6 Rounds of Punk with The Misfits, The Vandals, Strung Out, and Guttermouth @ Celebrity Theatre| 11/9/12
6 Rounds of Punk is a dream come true for fans of good ol' punk rock. Okay, so maybe not in 2012, but it would have been a dream lineup a decade or two ago. When tours like this happen, it's often questionable why these bands bother hitting the road. The common assumption is that it's for the money, which would explain the steep $35 ticket price, though we cling to the hope that it's for the love of music.
Regardless of motives, 6 Rounds of Punk featured four very well established punk bands that have made their way in to Arizona many, many times over the course of the past 20 to 35 years. Through numerous lineup changes, drug use and abuse, getting thrown off, err...voluntarily leaving Warped Tour, these bands somehow continue to persist.
To be frank, I had low expectations of last night's show. In 2007, I saw the Jerry Only-fronted Misfits at Venue Scottsdale and hated it. I reluctantly purchased a $40 ticket so I could see Agent Orange, though I ended up leaving part way through Misfits' set because the performance was sloppy and the pacing was screwed up.
I also photographed the abomination known as Dead Kennedys a few months ago, so this whole classic punk bands performing with a different singer thing left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. But hey, I was head over heels in love with every band on the lineup at one time or another, so why not? I was pretty much guaranteed to hear "Where Eagles Dare," "I've Got An Ape Drape," "Bring Out Your Dead," and "Lipstick" last night, so I figured I didn't have much to lose. After all, lowered expectations usually mean fewer disappointments.
First up was Guttermouth, a.k.a. "I can't believe my parents let me listen to this shit when I was in junior high." True to its namesake, Guttermouth is pretty vulgar (see: "Lucky the Donkey" which is about a, umm...lucky donkey and a not so lucky woman). I vaguely remember frontman Mark Adkins shooting his mouth off at the band's show with Nerf Herder at Club Rio way back in the day. Nothing in particular stuck out, but it didn't seem too atrocious.
Last night, Adkins gave booze to a 19-year-old, called a girl dancing on stage a "stupid bitch," and asked an 8-year-old kid to fetch him a beer. It was all an appropriate lead in to the song "Asshole," which somehow showed a Adkins' good side. A father struggled to keep his kid in the crowd as the singer pulled him on stage.
"Do you know anything about our music?" Adkins asked Dustin, the boy decked out in Misfits patches. "No, I play drums," he replied as he was led to the drum kit. According to Guttermouth, the band's usual drummer had a mix up at customs, so they had a fill in last night. This kid played a fairly standard fast punk rock beat and held it down really well. The rest of the band joined in for a song, and Adkins said he should replace their missing Australian drummer with Dustin.
Next was Strung Out, which apparently lived up to its name. After performing "Lubricating the Revolution," frontman Jason Cruz seemed a little freaked out by the rotating stage.
"I took a hit of acid before we took the stage, I'm sorry. I'm starting to see shit," he said. Regardless of whether this was true, he still did a great job singing. The band played a good mix of material, including cuts from the underrated Exile in Oblivion and An American Paradox.
Cruz probably was in fact strung out, since he spent the time during "Bring Out Your Dead"'s guitar solo writhing on the ground. It was weird to see, but at least he promptly got up and remembered the rest of the lyrics. Whatever gets you through the set works, I guess.
Cruz said that "Mind of My Own" was going to be the band's last song, and dedicated it "The fucking Misfits!" but proceeded to play three more songs, including "Matchbook." So much for Jason Cruz deciding to "bury" that song.
I don't think I've missed a Strung Out show since about 2004 or so. You'd think it would get repetitive, but they always mix up their sets. I'm pretty sure they always play a few key songs from Twisted by Design, but there are always a few songs that take me by surprise. Tonight it was "Analog," "Firecracker," and a great performance of "Velvet Alley."
Like Guttermouth, The Vandals are another Huntington Beach punk band rooted in humor. The Vandals have eight years and one more studio album on Guttermouth, but hey, it's pretty impressive that both of these bands have been around for twenty plus years and have released nine or ten records each.
The Vandals had their share of vulgarity live, but it was more amusing and silly than anything. Dave Quackenbush used his microphone chord as a jump rope. Joe Escalante has a seriously impressive life that runs the gamut from owning Kung Fu Records to bullfighting and running to be a California judge. The Vandals' studio drummer Josh Freese has filled in for a number of bands including Devo, but was absent last night. Bad Religion's Brooks Wackerman filled in on drums and did a phenomenal job.
These are all pretty impressive feats, but none of these folks were quite as entertaining as Warren Fitzgerald, who innocently stood behind his Hello Kitty guitar, asking the crowd for popcorn, and encouraging Celebrity Theatre's staff to make the stage spin faster (and it did).
If the girly neon pink guitar wasn't enough, the first hint of Fitzgerald's zaniness was when he made the animal/western sounds at the beginning of "Urban Struggle," as the crowd quickly went crazy to the cowboy-themed track that was featured on the SLC Punk! Soundtrack. He made small comments for the majority of the set including "yay mustache" and "I need some Dramamine," which was all a build up for Quackenbush handing him the mic for the band's final song, "I Have a Date."
