No Grrrls Allowed, Just kidding, Opposite of that! (Perfect Pussy, Feral Future, Green Dreams and Utah Jazz, Bug Jar, Rochester, 7/16/2014)



Before the show that  night, we drank watermelon vodka and ginger ale splashed with grenadine and blue curacoa, the kind of slapdash cocktail you wind up drinking a week or so after a major holiday, when you throw whatever booze is in the house into a glass and name it after a character from the TV show you were streaming online all day.  So after loosening up with a few Joey Tribianis, we stomped off to the Bug Jar, and, for probably the first time in three years, arrived before any of the bands had started playing.  But the pbr’s were going down smooth and the cigarette smoke on the night air made me feel as youthful and nostalgic as the throwback 90’s gear on almost every scenester in sight.

The first band up was Utah Jazz, a three piece garage-punk group, in which two of the three pieces were girls and none of the three pieces was a bass player.  That’s right, two guitars!  No bottom end, just distortion, feedback and chords zooming around anarchically, furious, a buzzaw shriek, a banshee unleashed.  No disrespect to the singer/guitarist, whose Kathleen-from-Bikini-Kill screech was just as good as her Theo-from-The-Lunachicks bellow, or the guitarist/guitar player, 20140716_215122about whom I can recall no details aside from the fact that he was apparently a man, but my favorite person in this band was the drummer.  She, with her soaked rag of stringy hair flying about and her Bad Brains t-shirt, commanded a ton of spastic energy and was just a blast to watch.  Overall, I thought Utah Jazz was awesome; but as a habitual bass user, i feel obliged to say they could have used a bass player to fill out their sound.  On the real, y’all can train a clever farm animal to play that thing, and then you’d still technically be a trio.



Rochester locals, Green Dreams

The next band, Green Dreams was the one I was really looking forward to that night.  A beautifully crafted facebook announcement for the show had me stoked to see some kind of quirky feminist punk outfit with clever, socially-conscious lyrics about everything from bro culture in punk music to like, ghosts, basically the kind of stuff I nerd out on harder than Hunger Games.  In fact, they were even better than I expected.  Their structure was hella tight and the songs were mad catchy; I pogoed unself-consciously through the entire set.  The frontwoman, a tattooed time bomb in a baby dress, was Instagram friends with Shandi, so I felt a little geeky standing right next to the stage with my eyes glued to her the whole time, like I was some sycophant sucking up to a local scene-queen because the internet, but what choice20140716_222507-MOTION did I have?  She was incredible.  Midway through the set, the band took a breather while she did something that weak hearted, popularity obsessed punk rock bands have been too chicken shit to do for the past fifteen years; she delivered a rant.  She did what punks and revolutionaries are supposed to do, apologetically spoke her mind, giving a passionate speech in favor of something the media has been telling us all to hate for the past two decades: political correctness.  Well, maybe not for political correctness as such, but rather against what has been the dominant mindset for the last several years, that it is better to tolerate bigoted statements in the name of self-congratulatory, post-whatever irony than to confront ideas that keep us all subservient, and thus risk being seen as over-sensitive.  “Keep your patriarchy out of my punk scene,” she yelled, and she was right.  Confronting racist and sexist ideas is not about sensitivity; it’s about standing up against the ideas that have justified centuries of inequality and oppression, the same ideology that keeps us divided, fighting each other for the last portion of the wealth we all work to create.  And it’s about time we start remembering what side we’re on.

Feral Future, from Austin, Texas, followed Green Dreams with a loud, sexually charged set that proved something I pretend to have always said but in fact just made up for the purposes of this blog post: Austin don’t mess around.


Feral Future, with a special appearance by the mosh pit girls up front.

At first look, I thought their singer had no physical presence at all, by which I mean that there was no singer on stage, only a disembodied voice.  It took me a second to spot her down in the front of the crowd, wailing and shaking her hair in everybody’s face.  As it 20140716_231341turned out, her stage presence was too much for the stage to contain.  Later on in the set, Shandi handed me her big, carved wooden earrings for safe keeping and bounced up to the front, where all the shaved head chicks and new millennial riot grrrls were thrashing around and slamming into one another.  I stayed out of the pit because I didn’t want to trample a bunch of people and end up looking like a dumb drunk frat boy for the eight hundredth time, but you know how you can stand on the edge of a mosh pit and kind of gauge what the vibe is?  Well, bouncing there on the cusp of the pit where those girls were moshing each other, I could tell this: it was joyful.  As an outsider, I imagine it has to do with the freedom of finally being in a rock show environment that felt safe, about the rare opportunity to have fun with other women, but it’s a rare mosh pit that ever feels so happy.

20140716_235226The headlining act for the night, Perfect Pussy, was loud.  I mean thunderous, noisy and frantic, with the distilled energy of a lightning storm, or, if you prefer, a square mile of coca plants somewhere in South America, stripped bare.  I couldn’t stop watching the gonzo bass player, who was going ballistic throughout the band’s non-stop set.  He played nothing but chords, lending the band a certain killer-piano-trying-to-murder-you-while-tumbling-down-a-mountain sound that, combined with the unholy din erupting from the abysmal bowels of the synthesizers, made Perfect Pussy the sweat-soaked engine of sonic damnation that they were.  I mean all of that in a good way, in case it’s unclear.  The singer, a pixie cut blonde in a crazy, nylon, printed dress, had a stage presence that I could only compare to someone like Jello Biafra or Henry Rollins.  She held the slack from the microphone cable coiled in her hand and screamed into the mike like a singer in a straightedge band, with passion and intensity pouring from her eyes.  And as awesome as that was, here’s the thing: I couldn’t hear a word.  Not like I couldn’t20140716_235951_20 understand the lyrics; I couldn’t hear a single sound that she made over the noise of the band, from the beginning of their set to the very end.  Which was sort of a bummer, because the band seemed really great, but for all I know the singer sings like Cobra Commander and the songs are all about evangelical Scientology.

