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Thursday April 6th
The long weekend began with some lucky scheduling. In a non-Big Neck sanctioned event, Danish punkers Gorilla Angreb hit a local basement/house as part of their East Coast Assault 2006 tour. Being over the age of twenty, I don't have a chance to frequent these shows often, so this was my first venture into the world of 99 Custer St. Typical punk house, spacious basement, lotsa kids. Mr. Dave Anchovies and I arrive what turns out to be early, and after smoking an awkward cigarette or two with some local toughs, we decided to regroup while they waited for the opening bands. Which turned out to be a screamo outfit preceded by some guy playing original compostions on the electric piano. A real Elton John of the basement punk scene. Horrifying. After that one-two fistful of shit I couldn't have wanted to see the Bayonttes more. Hailing from Toronto, these kids play some good punk with some pop flair. Live, I quite enjoy them. The record I bought that night, not so much. But they did a good and lively set that got me back in the mood to see some freaking punk rock. The singer is cut from the Exene/Siouxie cloth and mixes it up with the crowd a bit. Nice fella and pit maniac Mark Pesci handles the guitar duties well, and they have a cute bass player that Young Steve might dig (re: she's Asian). They've improved greatly since I last saw them a few months ago in Toronto, and I see them releasing some good material in the future. They made me forget about the bad smells circulating in the room, so thanks for that.
The best thing about hardcore shows is the merch situation at shows. There is always shit for sale, whether it be just some random dude with a box of records or a travelling distro, on top of general band merch tables. Armageddon Shop was travelling with Gorilla Angreb, and although I bought nothing but GA merch, it's fun to flip through records between bands. And for all of you unaware, all the GA releases have been repressed in US editions by Feral Ward and Armageddon, so go get them now if the import prices were scaring you off. And if you like the records, this band is twenty, fifty, a hundred times better live. I posted my big ass up front and center for their set, and got moshed on a little by those crazy Toronto kids, but it was all worth it. I think they played their entire discography, at least a good 45 minutes of hits, and it was one of those rare performances where everything is clicking, the setting is just right, and you are seeing a band whose records you are really into at that moment at the top of their game. They began with stuff off "Bedre Tider" and proceeded to kill from there. "Astma" was the first moment to totally bring the house down. Amazing. The bass player has what looked like the Flag bars tatooed on his neck amongst a shit-ton of other ink and played with a agility you wouldn't expect. Very intense dude, he was all bulging eyes and veins, and the drummer was just as fast. Mai had on a one piece striped pink dress-thing revealing a turquoise bra strap and lots of tats. Tights, sweat-shorts, and some garish green cowboy boots on her bottom half, which she moved with a sultry rhythm only foreign chicks really pull off well. She played some tambourine as well and was a pleasure to watch in both semi-sexy and semi-punky ways. Is she hot? Well, I wouldn't put her in that category. Defintely cute, and a great dancer though. Not that it matters. The guitar player was great and had a nice look too: cut off flannel shirt, Midwestern hardcore vibe, barked out some lyrics betwixt some shredding. Cool. So, they ended with the two cuts off the K-Town comp (which are my favorite two songs of theirs) with another slower tune wedged between (I forget which), the last two of which the crowd insisted they play. I couldn't have been happier. I wish I knew Danish so I could have sung along. One of the best performances I've seen in the last year or so, and I wasn't even drinking.
Friday April 7th
After the greatness of Gorilla Angreb I was more than ready to see some more hot rocking on the first evening of PITBN Night 1. The Dirty Fingers were scheduled to open, but they were AWOL with no call backs. After delaying shit until almost midnight, Red Red Red finally kicked the fest off. I heard some good things on their MySpace page (God how I hate to admit how much MySpace has become a useful tool these days...), and they brought it live as well. No frills action. I guess you have to mention that frontman/guitar player Ryan is ex-Piranhas, and you can hear some similarities between this band and what Piranhas were doing very early on. Think the first 7" and LP. Sort of deconstructed choppy punk with a hardcore velocity and rage factor. SEMI-WEIRD PUNK, but a lot more rock based than what the Piranhas ended up turning into. Definitely a band to watch for, word on the street is they are doing singles on Big Neck and Perpetrator. "Mind Destroyer" and "Disconnected" are going to be huge. A fine beginning. Best heckle/comment: "Man, the Dirty Fingers are pretty good." - confused show goer.
