Goodbye, Weatherbox

Weatherbox’s Brian Warren by Milo Ashcraft on Flickr.

Nearly two and a half years ago, I wrote a little piece on my personal blog entitled, “Why Listening To Weatherbox’s “Flies In All Directions” Is Absolutely Fucking Necessary”. I remember thinking to myself that a title like that would come off as incredibly pretentious and sound more like an advertisement than an honest piece about my feelings. I ignored the feelings and published it anyways. The post got a measly 17 notes on Tumblr — I know, I know — as the nearly 1,200 words described my first reactions to what we now know will be the final record by the San Diego post-punk/emo/rock band, Weatherbox.

Weatherbox is one of those bands that it might seem safe to say that it is the “solo” project of the lead singer/guitarist — in this case, the incredibly talented Brian Warren — but that would be selling the group way short. Over the band’s 11-year history, Warren has put countless friends and folks on instruments to surround him and assist him on stage and in the studio. Despite the band’s more solid lineups for the past couple of years, Weatherbox still remains a band-in-flux for Warren. After dropping off a couple of tours so that Warren could receive treatment for his mental health state, it was uncertain whether the ‘Box would continue on.

After a Spring 2016 tour with Prawn and Enemies, Weatherbox seemingly drifted away for the summer until they announced in late July that they would play two final shows in San Diego before they would go hibernating and fuck off into this good night. Fans were upset and confused. Frequent collaborator AJ Peacox even said that Warren was sitting on a “massive wealth of unreleased material” despite the pending breakup/hiatus. It didn’t matter, though. It seemed as though despite the band’s incredible 2014 record, “Flies in All Directions”, they were done. For now, at least.

But this goodbye is not simply a history lesson on the entire 11-year run of Weatherbox. This goodbye is more of a celebration of the band that quite literally saved the minds and temperaments of many, many listeners.

Weatherbox is quite frankly, the most underrated rock band I have ever had the privilege of listening to and getting to see live. Period. They are so criminally underrated that it angers, frustrates, and even saddens me to see them go out this way. The sales/response to Flies in All Directions was clearly not what the label — Triple Crown Records — or the band wanted to see, but it was still some of the band’s best work to date. Maybe it is possible that they were never able to surpass their opus and masterpiece, 2009’s incredible The Cosmic Drama. TCD, as its known to most Box fans, was thankfully re-released in 2015 by frequent collaborator, Topshelf Records, in a remastered and expanded format with extra tracks. Nevertheless, TCD still stands to be seen by many Box fans as their best work yet, which is saying a lot considering the overall strength and prowess of their entire discography.

Regardless of the reason for the slowdown and low state of Weatherbox, it remains true that Warren’s work inside and outside of the band showcases some of, arguably, the most impressive musicality in the indie rock/emo/whatever scene.

One clear example of just how underrated Warren’s talents in Weatherbox was shown when a local San Diego YouTube channel called “Trolley Show” posted a video of Warren performing an unreleased song, “Anchors Away”, on the San Diego Trolley in 2012 — two years ahead of Flies.

Weatherbox’s Brian Warren performing the still-unreleased-track “Anchors Away” in 2012.

The nearly six-minute video shows Warren on a rare rainy and wet night in San Diego playing a song in front of unsuspecting trolley riders. The song, while approachable and played in a Weatherbox-esque open tuning, pulls listeners through several movements before Warren brings the song to a close, calling upon mental health struggles and battles with love.

As of today, the video and song has nearly 32,000 views on YouTube. While views on this particular site do not determine whether a band or song or performance is “popular”, it often offers insight into the question. Like most of Weatherbox’s releases and tours, the song and video flew unfortunately under the radar.

But the trolley performance was hardly Warren’s first acoustic offshoot in public. In 2011, Nick Kova filmed Warren in several locales around San Francisco playing some songs — covers, album tracks, and even unreleased tracks. In one particular performance atop San Francisco’s Bernal Heights Park, Warren battled some wind and cold to perform what would eventually become the last song on a Weatherbox record to date.

Weatherbox’s Brian Warren performing “Love Me A Good Microcosm” in San Francisco in 2011.

Warren’s performance “Love Me A Good Microcosm” amidst the wind and city lights showcases him once again at his best, most honest state.

The video, like the former mention, to date only has around 12,000 views. Regardless of the discoverability of the video, it remains that only a handful of people in over five years were able to watch the video as unfortunate as it may seem.

One of the better Weatherbox lineups was on full display when the group stopped by Audiotree Live to perform some tracks. The performance of American Art favorite, “The Dreams”, is a perfect example of how energetic the group was in 2013.

Some have described Warren as his generation’s Bob Dylan, the same artist from whom my name originates from. I wouldn’t argue much with that claim, in fact. Warren is truly a musical genius and one who’s voice, clamor, and trademark will live on for the foreseeable future. Thanks to his incredibly emotional and intimate live shows, Warren has left an indelible mark on his fans and listeners — in particular, on me.

On April 23, 2014, I experienced Weatherbox for the first time live. I was sort of a “super fan”, having memorized every song, every lyric, and every guitar riff. I thought Warren was great at what he did and I was excited to see him live. I was lucky enough to catch the Box on a small tour stop in San Francisco at the incredibly small and intimate Hemlock Tavern. The show was nothing short of fantastic and although I lost my $300 pair of glasses during the set because of a crowd surfer, it was worth every penny lost.

Weatherbox at Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco, Calif. on April 23, 2014.

After missing the next few times they played near me in California, I caught the Box for free in 2015 in downtown Fullerton at the Slide Bar.

Weatherbox at the Slidebar in Fullerton, Calif. on August 28th, 2015.

Both shows were incredible, as expected, and fulfilled everything I wanted from a Weatherbox show. Earlier that night in Fullerton, I caught Warren in the venue before the show had started and I told him what I had been wanting to tell him for quite some time:

“Hey Brian, great work on the new record. Keep up all the hard work. Thank you.”

I don’t think we thank our favorite musicians enough, as they often say “thank you” to us after every song, when in reality, it is them that we should be thanking.

Fast forward to 2016. Weatherbox spends the summer being eerily quiet, eventually announcing their hiatus to begin after two more shows in San Diego in August. Attempting to seize the moment, I went to see Warren & Co. at Casbah in San Diego on August 7th.

Weatherbox’s last 21+ show at the Casbah in San Diego, Calif. on August 7th, 2016.

While it wasn’t a headlining Weatherbox show, the band sounded as tight and focused as ever. Warren briefly mentioned that it was the group’s penultimate show, and after some silence from the crowd, he asked them, “Do you guys even know what penultimate means? Hit the books, folks.”

Maybe it was the lack of response from the crowd or the small setting, but it wasn’t easy to notice six to eight fans singing along with Warren, as the rest of the concertgoers bobbed their heads out of rhythm, as if it was their first time checking out the band. And maybe it was. But for the second-to-last Box show, the response was quite underwhelming.

Regardless of the reason for the set reaction, the Box did their best cranking out some of their best tracks from their deep catalog. It seemed as if they were saving the best for their last show at the famous Che Cafe at UCSD on August 16th. Who knows. It was clear that the Weatherbox train was slowing to a stop, despite the several comments begging the group to continue on.

If this is it for Weatherbox, truly and seriously, then it’s nice to know that fans, listeners, and future fans have an incredibly deep catalog and hundreds of YouTube videos to enjoy while they wait for the next record — whenever that may or may not be.