Sunday, January 4, 2009
Great time last night at The 941 Theater in Philadelphia, PA to see Van Nuys, CA's greatest contribution to punk rock, The Dickies. Absolutely had a great friggin' time - a little hole-in-the-wall BYOB venue on Front Street, about 250 - 300 people, a "stage" that was little more than plywood on cinderblocks raised about a foot off the ground: this is how to see a punk show! Heck, you had to go "backstage" to find the restrooms, fercrissake!
I am learning that it takes a little longer for my 42 year old body to recover from the crowd crush and the decibel level (ears are still ringing, dogs still barking from standing on a concrete floor for hours), but the fun was worth it. Am I showing my age by saying I'm kinda glad PA has the smoking ban nowadays because at least I side-stepped the traditional morning-after hack-a-lung-a-thon?
This was a four-band show; unfortunately, we got there a little late and missed the first band, The Trakes.
We arrived just as Philadelphia's own The SlotCars took the stage. Now, I've been to enough shows in my life to know that opening bands are always a gamble, and home-town opening bands can sometimes be double jeopardy. The SlotCars came through, though, with a fine set. All of the expected spaces on the punk band bingo card could be checked off: song about the band itself? Check. Instrumental with vocal interjection from the bass player? Check. Surf-styled tune? Check. Nifty cover? Check. This, however, was not just "punk rock by the numbers." The band had an energy and a personality that took their minimal guitar/bass/drum basement band vibe to another level or two higher, and they score bonus points for having a wicked sense of humor about themselves, the Scene (with a capital S), and their local fans. Follow the link to their MySpace page and listen to "SlotCars Theme" and their cover of "Little Deuce Coupe", and enjoy!
Kitty and the Kowalskis from New York were up next. Following the "chick singer and three guys" band formula and blasting out a melodic-punk sound with more than a little resemblance at times to Tex & the Horseheads (check out "Mr. Wrong" and "I Love You Baby But I Hate Your Friends" on the Kowalski's MySpace page), they played one helluva set. Good to know that I'm not the only one feeling my age: Kitty called herself out for trying to play a punk show in a sweater and declared herself to be a "child of the sixties".
So, two-fer-two on the opening bands - a great start to the 2009 concert year! (Based on what I've heard on their MySpace page, the Trakes would've been right there, too.) But my friends and I - and by self-admission, the opening bands - were really there for only one reason: to see The Dickies!
I'd only seen the Dickies live once before, at Fiend Fest in Asbury Park, NJ in 2003. They put on a great show then, but as part of the packaged tour with several other bands, their set was truncated. Last night, the spotlight was all theirs, and they did not disappoint! Over the course of roughly an hour and a half or so, we got a virtual Dickies' jukebox. They roared out of the gates with "Rosemary," and gave us everything from the early classics ("Give it Back", "You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla)", "Manny, Moe & Jack") to their best known hyper-speed covers ("Nights in White Satin", "Paranoid") to prime examples of their newer material ("My Pop the Cop"). The almost non-existent stage created an environment of band and fans becoming almost one, resulting in Leonard Grave Phillips allowing the crowd to become his call-and-response partners on "I'm OK You're OK" and "Got it at the Store", and we basically sang "Gigantor" for him!
The band did two encores - first encore included a hysterical sing-along on Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World", and the second closed the night out as any Dickies show should be closed: with their turbo-fast slam through of the "Banana Splits Theme".
Hung around a bit after the show and got to talk with both Stan Lee and Leonard - and yes, for those who asked, every Dickies record I own is now autographed.
All in all a great night, a lot of fun, and a heck of a way to celebrate my birthday and kick off a new year of shows. Visit my online album of pics I took throughout the night - forgive the quality, I only had my cell-phone camera with me. If any of you were also at the show, please leave a comment with your review.