LIVE REVIEWS SUMMER 2005
Key: (JG: Jeff Greenback)(RK: Rich Kroneiss)(SB: Steve Strange)(MCP: Matt Coppens)(DH: Dave Hyde)
Dicks live @ Room 710, Austin, TX June 11
While blasting the Shadows of Night during a recent coffee drinking session, the conversation turned to the phenomena of 60s garage band revival tours and fests. It’s amusing how many folks who sang in bands four decades ago have been finding a new backing band and booking themselves onto festivals. Call me a skeptic, but I just don’t think that it’s likely to recapture the energy from a dance hall in ’66 all these years later.
As trends go, it’s time for punk to have its moment in the sun, so no surprises that in the last few years more than a few early punk bands have been picking up their instruments again. That the popular groups of the day have been cashing in isn’t so interesting, but the fact that bands who recorded a single or two and vanished into obscurity have been touring Europe is. Maybe it’s time some of these groups get their dues, but are they doing anyone any good by playing again? Can the music sound as good on stage in ’05 as it did in the basement in ’78?
Though I’m skeptical of such reunions, I can sympathize with fans who excitedly hand over their money to see reformed bands play their classics again. Fuck, I’ve handed mine over a few times; sometimes a nostalgia trip ain’t so bad (even if you weren’t there the first time around).
Austin’s Dicks (as opposed to Frisco’s Dicks) have played a handful of shows in the last ten months, but they haven’t seemed like an attempt to relive any glory. After a show in San Francisco and a full weekend in March at Room 710 in Austin, I was pleasantly surprised when they announced another in June.
If The Dicks weren’t the world’s ultimate bunch of rejects, they were close: fat, commie, gay punk rockers living in the center of Texas. At a time and place where punk meant more of an attitude than a sound, the Dicks music often pushed boundaries that their contemporaries didn’t. Their first single was an absolutely perfect punk record, but songs like “Wheelchair Epidemic” and “Saturday Night at the Bookstore” show the start of a much harsher, brooding sound that paved the way for bands like Jesus Lizard and Big Black.
The first few Dicks shows in town were “must attend” events for anyone even remotely interested in punk rock and local music, but the most recent show was lacking that fanfare. It seemed to draw only the old-timers, misfits, and die-hard fans, and it was, at times, a tense crowd. Many of those who saw the band in the early 80s were full of contempt for us youngsters. I actually got into an argument with someone at the first show when she demanded I leave my spot near the stage because “this show is for us and you weren’t even born when the Dicks were around.”
Of course, none of that mattered when the Dicks got on stage. The lineup was Buxf, Pat, Gary, and filling the shoes for deceased Glen Taylor were Davy Jones from The Next/Bang Gang/Hickoids and Mark (last name withheld). The set started as so many of their songs do, with Buxf playing a line and his band members joining in until the song reaches full intensity with Gary’s howl. The set list was mostly comprised of “Live at Raul’s” era tunes and the set had about the same feel as it does on the record. You don’t need to be super tight when your songs are as vicious as those tunes are, and they weren’t super tight. They fucked up, laughed at each other, and moved on.
The finale of “Hate the Police” ranked among the most powerful music related experiences of my life. Erasing any hint of nostalgia, the band played the song as if it were written last week, not 25 years ago, and a room several hundred strong screamed along their contempt for the APD.
While the crowd cleared out, I stuck around to find my girlfriend (who had a cigarette put out on her neck during the set) and regroup before taking off. Jim Bradford, the punkest man in Texas for well over a decade, turned to Davy who was nearby and critiqued him: “Hey, next time why don’t you put a little effort into it. You were up there playing the songs like you didn’t even care; I expect more out of you!” Confused, Davy said only, “But I do care about those songs.” Of course, Jim had just finished raving about how great the show was; he just had a unique way of showing it.
I’m not sure if the Dicks will keep playing from time to time or if that was the finale, but I don’t get the impression the decision will be affected by the punk nostalgia scene. I think they’ll keep on doing whatever they want, like they always have. True misfits to the bone, if they ever step on stage to play “Hate the Police” again, I’m sure it’ll sound just like it always has because it’s from the heart.(DH)
Hunches Live @ Turf Club. St. Paul, MN July 8
Going into this show I had high expectations. After initially being rather lukewarm on the Hunches recorded material, their second album won me over to the point that I considered myself a fan. The songwriting on "Hobo Sunrise" was among the most compelling I heard all last year, even if it wasn't a record I could listen to on a daily basis. Based on reports from reliable sources though, the Hunches live show was leaps and bounds above their records. Lastname even composed a literary blowjob, err, column...in one of the early issues of TB that painted the Hunches as one of the best live bands walking the earth. Eric doesn't strike me as the type prone to hyperbole, so that was a pretty strong endorsement in my eyes. All of the accolades I had heard coupled with my increasing appreciation for their records had me excited to finally get a chance to see them.
