Ben Weasel, Toys That Kill: At the Knitting Factory, Hollywood, CA. Friday, March 13, 2009 By Juan Espinosa

Apr 21, 2009

Hollywood is just plain lame for shows. Pretty much any venue with bouncers sucks. That being said, I’ve never really had a bad experience at the Knitting Factory. I still remember when it first opened up in the early 2000s. They had this great deal on Rolling Rock. Two dollars a glass! And they even poured it in a really nice pint glass that I would often steal, mainly because it was easy to steal and I needed glasses in my pad. The place has two entrances because there are about three different stages and almost every night there are simultaneous performances going on with bands that may or may not have anything in common. It’s very easy to end up in the wrong show if you’ve never been to this place before.

So where were we? Oh yeah, the booze. My good friend Frankie and I had decided to eat some pizza and drink a pitcher of beer before we actually got to the show. Frankie was feeling the effects of the high calorie feast and needed some beer in him to stay awake, and so our first act was to immediately get some suds in our circulatory systems. While they did have some reasonably priced draft beer at three dollars a pint, apparently those nice glasses are a thing of the past and the place now serves beer in plastic cups. And as is traditionally the hip thing to do (i.e. slap a hipster price tag on a poor man’s staple) cans of Pabst were four dollars. Boo-urns.

The always entertaining Toys That Kill were already on stage when we walked in. I’ve seen them at the KF a few times before. Once in the “Alterknit Lounge” with the Sharp Ease. That night was particularly memorable, thanks to a friend of mine spilling my beer all over the floor while she was dancing (almost dry humping me) and then consequently slipping and falling to the floor. She was okay, by the way. Another time at the KF, I saw a fan getting a little too excited when TTK went into “Keep Caroline,” so much so that it ended up with him being ejected—there go those darn bouncers—when he was really doing nothing more than singing along whilst trying to get up on stage. Good thing for him it was their last song. Although he did miss Propagandhi, which some people will say “He didn’t miss much.”

The great thing about TTK is that no matter how many times I’ve seen them, they never disappoint. The set list consisted of jams from the most current album, Shanked, and sprinkled in were songs that I’ve never heard live, such as “Brain Attracts Flies” and “Don’t Take my Clone.” And while that may sound pretty damned bitching to even the casual TTK fan, I couldn’t help but hear some dorks yelling “Get off the stage!” from the back of the room. Listen, folks, I’m not at all opposed to heckling bands. Sometimes they need it. Other times they like it. But if you’re gonna yell some dumbass shit like that, why not get up front and make your douchey presence known? Oh, right, the fifteen or so fans that were up front and singing along to every word probably would have let you have it back ten fold. Not to say TTK fans are violent people, but there was that one particularly tall and large fellow who might have taken offense to you dissing a band that he’s happily dancing along to with beer in hand. Yeah, I probably would have just kept my yapper shut if I were you. Final score, TTK: 10. Douchey McDouche: 0.

You know, the first ever show I went to was not a punk rock show. In fact, it was a Van Halen show in 1991. And yes, Van Hagar not Van Halen. The fact of the matter was that I was a young, unenlightened kid who wanted nothing more than to experience a live concert. And while it would have been a lot more impressive to say my concert-going cherry was popped by Nirvana or Metallica, that was the only game in town at the time and I just wanted to see any form of live music other than those electronic animals with plastic guitars at Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Anyone who’s been to a big rock concert like that knows that when the main attraction is set to hit the stage, the lights dim and a huge roar from the crowd soon follows. When this happened that night, I had to remind myself that I was in fact at a punk rock show and not one hundred rows away from rock gods in denim and leather. Ben Weasel and company soon arrived on stage and the place pretty much went nuts. And although it was a packed, sold-out house, I was comfortable where I was standing. (I tend to get annoyed when dudes feel the need to integrate you into the moshing activities, whether you like it or not.) Hardly stopping to catch their breath, the band tightly flew through their set and went through a good amount of songs in what seemed like no time at all. Highlights for me included songs such as “Cool Kids,” “The Science of Myth,” “Veronica Hates Me,” and “Every Night.”  I’ll be the first to admit that while I don’t exactly own every single Screeching Weasel release (and nothing by Ben Weasel) it was exactly what I expected and it looked like the rest of the room was satisfied as well.

However, the ugly face of typical rock’n’roll protocol would show its face again in the form of the obligatory encore performance. For the life of me, I don’t see why a band feels the need to leave the stage while their instruments are still plugged in and wait for people to demand them to return for a few more songs. The sooner you finish up your set, the sooner you can go backstage and do whatever it is that performers do back there (I’ve never been.) Still, I see it happen time and time again. And for the record, Mr. Weasel will tell you that that the crowd’s chants for an encore were the most pathetic he’d ever heard. But he also wanted to make sure that you buy some merch to help raise his cows that he and his wife bought along with a farm in Milwaukee.

Now that I think about it, I witnessed a bit of history that night. After all, this was the first time any incarnation of Screeching Weasel has ever played in Los Angeles. I also later went back and listened to a live SW set from 1993 that’s on their CD titled Thank You Very Little. I was amazed at how much the Ben Weasel set mirrored the SW set on the disc. On terms of quality, it was very, very good. And yet, I’m not sure why I didn’t appreciate the performance so much that night. Perhaps not enough fun sauce in my system. I definitely can’t say it was a waste of time. Nope, punk rock is never a waste of my time.