“Kill the bro inside your head,” the girl from Green Dreams had said during her epic rant.  After the Feral Future set, Shandi and I stood outside with some of the girls from the mosh pit, shouting about, “positive pits,” and, “girls to the front.” I thought about it on the way home, with my ears ringing and all that, feeling good and not even really that drunk.  The whole idea of counterculture is that you have some critique, some problem with the dominant culture.  When you give that up, when you accept the prejudices of the dominant culture- with slut shaming, with hilarious hipster racism, whatever- that’s when you stop being counterculture and become just a repackaged version of the same tacky bullshit this culture sells to everyone else.  Thankfully, I didn’t see any of that garbage going down at the Bug Jar Wednesday night.  It was one of the best nights out I’ve had in a while.


…and don’t think nobody appreciates the drummer, cause we do.


David Rovics, 10/9/13 Rochester

002David Rovics took the stage at the Flying Squirrel Community Space, in jeans and an ill-fitting t-shirt, looking nothing like a beloved quasi-rock star.  Midway through the first of his two sets that night, he asked for the lights in the room to be turned down, so that the stage lights would illuminate him while the rest of the room sat in semi-darkness and watched him strum his folk ditties on his acoustic guitar.  “Basically, I’m a shit anarchist,” he said.  “I like to be the center of attention.”

That’s right, last week we went to see a folk concert, not our customary musical milieu.  In fact, when I walked in an older guy by the door teased me about my mohawk and my Doc Martens, asked me if I thought I was going to a hardcore show.  Well, of course not, but I like to be ready in case a hardcore show breaks out.

For those of you who don’t know who David Rovics is, please let me explain.  You know those guys with the buttons pinned all over their jackets you hear wailing out tunes at every anti-war rally, the Bob Dylan impersonators who you see strumming their guitars at every Occupy encampment and every anti-fracking demonstration?  David Rovics is basically the king of those guys.  For the last two decades, he’s been travelling the world, playing at protests and for coffee shops full of left wingers, inciting the occasional riot, and amassing an impressive library of original songs.

After the show, he told me that he had over three hundred songs in his catalog, encompassing all of the typical leftist topics, and a few others that seem to be the idiosyncratic interests of Rovics himself.  That night’s set included recently-penned tunes about the government shutdown, ballads about activist movements in other countries, songs covering obscure episodes in history, and a tribute to a Greek activist dog with the courage to stand and fight in the center of a teargas cloud.  Besides all of that, there was at least one song about pirates.

With so many songs about so many different things, there came a point at which they all started to sound more or less the same.  I went home that night with the entire David Rovics persona stuck in my head, wishing I had a guitar to strum as every thought that passed through my brain took on the cadence of an Irish folk tune, all delivered in his folksy nerd voice, like They Might Be Giants doing Pete Seeger.

David had a great, self-deprecating sense of humor and an easygoing attitude that made him  a blast to spend a couple hours with, even if I was in a musky community room filled mostly with respectable, aging leftist strangers, and no booze.  On the way home, Shandi commented that he made politics entertaining and interesting, “unlike most political events.”

For me, the highlights of the evening came when he stopped trying to impress us with the new stuff and just played the hits.  It was a giddy thrill to shout the chorus to “I’m a Better Anarchist than You” or to belt , “Burn it Down,” at the top of my lungs with all of the local insurrectionists.  After the closing refrain of “Pirates of Somalia,” I told Shandi, “I like it when he plays the sing-alongs.  It’s like church.”

And the way I said it, it probably sounded like I was being ironic.  But the truth is I wasn’t, not even a bit.  Especially in times like these, when the world around us seems to be so irretrievably locked in the clutch or ignorant right-wing backlash, I’m always hoping for some kind of church service to break out.  Or like a riot, or a hardcore show.

Weird Ass Humans with Guitars and Harmonicas


This is an article about a show we went to a back on July 24, 2013 but never posted for reasons that are really not worth going into.  Unfortunately, AK from Black Bandit and the Stickups has, since the time of this interview, left Rochester to go back to college.  The whole city seems lost without him,and I hope he’s still playing music down there in New Jersey.


The story I’m told, that I’m going to pass along without bothering to verify, is that there is now a massive lake at the North Pole. And there’s more. With my own eyes, I’ve seen evidence of another disturbing portent, Seth Green and Giovanni Ribisi combining their talents for a new sitcom on the Fox Network. So, clearly, the world has had it. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse across the land, and since it’s all over, I’m glad I had the opportunity, last Wednesday night, to make it to the Bug Jar for the Rochester Teen Set Outsider two-year anniversary show.

Rochester Teen Set Outsider is a hard-working local zine available in sleazy locations all over the Flour City. It harkens back to an earlier epoch, scarcely imaginable today, when people used to communicate with each other in ink scrawled across sheets of paper, and augment their messages with cut and pasted pictures photocopied in high contrast with crudely suggestive cartoons scribbled on in ball-point pen.

Thanks to my incredibly rewarding job in the dishroom at Wegman’s, I arrived at the show late, and missed the first two acts. Shandi had to watch them herself, a blond shiksa goddess all alone at the edges of the stage, twisting her lithe body provocatively as she pointed her camera. Halfway through the Ian Downey is Famous set, when the singer took off his shirt to raucous applause, She told me, “That’s like the third male nipple I’ve seen tonight.” So I can imagine that the portion of the show I missed involved some seriously memorable display of the masculine chest.Image

Ian Downey is Famous put on an entertaining show. At first, I thought they were going to be a grunge band, because everyone in the group looked like they were over thirty-five. But, for the most part, they eschewed the muddy, plodding sound of your typical Nirvana imitators and played loud, energetic rock with shouted, rapid-fire vocals. After Ian divested himself of his button-down shirt (but kept his tie on), the band pummeled into the appropriately titled, “You Should Be Gayer.” Word up.Image

The dance floor was packed for the night’s closing act, Harmonica Lewinsky. They played an infectious and irresistibly danceable set of surf rockabilly. The crowd pulsed with the intense surge of electric sex and the air fogged with the stink of hot breath and sweat. It was rock and roll, as hot and funky as it was meant to be, the throng of humanity leaving the worries behind to wail out and enjoy themselves before the End of Days overtakes us all.

