This show hit so hard I got a black eye! Well, some dumb girl gave me the black eye, but I was having so much fun it really didn’t hurt or even make me very mad. Before all that nonsense, I had an awesome pizza, about half a bottle of parking-lot wine, and a lot of laughs with friends both new and old.
When my cadre arrived, the tiny stage at the back of the pizza joint was crowded with the six members of The Knuckas who were kicking up a pleasing, old-school punk ruckus. I only heard three songs from this group, but it was an impressive bit of noise that sounded angry and happy at the same time. Nothing too fancy or even groundbreaking here, as The Knuckas play simple, straightforward punk rock that runs the gambit from accumulated noise to tight, thumping simplicity. The band has two vocalists, Mikey and Helen, both of whom sport impressively big haircuts of the Mohawk variety while doing a pretty good job of singing together and/or alternating the vocals back and forth. I can easily imagine spirited, drunken sing-alongs at backyard parties with dozens of ripening, semi-political crusties and freaky punk chicks with big hair and ripped fishnet stockings. Cool. www.myspace.com/theknuckas
I had noticed an abundance of emo-influenced glam rock hairdos that night and it was The Hitz’s fault. Musically, this band was okay, but I am annoyed to no end by people with genuine talent that still take fashion cues from the worst trend to ever infect the music world–emo. I also do not like the sound of harmonicas…not usually. The Hitz is six guys from Los Angeles who put a lot of cool psychedelic ‘60s riffs and spirit into the blues-saturated rock, but for some reason, it just did not resonate with me or my friends. Could it have been rather annoying vocals that seemed to be an off-the-mark mash-up of Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger? I don’t know, maybe it was just too glam rock for my stubborn punk palate. The majority of the people there and friends of the band seemed to enjoy it. Maybe I just hate any band with emo-influenced haircuts. I also hate it when anybody spells an “s” ending word with a “z.” Judge for yourself at: www.myspace.com/thehitz
Soon it was time for everyone’s favorite 5th grade teacher, the explosive vocalist Renae Bryant and her four cohorts in clamor, known as All or Nothing HC. The “HC” stands for hardcore and I have always wondered why it was necessary to tag that on the end. It turns out that some years ago, there was another band with the same name and the “HC” was added in order to avoid any potential legal entanglements. Even though I am not a fan of screaming vocals, this band sounds better each time I hear it live, and the crowd was excitedly eating it up. Yes, it’s hardcore in every sense of the word with hard, driving, fast beats providing the framework for overwrought, bellowed lyrics that usually mean something important. Each time the band gets tighter, seems to be more intently focused on its musical mission, and always has a set of devoted teens that shout the lyrics back at the band. During the surprisingly catchy song, “California is Bleeding,” my slightly inebriated friend Leah chided me for being irritated by the yelling because she simply could not get enough. “That chick is intense and you just can’t handle it.” “No, I just like it better when Renae sings” was my inaudible reply. My personal favorite is “Essential Freedoms”. Cool. Girl power. Positive message. Heavy energy. Nodes on vocal chords. www.myspace.com/allornothinghc
When The Vibrators finally took the stage, I took a moment to scan the crowd. It consisted of about 50% aging punkers in their 30s and 40s (like myself), and about 50% of the current, younger generation that looked to be between the ages of 15 and 25, but smelled just as bad as their elders. Sadly, founding member, vocalist and lead guitarist Ian “Knox” Carnochan was MIA due to heart disease, so his deep shoes were temporarily and quite impressively filled by Nigel Bennett (also of the UK band The Members). Vocal duties were dutifully and expertly meted out by bassist Pete. This was another one of those shows where it seems like there are not a lot of people until the headliner begins to play, and then WHAM! People seem to appear from nowhere and it is instantly crowded. Okay, even though I am old and have been to a thousand shows over the years, I am one of those people who don’t always pay attention to the names of the songs. That’s what was going on during this evening. I love The Vibrators’ music, but don’t necessarily know what was being played. I remember hearing the marching anthem “Troops of Tomorrow”, the syrupy-sweet and grungily-slow “Baby Baby (Won’t You Be My Girl)”, the pogo-inspiring “Stranded”, and of course…”Automatic Lover”. http://www.thevibrators.com/ www.myspace.com/thevibrators
I was having so much fun bouncing around to the chunky and distinctively simple sound of early UK punk rock while dozens of smiling, singing faces swirled all around. Unfortunately, the unifying and adrenaline-fueled feeling of camaraderie was suddenly interrupted by a sucker-punching fist to my right eye. Some young, bearded guy right in front of the stage kept elbowing me in the stomach and sternum, so after about eight or nine of those, I took him by the shoulders, and told him, “Hey! Don’t do that!” He responded with an angry, incomprehensible rant about two inches from my face, complete with tough-guy chest-bumping and wild arm gestures. Adrenaline, alcohol, and testosterone are often a bad mix so I did what my chemically-influenced mind dictated, I slowly raised my hand, held it a few moments next to his cheek, then deliberately and with much bravado, gave him a short slap in the face. POW! His girlfriend responded with the sucker-punch from nowhere and I backed up while the security guards grabbed the guy and dragged him to the door. Feeling bad, I asked them not to throw the guy out, and they nicely obliged to let him stay. I returned to the front of the stage and went back to frolicking and bouncing in the sweaty throng. What a night! It felt really good to enjoy all the great punk music, a bit of alcohol, some silly name-calling, a quick bit of a fight, tasty pizza, and the company of my good friends.