Thursday, October 29, 2020
Please Do Not Fight reunion collects a scattered scene

Please Do Not Fight reunion collects a scattered scene

The Redwood City band is emblematic of a Bay Area moment when rock, emo, punk, and pop combined—and audiences sang along.

-

ALL EARS Pursuing music often begins with a simple realization: that it could be you up on that stage. And before he started the Redwood City rock band Please Do Not Fight in the late ‘00s and early ‘10s, Zen Zenith was just a kid staring goggle-eyed at the pop-punk bands that dominated Bay Area clubs in the late ‘90s. 

The Matches, with whom he’s still friends, wowed him in particular. “They had rehearsed moves and such incredible stage presence,” he says. “There’s one song where people get down low. These are clichéd things now, but it was the first time I’d ever seen it. I was like, ‘how do they know how to do this? How do they know we’re all gonna jump at the same time?’”

After playing in a few short-lived bands, Zenith formed Please Do Not Fight in 2007, at age 24. That year, the project released its sole full-length, Leave It All Behind. Counterbalancing pop-punk sugar rush with spiky, sophisticated lyrics and a chilly, lonesome atmosphere, it’s the kind of album one could see inspiring the same underground cult love as American Football’s debut or Duster’s early records.

Please Do Not Fight and many of the Bay Area bands they performed with (Picture Atlantic, Dizzy Balloon, Rin Tin Tiger, Finish Ticket, Bird by Bird) rejected the self-deprecating scuzz of the contemporaneous SF garage rock movement and embraced a friendly, clean-cut approach. Mike Shirley-Donnelly of Curious Quail, which shares multi-instrumentalist Erin Machado with Please Do Not Fight, met Zenith at a Picture Atlantic show—a band he was first drawn to because they made Dungeons & Dragons references onstage.

Zenith was never into the “cocky rock-star thing,” as he calls it. But with his imposing physical presence, full-throated roar, and confessional, clearly annunciated lyrics, Zenith was certainly a magnetic frontman. 

To Zenith, being a “frontman” doesn’t mean what it used to mean. “It was becoming more about sitting in front of your computer and being on social media,” he says. “It was all recording stuff on your own and then getting the band to do it later. The thing I loved about it—getting together with your friends and being social—was less and less what the work was.” 

After releasing two more EPs, Zenith disbanded Please Do Not Fight in 2013. Initially he intended to rebrand the project and work with the same musicians in a different musical milieu, but instead he moved from Redwood City to L.A. and focused on hosting and promoting shows, taking what he describes as an “extended breakup from music.”

He and Please Do Not Fight guitarist Geoff McCann started a project he describes as a mix of musical and stand-up performance. But it was mostly a private endeavor for kicks, and when friends asked him to pick up the guitar at the shows he hosted, he remained stubborn. 

Yet something itched in the back of his mind in spite of himself, and soon he found himself queuing up old videos of the band. 

* * *

Please Do Not Fight will reunite Friday, April 26 at Bottom of the Hill. It had to be Bottom of the Hill, Zenith says—the venue where he saw bands like the Get Up Kids as a teen and, later, where he would play once his band made enough connections to play real club gigs instead of bowling alleys and restaurants. 

“At first I was like ‘No, thats never, ever gonna happen,’ he says of the reunion. “But enough people asked that I started talking to Geoff and Erin and Kubes about it.”

Machado and drummer Brian Kubes are the other two members of the core band. They agreed, but a new complication arose: Kubes still lived in LA, while Machado lives in Vancouver. 

The full band—including Justin San Souci of the Matches, who continues the band’s long tradition of revolving bassists—will only be able to rehearse once in the same room prior to the show. 

Zenith isn’t worried, though. In LA, he claims, bands are expected to learn their parts separately in between practices as opposed to the more rehearsal-oriented approach he finds in the Bay Area. And Machado is a veteran of remote rehearsals and recording, as Curious Quail’s members are likewise dispersed across the country.

“I’m not worried about it,” Zenith says of this unconventional pre-show preparation. “And I’m probably the person who plays music the least out of the four of us.” 

The show isn’t just a Please Do Not Fight reunion but a reunion of the “old scene.” Curious Quail, who played frequently with Please Do Not Fight before Shirley-Donnelly moved to the Coachella Valley, will perform earlier in the evening. Talk, the other opener, contains several members of the defunct Picture Atlantic. 