Next was the debut show for the Vilent Lover's Club, Odie's (Baseball Furies) latest project, the concept of which is Odie playing with a semi-revolving cast of musicians, which in this instance included Christain Mistreater on drums, and Buffalonians Eric (ex-Concubine Forming) and Greg (ex-Leviathan) on guitar and bass respectively. They had one practice the night before this show and played a short and relaxed set. It's basically Odie doing some singer/songwriter-ish stuff, kind of in a solo Thunders mode with some mellower T.Rex-like undertones. The recordings I've heard sounded a little glammier, but on stage it sounded a bit moodier, the songs carrying the nuance of Odie's hard-living lyrical topics from the Furies but with less rage and more introspection. Trash balladeering of sorts, with Odie on acoustic guitar for most of the set. I think they only played four songs, and of course it was a bit rough around the edges, but I think it's a great direction he's going in and something he will definitely be able to pull off well with some more time. He's definitely a fun presence to watch on stage and the 'band' pulled their weight. Check out their Myspace (ugh) for a sample. I guess the Chicago incarnation of the band includes Christian, Jeremy from Busy Signals, and Wild Mid Wes (ex-Clone Defects), and line-ups will continue to rotate with Odie obviously being the constant. Record forthcoming on Big Neck which should be great, but don't expect Baseball Furies II. Best heckle/comment: "BOOOO! We want Jim McCann!" - anonymous Buffalonian joke between songs, to which Greg mockingly smashed his bass in effigy.
VLC were followed by my local pals Trailerpark Tornados, who I write about so often on this site you're probably sick of hearing. Might as well check out their Myspace too, since it seems to be a recurring theme here. "Gun" has become one of my favorite of the TPT set lately, and as a special treat original drummer Dave Unlikely was out of his hole and in attendance at this show. What more can I say except that I love these mooks. Best heckle/comment: "Less tuning, more rock!" - hurled at Dave Anchovies by some jabroni other than me.
The next set was a textbook case of an unstoppable force (Tractor Sex Fatality) meeting an immovable object (waaay too much alcohol). Due to bands starting so late, I think it was close to 2:00 am by the time TSF hit the stage, and earlier in the evening an already semi-inebriated Rob had commented to me that if they go on too late it could be disastrous. His theory proved to be correct, as their set was a train wreck of proportions rarely seen. On one hand it was a hell of a lot of fun to watch, but on the other hand they didn't really bring the rock like I wanted to (and like they had last year). But hey, these dudes came all the way from Seattle, and I love them for it. They got off about two or three good ones before things got really hairy. Rob took out his agression on some mic stands and monitors, the bass player experienced some debilitating equipment malfunctions, and it degenerated into a Blowtops cover with Creepy Dave joining in on vox and a total dog pile on the stage. Like I said, trainwreck. But, they are still an amazing band. If I want to hear them play the songs perfectly I can listen to the records (and I do...a lot), so it was kinda fun to watch them totally destroy themselves and the stage. Tractor Sex Fatality, Buffalo will always love you, no matter what. Myspace, motherfucker. Best heckle/comment: "I wonder how much they're gonna charge me for those mic stands..." - Bart Hart, semi-bummed.
Closing out the evening were one of my all-time favorite live bands, and a band I hadn't seen since the last time they played Buffalo like five years ago: The Mistreaters. Christreater is an A-1 frontman/entertainer, and I don't think these guys have ever written a song I don't like. I wish they played in my neck of the woods more often, because they always keep it fun. I'd say their set was far too brief, but then again, I could watch them for hours and not get bored. They didn't play "SC Twist" but they did hit us with some other favorites and brought heaping helpings of the rock and lots of hair. John Henry has one of the most well kept beards in the business, and it has been a treat to see Kevin's evolution from clean-cut dude with a brushcut to long-haired hippie over the years. Bonus points to Christreater for saying "Fuck!" at least two hundred times, and to Christian for bolting from behind the kit mid-set to tackle and then scoop slam Creepy Dave. Definitely one of my top ten favorite bands to see live, I forgot how amazing they are. Can't wait for the new LP, which will be on Estrus again, proving Dave Crider is not dead. Best heckle/comment: "Play that one song that I like!" - Aaron Blowtop, repeatedly.
Saturday April 8th
Preliminaries: The Worst cancelled, bumping the start time for this evening back an hour or so. Some of my favorite out-of-town people were in the house this eve (Radio Beats, Clockcleaner). Attendance by Buffalonians: terrible. Some kids from Toronto came down, which was cool. Thanks. On with the show...
Ann Arbor's Terrible Twos kicked the night off, and it was another great opening performance from a relatively new/unknown band. They're an ambitious bunch of young kids, playing some tweaked punk rock that veers at times into prog/jazz territory, and I think they even funked it up a bit on one tune. Full five piece with twin guitars and keys, with a pretty fast drummer (who did a total Garth Algar solo for sound check), and they honestly remind me quite a bit of latter day Catholic Boys. The frontman played in his socks did the punk-shuffle a lot whilst rocking, the key player had a weird androgynous thing going on, and the bass player was pretty raging. Really nice kids too, they were front and center for all the other bands and they played a great set. Get their seven-inch asap, as "Plunderball" is a classic. Cool shit. Check it out for yourself on Myspace . Best heckle/comment: "I'm not sure who's hotter, their keyboard player or Tracy (Blowtops)..." - showgoer of questionable sexuality.
