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A dad and 2 sons reflect multisided music of today


In a way, the Gonzalez family is a microcosm of today's multisided music scene.

Papa Dennis is a prolific jazz trumpeter and teacher who has toured internationally for about 25 years. Sons Aaron and Stefan are Akkolyte, a grindcore punk duo on the do-it-yourself circuit, which plays the Barclay House on Sunday. Together, they form Yells at Eels, an improv-based experimental trio from Dallas that plays An Die Musik on Saturday.

Yells at Eels is an example of how radically different genres - free jazz and grindcore punk - can fuse and create a new sound. More and more, genres on the musical spectrum are melting together, but Yells at Eels comes from one of the wildest combinations imaginable.

Grindcore punks and thrashers summon and channel extreme explosions of sound and energy in their music. A newcomer to a thrash show might think the band was having a seizure and try to save it from itself. The songs usually end after a minute, to prevent the musicians' hearts from exploding.

Free jazz is, well, free jazz.

Here's how it started: Stefan founded what became Akkolyte pretty early (at about 10 or 12). At the time, he was into underground hardcore punk bands such as Black Flag and Minor Threat. There was a good deal of Dennis' instruments and recording equipment around, and Stefan decided to give it a try.

"I was so young I figured people probably wouldn't take me seriously about starting a band," said Stefan, now 19.

At first, Stefan worked alone, overdubbing bass, drums, guitar and vocal tracks. When he built up enough material to play live, he asked older brother Aaron, a bassist, to help him. They dropped the guitar and made it a two-piece for dynamics' sake. And instead of hardcore punk, they settled on thrash and grindcore punk, which push the ideas of hardcore punk to a more brutal extreme.

Dennis recalls the first time he heard it around the house:

"It was so intense emotionally and sonically. I didn't know what to do with it. Stefan would wake up in the morning ready to go to school and he'd put on this stuff. Here we'd be quiet, eating breakfast, relaxing, getting ready to go face the day, and I'd hear this 'WAAA-AAAH' in the next room."

He wasn't leery of the small sonic explosions coming from Stefan's room - it just took him a while to get used to the sound. The more he listened, the more he realized how tight his sons were playing, and he eventually started jamming with them. He named the project Yells at Eels, an expression used by some Southerners for 'Yes, it is,' and played the first show in 1999.

Dennis said the sound at first was hardcore punk overlaid with a jazz improv sensibility, which evolved into more open improvisation. Several years and albums later, the three are on their fifth tour, which will take them to Portugal this month.

Akkolyte performs a handful of shows along the way, including the gig at the Barclay House. Stefan, who also plays in other hardcore projects, said though Akkolyte may be different from Yells at Eels in some ways, the base intensity is the same with both.

"I think it's great just to hear people hammer out and scream and go off for two minutes at a time," Stefan said. "That's just as beautiful as hearing any free jazz to me, too. It's two different kinds of music, but I think they have a lot more in common than a lot of people ever want to admit from either side. Me and Aaron have been trying to bridge that gap for some time, and I think it's finally starting to come together."

Yells at Eels plays at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at An Die Musik, 409 N. Charles St. Tickets are $15 for adults; $13 for students and seniors. The show is part of An Die Musik's two-day Pre-Vision concert series, which features artists from New York City's coming Vision Festival. Call 410-385-2638 or visit

Akkolyte plays at 6:30 p.m. at Barclay House, 2101 Barclay St. Tickets are $5.

For more club events, see Page 29.

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