The night started off disappointing as I didn't get to the Turf in time to catch the Birthday Suits. Well, since they're a Twin Cities band it's not like I won't have a chance to see them again or anything. Following the Birthday Suits were two utterly unmemorable local acts whose names I didn't even bother to catch. In fact I spent the duration of both bands sets boozing it up in the Turf Club's basement in order to be fully lubricated for the Hunches. After I heard the last of the two bands stop playing, I made my way back upstairs to make sure I would have time to buy another drink before the Hunches began.
While I was busy talking to some friends, all of the Hunches except for the singer inconspicuously climbed onto the stage and began noodling around with their instruments. Hart then came stumbling up to the stage looking more like a drunk old man about to puke in the subway than a member of a rock band, took the microphone, and started mumbling incoherencies that had little to do with the song the band had gradually begun playing. Okay, that was certainly unimpressive, but I had to assume this was just the Hunches unique way of warming up. I was wrong. The band broke into another song, but Hart just kept mumbling in a tuneless monotone while ambling around the front of the stage like a mentally handicapped adolescent on ecstasy. This went on for an interminable amount of time, and after awhile I began to realize that the band was playing songs I knew off the LPs, but it was nigh impossible to tell due to Hart's preference for puerile antics over singing along to the music. Now let me make this clear, I have seen some bad wannabe Iggy/Stiv Bators impressions before, but Hart may be the worst of the pack just for the sheer annoyance of watching a great band ruined by a singer more concerned with playing the cliche part of troubled frontman than actually, y'know, SINGING. And make no mistake about it: unless this guy is seriously mentally impaired there is no way his whole schtick is anything but an act, and a completely boring and unchallenging one at that. I recently saw a picture of Stiv Bators from an old Time Magazine article on punk where he's lying on the ground singing into a prone microphone that looks very reminiscent of a shot I snapped of Hart during the midst of his sad-sack "performance." Something tells me our boy has been doing his homework. Too bad he missed the part about doing something fresh and not recycling an act that was stale 25 years ago. Temporally speaking, Hart's ineffectual jive is as far removed from Iggy as Iggy was Glen Miller. Think about that. Based solely off their records I think the Hunches have an abundance of potential, but it's unfortunate that it won't be actualized live as long as their singer insists on playing the role of tortured artist rather than acting as the focal point of one of rock's most powerful bands.(SB)
Box Tops/Raspberries Live Milwaukee, WI
Who would have thought that a reformed version of the Raspberries would be any good more than 30 years after their swan song "Starting Over" was released? Not me. Sure they were playing with all original members, but I'd seen enough poor reunion shows to keep myself cautiously guarded going into this. Reports that their Cleveland show was incredible had my curiosity piqued, but what sold me was the fact that all four original members were playing together after years of acrimony. Fuck, there was NO WAY I could miss what could very likely be my one chance to see the band that recorded "Fresh" and "Side 3." Even if they did butcher the tunes, just seeing them play together would be enough.
When my traveling partner Fever B and I rolled into Milwaukee, we met up with my buddy Mark who was our guide to the outdoor fair where the Raspberries were playing. We got there right in the middle of the Box Tops set, and while it was cool to see Alex Chilton in the flesh that was about the only positive thing I can say about what took place on that stage. They played a lot of inappropriate covers and sounded more like a bad lounge revival act than a rock n roll band.
The Raspberries, however, were more than enough of a take-no-prisoners, ripping rock n roll band to make up for the Box Tops' shortcomings. My god, it was incredible. From start to finish they played all of the hits and a good number of LP cuts as well. Mark, Brian and myself were able to sneak up to seats in the front row, where we sat for the first few songs until something happened that made me and Mark both spontaneously jump from our seats and start pogoing like madmen. Without warning, the Raspberries launched into a version of "It's Cold Outside" by the Choir (which, for those of you not versed in your pop music history, was a band that featured 3/4ths of the Raspberries original lineup) and the smile on my face was as wide as the state of Texas. From there on out Mark and I went over and stood by Lastname and Paul Reject's contingent and watched the Raspberries play classic tune after classic tune sounding as fresh and energetic as they likely did 30 some-odd years ago. Eric's voice was pristine as ever, Wally hadn't lost a step on guitar, Dave's bass playing was rock solid, and Jim did an admirable job on drums. Not even the presence of side musicians could hurt their performance, as the sidemen seemed to be buried in the mix. Words can't do justice to what an amazing show this was, but to suffice to say it was more than worth the drive to get to see one of the originators of power pop play their best songs like it was 1973 all over again.(SB)
Clorox Girls, Observers, Fucked Up, Career Suicide, Bayonettes, Brutal Knights live @ Cinecycle, Toronto, ON June 3
Firstly, let me say I love Toronto and being able to get there within an hour to see great bills like this that totally bypass Buffalo. Secondly, let me say I love the recent trend of more hardcore bands now being included on what would be considered "garage band" bills and vice-versa. Thirdly, let me say I hate writing live reviews, so I'll try and make these palatable.