IMG_20130728_191935 (1)Between sets, I got the chance to do an impromptu interview with Black Bandit and the Stickups, the Rochester underground scene’s most memorable one-man noise-blues phenomenon. AK, otherwise known as Black Bandit, not only agreed to do an interview, an awkward and uncomfortable prospect there on the street corner with hundreds of Mohawks and hooligans clamoring past for hotdogs, but he lent me his pocket notebook and a pen to jot notes with since I came to the show woefully unprepared.

To ease into the interview process, I asked Black Bandit what his influences were. I knew that I had heard him mention Robert Johnson before, so I started there. He shrugged off the comparisons to classic blues artists like Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf, saying that those were the artists that people expect him, as a black man playing blues-influenced music, to name,

“So fuck that shit,” he said. “I’m really into Cockney Rejects, Man is the Bastard. People will hate me, but Morningstar. I see a lot of parallels between blues and metal.”

Picking his brain for other important influences, he said with a grin, “I don’t know, I’m not Wikipedia. But I’m into Southern sludge metal. It has that tension. Tension and release.”

Tension seems to be an important ingredient in the music of Black Bandit and the Stickups.

IMG_6012 (1024x683)Regrettably, I missed his set that night, but from what Shandi told me, he drew a crowd in with his deep, mournful singing. She said that the crowd stood in silence, completely fixated as AK sat with his guitar behind his kick-drum-suitcase under a single, dim spotlight.

I asked where that emotional intensity comes from, and he said, “I’m not comfortable expressing (myself), so I save it all up. I get this weird pain behind my eye and the bridge of my nose. Like, I have a pain in the back of my head and I’m dizzy with rage. Sometimes, it’s an overpowering feeling, like how little my fellow human beings care for my other human’s humanity.”

I asked how much that sense of injustice informs his songwriting, and he told me, “Not as much as I’d like. As a black dude in America I feel like there’s a lot of expectation for me to write that kind of stuff, but I don’t know. I’m not the 2013 Robert Johnson. You’re not going to pigeonhole me.”

AK describes the blues as, “Weird ass humans being weird ass humans with a guitar or

harmonica.” And if the world really is ending because of what we’ve managed to do with industry and thermodynamics, I suppose that’s the best legacy we can leave behind for alien explorers to puzzle over when they stumble upon the deserted ruins of our society. Our weirdness, our emotional baggage. The way we packed into sweaty music halls and shoved each other around, the zines that we taped together and Xeroxed while all the people more important than us were pushing the gas pedal through the floor and driving us to extinction. This is how we didn’t survive, but we made the best of it. This is how we were humans.

The Queers Again! Bug Jar, Rochester, 3-5-13.

On the way out the door to work the other day, I kissed my wife goodbye and got a static shock on the lip. I wrote an inpromtu pop-punk chorus about it, sang in a nasaly voice like the guy from New Found Glory, “Wear your cardigan sweater, baby, I wanna static cling to you.”

When Shandi rolled her eyes at the idea of my starting a pop-punk band, I said, “Hey, pop-punk’s coming back hard.”

The statement hung in the air. It was something I hadn’t thought about before, but the instant I said it, I knew it was true. It was in the zeitgiest, popping up like a mole infestation in my Facebook news feed. People who went metal nine years ago and tried to deny that they had ever bought Take off Your Pants and Jacket were ready to lace up their Chuck Taylors now that they had all had kids of their own and started going to church again. Pop-punk was coming back hard.

Shandi groaned. She said, “Yeah, but that doesn’t make it good.”

The first band Tuesday night was named after a word font. The Anderson Stingrays. We had come out to the Bug Jar to see The Queers again, this time in another city, frozen to the bottom of Lake Ontario. This was the first punk show we’d been to since moving to Rochester last September. It felt like it had been as long since we’d seen the sun. I’d spent six months getting familiar with the bus service and the heavy clouds that droop over the city’s spooky, Gotham-esque skyline. Rounding out the bill were Masked Intruder and Teenage Bottle Rocket, both hot new pop-punk bands that I had never heard of, even though they’ve been around for years.

Shandi went with the intent of swagging Joe Queer with a pedal from the guitar effects company she works for. I went because I’d been working as a grocery store dishwasher for three months and had yet to have a conversation with anyone, because I was putting up the wall of silence with everyone who tried to speak to me, because The Queers at Bernies, Columbus Ohio, in 2000, was the first real punk show I ever went to, and I was hoping that reconnecting with some part of that experience could give me an emotional foothold, something to catch myself on in my slide toward becoming a bitter, resentful old man.

The first thought in my mind as Anderson Stingray took the stage was, these guys really aren’t trying to impress anybody. They were wearing baggy pants with cuffs at the bottoms that scraped along the floor of the stage behind their Converse All-Stars. The band wore flannel and glasses and rocked the stage with the intensity of your uncle filling in on bass at the church barbecue. Their music was better than their stage presence. They played the kind of bubblegum punk where every song sounds like the Ramones version of a Beach Boys song. They sang about GTOs and high school. Shandi commented that she couldn’t stand watching thirty year-olds sing songs about being teenagers, but I likedtheir stuff. It was upbeat, easy to dance to. I started skanking to a song called I Don’t Wanna be a Vampire.


I really could have sworn these guys were wearing flannel.

They played a song by The Huntingtons, a band I was familiar with from listening to Tooth and Nail Records compilations when I was seventeen. When the set ended, I talked to the bass player about Christian punk from the nineties. It seems to me that, whatever I might have said when I was a Christian teenagaer listening to The Supertones, bands like Five Iron Frenzy and MxPx led a lot more Christian kids into punk rock than they ever led punk rockers to the Lord.

The bass player said, “Oh yeah, man, no doubt about it.”

