Tripdaddys, The and the Dead Celebrities: Live at the Hi-Pointe in St. Louis, by Chris Pepus

The Hi-Pointe in St. Louis is a great venue for punk. It sits on the highest point in the city limits (hence the name) and concerts take place upstairs in a long, narrow barroom. There’s an unavoidable feeling of being in the attic of the Midwest, and the bar sits in the shadow of some comically vulgar symbols of capitalism. A gargantuan Amoco sign dominates the view from the Hi-Pointe’s second-story windows and an equally laughable faux-Tudor hotel, with British telephone booths and even an old double-decker bus, sits just down the street. It’s a good place to sing about the more fucked-up aspects of American society, and in recent years, bands like Throw Rag and Ultraman have put on some unforgettable shows. This time, the lineup featured some of St. Louis’s finest punk and psychobilly.

The Dead Celebrities take classic hardcore as their starting point and turn out some impressive sonic assaults. Their set included a strong rendition of “Beg for Mercy,” the band’s purest hardcore song. “Juicy Suit,” an angry reply to a rich corporate type, also goes down well at the end of a long workweek. The Celebrities slowed down just a little for some sarcastic love songs that send up bubble-gum hits of the ’50s and ’60s. Lead singer Sid Sinatra showed that he is equally at home with straightforward hardcore bellowing and the humorous touches required by the band’s more tongue-in-cheek efforts. During this show, the drums seemed to claim a bigger than usual share of the sound system and both the Celebrities’ John Paul Nixon and the Tripdaddys’ Joe Meyer took advantage of the extra attention by turning in nice jackhammer performances.

The Tripdaddys are a psychobilly band in the broadest sense of the term, giving a punk infusion to-yes-rockabilly, but also to hillbilly music in general. In one of their songs, the ‘Daddys sing that all good rock “ain’t nothin’ but hillbilly blues” and they backed up that claim during their set, moving easily from thrashy country to rockabilly to punk, including some furious covers. Early in the set, the group played “Doublewide,” a song about moving to the Everglades with a favorite barmaid and taking up alligator hunting. It’s the band’s most country-tinged effort and also their funniest. The Tripdaddys’ rockabilly-inspired songs mine the familiar greaser topics of bad girls and cars, but their rapid-fire playing keeps them away from the pitfalls of what is often a very conservative musical style.

Craig Straubinger is a great guitarist at the height of his powers and Jamey Almond is a versatile (non-stand-up) bass player who takes care of the vocals on the group’s country tunes. A highlight of this show was the band’s cover of Social Distortion’s “1945,” during which Straubinger charged into the crowd and thrashed around while playing. It’s something he does about once a concert, but he does it with such abandon that he always looks like a man carried away by the song rather than a showman executing a move. Right now, the Tripdaddys can match any psychobilly outfit in the business, and they’ve earned their loyal punk following.