Club Red, Tempe
July 2, 2013
Anyone who might argue that punk is dead should consider Tuesday night's D.I. show at Club Red as proof to the contrary. What originally was billed as an eight-band lineup became a bit of a debacle when a last-minute change -- the rumor around the venue was that local punkers Plainfield Butchers split up -- prompted the club to open multiple stages for the show. What followed was a seven-band onslaught of various genres that melded together into one glorious night of rock music.
Black Thoughts opened the show to a small crowd. Their 30-minute set consisted of more talking than actual playing, although the few songs they had flowed pretty well. Due to the split bill, it would have been necessary to continuously walk back and forth between the two venues to catch all seven bands. This was made even more difficult by the lack of staggered set times, so there was virtually no way to catch everyone entirely. However, following Black Thoughts was Skull Drug.
I wish I could say something positive about this band. As I was listening to them belt out their altogether inaudible lyrics, suddenly their lead singer, who obviously spent more time trying to find the proper shade of blue Manic Panic than practicing, shouted at the audience, "Fuck you all. Thanks for coming out." As I sat there thinking "No sir. Fuck you for your uninspired attempt at NOFX parody," something wonderful happened.
My ears caught the sound of something in the background. It was a band in the Red Owl venue. I quickly excused myself and scrambled over to the other side.
The Combat Medic had just taken the small stage, playing to virtually no one. I had heard good things about this band a while ago and was a bit eager to see what they were about. I caught nearly the entire set. I found them to be a really solid three-piece.
The influence of The Clash on this band is absolutely unmistakeable. But The Combat Medic certainly doesn't come off as a wannabe cover band. They seemed to carry Joe Strummer along with them in their songs like "Windshield" and "Have a Nice Day" subtly, without being obnoxious. Singer Gil Rodriguez's vocal stylings are akin to a toned-down Lemmy Kilmister meets early Dickie Barrett, which I really dug. "Secret Door" and "Boundless" were also fantastic, and I was disappointed that the split-venue situation had left them with a nearly nonexistent crowd.
Afterward, I was outside when I caught the warmup of Coastal Drift. I was instantly impressed with their surf/reggae punk.
Again, I excused myself to catch their set. The four-piece had a tight sound and cohesiveness I hadn't anticipated. Again, they deserved a much larger crowd, for a band that had played with the likes of Agent Orange and Authority Zero. They started and ended the set with a few instrumentals.
It's nearly impossible to not compare their sound to the likes of Sublime or Homegrown when they have songs about "fucking chicks in San Diego" -- and when they ask the small crowd if they like Sublime before belting out a perfect rendition of "Garden Grove." "Invisible" and "Flat Broke" managed to keep the small crowd more than interested as Coastal Drift finished their set with "Kamakaze."
I hurried back over to the Club Red side to catch Reason Unknown. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I promised one of the band members I would catch their band at the first available opportunity, and Tuesday night was the night. Reason Unknown is simply some good ol' fashioned punk rock. The band really embodies something I assumed had disappeared with Craven Moorehead and The Ska Punk Show. But they rounded out the night for D.I. perfectly with an old-school sound on songs like "Middle Ground," "Working Class Hero" (a bit disappointed it wasn't the John Lennon song of the same name), and "1955."
Never have I witnessed a band, punk rock or otherwise, open a show with a piece of classical music. But that is exactly what D.I. did. They tore into a guitar-driven version of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Frontman Casey Royer quickly explained the band was a special kind of Spinal Tap. And they certainly cranked it up to 11.
I'd heard a story that Royer, out of boredom, took a job in Beverly Hills at a Subway. If that's true, it may explain his jittery stage presence. He never stood still. Even after the show, watching him sign autographs, he seemed incapable of focusing on one task for more than five seconds. But this anxiousness worked well during the set.
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"On the Western Front" and "Eminent" were followed by "Hang Ten" and "Falling Out." Unfortunately I thought songs like "HypoChristian" and "Surf Punks in the U.S.A." just weren't very good; the already cliche lyrics surpassed the norm to the point of becoming distracting. But D.I. seemed to really find their stride when delving into the old stuff, even if the new material lacked a certain conviction. "Richard Hung Himself," "Guns," and "Youth in Asia" sounded fantastic. Royer and the rest really seemed to be having fun, which I suppose is the whole point of it anyway. They finished out their set with "Perverted Nurse." All in all, I was astounded by the overall diversity and talent during the evening. Every band seemed to represent a different facet of punk rock that I was happy to bask in for the evening.
Last Night: D.I. with Reason Unknown, Skull Drug, Black Thoughts, Coastal Drift, Combat Medic, and Egregious at Club Red/ Red Owl. The Crowd: A mix of young and old. Highlight: Definitely the Bach. Random Notebook Dump: "Is this spoken word? I have to get out of here." Approximate Set List: "On the Western Front" "Eminent" "Hang Ten" "Falling Out" "HypoChristian" "Amoeba" "Voices" "Johnny's Got a Problem" "Stick" "Surf Punks of the U.S.A." "Prison Riot" "Richard Hung Himself" "Guns" "Youth in Asia" "Pervert Nurse"