Then I couldn’t think of anything else to talk about, so I shuffled off without remembering to get the guy’s name. I headed toward the front door to smoke rolled cigarettes in the cold, marveling at my ability to have an excruciatingly awkward interaction every time, wherever I am at.

Masked Intruder came on next, our chance to see what strikes the ear as an anarchronism: an up-and-coming, young pop-punk band. We missed the first half of their set because we were in the parking lot with a woman Shandi met in the restroom and her two friends, smoking weed in an SUV. With everyone in the van fumbling for a lighter, Shandi took one from her purse.

“Here, this one’s mine. It says USA on the side.”

The guy in the front seat who knows way more lyrics to Queers songs than I do said, “Cool. The USA’s cool.”

And then the guy across the back seat from us, said, “Well, the USA’ll be all right once we get rid of our president.”

This set off a largely incoherent conversation in which one person after another started to voice some opinion about politics but was immediately shouted over by someone else. I felt like I could almost remember a time in my life when I enjoyed getting into political arguments with people and wondered when it was that life got so crappy.

Eventually, the guy in the backseat said, “Pardon my racism, but it’s that he keeps giving all our money to these lazy niggers.”

I said, “Fuck that shit.”

I was across the car from the guy, trying to remember my training from my canvassing job last fall and maintain eye contact while I constructed my argument. Pardon my racism? Are you serious? I didn’t know what to say, so I said, “Fuck that shit,” again to buy time.

Shandi was sitting between us. She diffused the situation, telling him not to be racist and telling me not to fight. We stayed off politics while we finished the pipe and headed back to the show.

I was left wanting to finish the argument. So for any other weed smoking, Obama hating, frustrated white thirty year-olds who might be reading this: It’s one thing to sit back and listen to you rehash the talking points from Fox News about how Obama’s bad for small business. You should know better. You were an adult when the George Bush destroyed the economy with tax breaks and deregulation and you should damn well know better, but I can let it slide. But the people you’re looking down on, I see them everyday, and they’re taking the bus to work just like I am. So if you think you’re better than them, then you think you’re better than me, too. All your racist argument does is split the workers against themselves for the thousandth time on the basis of race, this time so we can fight each other for the leftovers when the billionaires are done picking what remains of civil society to the bone. When you say nigger in a car full of white people you’re asking me to throw in my lot with the Klan and the slaveholders, the cops and the lynch mobs, and take my place in a five century long history of racist oppression. And you can stuff that shit in your backpack and fuck right off.

We pressed into the crowd to watch the last half of Masked Intruder’s set. The Intruders dressed all in black, each member wearing a different colored ski mask that matched his Chucks. The stage show was incredibly energetic, considering that the entire band had their faces covered in wool ski masks and the show was half over. The singer wore glasses under his mask, which made him seem nerdy. This is going to sound sarcastic, but the singer’s glasses made the whole band considerably more likable.

The band played pop-punk. They did it without irony or subterfuge. They didn’t try to dress it up as rockabilly or play a few upstrokes and call it ska. The band played pop-punk proudly and without fear. One wondered whether they would have had such courage without their masks to hide behind. Could they have stood before us and made such unself-conscious love to the aging corpse of pop-punk if we could see their faces and know who they were?

About two rows of people in front of us, the mosh pit kids were shoving each other around. I felt like jumping in, but I was carrying my backpack stuffed with my big Carhart, Shandi’s winter coat, and down in the bottom, an Amp Drive distortion pedal from Holowon Industries. So I stood there, bobbing my head, looking like a trout.

After a short break, The Queers took the stage and instantly made everything we had seen so far that night seem chintzy and weak. They wasted no time setting up. Joe Queer plugged in, let a chord rip through his speaker and said, “Hey, we’re The Queers, and we’re the best motherfuckin pop-punk band in the world.”


I was immediately swept into the mosh pit that engulfed the room the second the music started. It seemed spontaneous, like a weather phenomenon. When you play this music in a crowded room, the people pressed into the pit start to pogo and shove each other naturally, the same way high pressure systems and low pressure systems collide and cause tornadoes. Before I knew it, I was holding on to my gigantic, overstuffed backpack as the tidal motion of the crowd swept me from one side of the stage to the other.

As Joe mentioned in his introduction, The Queers play pop-punk, but not that kind of pop-punk. They started playing their brand of Ramones-styled bubblegum pop songs back in 1981, and released their first album on Lookout! Records in 1993, years before pop-punk became a sub-genre unto itself, with its characteristic riffs and phrasings that set it apart, its own genetic markers that make every band sound the same. Because they came along earlier, they don’t share the same genetic markers. They don’t belong to the same species as the later wave of bands that rode the Warped Tour busses out of California to overrun America and dominate the movie soundtrack of every teen rom-com from the year 2000 to 2005.


They had an effortless command of the stage and a loud, infectious sound that demanded dancing. Stumbling through the pit, clutching the strap of my backpack, I was lifted out of the frigid, garbage-strewn city, away from the hopeless desolation of middle age and transported back to that first Queers show, thirteen years ago. Back then, I was too young to drink and I passed most of the night shuffling around the Bernie’s crowd with my hands in the pockets of my knock-off JNCOs while my friend, Ratboy, a year younger than me, guzzled beer out of pitchers and had the time of his life. I didn’t even start to have any fun until I made it into the mosh pit. I pushed my way to the stage and felt the passion of the crowd surround me, cover me with sweat and beer stink.

This show felt like that one, all those years ago. I discovered again how participating in the show qualitatelively changes its content, makes it something it wasn’t before and couldn’t be without your help. When you’re in the pit, you become a part of the show. Standing around on the outskirts, you just dodge elbows and smell farts. It’s only when you join in that punk rock realizes its potential.

Halfway through the set, Shandi shouted into my ear between songs. She said, “I can’t wait till they play Punk Rock Girls.” And just as the words left her mouth, they broke into Punk Rock Girls. It was perfect.