Pittsburgh's kings of pierogi punk the Radiobeats were up next. They played probably the tightest set I've ever seen from them, and I've seen quite a few. So good, I ate a cheeseburger and got a blowjob while they played. Right then and there. They're another band I seem to review far too often, so let's leave it at I love these fucking hot dog eaters and they are always fun to watch. Check their new LP (which they played some hits off of) and their fucking gay Myspace page. They do need to learn a new Supercharger cover though. I would also like to note that Vinnie is a fucking pussy for not showing up. Best heckle/comment:"It looks like the math club formed a band with the punk rock kid in high school..." - anonymous jerk seeing them for the first time.
Hideo and Matthew are Birthday Suits and they rocked our asses off next. Just those two, breakneck drumming and Hideo going nuts on vox/guitar. Very hypnotizingly rhythmic at times with some shitstorm freak-outs as well. Good contrasts and a fairly big departure from Sweet JAP. I really enjoyed the set as they are obviously giving 100% every time they play. Hideo should do the whole set from the crowd facing Matthew if you ask me. Very original sounding (compared to their previous band) and honestly, almost bordering on heavy indie-rock when they're not too noisy. They only have a CD out which prevents me from listening to them, although I'm not so sure I would very often. But they definitely bring it live. Myspace? Best heckle/comment: "Is he singing in Japanese?" - me.
Blowtops played next, they did good. No "Sex Bomb Baby" though. You've heard me go on about these guys a jillion times, they played it kind of close to the vest on this evening, Creepy Dave didn't get punched in the face by any girls or anything. They just plyed the songs really well, and I think their history/track-record and the fact that they probably sound the best they ever have after nearly ten years as a band should get them a bit more respect. But hey, I'm biased. Best heckle/comment: I don't know. Aaron calling me 'not punk' at some point in the evening, probably.
Next up: Clockcleaner. I can not blow this band any harder right now. Probably my favorite live band in the world as of this moment, and the records aren't far behind. As some one commented, the strobe effect puts you in another dimension during their set, it's like a dream or being hypnotized. Sharkey had a new flying V and did his thing, throating the mic, exposing some belly, bullied the crowd, etc..I think he slapped the kid from Terrible Twos in the face at one point, humped the PA at another, and just put on a great show. The rhythm section is beyond locked-in, with Karen really slugging it out and the solid drumming of young Richard H. Charles Jr. reminding me of the better days of the Washam/Sims axis of pounding. And Karen and Sharkey play really well off of each other, inspiring each other to further acts of idiocy. If they ever find a PA that harness the vocal delay effectively, they would probably literally explode heads. As it is, the disorienting effect just adds to the total ass beating this band gives you live. It's a spectacle for sure, but not in a hamfisted way. Confrontational but not cornball. A+++ shit. They ended again with the best version of "Scavenger of Death" ever, a song which might as well have been written just for them. The most satisfying live show in sport. Gayspace. Best heckle/comment: "I wish I wouldn't have thrown that full vodka tonic at Karen, it would taste really good right now..." - John Sharkey, post-set.
Closing the evening were living legends, the Cheater Slicks. First time I have ever seen them, and they live up to their reputation. The contrast between them and Clockcleaner could not be more apparent. Both completely enjoyable for differing and opposite reasons. The Slicks just play, no fanfare, no spectacle, just straight rock and roll. Dana Hatch is one of the most entertaining and primitive drummers I've ever had the pleasure to watch. Dave Shannon had more effects pedals than I could count. They opened with "Feel Free" and kind of surprisingly ended up playing some older stuff off of "Don't Like You" and "Destination Lonely". Their set was all rock mind you, but it carried that ever present sense of melancholia that inhabits the records as well. It was uplifting and a downer all at the same time. I couldn't have walked away from their set feeling more fulfilled, and I look forward to getting another chance to see them in Chicago. They were so good, I forgot to take pictures. But Alex from Toronto was good enough to post some stuff from his camera on Youtube, so check it out and act like you were there: "Momentary Muse" and "Motherlode".
In closing, Bart Hart is a nice guy. So nice, he sees fit to return to Buffalo every year and sponsor a festival of sorts in the city he once called home. Are we, as a city of fans, deserving of such good deeds? Years ago, in the heyday of the Rust Belt Revolt, and even through last year's inaugural Pain in the Big Neck, I would have said yes. But this year, I don't know. I feel like we let the guy down. Not me, personally, or even the forty or fifty or so locals who may have showed up over the weekend. We won. But the rest of you, you no-shows and nay-sayers, you let not only Bart down, but the already dying Buffalo underground garage/trash/rock scene as well. You lose. Thanks for nothing to all of you. Despite being semi-sparsely attended (in comparison to years gone by), those who did have the good sense to "make the scene" that long weekend were rewarded with some fantastic rock action, from both some seasoned and grizzly vets and plenty of new comers as well. And thank to all the bands who played and all the kids who came from out of town. Hopefully, we can do it again next year...
All pics by Chuck Barrels, excepting the VLC pic by Lance Boyle
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