Heart of Darkness
Photo by James Bunoan PILLBOX TERROR/THE CHECKERS
FRIDAY, JUNE 7
No time to waste this night: we had a lot of ground to cover and a lot of bands to piss off, so we hit the shows early. We haven't seen Chain Reaction in daylight for years—man, punkers look ugly when it isn't dark. And maybe they sound better when it's dark, too. To wit: Pillbox Terror is two of the guys from back-to-basics punker band the Voids with two other guys and a girl who look like they should be in the Voids—you know, with the giant "VOIDS" patches stitched on their jeans and all—playing music that defies odds both aesthetic and anthropological to sound, somehow, a whole goddamn lot like the Voids. Could this be a good thing, you ask? Like if the non-Pillbox-Terrorizing members of the Voids were—heaven forbid!—knocked out of commission by a shoe bomb or a nude bomb or a bug bomb or a dirty bomb or some kind of hell-spawned God-hates-us-and-Satan-ain't-much-help-either dirty nude shoe-bug bomb, we could mobilize this band and still maintain an acceptable Rehashed-Take-on-Old-School-Hardcore-Punk-That-Wasn't-Even-That-Great-in-the-First-Place Gap with the Chinese? Or must we ask ourselves: After how many boring bands have the terrorists won? Their singer was trying hard, but there was less life onstage here than in Dee Dee Ramone's kitchen at about 8 p.m. a couple of Wednesdays ago. Speaking of: demanding that people dance to your band because Dee Dee would have wanted it that way is even more tasteless than the sentence immediately preceding this one. At least let them get the guy in the grave before you try to get the corpse rolling.
The Checkers went on after sundown, all in matching black—classy matching black, not the lame And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Drive-Ins kind. The two mean-looking, too-late-for-the-trend punkers ("Western Civilization Declined Without Me and All I Got Was This Lousy Adicts T-Shirt!") trying to mosh-pit wish they looked as good: while this stuff went over the screwed-tight heads of a lot of the spiky crowd, trust us that the Checkers put together way-retro Blondie-meets-the-Runaways (we're lazy; those are just two of the bands they covered) power pop songs that have just enough bite, like a Mouseketeer smile with a safety pin through the lip and some botched orthodontic work. Their singer worked that stage harder than a bunch of middle-school Adicts fans might appreciate—hey, we liked fucking Faith No More in middle school, so don't get pissy; you're arguably way ahead of us, in a crappy kind of way—and a few technical fuck-ups aside, it's something we'd wanna see more of. Oh, yeah, one of the guys in this band shoots photos for us sometimes—good thing the Checkers are decent, else we'd send his ass over to Skratch.
FRIDAY, JUNE 7
Of all the bands you'd wanna meet in a dark alley—well, parking lot—the Irish Brothers should be around the top of the list. They're funny, they're friendly, and they've got a lot of good stories about a lot of weird shit. And so you should be jealous that that's where we found them, milling around behind the Liquid Den and getting ready to go on. See, the Irish Brothers (real brothers, unlike the Ramones or the White Stripes or the Monkees) do a rough-and-tumble rockabilly thing that comes off even scruffier live—when that drummer starts freaking out and screaming and shrieking through the choruses, you know you're not quite in Hootenanny land anymore. Which is probably a good thing. Plus, they can stagger from goofy stuff like "Bruce Lee Rockabilly" to sappy sad stuff like "I Will Never Marry" (our favorite song!) to you're-scaring-me-weirdo stuff like covering the Misfits' "Teenagers From Mars" like it's the most regular thing in the world. Best part: Keith Irish (whom you may remember from Punk As a Doornail, who by now are even HUGER than the Offspring, if only among European experimental-music fetishists who rarely see the sunlight because they're obsessively cataloguing their live Faust tapes! Right on!) looks like a monster when he snarls out backups to "Psycho Pompadour"—bug those eyes OUT!—and plays that bass like a monster the rest of the time. Worst part: the suspiciously shaven-headed dude who kept mad-dogging people and his girlfriend with the "California Uber Alles" T-shirt (which had nothing to do with the Dead Kennedys, if you know what we mean) and finally disappeared—probably to the Shack, where every day is Hitler's birthday! Last part: we wandered home after wishing we could hear more electric banjo from the ScotchGreens and wishing we had more space to write about it. The night was still young, but we're too old.
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