Fitzgerald clamored to find somebody to sing at. The at is important here, since he didn't want to sing to anybody, he eventually settled on singing at a girl who was "way too pretty to be punk rock," and walked backwards as the stage rotated until he tripped over a monitor.
Towards the end of the song, he motioned for the band to play softer and softer, until they eventually stopped. He did a 1, 2, 3, 4 count and yelled "STOP" a second later, then scolded Escalante and proclaimed that he was "out." This turned into a hilarious game of Simon Says, as Fitzgerald became the last man standing.
"Now it's weird and lonely, this is worse," he said, prompting a heckler to make a comparison to The Ataris since Fitzgerald kicked everyone out.
I'm not sure what happened next, since the rotating stage was facing away from me at this point, but I heard some drum and bass, so I can only hope that Fitzgerald was playing both instruments at once. I did see all four Vandals emerge a moment later to finish the song, as Fitzgerald ended it one final heavy metal growl of "I have a date."
Of all the bands on the 6 Rounds of Punk line up, The Vandals put on the best set, even if Quackenbush forgot some of the lyrics to "I Have an Ape Drape." There are only so many names one can come up with for a mullet, but hey, it's punk rock, so it's forgivable, right?
What is left of The Misfits took the stage promptly at 1 a.m. Bassist Jerry Only, the only remaining original member now serves double duty and fills in on Glenn Danzig's vocals. Many have tried, but no one can sing quite like Danzig, which is what makes the current Misfits such a bummer. Only came close at times, namely during the a capella verse of "Descending Angel," but it's still not quite the same.
At the very least, he sported spooky make up, a devil lock, not one but two Misfits logos on his upper body, and he sang into a skeleton microphone. The macabre themes bled into the rest of the set, as bits and pieces of skulls were everywhere. I guess that's why they want your skulls so bad.
Only was joined by Dez Cadena of Black Flag on guitar and Goat from Murphy's Law on drums. This punk rock dream team of sorts took a surprising twist with a cover of "Rise Above," which sounded better than most of The Misfits material. The band a decent job with what they had, cramming 27 songs into an hour set, but it was nothing remarkable. A good share of the crowd cleared out, leaving a few fans desperately trying to form a circle pit.
There was a reward for sticking around to the end though. As Only wrapped up "Die, Die My Darling," he picked the strings off his bass and ran around the stage in a campy attempt to make himself look like a demon.
6 Rounds of Punk was a great idea in theory. It was probably a delight to anyone who still actively listens to these bands, but for folks like myself who lost interest in most of these bands around 2004, it should have been two rounds of punk and an early bedtime. As I walked past a guy snoring between The Vandals and The Misfits' sets, I envied him for sleeping. Strung Out was as great as I expected, and perhaps even better thanks to the band (possibly) being strung out themselves. The Vandals ended up being way better than I remember, prompting me to dig out Look What I Almost Stepped In and Hitler Bad, Vandals Good while writing this review. Guttermouth Setlist: Baker's Dozen 7 T's What Then Lucky The Donkey Whiskey Lipstick She's Got The Look Asshole ??? Bruce Lee Vs. The Kiss Army 1, 2, 3 Slam Chug-a-Lug Night
Strung Out Setlist: C-Block Ultimate Devotion Lubricating The Revolution Analog Ghetto Heater No Voice of Mine Speed Ball Heart Attack Skeletondance Velvet Alley Mind of my Own Firecracker Bring Out Your Dead Matchbook
Vandals Setlist: It's a Fact Café 405 4, 3, 2, 1, -1 People That Are Going To Hell Urban Struggle And Now We Dance I Know, Huh? Pat Brown I've Got An Ape Drape Take it Back The New You Live Fast Diarrhea Oi to the World Anarchy Burger My Girlfriend's Dead I Have A Date
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The Misfits' Setlist: Devil's Rain Vivid Red Land of the Dead Scream Hybrid Moments Teenagers From Mars Attitude Some Kind of Hate Static Age She 40 Eyes Angelfuck Blood Feast Horror Business From Hell They Came American Psycho The Shining Dig Up Here Bones Ghost of Frankenstein I Turned Into a Martian Skulls Where Eagles Dare We Are 138 Descending Angel Helena Rise Above (Black Flag Cover) Die, Die My Darling
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: 6 Rounds of Punk with The Misfits, The Vandals, Strung Out, and Guttermouth. Personal Bias: I've seen every band on this bill at least once over the course of a decade. The Crowd: 30-somethings with beer guts and tattoos, kids with devil locks, and girls with sugar skull face paint. Random Notebook Dump: My phone autocorrected my hastily typed, misspelled version of "diarrhea" to "diabetes." Is The Vandals' "Live Fast Diabetes" a classic, or what? One More Thing: This show would have been much better off at Marquee Theatre or Nile Theater, and should have ended two or three hours earlier.