The headliner for the night was Teenage Bottle Rocket. I assume that they are the future of pop-punk. Maybe they have kind of a dumb name, but they have a dope-ass logo, and that counts for a TON. I don’t know what they sound like. We missed their set because we were in the back alley drinking a forty ouncer with some of the local squatter punks. I wanted to try to meet people, since we’re still new in town. So we reached out, and I guess it turned out ok. Even though we missed the band, a repatriated Rochesterian full of stories about his life as an illegal alien in Canada gave us some idea of what local bands and venues we should check out, information that I swiftly forgot.

We ate a 2 am dinner of cheese and eggs when we got home, and drank plenty of water so we weren’t too hung over the next morning. I had an emotional hangover, though. I woke up feeling like I had made a fool of myself the night before. My memory of the night seemed to be a great rock and roll show floating in a sea of uncomfortable moments. And even during the show, I was carrying my backpack in the mosh pit, probably bopping innocent thirty-year-olds in the nose all the while like an arsehole. It seemed that the ability of a rock show to deliver a momentary experience of transcedance was as strong as ever, but that my ability to hang on to that transcendance and not revile myself in the morning had withered horribly.

It had been an awesome show, a great night, but I still found a way to feel bad about it. I can’t wait for the inevitable pop-cultural resurgence of emo in a couple years. Because I really used to hate on emo; I never really gave it a chance. But I think I might like it better, now that I’m older.

Peter and the Test Tube Babies, South Moes (Denver), 3/28/2012

photo by Shandi Rine http://outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comI didn’t get much done before work yesterday.  I slept late and spent the afternoon putzing around in my ugly silver gym shorts and the same black tank top I had on the night before, wearing my Cedar Point flip flops down to the Sonic to fill up on Tater Tots that I hoped would soak up the alcohol still eddying around in my digestive track.  I slept through an entire disc of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on DVD.  This was a time for recovery, a time for cobbling the bits of my ego back together and trying to refocus the blurry, furious memories of the incredible punk show I had been to the night before with British punk legends Peter and the Test Tube Babies.

photo by Shandi Rine http://outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comTypically, we arrived at the show late.  Shows in Denver tend to end around midnight, and start at something like six in the afternoon.  Maybe that’s an exaggeration; I can’t be sure.  I’ve never been to any bar here early enough to catch the beginning of a show.  The opening acts were 99 Bottles, The Potato Pirates, and The Bad Engrish, all bands I had been hearing a lot about since we got to town but hadn’t yet had the chance to see.  I was looking forward to seeing the local bands as much as I was to seeing Peter and the Test Tube Babies.  Well, almost as much.  Ok, not even close, but I still really wanted to catch their sets.

photo by Shandi Rine

99 Bottles

We got to the bar a little after 9, just in time to snap one righteous picture of 99 Bottles, Colorado Springs’ most ferocious Oi band, before they ended their set.  “One more song,” I screamed, “We just got here,” but to no avail.

photo by Shandi Rine http://outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comWe stepped toward the stage, into the thick, stinking heat still hanging in the room from too many bodies sweating, too many lungs converting oxygen to greenhouse gas.  The punks and the creeps and the skins were all dissipating, retreating to find thinner air, beer and cigarettes.  “It’s hotter than a god damn in here,” I said, my apparent catch-phrase for the night.  I would have several occasions to repeat it before the show was finished.

photo by Shandi Rine

I forgot to mention, the guy from The Potato Pirates played washboard on a couple songs.

As we made our way through the tangle of bodies and the swell of ambient noise from a hundred shouted conversations, Shandi found herself in the disadvantageous position of being perched atop a pair of high heels.  They made her legs look even longer than normal in her new red pencil skirt, but she was unaccustomed to balancing on what amounted to pegs under her feet.  I would spend the rest of the night doing the work of an offensive lineman, blocking my long-legged quarterback from the furious onslaught of blitzing moshers, boot-clad human cannonballs hurtling out of the pit with nothing but drums and the fury of guitar fuzz filling their brains.  “From now on,” she told me, “I’m wearing my Doc Martens’ to these things.  I don’t care.”

photo by Shandi Rine http://outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comThe Potato Pirates started their set with the wheezy strains of bagpipe chords giving way to the galloping thunder of hardcore punk.  These guys took the scatter gun approach to playing vaguely-oi-ish music:  rather than specializing in hardcore punk, ska-punk or celtic rock, the Pirates shifted gears between all three.  All the major skinhead food groups, as it were.  They played in all three genres fairly well, though I tended to prefer the more ska sounding songs, probably because I never got over 1997.   The celtic stuff was the least well developed, the bagpipes functioning more as a prop than adding to the overall music.  The last half of a song that I heard the PPs play when they opened for The Slackers back in February had, for some reason, left me expecting a much more pop-punk oriented band than what I saw at Moe’s that night.  I had it in my head that they had sort of a nineties So-Cal sound, but the Bagpipe wielding band I saw on Wednesday night was much more bad ass.

photo by Shandi Rine http://outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comThe low point in the Potato Pirates’ otherwise rockin’ set came toward the end, when one of their songs devolved into a crowd of guys chanting “Suck my dick” into the microphone.  There is nothing on earth outside of a Rush Limbaugh broadcast that sounds more like the sonic interpretation of an angry, two-inch boner.

photo by Shandi Rine

The Bad Engrish

The Bad Engrish is Denver’s inescapable punk rock band.  Since we moved here I have been seing their logo everywhere, on posters, stickers, on patches sewn onto denim.  In their logo, the A in “Bad” is an anarchy sign, but I didn’t notice any overt political messages in their music.  Truth is, I’m having a hard time remembering any specifics from their set, apart from raising my fist to sing along with a chorus of “Punk and Proud,”  and trying to maneuver around a four-foot –wide photographer up front to get pictures of the crowd surfers.  The highest compliment I can give the Engrish –and this is likely meaningless to anyone outside of Columbus circa 2001- is to say that at times they reminded me of Little Orphan Anarchy, only without the air of drunken, chaotic sloppiness that was the hallmark of those old Bernies shows from back in the day.  No, the Bad Engrish were consummate professionals, their street-punk style honed to tightly executed perfection.  One could imagine them playing a Hellcat Records showcase or the Volcom stage at Warped Tour.  Coming out from behind her camera after taking a few shots of the band, Shandi leaned (more accurately stooped; she’s much taller than me in heels) into my ear and asked if I thought the guitar player would be pissed if she described him as “a cross between Sherman Alexie and Joe Strummer.”  I didn’t figure he would, though I don’t know that he actually looked like Sherman Alexie as much as he just had his hair braided like the dude from Smoke Signals.

