On a quiet spring night several weeks ago, a radical metamorphosis took place within the normally placid confines of Tempe's Arizona Roadhouse Brewery. The usual clientele -- middle-class jeans-and-tee-shirt types -- was replaced by an invasion of leather-and-metal-spike-clad, greasy haired hellions and young ladies wearing more makeup than clothing. As one regular who stumbled onto the scene remarked, "This place is full of hooligans and sluts."
The occasion was the release party for the Daggers' first full-length CD, Lock Up Your Daughters, and had it not been a 21-and-over show, parents would have done well to follow the advice of the title. When the five-piece Tempe trash-rock outfit hits the stage, it's a pelvic-thrusting, mike-stand-humping, arms-flailing free-for-all. Punk rockers, skateboarders, black-haired girls with butterfly tattoos -- an inked epidemic of late -- all thrash about to the Daggers' libidinous punk rawk. There hasn't been a local band this sexually volatile and rowdy since the Beat Angels first appeared nearly a century ago (or so it seems). The electricity in the air is apparently charging impulses other than lust as well. "There was blood and broken glass everywhere, some dude was getting crazy hitting girls," recalls front man Abe E. Ruthless with a grin.
If the Daggers' audience's appearance sounds less than dignified (though the height of gutter-punk chic), the band considers the apparel mandatory. Lead guitarist Dave Reckless explains the quantum mechanics of the Daggers' brand of punk rock. "It's all about tight pants and leather, dude, shitty amps, loud guitars, and screaming."
"And throwing chicken sandwiches at people's heads at McDonald's," adds front man Ruthless, who's standing in his living room clad only in neon orange shorts, nursing a Natural Light. Within this self-defined framework, the Daggers are the quintessential punk band.
But if the Daggers are to be believed, the release party was far from one of their wilder shows. Lucky, the Daggers' bassist, swears that at one show, as if in a scene cut from the Stones' Cocksucker Blues, "this 16-year-old girl was fucking herself onstage with a billy club. She wanted us to give it to her, but we just couldn't do it."
All of the members are veterans of variously styled local outfits -- Ruthless played with Born to Ignorance and the Hard Pack, and fronts a side project known as the Fuck You Ups; Lucky and lead guitarist Dave Reckless were both in Vomitus; drummer Pickle was with the Trash Idols; rhythm guitarist Stitch Hopeless rocked with Used Needles.
The Daggers' repertoire isn't what one would call hard-core; it's punk rock that owes more to the stylings of the Dead Boys than to Minor Threat. It's simplicity with panache, and, as Reckless adds, "It's easy to play."
"It's totally for the girls," says Ruthless. "The girls like it when you shake your fuckin' hips." Whether the girls like it when he croons "I'll be your one night stand/I'll be your back door man all night pretty baby" (from "City Bus Girl") is open to discussion. Most songs on Lock Up Your Daughters are crude paeans of lust directed at the fairer sex, something that's obvious by the song titles -- "Get What You Got (I Wanna)," "Let's Get It On," "All Night Sucker," "She's Hot." The tracks that don't deal with getting some deal with drinking some. On the sinister "Whiskey and the Devil," the Daggers toy with the dark side of the bottle, singing "I been drinkin' whiskey, baby/And it makes me angry/I got nowhere I wanna be but angry."
"It's representative of life, man," Ruthless explains. "I talk about what I do and what I wanna do. They're not always the same thing, but mainly I think about sex and rock 'n' roll, and they're basically the same thing. It feels good, man."
Some might scoff at the rather simple nature of the band's lyrics, but they work the rudimentary themes with a slicked-up carnal attitude that makes songs like "She's Hot," whose entire transcription reads "I said yeah/All right/Ah yeah/She's hot/On fire/All night long, baby/She's hot/On fire all night long/She's hot, yeah," sound oddly romantic, if not downright sensitive.
The disc is littered with tough-guy samples from the seminal skateboarding movie Thrashin' (which features a badass skate gang called the Daggers), as well as female orgasmic gasping and moaning that the band claims is genuine (yeah, that's what all the girls say, dudes).
Paying respects to their rock 'n' roll forefathers, the Daggers also throw some covers into the mix -- a revved-up version of Tom Petty's "The Apartment Song," and a sneering rendition of Aerosmith's "Mama Kin."
The band recorded Lock Up Your Daughters at Tempe's Seventh Circle Recording with local producer Bob Bailiff, and subsequently shopped it around to a slew of national independent labels. The process was slightly less than selective. "I just picked up a Maximum Rock 'n' Roll and looked at the ads, then sent out about 20 tapes," Ruthless says.
Although most responses were of the "nice tape, but we can't do it" variety, the band found support from Logan, Utah's Unity Squad Records, which signed on to release the disc (available on vinyl as well). "We'd actually never heard anyone on their label, but they've been really nice to us and they've got great distribution," says Ruthless, shrugging.
Locally, the CD can be found at Eastside Records in Tempe and will soon be available at several other independent record shops.
In a further push for national exposure, the Daggers kick off their first tour at the end of the month with a show at the Green Room, then leave the Valley heading up the left coast. After a weeklong stint and a brief respite, the band will head east, spewing forth their testimonials of liquor and lust for the other half of the punk nation.
Being that the Daggers do indeed live the words of their songs -- only two of the members are employed (with one of those joining the ranks of working America mere weeks ago), there are obvious questions that come up. First of all, do they ever expect to make a living off their band?
"Fuck yeah we will," exclaims Ruthless, "we want the airwaves. We're gonna go on the fucking Warped Tour; if you're on the Warped Tour, you know you've made it. We'll make millions like Guns N' Roses. You may think we're fucking gay, but we're not gonna go away."
But Lucky is considerably more realistic: "We'll be broke forever playing rock 'n' roll."
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So if the Daggers don't invade mainstream America, the next question is when are they gonna grow up and become responsible adults? Or will we the people have to support their asses with welfare checks while they drink Natural Ice and watch WWF Smackdown, until dying an unnaturally old age ('cause alcohol, especially Natural Ice, is a preservative, y'know)?
"You're gonna support our asses by buying our records. And fuck you," exclaims Hopeless. Lucky swears he'll never take a dime from the government, while Reckless smirkingly mutters, "I've got a sugar mama. That's all I'm saying."
The Daggers are scheduled to perform on Tuesday, June 27, at the Green Room in Tempe. Showtime is 9 p.m.