The scene to which Please Do Not Fight belonged exists today in a scattered form, and some of its individual members have found fame on their own. Kevin Sullivan of Rin Tin Tiger performs as Field Medic and recently signed to vaunted indie label Run for Cover. Louie Diller of Dizzy Balloon found minor chart success with the band Holychild. Finish Ticket are signed to Elektra Records and have played with acts like Ed Sheeran but released their last album in 2013.

Please Do Not Fight will probably never reunite again. The geographical distances among the band members are too vast for regular reunions to be a thing, and Machado is committed to her dual gigs as Quail member and music teacher. But while preparing with McCann and San Souci, Zenith began to feel some of that old jones for music creeping back in and hopes to use the reunion as a springboard for something new—most likely a solo project, he’s concluded.

“When I was playing music it wasn’t just about playing music,” he says. “I also got a social life from it. It helped me with my mental health because writing songs is very therapeutic. I got exercise out of it by jumping around onstage. I’m realizing in the last couple years how much benefit music has brought to my life, and with this show I’m excited to do more music to bring all those things back in.”

PLEASE DO NOT FIGHT, CURIOUS QUAIL, TALK
Fri/26, 8:30 p.m., $15-$18
Bottom of the Hill, SF.
Tickets and more info here

Daniel Bromfield
Daniel Bromfield is a San Francisco native and arts journalist whose work has appeared in the Bay Guardian, San Francisco Magazine, Resident Advisor, and various music sites. He ran the SF Rebirth blog, documenting all-ages shows in the Bay Area, from 2010 to 2013. His work can be found at danielbromfield.com

More by this author

Star producer Ricky Reed steps back from the mic on ‘The Room’

Grammy-winning beatmaker talks life after notorious electro project Wallpaper., and how catching up with friends morphed into new album.

Bottoms up for spirits-lifting Oakland Cocktail Week (now a month)

Support local bars and drink in good company, as the festival pivots to a vital fundraiser.

On experimental duo Matmos’ latest, 99 is the magic number (and collaboration is key)

M.C. Schmidt of Matmos waves a limp assemblage of taped-together scraps of paper in front of his computer camera. “This is the third hour,...

Artist Tim Presley rediscovers spark robbed by addiction in new book

These painted figures that fill the pages of Tim Presley's new book Under the Banner of Concern seem to know your secrets. No matter...

How San Francisco changed the sound of Christian music

The Summer of Love was as fruitful a time for music as its long winter of discontent. As the hippie dream dissipated and mellow...

Most read

The deep problem with the new Supreme Court

The 'original' Constitution is all about individual liberty, and not about any collective responsibility for our common humanity.

For Puerto Rican freedom, MaJo Montijo summons a bomba ‘Huracán’

Oakland musician fights "continuous colonial disaster," including Hurricane María aftermath, with gale-force release.

Screen Grabs: San Francisco’s real royal family, still glittering onward

'50 Years of Fabulous' comes a courtin'. Plus: a record of the 1972 National Black Political Convention, angsty Hungarians, more

The biased coverage and real story around Lowell High and school renaming

Attention Chronicle: A lottery for the 'elite' school is neither new nor a radical idea -- and neither is discussing changing the names of schools celebrating racists and colonialists.

The end of Shahid Buttar’s campaign — and the lessons

Shahid Buttar’s campaign against Rep. Nancy Pelosi was always a longshot. He was challenging the person most responsible for challenging Donald Trump, and while...

Examined Life: Being human at a time like this

The future of our country may hang in the balance, but our humanity need not

The sleaze reaches high tide in D5

Bizarre attack on Dean Preston defies facts, logic, and reality -- but that doesn't stop Big Real Estate and Big Tech.

Big Money’s racist attacks in D7

Plus: School Board members of color get threatening online messages. Is this really San Francisco in 2020?

Best of the Bay 2020: Food and Drink winners

Best Burger, Best Sushi, Best Burrito, Best Dive Bar, Best BBQ, more in our 2020 Readers' Poll

A very haunted Arts Forecast: Halloween undead!

Howl through your mask at this year's stream 'n (socially distant) scream spooktaculars

You might also likeRELATED