About Kembrew (the band, not Kembrew, the person)
I’m going to do something that might be a little self-indulgent. Okay, it’s totally self-indulgent, but this is too weird and fun to pass up: I’m going to review a band that shares my name. Before you scream CONFLICT OF INTEREST, it’s not like I’m their Svengali manager and it’s a boy band (though I wish they were, even funnier).
“Kembrew” hails from Simi Valley, California, an ultra-conservative region that brought us the riot-inducing Rodney King verdict and the John Birch Society. A dubious place, to say the least, something that made me more than a little skeptical when a friend told me someone started a Weblog, or Blog, using my name.
Worried it was an identity-stealing online stalker, I checked it out and was relieved to discover “Kembrew”—real name, Alex Martinez—was at the time a high school sophomore. (FYI: My parents altered the traditional Irish spelling of Kimbrough to create my unique name, which made me the only Kembrew on the planet, or so I thought.) I assume “Kembrew” ran across my Web site, kembrew.com, and appropriated my name for a laugh. This Alternate-Universe-Kembrew worked at a local AMC movie theater, went to high school, pined for a girl and, as some teens are wont to do, formed a band … named “Kembrew.” (Sadly, in mid-2005, the band called it quits. See the newspaper article about their final concert at the bottom of this page.)
Throwing caution to the wind, I thought I’d get so post-modern on your ass that I might possibly melt into a babbling puddle of self-referentiality. Yes, Kembrew is gonna review “Kembrew.”
From what I can tell, they've played a couple dozen gigs, including their high school talent show (they didn’t win) and now the take chunks of time off because they attend different colleges. No Grammy nominations looming on the horizon for this band.
Their 2003 You Should Buy This Album, the band’s second full-length, probably won’t be called good in any galaxy (anyway, who cares about being "good"?), and, musically, they aren't going to be confused with Yes or some other progressive rock band (regressive or stupid is more like it, or to be more precise, STOOPID ... which for me is a good thing). Just check the song titles: “Emancipation Rocklamation,” “Ninja Rock Machine” and “Wanna Hear a Joke? My Life.” Their first album contained and early masterpiece, "Grandpa", which contains screamed lines like, “Grandpa’s in a coma, poke him with a stick, poke him with a stick!/ Grandpa’s in a coma, write on his face, write on his face!”
Grandpa, Studio Version:
Grandpa, Live Version:
They even sell “Kembrew” merchandise at their Web site, www.kembrewrock.com. I thought I’d support the band (and fan the flames of my megalomania) by purchasing a t-shirt and buttons, which has landed me in a few surreal situations, like the following …
In 2003, I was flying out of New York City when one of the guards asked me, in a friendly tone, “What’s a Kembrew?” Could you imagine being randomly asked, “What’s a David?” or “What’s a [fill in your name]?” The guard must have thought I was mentally challenged, because I didn’t know how to answer, other than to stammer. Then I realized I was wearing the “Kembrew” t-shirt, which says, in hip-hop graffiti letters, Kembrew: Straight Thuggin’. “Oooohhh,” I said, “It’s a long story, but, um, like…” and I quickly filled him in on the details. “So you know these guys?,” the guard asked, even more curious. “Naw, it’s just the name of the band,” having forgotten that I—the nerdy white professor from Iowa—had been walking around Manhattan with the words “Straight Thuggin’” on my chest. (What was I thinking?) By then, the guard was laughing at me, not with me. “Yeah, I was afraid you really were straight thuggin’, and I didn’t know if I should let you through security,” he deadpanned. “You’re scarin’ me with that shirt.” As I put my shoes back on, he asked one last question. “So, where you goin’?” I cringed and blushed. “Well, I’m actually going back to Iowa, and we’re not really very thuggin’ there.”
“But compared to most of ‘em,” I said about myself, too generously, “I’m totally straight thuggin’.” He kept laughing, “Yo, I don’t ever wanna go to Iowa!” I could hear him as I walked down the terminal. “Straight thuggin’,” he said to himself, “That white boy’s crazy…”
Ventura County Star
Band's swan song to benefit school:
Kembrew hopes to raise funds to help performing arts center
By Nancy Needham, Correspondent
June 24, 2005
To raise money for their alma mater, Santa Susana Performing Arts and Technology High School alumni Alex Martinez and Michael Weiss will perform together tonight for the last time as the comedy-rock band Kembrew.
The wacky rock duo hopes to sell 150 tickets at $10 each for a 7 p.m. concert at the Cochran Street campus in Simi Valley. The proceeds will go to the Performing Arts Center Team to help build a performing arts center at the school.
The duo will then break up, because Martinez, 20, and Weiss, 21, will be attending universities in different states. Weiss, whose stage name is Mike Danger, attends Arizona State, and Martinez, also known as Kembrew Jones, will begin attending San Francisco State University in the fall.
Since it is the last time they will play together as a band, they are calling the concert The Last Booya, said Martinez. "It's a surprise to us, but because of the Internet we have a following from all over the world," said Martinez. Some fans from England and other countries have listened to their music at http://www.kembrewrock.com and e-mailed their praises.
A lot of their fans are from Simi Valley, Martinez said. They especially like the song "Just Another Night in Simi Valley" that parodies one of the country's safest cities. It is just all for fun, like the love song they wrote and perform that is very appropriately called "Demo." The song is sung to the tune that plays when the demo button is pushed on a Yamaha keyboard, Kembrew Jones explained.
This concert is close to his heart for another reason, he said.
"I care about my old high school and I want the kids to have the performing arts center that I didn't have," said Martinez. His mother, Sue Martinez, president of P.A.C.T., agrees.
The building's site has been decided and the plans have been drawn to include 420 seats and an orchestra pit, she said.
Building the facility is being handled by the school district, but there is much more that will be needed to complete the building so the children will have an auditorium they can perform in, she said.
Hopefully, the Kembrew concert will raise enough money to help fund a brochure campaign to let the community better understand what P.A.C.T. is doing and how residents can help, she said.