So, the show's at this place called Cinecycle in TO that I've never been to before this point. I'm familiar with the area that it's in, but I didn't remember ever having seen it in passing. Maybe that's because it's a friggin' bike shop in an alley. Seriously, you'd never know this was place was there if there wasn't a flyer on the street pointing you in the right direction. The door is plain with no sign at all, lit by a single bulb, giving it a speakeasy kind of feel. One of those places you're not really sure whether or not they should be having shows at. Cool. But not cool at all inside, as it was effectively a cinder-block sauna. Think Ice Factory, but smaller. On the plus side, they did have a small bar and they projected old Canadian television shows and public service films behind the bands an a large screen. I always enjoy multimedia spectacles.
Bayonettes open. First time I'd seen them, and I dug. The singer is a healthy chick cut from the Exene/Siousxie fabric, and she worked the crowd and her pipes effectively. Mid-tempo punk that sounded pretty good for a newer band, and something I look forward to seeing again. Plus, the did a Victims cover. Thank god there's another decent Toronto band, now I get to finally see some decent opening acts on my trips.
Brutal Knights took the floor next, and I still really don't know what to make of them. To me, they sound like fucking Zeke, but with perhaps a better sense of humor. The did the Dan Burke tune and a bunch more speedy rockers. Not terrible but not real interesting. What is real interesting is their bass player, Katie G. Warrior, whose outfits never cease to impress: this time it was thigh high boots, a Misfits T, kneepads, fishnets, bullet belt, and short shorts. There set was made a little more bearable by the fact that the singer's moves at one point were unintentionally in sync with some of the graphics on the screen of an old-time hockey instuctional show, which I found amusing. Next.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure Career Suicide played next. I love this band, on record and live. Tonight was not their night. They sounded flat and sloppy. Martin's an incredibly effective frontman, constantly throwing himself around and getting people involved, so even on an off night musically he still makes them fun to watch. If you see them on a good night, you will be floored, but this was not one of those evenings.
I saw the Clorox Girs at The Blackout a couple years ago, and I thought they were mediocre. I've since come to like the records more, especially the LP, so I was ready for a good set. And they totally delivered it. I think the addition of Colin Observer to the band, replacing the other bass player I saw them with was a big help. He mugged for the crowd, mock assaulted them, jumped on and at us, and just made the whole thing a shitload of fun. Big pop hits like "Vietnam" and "Don't Take Your Life" got huge sing-alongs from the crowd, and their energy brought huge smiles to my face. Wonderful kids, but I do wish they'd stop finishing with "YMCA". It was cute and forgivable the first time. This time points were deducted.
I've never really cared for The Observers on record much, save perhaps their last single. I just think they're generally boring, so I wasn't hoping for much. It was fun to watch Colin and his completely destroyed glasses again, but musically this band does nothing for me. The singer is pretty annoying, from his lab coat, to the stupid way he holds the mic, to the puzzled look he has on his face constantly, to his seemingly half-hearted attempts at diving into the crowd and instigating sing-alongs. Didn't really like them before I saw them, don't like them any more after having seen them. Their drummer had on a Gorilla Angreb shirt which was the coolest thing about their set.
