Warning – long post. Forgive me, for I have friends who may be interested in a detail level here. Also, please forgive the mixed use of past and present tense. I just don’t care enough to force my thoughts to conform.
I arrived early due to the timing of my day. Parked very close, less than half a block from the door to the club.
The first thing I noticed, after I parked and shut down the vehicle, was a street light going out, about half a block down from where I sat. Amused, I waited. And waited. It came back on, in that way those big streetlights (sodium?) tend to do — starting out white, then yellowing as it slowly grows to full brightness. After a while, it went out again. Then came back on again. Overheating? Delayed solar activation/deactivation due to ambient light? or was it SLI? How should I know, I’m not a scientist OR a paranormal investigator. I’ve got more important things to do than double-blind studies. You decide.
Doors were scheduled to open at 8pm, I had a bit of time to kill. Wandered around the neighborhood looking for suitable attractions. Whoa. A real live RECORD STORE (Som Records). With VINYL. Nope, not gonna do it. But it’s OPEN! Nope. Passing it by. [Hindsight: should have gone in, the way the Universe has been working with me lately, they probably have a mint copy of the Layla Cries album.]
Walked around the corner, and what do I see but a bar called Compass Rose. Is Poseidon himself calling me for pre-event drinks? Nope. Very careful about that. Because of that Los Angeles trip. And because I’m driving.
Okay, now the doors of the club are open. Maker’s on the rocks, quite a generous pour, almost feels like a double, $8. Stabb is down the bar picking up something. Then I’m sitting next to one of the Plurals at the bar, she’s ordering a pitcher of house lager for the band. Another Plural is standing nearby. I can tell by the not-quite-matching blue hair, and the fact that they are communicating with one another.
The evening has turned very tactile. First the sting of my earlobes, as well as the runny nose, because it was so damned cold outside. Then my lips are numb from the bourbon. A lovely kind of medical numbness.
The Plurals go onstage. The taller of the blue-hairs announces that she has forgotten her power cord for her Alesis , and will be simulating her keyboard using her voice. Much laughter is had, but she has the last laugh later, as she does things with her voice that keyboards only wish they could do, in their heart of hearts, in places they don’t talk about at parties.
I enjoyed their set a lot. Especially Look at the Nerds, and Rose Garden. They had some really fun B-52s kind of campy surf-like grooves (but somehow cooler), and “fake keyboard playing girl” had this adorable way of creating modesty with her hand as she bent her knees to retrieve her beer from the stage floor. (Her skirt was quite short). In another song (Rose Garden) she made a really unique “Whoop” sound. At the time I thought it sounded almost electronic, but looking back, you heard it here first, I BET THEY ARE CLOSET JUGGALOS. WHOOP WHOOP! Anyhow, they’re really fun, go see them if you can, you’ll enjoy them.
I spoke with Whoop fake keyboard girl after their set, I think she said she used to do opera.
Next up was the Delarcos, who I saw recently at Iota. Great set by them, I could hear them a little better this time, especially the lead guitar. I’m still trying to search my musical memory banks for things it sounds like. I’m not finding a lot, except the obvious vocal timbre and delivery similarities to Pere Ubu and maybe the Tritonian Nash-Vegas Polyester Complex -era No Trend (Copperhead, for example). They’re unique. I like their sound, their energy, and their understated humor. It’s difficult to hear in a barroom, so the Delarcos have been kind enough to put their lyrics (and chords!) online so that we can all sing (and play!) along. After listening to last night’s show again, I’m starting to feel like Delarcos might be the closest to the ROOTS of “this thing of ours.” I’m digging it. Musically, lyrically, and maybe more. Stabb pointed out during the gig, I think, that Ian Mackaye likened them to the Chumps, and that’s going way back into the DC punk vault:
For more on the Chumps, check out http://ducksbattlesatan.com/category/the-chumps/
Then came History Repeated, the headliner. This is what I came for, for personal reasons. See, History Repeated is fronted byJohn Stabb of Government Issue, who I saw over 31 years ago at my very first concert (bootleg available HERE) — I was just sixteen years old.
I was ecstatic to see that 31 years later, Stabb still has all the energy of a young punk rocker, and still brings it! In fact, he brings it by the case, and gives it all. Still theatrical after all these years, still willing to take injuries in the process. He’s very physical, as if putting everything he has into merely singing the song is not quite enough – as if he’s ADHD, and singing the song just doesn’t engage him enough, so while he’s putting in 100% at the mic, he’s putting in a whole bunch more to keep him occupied – wrapping cords around him, punching himself, falling over, gesturing wildly…
A couple of jump-down-into-the-crowd call and response moments. I missed the first one because I couldn’t hear the words that well. The second one was easy. When it was my turn, Stabb was in my face, with his hand on my shoulder and a mic between us, shouting “PUNK ROCK SONGS” — I replied enthusiastically, “DID NOT CHANGE THE WORLD!” At least I hope that’s what I was supposed to say. They sure changed MY world.
For the last song, Stabb invited Mike (from the Delarcos) on stage to improv some sax. In the middle of the song, Stabb fell onto the dance floor and someone put a chair on top of him.
Ian Mackaye (Teen Idles, Minor Threat, Embrace, Fugazi, The Evens) was spectating sidestage for most of the show. He looked like he was enjoying it. I don’t know if anyone else was hoping for a reason for him to be brought on stage for something, but I kinda was. I never got around to seeing him during the DC heyday, but I was fortunate that The Evens came to Fredericksburg in late 2012 to play a bookstore. Had a really enjoyable time there too.
I got the feeling the light crowd was largely friends of the bands (like me) and veterans of the early DC HC scene, either players or just folks that showed up (back then), also like me.