photo by Shandi Rine http://outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comThe singer, sporting a foot-tall scarlet Mohawk and a Cock Sparrer belt buckle, was a clear Anglophile.  Once, between songs, he told the crowd, “If you’re sitting next to someone with a British fucking accent, buy him a fucking drink.”  After the energetic set from The Bad Engrish, we were ready for the Brits themselves to take the stage.

photo by Shandi Rine http://outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comShandi and I tucked into a spot by the monitors at stage right that we would occupy for the rest of the show.  We felt the breeze thrusting from the speakers as the bass did a sound check.  The show was an absolute frenzied mêlée.  I kept my elbows out, trying to hold back the crowd from toppling the six feet of tattooed Roman sculpture that was my beautiful blond wife.  I had taken a vow, I reasoned, to protect her in all mosh pits, and fulfilling that duty was more important than trashing around with the rest of the shitheads.  There was only so much that I could do, though.  We both came away from the show with our knees bruised from the bumping against the stage and our ears ringing for the next two days.

photo by Shandi Rine http://outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comPeter and the Test Tube Babies, who look like such sweet kids in all the pictures of them from the eighties, were by now old limey perverts with punk rock t-shirts straining to cover their beer guts.  In contrast to artists like Mike Ness, who have learned hard lessons from a life of loud music and substance abuse, Peter & the TTB had the affect of a group of friends who had been hitting the bottle hard and playing punk rock for over thirty years and had enjoyed every minute of it.  At center stage, Peter (who, according to his webpage, is an ESL teacher when he’s not preforming his duties as a punk legend) spent much of the show mock-wanking his microphone and flirting with the girls in the front row.  Between songs, the band joked with each other in an indecipherable Cockney patter.  I couldn’t make out a word, but I did get the idea that they were fond of some of the local microbrews.

photo by Shandi Rine http://outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comThe Denver show was one of only five stops that the Test Tube Babies were making in the non-California U.S.  People had come from all over to this otherwise insignificant barbecue restaurant on South Broadway for their best chance to see P & the TTB play live.  One guy handed me a stack of vinyl stickers for his band, “a traditional oi band,” he told me, “from Des Moines.”  According to Google, that’s seven-hundred-miles one way, and most of it is through Nebraska.

photo by Shandi Rine

Keep Britain untidy.

The big payoff came at the encore, when the Test Tube Babies returned to the stage and played the classic, slow version of “Elvis is Dead” to a grateful swarm of screaming young guppies.  Later, downing shots of tequila and Jagermeister in defiance of all good judgment with some of the local rudies, we reflected on our situation.  The Great Recession (damn Reaganomics!) has been hard on us, fraught with the layoffs and unemployment that our corporate overlords have chosen to inflict on the entire American working class in order to increase their own profitability.  Now, we found ourselves a thousand miles from home facing the greatest economic instability we had ever encountered, without even a group of friends to commiserate with.  “This was great, though,” Shandi said, “this was just the show that I needed.”

photo by Shandi Rine

photo by Shandi Rine

photo by Shandi Rine

photo by Shandi Rine

photo by Shandi Rine

photo by Shandi Rine

photo by Shandi Rine

The A-Oks, The Namesakes, Arach Attack, Disguise the Spy, Denver, 2-23-2012

Photo by Shandi Rine

Certain details in this post may be exaggerated.  Others are made up entirely.  -Dave.

We made it to Moe’s Original Barbecue and Bowling in time to see Disguise the Spy play their last two songs.  The door guy at the bar, a laid-back mountain hippie type with a sandy beard, asked what band we had come to see.  The A-Oks, we told him, but what did we know?  We had only been lured out that afternoon by a tumblr post, posted by a girl with “skanks” in her screen name.  Shouldn’t she know a good ska band?  The people on the Facebook event page for the show who couldn’t make it all said that they wished they could be there.  They seemed sincere.  Anyway, that was all we had to go on.  We were in a strange town, torn from our homes and planted in the shallow soil of this dusty city on the edge of the Rocky Mountains.  The people here are, on average, two letter grades better looking than people in Ohio.  It’s a lonely, alienating experience, stumbling around in the bright sunlight, gasping for breath in the thin air while stunningly beautiful people in North Face jackets avert their gaze in palpable discomfort.  Truth is, we came to the local ska show out of desperation.

Photo by Shandi Rine outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comThe stage at Moe’s is in an open area at the end of a long lunch counter.  You could probably cram a hundred punks in there before the cloud of body odor and beer breath reached critical mass and became a threat to public health.

Photo by Shandi Rine

The geetar player from Arach Attack.

Disguise the Spy looked something like a gang on stage, with a shaved-head dude screaming into the mike.  We heard them play two songs.  The first seemed to party on the screamo side of hardcore while their final number was a pretty catchy Fat Wreck Chords style punk tune.  As a result, I don’t have a clear idea of what Disguise the Spy sounds like.  For all I know, they could be a pretty badass Oi band.

Photo by Shandi Rine outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comThe next group, Arach Attack, seemed to think they were having a bad show, but I had fun anyway.  They distinguished themselves by playing the first Nerf Herder cover that I’ve ever heard and with the fact that the guitar player/singer spent the set sipping from a bottle of Robotussin and an aluminum can of PBR.  They played the kind of beer-fueled punk rock that you can throw away the best years of your life dancing to in a dirty basement bar, soaking your jean jacket in the baseball game smell of cheap beer, pumping  your fist and singing along with the Misfits covers.  If you get lucky.

