In true show-going tradition, we got there late and missed the first band! (I hear they were excellent.) When we arrived a band called Faydem was playing and I felt suddenly, unwillingly transported to Seattle 1994 with a smidge of the Sunset Strip circa 1989 thrown into the mix. In fact, I hadn’t seen so much hair or heard so many “blistering” guitar solos since my last viewing of The Decline of Western Civilization: The Metal Years. The Key Club used to be Gazzari’s so I guess it’s apropos that the singer was vigorously channeling the snotty bad behavior of the countless hair bands that came before. (He quite obviously was expecting to get laid later. Good luck on that dude, I thought.) The music was heavy and very guitar driven, sort of sludgey sometimes but not in a good, early Soundgarden or Sabbath kind of way.
I was looking forward to hearing Dead To Me because the friend I was with that night—a person who’s musical opinion I respect—told me they were good. But when they appeared on stage I had, at first, trouble focusing on the music. The two singers were initially just too goddamn distracting. One, Chicken, made some nasty comment about Los Angeles (something along the lines of it sucking in comparison to San Francisco as a place to live) and I got all huffy and spent a few private moments San Francisco-bashing in my own head. The other, Jack, (Chicken and Jack. How great is that?) was so jaw-droppingly hot I couldn’t really hear the music anymore. But once my libido got out of its own way and my hearing returned, I could appreciate the band for what they were: really fun punk in the Bay Area tradition. I heard hints of NOFX and (dare I say it!) early Green Day and maybe Screw 32, but they still have a strong sound of their own, with song structures that are more complex than standard pop-ish East Bay fare. The singers are vocally quite different—Chicken is rather gruff and Jack is more nasally—but their voices mix well together. The band as a whole was tight, as if they had been playing a lot lately and they were obviously having a good time. Later I realized some of the guys in the band were in One Man Army—a good band—but I have to say I like Dead To Me better.
I hate to veer off into understatement but The Riverboat Gamblers were pretty much as expected: unbelievably great. They are just so good. (Shortly after this show a friend of mine discovered them for himself and as he was raving about how much they rock. I just kept thinking, “I know. I know.”) I do wonder though if Mike Wiebe was a Ritalin child. He’s like a ping pong ball up there. He was in and out of the audience constantly and the audience ate it up. They played most of the songs from the new record and their hearts were fully in it: gritty street punk at it’s finest with lyrics about food, hope and hopelessness.
All and all, a rather satisfying evening.