Back the Fuck Off!

XBXRX/The Sissies/Squab
Koo's Art Cafe
Thursday, April 19

We'll let the Sissies start us off. These are the sweetest kids ever, even if one of them is currently headed to court in Montana after getting beaten up by park rangers whilst trying to save wild buffalo in Yellowstone. But when they're not striving to make the world a better place for buffalo, these three kids and two roadies are puttering from Podunktown to Palookaville in a van with "Indiana Sweatshop Girls" spattered on the side, playing poppy punk stripped joyfully bare of pretense and pomp. You can't help but grin like an idiot (or a hippie) when drummer Jared accidentally knocks himself in the head during a particularly inspired drum fill, or when bassist Hannah and guitarist Ali hop up to their mics for some impromptu tippy-toe harmonizing—it's punk at its most accessible, endearing and fun, and you just wanna run up to those mics and sing along. Or maybe you just wanna run up there and sexually harass them—there might have been a little too much love in the air just then (and a little too much 99-cent store wine, judging from the smell), but some stagger-drunk kid suddenly lurched out of the crowd midsong and manhandled Hannah into an ugly, unwanted kiss. You say harmless fun; we say back the fuck off, asshole. Jared had to kick out from behind his drum set and pull the guy away from a very shocked Hannah. "That's never, ever happened before," she said, wide-eyed and dabbing beery saliva off her cheeks. The Sissies played one more decidedly less perky song and quit for the night, and everyone felt very uncomfortable. "Way to kill the mood," someone muttered. And then we were sad. Fuckers.

But hope sprung anew. XBXRX was just brimming with good-time, punky-rock high spirits, and we soaked up as much as we could, absorbing the joy that practically radiated from their matching red cowboy shirts and cheerfully scary face masks. They'd start out with a perky keyboard beat and singer Chris gladhanding the crowd and telling us just how super it was that we'd all made it out. Then they'd explode in these five-minute paroxysms of guitar-strangling noise annihilation in which they'd handstand off their instruments, run screaming around the room and basically channel the demon from The Exorcist, except not quite as catchy. And then it was dance-party time, so they solemnly waltzed with us while the keyboard bleeped merrily away. Then with no warning, it was destruction time again—Brian from the Fish People riding the drummer's shoulders! Somebody bouncing a bass across the floor! Flashing lights and screaming and feedback! Noise! Action! Terror! Gyrating pelvises! Aieeee!—and then they just as suddenly stopped, carefully took their drum set apart, threw it delicately around the room, and walked out, leaving their equipment humming and shrieking behind them. We all clapped, impressed, sweaty and somehow cleansed.

And then there's Squab. These Riverside girls are already criminally unknown, possibly because they devote their time to songwriting instead of driving around stickering stop signs and doing all the self-promotion garbage that goes into being a band around here. But a new era began this night: our arsenal of rock-critic superlatives—even heartfelt streams of obscenities—can no longer do justice to just how awesome they've become. Certainly, we cringed deeply when we heard they had two drummers—that sort of wanton experimentation has no place in a punk scene today and is usually just a desperate gimmick to get attention, kind of like playing rockabilly. But it works. As a trio, Squab was just splitting at the seams with personality, charisma and creative innovation, but they were a little wobbly when it came to the hands-on stuff: Chris would be playing bass, keyboard and sampler all at once, concentrating really hard on hitting the right buttons at the right time, and we'd worry that she was going to topple over with a stress-induced aneurysm or something. But with second drummer LaDawn hammering away, the band can finally take some deep breaths and really scream—they've got more intricate arrangements and raw power than ever, and when we get their LP (any month now, right?), we're going to play it loud and quiver all over. Yes, we're really just embarrassing ourselves now, we know, but we love Squab. They've got something all their own, something that takes Blonde Redhead and the Germs and maybe Siouxsie or Stereolab and builds something new and now on top of it. They even sample X-Ray Spex! Oh, how our heart swells! Sigh . . . Tonight, if only for one perky spring night, we learned how to love again. But don't worry; we'll be back to normal next time.


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