Photo by Shandi Rine

The Namesakes

Photo by Shandi Rine outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comThe Namesakes took the stage next, looking fit, nerdy and ready to rock in Buddy Holly glasses.  They tore into a set of what turned out to be pretty good emo that got the crowd moving and caused several young women in the audience to swoon.  And why not?  These guys looked like Weezer and they were playing verifiable emotional heartthrob rock.  The boyfriends and male acquaintances of the effected young ladies took note of what was happening and proceeded to sublimate their jealous rage by battering each other bloody in the mosh pit.  What ensued was some of the most poignant, heart-rending violence it has ever been my dubious fate to witness.  Mohwaked gladiators, tattered Sublime t-shirts hanging in ribbons from their pulsing baby fat, tears streaming down their faces as fist packed against flesh, all unfolding to music that would have been at home in the soundtrack to a teen comedy from 2002.  An American Pie sequel, it seemed, had gotten brutally real, inciting a massacre of self-loathing.  A grim emo spectacle, indeed.

Photo by Shandi Rine outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comAfter the Namesakes, Shandi and I stepped out the back door into a closed off alley behind the bar to have a smoke and see who we ran into.  In what may be a foreshadowing of unimaginable changes waiting for us at the end of the Mayan calendar, the first people we encountered were a skinhead and a hippie sharing a ride.  They had to leave early, racing the clock back home to Colorado Springs.  “The Springs” is said to be an unsafe place after midnight.  Could it be because press gangs from Focus on the Family troll the streets of Colorado Springs at night with blackjacks, clubbing the vulnerable and forcing them to run a blood diamond pyramid scheme for Rick Santorum’s super-PAC?  Well, I would certainly hate to start that rumor.

Photo by Shandi Rine

Check out the Poke ball tattooed on the Bass player's forearm and the Maoist Pikachu on the sax dude's t-shirt.

After talking to a bar employee, who politely told us that he had just finished smoking a blunt in the cooler, thanks, we saw the bass player from The A-Oks.  When I told him we’d be blogging the show, he said, “The A-Oks, we’re party-core,” and headed in to the building.

Photo by Shandi Rine outtogetthehoney.tumblr.comI don’t think the circle pit of skanking kids stopped for longer than a minute or two during the A-Oks set.  They tore by in an endless cyclonic blur, pins and patches, liberty spikes and elbows, comet punks flying out of orbit and crashing into the crowd.  They skanked faster than I could skank, skanked hard enough to void the factory warranty on your Doctor Martens.  And this went on for an hour.

Photo by Shandi Rine

The A-Ok's. They're party-core, eh? Ok.

The A-Oks played 90’s style ska-core, the kind of music that would generally be playing in the background when I was seventeen, picking myself up off the pavement after failing, once again, to kickflip.  They played it brilliantly.  With the entire band dancing around the stage and the saxophone player doing a goofy pantomime along with the lyrics, they supplied the energy to keep the mêlée of kids in the pit oscillating at such deadly speeds.  A whole flock who stayed glued to the stage seemed to know all the words.  It was all the effervescent fun that a ska-core show is meant to be, and none of the posturing, none of the weird guilt.Photo by Shandi Rine

I thought back to the spring of 1999, when I saw Five Iron Frenzy play in a Baptist church in Lancaster, Ohio.  Back then I was a Christian teenager, lost and alone, trying to decode a message from an angry god in the giddy transcendence that I felt while jostling with the sweat soaked crowd at what was then the best rock show of my life.  Now, here I was, thirteen years later, watching what could be a Twilight Zone version of the same band a thousand miles away.  My wife was with me, and maybe we were lost, trapped in a strange city without jobs or friends, but we certainly weren’t alone.  We had each other to share those noisy, breathless moments of transcendence, when the music hits and you don’t feel like an outcast anymore, or even a stranger in town, when we are who we want to be, and we are right where we belong.

The Toasters, 11/5/11

photo by Shandi Rine

The Mulligans' horn section

You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, and you may ask yourself, “how did I get here?”

Or, you may find yourself tightening the laces on a pair of steel-toed, oxblood Doctor Martens, pulling half-inch suspenders over your shoulders.    You may ask yourself, what choices led me here and what could I have done differently.

photo by shandi rine

This is the kind of healthy ska solidarity that ska anxiety keeps millions of Americans from enjoying.

Should I have ditched ska when the more marketable rap-rock supplanted it as MTV flavor of the month in the late nineties, maybe hopped on the emo wagon a decade ago and rode it to respectable indie Rockville?  Was the option of crewing up with some tough guys and getting into hardcore ever open to me?  Should I have followed the rest of my generation and accepted the grimy embrace of metal and facial hair?  You may find yourself at a scooter rally or on a SHARP facebook group.  You may say to yourself, my God, what have I done?

Psychiatrists refer to these problems as ska-related anxiety.

photo by Shandi Rine

The Toasters' horn section

The typical diagnosis is a Trojan Records compilation and a stoned viewing of The Harder they Come.  Predictably, one builds up a tolerance for such remedies, and each return of the sickness demands a stronger shot of dope.  The remedy for my considerably advanced case of ska anxiety came unexpectedly, in the form of a trip to Cleveland to watch what’s left of the Toasters play at the Grog Shop last Saturday.

I imagine that a Clevelander would experience a trip to Columbus as a journey to some

photo by Shandi Rine

Shandi at Cleveland's Grog Shop

kind of Twilight Zone where things are a lot like what you’re used to but the people have been replaced by robots.   For a Columbus person, heading to Cleveland is a psychedelic hellride down Alice’s rabbit hole to a mind-warped Gotham City with every conceivable social ill cartoonishly distorted past the point of reason, an urban funhouse mirror where you’re likely to experience stark revelations of your deepest soul.  As soon as Shandi and I hit town, we used the bathrooms in a Cleveland Heights Wal-Mart that was randomly strewn with piles of returned merchandise and were pulled over on the way out of the parking lot for having a busted tail light.  Such an unwelcome intrusion adds an important element to the Cleveland experience: a reason to drink, a reason to let sanity slip from your grasp and surrender to the merciless, jangling dance with death that waits for you in the Mistake on the Lake.

