Saturday, July 23, 2011

Show review: Dumpster Babies, Creepy Band, Fuck Knights at the Empty Bottle, 7/18

By Sasha Geffen
The Fuck Knights
Discussing whether or not punk is dead has become a tired critical venture. I like to think it dies a little more each time somebody asks that question. But after Monday night's show at the Empty Bottle, I wonder if it's not more useful to discuss now whether punk is undead, risen from the bones of its heyday to enjoy a raunchy, boisterous afterlife. 

It certainly has cultivated a wicked sense of humor. Case in point: The Dumpster Babies, The Fuck Knights. "Poor taste" is a euphemism people use to describe jokes they're too boring to laugh at. There is nothing bad about naming your psychobilly four-piece The Dumpster Babies. There is everything good about it.

And that's to say nothing of the opening performance, which was a manic, gleeful shuffle around the Bottle's corner slash of stage. The Dumpster Babies had no clear frontman, except maybe the one rocking the orange-rimmed sunglasses in the dark club. The three gentlemen who weren't hammering away at a drumkit swapped around guitars. All four shared the duty of launching bloated yelps into the mics. Maybe this sort of lo-fi gritfest is "classic" now but when you're swimming in the crackling analog roars, it feels unflinchingly young. The Dumpster Babies channel the same energy of a kid in the '60s plugging into a Marshall for the first time and hearing waves of noise at his fingertips. They're possessed of that same raw hunger, an open love of the stage and its possibilities. It's a damn delight to watch.

When I reviewed Creepy Band's debut EP, I had a suspicion that theirs might be the kind of music best heard live. I had no idea how right I would be. The local horror punk ensemble carries a heavy flair for the theatrical. They began the set in darkness; their frontman cowered under a black hooded trench. "I want to tell you all a story of pure evil," he began. This was the story of his curse, the curse of the cloak, he detailed. Then, from the helm of the stage, he launched into the opening howl of "Let There Be Light." It was like Halloween in July, a full ensemble show complete with props like decapitated heads, animal skulls and mysterious weapons. Creepy Band fills a space with a world of their own, like a great cult horror film that makes you forget life outside the theater. Their vocalist lead with a commanding presence; it was hard to keep your eyes elsewhere as he leapt in and out of the audience, slammed on floor toms, and bellowed like a snarling Danzig. This is what horror punk should be all the time; performative, ridiculous, and enormously entertaining. it can be Halloween every night as far as I'm concerned.

Finally, our headliners The Fuck Knights took the stage with an atypical lineup. I'm not sure I've ever seen a full-band rock show without a drum kit at the rear, but The Fuck Knights had their drummer lined up along the edge with the rest of them rocking only a tom, a snare, and a cymbal. They also had a harmonica player--perhaps the most punk rock harmonica player in the world--who rocked the trumpet every so often. If no one else, these guys epitomize punk's rambunctious post-death romps. It might not be your dad's bony garage rock, but it's been so vigorously infused with our own blood that it's hard to wax nostalgic for simpler times. The Fuck Knights hit the Bottle with all the force of a frat party trapped in four people. Almost no one was wearing pants by the end of the set, even after a few of The Dumpster Babies joined them. They left the stage beer-soaked and strewn with gear, like the scene at the end of a legendary party. Spirited and uninhibited, The Fuck Knights know the value of presence, of engagement. The stage at a rock club is not a place to aloofly practice your "art." It's where sweat blends with sweat, where walls of feedback pummel through the isolating quiet of the rest of the day, where you ride the wave of young destruction and euphoric noise until you're spent. This was a lineup that understood these things. This was one of those shows.

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