The Gross Gang was a Santa Cruz band (2001 - 2004) involving Troy Delaney (drums), Kristin Brokaw (bass), Amitai Heller (vox) and Noah Lacono (guitar). Noah had been manning the drum stool for Santa Cruz's beloved garage-trash miscreants Hate Mail Express for a couple of years. Though the band had earned a crumb of notoriety in the Bay Area, Lacono grew tired of Hate Mail's tried and true formula of sloppy, energetic Gories/Dirtbombs fuzz. "It's like, I try to screw them up, play off time and stuff, but they're already there," Noah once quipped in his trademark deadpan.
Seeking an outlet for his own aesthetic, one more rooted in the sharp, slimy riff-sleaze of bands like Scratch Acid, The Jesus Lizard, and The Scientists, Noah found kindred spirits in Kristin and Troy. The two friends latched onto Noah's ideas quickly, and before long played their first show as the Gross Gang (lifted from The Birthday Party song "The Dim Locator"), sans vocalist, live on KZSC. Folks who listened in that night only familiar with Noah's stickwork in Hate Mail were shocked and amazed at the band's left turn into sinister riffage, spidery guitar breaks, and rhythms both nimble and brutish. This would be the first and only appearance of The Pad Trilogy: "Radpad," "Badpad," and "Dadpad," an epic song cycle based on Noah's frustration with available living situations.
The band soon found a throat in a thin, bespectacled loudmouth named Amitai Heller, who answered the Gang's flyer for a singer with Led Zeppelin meets Jesus Lizard qualities. Robert Plant he was not, but Amitai fit in perfectly, a howling, screeching Tasmanian Devil who took pains to provoke audience members and spent much of his time writhing around on the floor or being hoisted above people's heads. His ultra-physical presence, like a geeky Iggy Pop, matched with the seething dynamic of the band, made for a truly visceral experience unmatched at the time.
The lineup solidified, the Gross Gang spent the next year and a half gigging around in Santa Cruz, appearing at the Big Bang 2002, and quickly accumulating a fanbase that stretched beyond the local scenesters. Gross Gang would pack living rooms to the breaking point, then drive them into a jumping, dancing frenzy, Amitai leaping onto the backs of larger audience members, the band stoically pounding away behind him. Their compositions began to gain breadth, ranging from the all-out assault of "Find A Match" and crowd favorite "Crime Wave" to slightly poppier songs like "Burn Down the Sun." These songs and a few more were found on "Panic Restaurant," a CDR demo recorded by Strip Mall Seizures keyboardist Brock sometime between 2002 and 2003. Through the mud and digital static, the band laid down some ferocious performances, especially on opener "Angry Hands" and the abovementioned "Find A Match."
Confident and ready to leap into larger ponds, the Gross Gang spent July of 2003 touring across the United States in a giant gypsy-punk caravan which included Strip Mall Seizures, Olympia's Joey Casio, and a few more groupies. While many of the shows were successful and well-attended, the strain of traveling with over twenty people added to existing tensions within the band. Upon returning to Santa Cruz, the Gross Gang went on indefinite hiatus.
In December of 2003 the band returned with a new bassist in tow, Steve Whitwill of Half Czar. Steve brought a greater mass to the band by about one hundred pounds. After a few local gigs, the Gang left for a ten-day jaunt up the West Coast in April of 2004. Later that spring, Gross Gang recorded five songs with Nicholas Taplin and made plans to tour the U.S. once again in the summer, this time alone, culminating with a recording session booked at Steve Albini's Electrical Audio studios in Chicago. Circumstance, however, was not on the band's side, as the finances secured for the session disappeared mysteriously with the financier, who would not return the band's calls. Cutting their losses, the Gross Gang settled for another West Coast tour that August. Running out of steam, their songwriting process stalled as members disputed new directions for the band. The Gross Gang broke up for good on August 15, 2004.