The Grog Shop is tucked into a trendy corner along a strip of nice looking restaurants and night spots in Cleveland Heights.  We parked a quarter mile down the street and, figuring our bad luck with the law was over for the night, broke into a bottle of cheap champagne.  We got to the bar a few minutes before the first band went on.

photo by Shandi Rine

The FANS were all over the place.

The band was called All Over the Place.  My expectations sank as a ragtag group of teenagers took the stage and the frontman, a scraggily bearded kid in glasses and a flannel, announced to the crowd that the band was seventy percent new members.  Nothing creates a bad vibe for a show as well as a band apologizing for their poor performance before the first song.  Rock stars don’t apologize.  The Stones never even apologized at Altamont.

photo by Shandi Rine

Leaders of the new ska? All Over the Place

Once All Over the Place started, a miraculous transformation swept the crowd.  Scores of young kids, college freshmen, kids with black marker X’s drawn on their hands, guys in porkpie hats from the thrift store, sprang suddenly to life and started skanking across the Grog Shop floor.  My face lit up.  The mood in the place immediately elevated shot up about five levels.  It was incredible.  There was a local band on stage and numbers of young people were unselfconsciously enjoying themselves, dancing despite the heckling snobs sipping beer in the back of the room.  I felt like I had been transported thirteen years back in time to when I was young, when everything outside of Saint Louisville, Ohio, was pregnant with excitement.  The main difference between this gleeful crowd of kids skanking in a ferocious circle pit and the kids from back in the nineties was that back then we wore much baggier pants.  Truth is, the skinny jeans look way cooler.

photo by Shandi Rine

The Toasters members seemed to be having a good time too.

My ska anxiety began to lift, bubbling away in the effervescent joy of dancing, horns and guitar chops on the offbeat.  All Over the Place didn’t play the kind of music that I was used to.  It was a new hybrid I hadn’t heard before, ska flavored indie rock.  I’m out of touch with new music enough to imagine that this style could come to dominate the new landscape of ska if the nineties revival sweeps it back into the spotlight.  After all, Reel Big Fish and Less Than Jake played ska flavored pop-punk, and Madness and the English Beat played ska-flavored new-wave, so a weird beast born of ska and indie rock seems like a logical extension.  The All Over the Place set was, as the pre-show disclaimer prepared us for, sloppy at times.  But I’ve never held sloppiness against a band.  Their greatest fault was their lack of energy and confidence.  With a name like All Over the Place, you would expect more energy and movement.  All the energy in this set was provided by the crowd.

Between bands, the house music was all pop-ska stuff from the nineties.  No 2-Tone, none of the classic Jamaican stuff.

photo by Shandi Rine

The Mulligans

At one point, “Same in the End” by Sublime started playing and after singing along with the first line I realized that dozens of dudes all around the room were singing along; nobody raising their voices to sing along with each other, just a bunch of disconnected guys simultaneously singing along with the same song at medium volume.

The Mulligans took the stage next, clad in sharp black outfits and white ties.

photo by Shandi Rine

The Bass player from the Mulligans. I talked to this guy in the bathroom. By the way, the Grog Shop men's room is whack.

They had a solid, tight sound, danceable third-wave ska in the Pietasters vein that sounded like they had been playing together for years.  Toward the end of the set they kicked in the distortion pedals and played a few tunes in more of the ska-punk style.  I liked the earlier stuff better, but one thing that the throwback Buck O’Nine songs on the house speakers taught me is that the nineties stuff is retro-cool now and nobody needs to be ashamed of ska-core anymore.

With the help of a couple tall boys of PBR and a shot of vodka, The Mulligans had obliterated whatever was left of my anxiety.  There was nothing left to hold me back from enjoying the show.  I took a place up next to the stage monitors and watched the Toasters sound check.  The website for The Toasters’ thirtieth anniversary tour cautioned that some of the faces may have changed over the years.  Most of the guys on stage looked to be about my age, which means they must have been infants in the early eighties when Rob Hingley came to New York City from England and started a band based on the 2 Tine sound popular in his home country, started a record label, the infamous Moon Ska Records, to release his band’s albums, and initiated what would subsequently become known as the third-wave of ska.

photo by Shandi Rine

Two Tone Army!

The crowd never stopped moving for The Toasters.  They shouted along with “Two-Tone Army,” and oi-oi-ed with “East Side Beat.”  Hingley drank Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and gave a shout out to the Occupy protesters before they closed with “Don’t let the Bastards Drag you Down.”  Considering the enthusiastic crowd response when Hingley merely mentioned the cover art to Dub 56, I was surprised that they didn’t play more songs from that album.  They stuck mostly to songs from Skaboom and Bastards.  One of the highlights for me was dancing with Shandi to their classic version of “Run Rudy Run.”

photo by Shandi Rine


The set ended (After the obligatory encore.  The Toasters came back on stage after the bass player exhorted the crowd to chant “Shit” in unison), and Hingley took a seat over at the Merch table. I got to line up with the Cleveland ska kids and buy patches that said “Rudeboy,” and “Rudegirl” from one of the legends of third-wave ska.  Shandi drove us down the dark, quiet freeway back home to Columbus.  I was full of PBR, vodka and whiskey, considerably star-struck; I had been infused with excitement from the kids, thoroughly rocked by the bands, and I was looking forward to breaking into the bag of Funyuns we had picked up at a gas station on the way up to the show.  My ska-related crisis was resolved, and the Rob Hingley’s immortal words from “Naked City” felt as true as ever:

There’s a lot of bands in the naked city, and we’re just one of them

There’s a lot of bars in the naked city, and we’ve been thrown out of every one of them.

There’s a lot of ways to dance in the naked city, but tonight there’s just one!

Ska, Ska, Ska, Ska!

For more pictures or to tag yourself, check out Shabdi’s Face book album here.
photo by Shandi Rine

photo by Shandi Rine

Don't Let the Bastards Drag You Down!