This show was just too good to not write about. It's been a very long time since a band I really like has come through to play my town. So long in fact that I'm probably better off trying to remember my actual birth than trying to think of the last band that's limped through my crummy little town to play. So when I caught wind that the Functional Blackouts were coming to Grand Rapids to play a basement show and that my band would be playing with them, I was very excited, to say the least.
The Functional Blackouts arrived a little earlier than planned so they gave me a call and we had them over at our apartment for some beer and macaroni and cheese before show time. I couldn't have one of my favorite modern bands playing my town while they're hungry and sober. Shortly after consuming all the Easy Mac and Black Label beer, we headed off down the road a few blocks to the house where the show would be taking place.
A few locals call the basement where the show took place the Freezer, as it is an unheated and uninsulated basement with unforgiving cold concrete walls covered in the most lewd and offensive spray paint imaginable. The atmosphere of this basement can be very intimidating to an out-of-towner what with all the skinheads, broken glass, and just general unruliness of it all. Though it does leave a little to be desired, there is a stage with decent lighting and you are able to bring in your own alcohol, which is always a plus. However, the acoustics and lack of a proper soundman do more than take away from the positive aspects.
We had no more than arrived when the promoter (if you can call him that) informed me from across the room that I had to get up onstage and start playing in twenty minutes. With said news, I slammed a few beers and hopped onto stage. The crowd was pretty worked up and receptive for my band, Glorified Trash, which was pretty nice seeing as my guitarist had swilled back a fifth of one hundred proof vodka an hour before we played and nearly forgot all our songs while lolling about onstage, totally ruining any momentum we could muster up. Glorified Trash is a '70s influenced punk band with a very aggressive streak. On some nights we're a pretty good band, but on this night we were quite possibly the worst band on the planet.
Ned Nibiru played next. I've seen these guys play 17.6 billion times so I only watched part of their set and drank beer in the garage conversating with the Chicago guys and a few friends. From what I saw and what I heard from the garage they sounded alright. They manage to mix several different forms of music together ('80s hardcore, country, pop-punk, Bad Religion-ish punk, jazz, blues, and even some Tom Waits) and somehow make music that comes off without sounding a tad bit unoriginal. My only complaint about these guys is that they sometime play a bit long for my attention span and this night was no exception. After waiting five and a half years in that garage, Ned Nibiru finally played their last song and the Functional Blackouts loaded their gear onto stage.
I had not witnessed their two or three shows they played previously to this one with new bassist Rob and without their now-former frontman Brian Nervous so I was not sure what to expect. The first song they broke into was "Raw Dawg, Raw Deal" from the Pain In The Big Neck compilation. They had to start this song over twice before getting more than thirty seconds into it due to a broken string, first by Mac and then by Dr. Filth. Once guitars were substituted and restrung, though, they didn't let up for even one second. Dr. Filth handled most of the lead vocals while Mac and Rob shared backing vocals. About three songs into their set some kid threw a beer can up onstage at Costello to which his response was, "Hey, there's this place called Detroit. Ever hear of it? Yeah, they have better aim than you do!" For the rest of the set, people were throwing beer cans full and empty at the band. The barrage of beer cans couldn't slow the band down at all. If anything, it made their set even better. They only played two previously released songs ("Raw Dawg, Raw Deal" and "Tick Tick Tick..." ), and though I was unfamiliar with their new material, I will go on the record of saying their new songs are just as good as, possibly even better than, their previously recorded work. The band played around nine songs and closed their energetic set with the whole band and the crowd screaming at the top of their lungs "Chemical! Chemical! Chemical..." It was a great set played by a band that's greater now than ever before. The new lineup seems to be having a lot more fun onstage and are definitely more energetic than they've ever been before. This was one of the best shows I've been to all year with the exception of the Horizontal Action Chicago Blackout. Many people seem to be pretty worried about whether these guys will be around much longer or if they're any good with their new lineup. Those of you who are worried may sleep safely now. Don't worry, they're still one of the best bands playing today.