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July 27-29, 2006
The Carbonas were up next and played a fairly pedestrian set. The songs lacked the spark or energy that are promised by their records (and that I’d seen them convey previously). Part of it, I think, might have been that the stage was too wide, too high, to allow for the band to play off and interact with the crowd. They seemed isolated up there, and I would’ve preferred seeing them in a more intimate setting. The last few songs were closer to expectations, and they really nailed “Frothing at the Mouth.” Marked Men followed and, as they always do, played a great, tight, fun set. They left off some of my favorites, but I guess with as many “hits” as the MM have, that’s inevitable. This was the first time I’d seen the band since hearing the new album, so it was fun to compare some of the newer songs to their recorded versions.
Though I always question the motivation behind old bands reuniting to play again, there has never been a doubt that The Dicks are sincere. So often it feels that reunited groups are just going through the motions, either trying to recapture some lost part of their youth or make a long-overdue paycheck. That doesn’t bother me, but the result is too often just a bland, uninspired reminder of what once was great. Not long before the fest I was out in Austin and overheard part of a conversation between Davey Jones, an old Texas punk who’s been playing guitar with the Dicks since their reformation, and a friend of his. Though I was involved in my own conversation and was not interested in eavesdropping, every so often I’d overhear something that caught my attention: “Man, this music has been passed down from generation to generation, and these kids who weren't even born when we were starting know every word and sing along…You hear about performers talking about feeding off the crowd, well this is absolutely the case. People are going nuts and it's such a rush…” and so on. These guys are playing again because they love it.
The New York crowd was a packed house, with a good handful of old-timers crawling out of the woodwork. Besides the aging New York punks, a few Texas folk made the trip as well, including Gibby Haynes and an ex-member of the Pagans (ATX). At one point Gibby was pogoing furiously, knocking into everyone around him, when someone grabbed him by the neck. For a few moments it seemed as though a brawl was about to start until Buxf said from stage, “Oh hi, Gibby...we have a Butthole Surfer in the crowd.” The tension dissipated as the old friends took a second to greet each other (and the aggressor immediately apologized).
When the curtains opened, the band meandered into their first song and within moments worked up to a furious pace. Gary Floyd was howling as Davey Jones attacked his guitar. Floyd was stage center and his presence stole the show. His voice was full and booming as imaginable, and his performance riveting. For this tour, they played as a four-piece, with only Jones on guitar (in their prior Texas reunion shows there was a second guitarist to help fill out the sound), and he played with a ferocity that compensated for the lack of a partner. The band played through most of their early material—songs from the EP, split, and LP—ending with “Hate the Police.” With the first note, the crowd erupted, as everyone present cried out, fists up. The song is timeless, and every bit as relevant now as it was when it was written.
The performance was riveting, but lacked the intimacy of the prior Texas shows, which were as much reunions as they were gigs. With the old Raul’s crowd present, the band played with a confidence that you only exude when around those closest to you. They’d fuck up and joke around and take it all in stride. On the east coast tour, the sets had a slightly more formal separation between the audience and performer.
Saturday night the fest resumed for me. A few friends had mentioned that the previous night’s show (that I skipped) was fun, if under-attended. We got to the club early as to make sure we didn’t miss Angry Angles, who were scheduled to play second. Opening the show were the Imaginary Icons, a band who had been repeatedly described to me as a “UK DIY-styled” group. Though they were enjoyable, their approach was a little too competent and deliberate to justify that label. Still, the set was full of interesting compositions firmly rooted in pre-‘80s three chord punk and post-punk.
The Angry Angles followed with what I thought was a surprisingly early slot on the show. Jay is a performer and always shines on stage, even when the stage is obscured with theatrical curtains (the band introduced themselves, “We’re the Angry Angles and we don’t like curtains.”) The group is doubly interesting since their live and recorded personas differ immensely. Where the released versions of the songs are often calculatingly paced, live they are frantic and explosively performed. The band’s set included about a dozen songs including the sublime “Things Are Moving” and a high-intensity take on “Crowds.”
After the Angles played, I was tired of standing around the club and needed to get out. I missed the next couple of bands (DC Snipers and Little Killers) while walking around the neighborhood, catching up with an old friend. When we decided to head back to Southpaw, Rocket From the Tombs was on stage, within seconds of starting their set. Besides the young drummer, the band showed their age, especially Dave Thomas, who kept a chair on stage to get rest during his non-singing moments. His endurance, however, lasted through the set and he was in prime form to bellow. The set list was immense, with one timeless song after another. It’s remarkable that the group lived their day without recording a proper record, considering how visionary their music was. It goes without saying that the band’s sound differed from the thirty year-old rough recordings that I’m familiar with, but the songs remained vibrant and full of life even when polished up a bit. As the set wore on, I found myself with closed eyes and a face-wide grin, singing along here and there, as I just soaked in and enjoyed the songs, the first and, likely, only time I’d hear them performed together.
Though I am one of the throwbacks who’ll scream and cry about the current punk rock festival circuit and how I miss the good ol’ days, it’s also hard to deny that there are promoters behind each of these working hard to top one another in pursuit of the ultimate show. Dot Dash consistently finishes at the top of the pile, and though I miss the importance and urgency of fests in years past, I look forward to seeing what Dot Dash will come up with in the future.
Review by Dave Hyde
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