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Beer arches gracefully through the night like Silly String. Hair mats together in clammy clumps. Shirts already smell like Sunday morning's Saturday night. The front of the stage is crowded with bully-faced frat guys in shorts and visors who dance about even more ridiculously than could be imagined in any forgettable 1980s movie like Porky'sor Meatballs Part II. Proto-punk types posturing in the uniform of leather-boy badasses stand aside of these campus goobers. Members of local punk bands stand even farther off to the sides, heads nodding in concurrence with the slapdash beat.
Onstage at this outdoor show are the Impossible Ones, a band spraying some of the best punk rock/pop this city has seen in ages.
Spike-topped singer Squeal resembles Pete Shelly, if he had worn Buddy Holly specs during the Love Bitesdays. Tenderly tattooed over bits of baby fat, Squeal is your punk-rock little brother, a puppy dog power chorder with the voice of a seventh-grade choirboy. Bassist Gentleman John understands the whole Paul Siminon thing; he's the only earnest-faced guy in the bunch. Jeffro Lane has this unlikely drumming style that just looks, well, impossible. Sometimes it sounds that way. Guitarist Pisano Berrardo, 21, is well beyond his years in punk guitar hero wisdom.
The year-old Impossible Ones are a kidlike band of guys in their early to mid-20s who have done their homework, learned their history lessons well. They've learned, if you will, the ways of the masters, just like a proper rock 'n' roll band should. And it's not because they resemble some bastard brat of '77ers like the Boys, 999 or even the Vibrators, but because they inject juice into the collapsed vein of punk.
For one thing, there's loads and loads of sloppiness. So much sloppiness, in fact, that one wonders if the whole show could capsize at any moment. But that's the way rock 'n' roll should be. Beer must fly, bottles must break, chords must be played as if they'll never be played again. No matter if 10 or 300 people are there to witness. The Impossible Ones understand this.
Mind you, the Impossible Ones are not a great band. Yet, at this point, they don't have to be. They overstep shortcomings with genuine exuberance, a spirit that goes beyond getting all the chords in the correct order. Becoming a great band is only part of the process, the end reward for a collected experience. The lapel pins, leopard-print vests, rhombus-shaped sunglasses and skinny ties are all part of the posture. Take the spirit away and all you're left with is posture. And posturing is the theme running through much of the burgeoning local punk-rock scene.
And after all this, the group's songs still manage to bounce between the walls of your skull; band members falling down, missed beats, detuned guitars are simply part of the beer blast. All part of the tongue-in-cheekiness, the sheer sense of wanton energy, the glory of the musical blunder.
That's why, in my opinion, the Impossible Ones are, hands down, the best punk-rock band in town.
Besides, what's not to adore about a band that offers a rousing version of the Undertones' "Get Over You"?
Casa Impossible Ones is a mission-style, spray stucco beast in the cinderblocks of east Tempe. Ornamented with a brown lawn, falling chain-link, stray beer cans and a dirt-tinted sofa that sits on the front porch, the house complements the neighborhood's brutal architecture perfectly. Interior walls sport an American flag bearing John Wayne's stoic mug; Chevy car parts hang gallerylike; a bull's head sits here, beer company signs there, animal-print lampshades on thrift-store bases; a rent-to-own couch from the 1980s on which sits the most recent issue of punk journal Hitlist. The temperature inside must exceed 100. The air conditioner is busted.
How punk rock.
Out on the front-porch couch, with beers in hand, Jeffro and Squeal approach the Impossible Ones' yarn. With the exception of guitarist Pisano, they have all played with other local bands.
"We would just get together and get all shit-faced and try and figure out where we were gonna practice," the bubbly-mouthed Jeffro recalls between slugs of Bud. "It consisted of getting drunk and a lot of hopeful shit until we got it together."
Drummer Jeffro stands, lifts his shirt and reveals a tattoo that covers the whole of his back. It's an Elvis crucifix, not even skinny Elvis, but fat Elvis, done in bold strokes with lots of color. On his chest is a Grateful Deadish skull centered in a sapphire-colored butterfly. His arms are completely sleeved in tats. A shock of yellow in his short, greased spikes looks like squirts of mustard. Jeffro arrived here two years ago from Milwaukee, where he was employed as a die-caster.
"We just sit around and get drunk and put all our energy and heart into writing some halfway cool songs," he says. "And then we hear these bands that sound like they were recorded in a Dumpster and they got a record release and they are going on tour. We can play our instruments and write halfway decent songs, but about everything else we are kinda like newborns."