and is now in Warcry with members of Tragedy. Ira reunited with some of his other ex-Grimple cohorts to form Watch Them Die for a few years and highlights his badass drum talents in Brainoil. From what I have heard, Jenean is living the good life raising a family. Will there ever be an Ojorojo reunion? Probably not.

This post is a two-for-one deal, in which you get both Cancer Alley’s demo and Ojorojo’s Can You Keep Your Sanity LP from 1997. All but two Cancer Alley songs were re-recorded by Ojorojo, so listen to both versions and see what you think

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