At this point, it was already a marathon show. Fucked Up were "headlining" and were setting up when someone unleashed ye olde "The cops are here, shows over!" bummer on us. Of course, we weren't having that shit. A suggestion by someone to move Fucked Up's set to another venue was soundly booed down. Complaints, heckles, and just a flat refusal to leave the venue led to the promoter or whoever was in charge to let Fucked Up play a fifteen minute set, consequences be damned. So Fucked Up then proceeded to stand there and get ready for fifteen minutes. Patience testing, for sure. The crowd energy was getting real tense, and if this was what the band were stalling for, it worked, because once they kicked in the place fucking erupted. Everyone was going bonkers, the band was tight and powerful. Mid-tempo hardcore rage. It was during this set that I officially started to like Fucked Up more than Career Suicide. I also realized "Generation" kind of sounds like The Persuaders' "Back in the Ring" with more breakdowns. Awesome. The Clorox Girls/Observers were front and center singing along with FU's lead singer, who I just love as a frontman. He has that fat meathead every-guy quality that I think works great for hardcore singers (and me on occassion), reminiscent of Jerry A. or a young Billy Milano. So, I'm having a great time, pinned to the wall and hanging from some pipes while the crowd turns into a writhing blur. Mike is completely surrounded by the crowd, who are singing along to every tune, desperate to hear more before the cops bust in and shut it down. A beautiful moment, kids inside going apeshit to anti-establishment hardcore while the pigs lay in wait outside. I knew they had to play "Police". They must, if they have any balls at all. And they did. "I can't stand the police in this fucking city!" as sung by a crowd of around 200 while the fuzz were waiting outside was awesome. I was hoping for LAPD style clubbings and tear gas when the shit finally cleared out. I was ready to riot, brother! But, we get outside and the OPP are basically a real-life version of those Kids in the Hall skits with the bumbling cops. What a letdown. 'Cause I would've cracked some cop skulls. For real. I'm crucial like that.(RK)
Ponys, Blowtops, ChinUp ChinUp live @ Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY July 14
The entire purpose of this review is to let you know, that contrary to popular belief, The Ponys aren't all that boring live. I missed ChinUp ChinUp because a) they're a little too emo for me, and b) it was one of the hottest fucking nights ever. The less time I spent inside the 'Hawk the better. The Blowtops opened, and it was a warm-up show of sorts for their West Coast tour. They were solid, and I'm actually excited to watch them again these days. They're newly energized by the line-up changes and new direction, and so am I. I think they'll be more accessible to more people now who may not have given them a chance before. Anyway, the heat is just stifling on this night. I'm sucking down beers fast because it's just hot as balls, and because I don't want them going warm. The beers, not my balls, that is. Having to go outside to smoke in Buffalo actually works out well in the summer, as there's plenty of fresh air to be had out there, cough cough, even if you have to pour your glass bottles into plastic cups. Ponys are about ready to go, and I make an entrance into the dreadfully hot bar. This is one of those "people you never see at any other shows coming out of the woodwork" moments, as The Ponys are getting fairly big in case you haven't noticed. Present and future waves of college radio deejays and fanzine contributors mixed freely while I retreated to higher and hopefully cooler ground. I notice the Ponys have replaced the not-Jered guy who had the annoying fake Brit accent on the LP. Good move, I guess. As the Ponys start playing, I'm drawn into their songs, wrapped up in the humidity of their indie-rock dusted with a little punk, the sweat wiped from my brow by Jered's guitar swathes and tasteful use of the wah pedal. It's actually quite beautiful. They even let the girl sing "She's Broken" my fave off "Celebration Castle". The three of them are locked in, laying down some deep J. Mascis with Dick Hell's voicebox grooviness that I was totally getting off on. Notice I said THREE of them, because the new second guitarist they have is totally unnecessary and, well, just looks kinda gay up there. He's one of those dudes that keeps his eyes closed a lot as if he really into it or just half asleep, and just kind of hangs around all limp and slacker-like on stage as if he could fall over at any moment because he's pretty fucking cool but wants you to know he doesn't care anyway, and really gets into that one note he plays that you can barely even tell is there because Jered's ripping it up so fantastically on lead. Just kind of a bummer up there, so I just ignored him, or tried to. I mean, Jered doesn't need someone to play rhythm or whatever he's got this kid doing. He can more than handle it himself. I move that The Ponys pare down to a three piece immediately. I guess my point is, besides the annoying thing I just mentioned, the Ponys were really great live this time around (and they've bored me to tears on two previous occassions), not shit-your-pants rock'n'fuggin-roll great, but sublimely great and almost psychedelic on a hot summer night with nowhere to go but home. (RK)
Agent Orange, Trailerpark Tornados, and more live @ Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY June 16th
Ah, the reunion game. It's a risky one to play, and the result can be good, bad, or ugly, but usually it's all three. This Agent Orange show was a big happening. mostly because it was free. We have this 'Thursday in the Square' thing here, where a washed-up Eighties band or some third-rate alt-rock outfit plays a free show for the good people of Buffalo courtesy of the city. Think like Pat Benatar or the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and you have the caliber of bands nailed down. So the MOhawk puts on a free show after the show in the square, and this one just happened to draw punks of all ages, sizes, races, and creeds down into one sweltering clusterfuck of a punk crowd. Lots of old-school punkers out, but they were completely outnumbered by the kids. The kids, man. I hate the fucking kids. They were everywhere: young boots'n'braces skins, teen crust, pierced extreme-tattoo punk urchins, lots of Hot Topic clientele, future Suicide Girls, you name it. I was outside smoking, and was amused watching moms & dads pulling up in mini-vans dropping their kids off. My mind wandered back to those days in my life, just getting into punk (well, metal actually) and having parents that supported your music habits and showgoing. My heart softened. Maybe I didn't hate the kids so much after all. Because, you know, I was one of them once too.
