Slapshot Yucca Tap Room 2/7/14
As the winds of fate would have it, of all the places for Boston's Slapshot to land in the Sonoran landscape, the infamous Tempe watering hole Yucca Tap Room is where the Massachusetts straight edge legends returned to the desert last night after a 20-year absence.
Although the show was technically advertised as free, upon entering the venue for the first time you were strongly recommended to make a donation to a doorman with a cash drawer. Not atypical, and not uncalled for, if only a bit uncomfortable to navigate when you only have two dollars in your wallet.
The night took off to the resounding echo of a strange firing gun as local folk rock unit Cockswain took the stage flutes and all, belting out Celtic-infused bar punk anthems. Keeping in mind that this is a Slapshot show, it was somewhat surreal at the time and seems completely bizarre now.
Veteran Orange Country thrashers Visual Discrimination followed the act with a set of crossover jams as loud and frenetic as the guitarists bright orange flame graphic guitar. A sizeable portion of the crowd seemed pretty primed to be finally seeing these guys, this being their first visit to the southwest after several decades as a band, and none of them looked let down afterwards.
Topping off the openers for the night was Tucson's Bricktop: a strange blend of slower modern punk tinged with Oi!-ish overtones. I could easily see these guys filling out the bill to an Epitaph Records showcase, which makes sense given that Lars Fredrickson did a recent guest vocal appearance on their latest release. They did their thing and did it well, but once again while watching them I found myself having be reminded that I was in fact at a Slapshot show.
I didn't have to remind myself much longer, however, as I soon found myself side stage watching Jack "Choke" Kelly fling himself around with the same amount of energy that caused a riot and ruined Misson of Burma's last show 30 years ago.
From the first song on it was gang vocal piles, stage dives, and general pit madness. For a bar packed with skinheads, militant straight-edgers, scummy punks and typical Yucca Tap mutants everyone seemed to be on their best behavior and all about having a good time. Even Choke, for the most part, though he did dedicate "What's At Stake" (A straight-hate song about heroin abuse) to the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Too soon?
When all was said and done, the show was a surprisingly well-rounded success. In the time I was there I didn't even witness a single fist-fight. And despite all conceivable assumptions of age, Slapshot killed the room to the point that I found myself battling an urge to take a stage dive during "Chip On My Shoulder." They even threw in a couple Negative FX songs to boot.
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