Nobunny, Mangled Men, JJCNV, and Andrew and his Feisty Felines at Yucca Tap Room, 11/2/11

Nobunny, Mangled Men, JJCnV, and Andrew and his Feisty Felines Yucca Tap Room Wednesday, November 2, 2011

I think my favorite part of my recent JFA/skate punk oral history was Brian Brannon's description of the early '80s Phoenix punk scene: "It was good to have so many diverse bands like that back then -- you know, Killer Pussy, Meat Puppets, Feederz, Grant and the Geezers . . . And no one thought twice. It was, like, 'This is punk, and punk is about doing something different and doing what you want to do, doing what you're into, and making things happen.'"

Last night at the Yucca was an example of how Phoenix has, in at least the most creative sectors of the punk rock world, stayed the exact same way. The poppy garage sound of Andrew and his Feisty Felines didn't sound like the bonehead riffs of JJCnV; the art-squall of Mangled Men had little in common with touring act Nobunny.

There's not much to Nobunny's appeal: retro rock 'n' roll simplicity, bratty vocals, and an aggressive stage presence. Within the first verse of opening tune "Pills" (Bo Diddley via The New York Dolls) he was on the bar top, mic unplugged as he ran through the crowd.

Sporting a leather jacket, undies, and his trademark rabbit mask, Justin Champlain (real name, if Nobunny ain't your thing) announced nearly every song as "the last song," and the band played the tunes as if it were true; a tight, compact three-piece, there wasn't a wasted note all night -- just a clutch of deconstructed girl group beats, raunchy riffs and gleefully naive and spiteful lyrics ("Kind of think you might be retarded / 'Cause you don't like rock 'n' roll). Tracks like "Motorhead with Me" pogo'd about, while "Chuck Berry Holiday" showed off the respect and proper lack of respect the band has about living legends.

The concise pop sound of Nobunny was in sharp contrast to Mangled Men, which found members of Soft Shoulder, The Pods, and Vegetable blasting out grinding noise offset by reverb-heavy, nearly ethereal vocals. It was nice to see the band back in action. JJCnV's power trio stomp got a shout-out from Nobunny, and Andrew and his Feisty Felines won over the crowd with tunes like the one I reviewed for our Sound Off column (one of my favorite local recordings this year, hands down).

The bands last night didn't sound alike -- united more in attitude than codified sounds. It's one of the things I love about Phoenix, a reminder that we're still showing up in bars to hear people do their own thing, still "making things happen."

Nobunny Set List:

"Pills" "Hippy Witch" "Mess Me Up" "Blow Dumb" "Gone For Good" "I Can't Wait" "It's True" "I Am a Girlfriend" "Motorhead With Me" "Ain't it a Shame" "Give It To Me" "Chuck Berry Holiday" "You Don't Like Rock 'n' Roll" "Nobunny Loves You"

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: Nobunny, Mangled Men, JJCnV, and Andrew and his Feisty Felines at the Yucca Tap Room

The Crowd: Scumbags, knuckleheads, and nerds of the rock 'n' roll variety.

Better Than: Any other mostly mostly naked masked done in your face. Bummed I Missed: Andrew and his Feisty Felines' take on Danzig's "Mother." ("One of our songs ends on B, so we just went into 'Mother' one day at practice," says drummer Tristan Jemsek.)

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Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.