So, there were three bands on the bill, I believe, Agent Orange, TPT, and some other band I walked in on mid-set. I got a look at the stage and immediately about-faced. One look at the band and I knew it was time to step outside. I think at least two of them were wearing Yankees hats, a sure sign of trouble for more than one reason. I think they were playiing punk rock, but I could be wrong. TPT were pretty excited and nervous to be on the bill. I think this might have been the biggest crowd they had ever played to, and it was full of noobie punks looking to thrash. The pressure was on. Also, it was the first I'd seen of the new line-up. They've added Mike (ex-Concubine Forming) on second guitar, and have replaced longtime drummer Dave Unlikely (ex-Tyrades) with a friend from some local hardcore bands. More pressure on. Dave Pee and Co. hit the stage, and launch into some garage scuzz, and I'm anxiously watching the crowd to see if they get it or not. I see some liberty-spiked heads start nodding, and next thing you know there's a nice little leather and studs slam party going up front. It was surreal watching kids circle pit to "Chinese White", I shit you not. So the Tornados turn out to be a big hit with the kids, and they sound better than I've ever heard them. The second guitar really fills the sound out, and the new drummer, well, as much as I loved Unlikely, this guy is honestly a bit more proficient. It's almost a shame this isn't the line-up that recorded the LP. Which is out now, by the way, on Big Neck Records, hit Bart up for a copy.
Agent Orange are about ready to hit it, so I jockey for position as far from any slamming, but still as close to the stage as I can get. I really don't go off at shows too often anymore, and especially not here, where I don't think the kids could handle my unorthodox but terribly punishing creepy crawl style. When I pit, I pit hard, mofos. Believe that. So, bullshit aside, for me Agent Orange were pretty vital to a part of my youth. A tape of "Living in Darkness" was the absolute shit for an entire summer I spent skating (or, trying to ollie, to be more accurate) as a kid. At the time, I really dug the lyrics for some reason, and I also dug surf guitar, which made them a perfect fit. And honestly, I wasn't expecting much out of this show except to maybe hear a bunch of tunes off that record and not have them look and sound like total ass. Mike Palm steps to the mic, and actually looks pretty young. Scott Miller was on drums, and hey, he looked pretty young too. Didn't recognize the bass player, as it surely wasn't Steve Soto or the other blond guy. Turns out it was the dude from JFA, which was cool. Palm managed to shred pretty hard, and the rhythm section was tight with the bass player only getting lost once or twice. The vocals sounded great too. You probably could've stood me in the back of the room blindfolded and convinced me it was 1982. They sounded that good. The kids are going fucking nuts, old man Rich is getting pissed about getting bumped into and dove on by countless kids wearing t-shirts of bands that featured Bill Stevenson on drums at some point. I immediately slipped back into full-on "I Hate the Fucking Kids" mode when some dumbshit sixteen year old, obviously way past his malt liqour tolerance and bedtime, kept insisting on jumping up on stage to sing along. Not just to sing the chorus, but every fucking word of the song. Songs he obviously didn't even know all the words to. Even his friends got pissed off after about the fifth time he did it as they dragged him off before he puked on Palm's guitar. I think they played "Miserlou" just to get the kid off the stage. They ending up doing all the classics (just about everything off "..Darkness" including my sentimental fave "The Last Goodbye"), a few not-so classics (I think there was a new song at one point and some crap off "This Is the Voice", but they did play the best song off that record, "I Kill Spies"), a killer cover of "Solitary Confinement", and some expected surf instrumentals. Palm's between song banter was your typical old-school punker stuff ("There was this band from LA we used to play with called The Weirdos..."), but it wasn't annoying at all. The only annoying thing were the fucking kids. I still fucking hate 'em. If I ever have them, they're gonna learn proper show etiquette before I get in the mini-van and drop them off. And I couldn't have been happier to have attended Agent Orange's first ever Buffalo show and hear them play some classics twenty or so tear after the fact. And not be embarrassing at all. One of the best reunions I've seen.(RK)
Hunches pic by Steve Strange
Dicks pic by James Cathcart
Raspberries pic by Mark Irtmer
All other pics by Chuck Barrels
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