In the four-plus decades of punk's angsty rule, it has become easy to get lost in a sea of band T-shirts, jeans, and flannel, not to mention the safety pins and hair glue maintained as the uniform of choice for so many #trupunx and fans of the Casualties. So, when a band arrives to totally subvert that orthodoxy, it has come as a breath of fresh air to the moshing masses, excited (or at least confused) by a band of costumed warriors taking the stage by storm.
Enter The Aquabats.
For the past 20 years, this band of masked superheroes from the distant island of Aquabania has fought a global cast of villains like The Powdered Milk Man, each intent on destroying the musical reign of these punk rock icons. Clad in a custom set of rash guards, belts, masks, and "anti-negativity" helmets, the group has bought crime-fighting power to the stage of multiple generations.
This Saturday, September 20, the band brings its 20th anniversary tour to the Marquee Theatre, site of so many of the band's triumphs over the years. In celebration, we bring to you the five most outrageously costumed punk bands, in celebration of the best, The Aquabats.
5. Sex Pistols
Yeah yeah yeah. Punk progenitors, style icons, rule-breakers in the first degree. Whatever you want to call them, the Sex Pistols wore costumes. Manager Malcolm McLaren ran a clothing store, and built an image for the band around the outrageous, tattered, colored, BDSM-influenced outfits he sold in the store. Maybe the band's style was revolutionary, but it was still a costume, one Johnny Rotten wears in butter commercials to this day.
Spiked hair, studded jackets, and anarchic t-shirts to match snarling vocals and primitive guitars created the visual style to accompany the nihilistic visage which has stuck with punk throughout its history. What has become punk's defacto "uniform" (at least in the eyes of the mainstream), began as a costume. Iconography often begins in the funniest of ways.
4. Masked Intruder
Coming in at number four is the freshest set of faces (or in this case, masks) on our list, the pop-punk criminals in Masked Intruder. Signed to the legendary Fat Wreck Chords after doing time at the punk proving grounds of Red Scare Industries, this band of vandals (no pun intended) is out on parole, complete with police enforcement courtesy of the frequently-shirtless Officer Bradford.
Playing lightning-fast, sugary-sweet three-chord punk, the group has quickly attracted a legion of fellow law-breaking fans, all while remaining largely anonymous to the adoring public. Identifiable only by their respective colored ski masks and Converse All-Stars (and glasses-clad lead singer, the otherwise black-clad folks in Masked Intruder are out to steal your wallet, and the hearts of the ladies in the audience.
3. The Phenomenauts
Begun as a groovy, themed '80s cover band, the Phenomenauts blasted into the minds of music-listeners around 2001 with their self-released debut "Rockets and Robots." The record acted as a space-laser-guided mission statement, declaring the band as intergalactic heroes on Earth to celebrate the planet's many merits ("Earth is the Best"), and reading a manifesto in favor of science ("Science and Honor")
The group's many gadgets and costumes include a custom '83 Dodge van named the Phenomabomber, and a toilet-paper gun called the Streamerator used during live shows. Fusing surf, rockabilly, and good old-fashioned punk rock, the sextet's booming live shows continue the fantastic theatricality of their image and backstory.
2. The Locust
Sharing a birth year with The Aquabats, it's safe to say The Locust falls to the opposite end of the theatrical spectrum. Clad at all times in freakish bug-masks, and occasionally matching monochromatic body suits, this group of hardcore lifers churns out some the fastest and least-digestible music to ever cross over into any form of mainstream acceptance.
Co-founded by the legendary Justin Pearson of Three One G Records, Some Girls, Swing Kids, and most recently, Retox, the physically faceless group blends grindcore speed with bleating electro beats to form a musical maelstrom incomparable to any band outside of Pearson's iconic circle of musicians. Though they lack a mythology like many of the other bands on this list, The Locust certainly makes sure you remember its sound and sight.
Again, NoBunny lacks a backstory. But, that doesn't change the fact that his open leather jacket, black briefs, and demented bunny mask aren't iconic. Continuously churning out records for such garage labels as Burger Records, Goner Records, and even Jack White's Third Man Records, the bandleader and multi-instrumentalist also known as Justin Champlain clings to his identity just as steadfastly as those we've listed above.
NoBunny's drunked, raucous live shows have been lauded all over the world, and no matter how tattered and trashed the infamous mask becomes, it remains central to the artist's world. Gnashing guitars and lackadaisical-yet-driving rhythms are the signature of the artist's sound, all the better for a rollicking good time at every live show of his annual hundreds.
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.
Like Up on the Sun on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for the latest local music news and conversation.