January 15th, 2011
Phoenix's punk community might not be the biggest or brightest music scene in the Valley, but, damn, it most definitely knows how to throw one hell of a wild wingding.
For instance, the annual Joe Strummer Benefit that took place last night. Beers were tossed, punches were thrown, funds were raised, and ears were melted in an all-out punk rock throwdown that went down at the George & Dragon in downtown Phoenix. And all of it in tribute to Joe Strummer, the late frontman for legendary British punk band The Clash.
Keith Jackson, frontman for renowned local punk act The Glass Heroes, was a pal of Strummer's (just ask him and he'll tell you all about it) in the years prior to the English-born guitarist's untimely death in 2002. Many of Strummer's nearest and dearest, including Jackson, have organized annual tribute concerts around the world that honor his legacy, celebrate his contributions to punk rock, and benefit his namesake charity (which helps provide musical training, rehearsal space, and studio time to kids and teenagers).
Over the past six years, Jackson has presented the Valley's version of these events, many of which were just as raucous as Saturday's blowout at the G&D. In addition to a gig by Glass Heroes (natch), the night featured a few of Phoenix's better punk groups.
The night was kicked off with a performance from Tin Can (a relatively embryonic outfit that includes members of such other memorable local punk bands as Family Secret and Bring Your Own Weapon), followed by the music of Labor Party and Asses of Evil (featuring former JFA drummer Mike "Bam-Bam" Sversvold on drums).
Things got a bit chaotic -- well, as far as punk shows go -- during a set by the Plainfield Butchers. A pair of patrons exchanged punches and engaged in the man-dance, interrupting the music and resulting in blood being spilt on the floor of the George & Dragon's dining room (where the stage was setup). After the melee was broken up, the wait staff mopped up the carnage and gave a bag of ice to one of the pugilists. Undaunted by the fracas, Westley Allen (of KWSS fame) and the rest of the Butchers continued with their songs.
There was also plenty of action when The Glass Heroes finished up the night, albeit without any fistfights. Like the others on the lineup, Jackson and company worked in a few Clash hits into their song list, including "Janie Jones" and "Tommy Gun," each of which resulted in the crowd pumping their fists and singing along.
I'm willing to bet that Strummer would've been proud.
Last Night: Joe Strummer Benefit at George & Dragon featuring Glass Heroes, The Plainfield Butchers, Asses of Evil, Tin Can, and more.
Personal Bias: London Calling is on my list of desert island albums.
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The Crowd: Punks, bikers, burnouts, greasers, hepcats, and skaters.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I've been in this scene longer than anyone I know."
Random Notebook Dump: The guy in the Blatz tee shirt looks a little blitzed.
One More Thing: George & Dragon's next punk night will be the annual St. George's Day celebration in March.