Decongestant!

Sixer/The Starvations/The Fakes

Club Mesa

Friday, April 27

So we're sick—like freight-train-in-your-brain-pan and flamethrower-in-your-sinuses sick—and we can't remember how that old saying (suddenly so pertinent in these universal health-care-free times) goes. Feed a cold; starve a fever? Feed a fever; starve a cold? Or starve a cold; take the fever to a loud, sweaty punk show and pulverize it into submission? Yeah, that must be it! So we packed up the boogie-woogie ebola—no mere pneumonia, this!—and set off to see the doctor.

Our first prescription was a placebo: the Fakes, a proud part of that new new wave of beach bands, pounding out some snot-sodden punk (hey, they must have caught what we had) that skews closer to street punk than the '77-style British bomb-dropping of the Stitches. They're best when they slow it down and let the songs breathe a little; all that sneering and some notably decent chops tend to blur together once things speed up. Sadly, they provided only temporary relief. Sure, they had the requisite energy—the bass player was seizing back and forth like he'd just taken an up-close-and-personal from a convenient stun gun and the singer could really bulge an eyeball if the mood was right—but it just wasn't clicking tonight. "Hey, sometimes we suck," their singer admitted, prompting some guy who probably knew them to bark back, "Sometimes?" "Yeah," the singer growled. "When you're lucky!" Hot-cha! It seemed like they wound things up a little early—if the crowd's not biting, why bother baiting? "We got one more," they warned us. "Well, we got five more, but we're gonna give you a break." Thanks, guys—our soggy sinuses owe you one.

So we're still sick—time to dig out the strong stuff with the Starvations, the prescription for whatever bugaboo's been ailing you. They were the pseudoephedrine our congested soul had been begging for—we wanted to go out, fall in love, and get our heart broken just so the songs would sound that much better. This is stay-up-all-night-with-a-bad-case-of-the-lonelies music, ragged and jagged countrified punk straight off every Dils bootleg you never heard (and we'd better mention the Pogues, too—the beery spirit of Shane McGowan is very close to this band). The Starvations know this is dangerous territory. One false note, and you're just another guy with a stack of thrift-store Johnny Cash LPs and a blurry BORN TO LOSE tattoo; but pull it off, and you're heir to legends. And they pull it off—they're up there hootin' and hollerin' and stompin' their feet and tossing around hoary barroom metaphors suddenly made new again, and sick or no, you just wanna get right up in it. Somehow they finished up with roses in their pockets; usually we'd scoff at such melodrama, but the Starvations deserve it. And now we were feeling much better. Too bad we were about to have a relapse.

See, Sixer wasn't a bad band. They were just a band we've seen a lot before: the kind of revival punk outfit that keeps tattoo parlors in business. If they were from Cali, they'd be called Rancid (except with much better hair), but since they're from Virginia (a state that hasn't yet been strip-malled to death), they've got a certain Southern-fried country credibility (and note that the bassist's shirt did have a blue collar). Once you slogged past that, every song sounded like a revved-up "I Fought the Law" cover. You could hear a certain regional character peeking out. And though they might not admit it, there are many echoes of fellow Dixielanders Avail in the way the vocals waltzed around the music. Purty enough stuff, but we've got bargain bins full of CDs like this to listen to out here. Maybe it's different back East. The highlight of the set (besides the valiant-if-impotent crowd berating) was the cover of Social D's "Ball and Chain," dedicated to Dennis Danell and Joey Ramone. It was actually kind of sweet, this ragtag touring band lumbering through an obviously heartfelt version of a hometown classic, until singer Leer waved the band down because of a lack of crowd participation. "None of you even know this, do you?" he asked, exasperated. "The closer we got to Orange County, the less people knew this song. People in Missoula, Montana, knew this song!" Hey, everybody was swaying in time, flashing back to high school and, most important, not walking out—what more did you want? Everyone clambering onstage, grabbing a mic and stripping off their shirts to compare BORN TO LOSE tattoos? Maybe we were paying our respects with dignity on this night. Want a reaction? Play "Just a Girl." We're going home to nurse our sorrows with a bottle of sweet, sweet NyQuil.

 
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