Shock Antics!

Duane Peters & the Hunns/Smogtown/Le Shok/Nemirah/Fast Forward at Chain Reaction Friday, Oct. 20

To get to the high-quality stuff, we had to wade through swill, starting with Fast Forward—one guy dressed in a black hood and a black dress who blinded the crowd with an obnoxious light rig as he tweedled on a guitar to a programmed drumbeat while warbling incoherently. The punkers in the room, unsure what to make of the boy, gave him some too-polite applause—what the hell has happened to the punk movement? Though it barely qualified as performance art, it might constitute a sprayless, environmentally safe method of killing cockroaches. Happily, our pain didn't last long; after 10 minutes, he was through. Short sets are probably why he named his act Fast Forward; we'd prefer to think it's because you want his shtick to be over as quickly as possible.

Nemirah's output was standard screamcore—lots of belligerent, diarrhea-of-the-larynx caterwauling played out against ordinary race-car backbeats, the type of thing everyone's heard umpteen times from umpteen punk bands. Then someone in the band stepped up and announced their version of what was amiss: "Bear with us, we're missing a guitar player." Oh—well, that just explains everything right there, now! Really, we didn't think they would've been helped much by another axe; considering the overall blandness of their act, such an addition might have made them even worse. They apparently didn't think too highly of themselves, either: near the end of their set, the singer offered, "We have two more, [and] then the bands you want to see will play." Two songs later, we overheard an amateur critic offer this assessment: "I give them about a negative 7."

We were also disappointed by Le Shok. Perhaps we were set up by their "She Prefers Whips" track on Vegas Records' Hey Bro 4 compilation. We'd also heard of their allegedly nasty live reputation—shock antics! Random destruction! Total chaos! Virgin sacrifices! Ass play!(Um, maybe not those last two)—but none of these entertainments were present on this night, so we endured 20 minutes of rather uninteresting keyboard meanderings and electro-whatzits—sorta like new wave on Quaaludes—pounded out by a bunch of necktied men who looked restrained, as if they wanted to break out but couldn't. Perhaps this was their G-rated show, done to placate the all-ages crowd?

As for Smogtown, they were real charmers/ poseurs, berating the crowd by calling us a "bunch of fuckin' idiots" before they even played a note (to which we can now retort, "Guess we must be—we'd heard that Smogtown actually had talent."). Smogtown were far too ordinary to make any sort of impact ("D-minus," spouted our roving critic friend). And what was with their beret-wearing bassist? He looked almost as geeky as Mick Jones did in the "Rock the Casbah" video.

After this long parade of mediocrity, skatepunk king Duane Peters and his band the Hunns appeared and cleared the air with a blast of pure, untainted 1977-style punk—the kind that has actual, discernable melodies. Duane was sporting a mysterious black ring around one eye, which could've been a souvenir from a recent brawl or a bad eyeliner accident —either one wouldn't have surprised us; the missing front teeth are quite real. Duane Peters & the Hunns' crunch had more of a sense-of-purpose appeal than any other band this night, with such fine up-yours statements as their death-to-the-wifebeater-tank-nation anthem "Nuke HB" (our Song of the Year nominee), which rained down like a flurry of H-bombs. What's more, you could tell Duane really feels this shit—the lad is peeved, and you cannot leave a Hunns show without knowing this. Call Duane a poseur if you want to, but he'll eat your face off. (Rich Kane)

The Cramps
Galaxy Concert Theatre
Friday, Oct. 27

It was a Goth meat market at the Galaxy on the night the Cramps played this sold-out show. It was impossible to squish your way past any group of people without feeling their unwelcome, eyeliner-rimmed glances. I hate sold-out shows. They're great for the band, but they suck for the audience. And then I begin to hate everyone. Such as the drunk, PVC-wearing, Goth Bettie Page girl, who really, really, really wanted to talk to the guy seated at the table to my left and who communicated her burning need to talk to him by climbing over me and punching him. And then there was the guy that my roommate and I call—in all seriousness—Civilization Guy because two weekends ago he approached a friend of ours and used this suave1 pickup line: "Civilization—do you think it's on the ascent or the decline?"2 Actually, Civilization Guy was more fun to watch than the Cramps because of the way he turned the White Man Shuffle into an aerobic activity. Kudos to Civilization Guy! But just when I'd start really getting into his small-windmills-plus-jerky-arrhythmic-leg-lifts, the icky Bettie Page girl would climb over me, and I would be yanked right out of the moment.

"Hey, who's the sexy old blond?" Rebecca Schoenkopf, a.k.a. Commie Girl, asked me, nodding toward the stage. I told her it was Wally George, but I was lying. The Sexy Old Blond was really the Cramps' bass player, who wasn't sexy and whose wig was more pink than blond and who danced around the stage like a flower—if a flower could dance. Each Cramps member has a specific way of moving. Wally George dances like a flower. Guitar player Poison Ivy, who was wearing this bitty little dress that just barely grazed the top of her white, frilly underpants (which appeared to be stuffed with something), stalks the stage in a slow, sultry, deliberate way, which is probably all she can do in those high-heeled boots. And she glares at everyone in this way that is incredibly sexy and very cool and makes me wonder whether in the early days of the Cramps she had to deal with a bunch of well-wishers telling her she should smile and move around more and try to look like she's having fun up there.3 Snarly singer Lux Interior struts from the back of the stage to the front and then back and then front again. Sometimes he lunges forward, and sometimes he deep-throats the microphone. Also, he throws the microphone stand forward but holds on to the cord, and sometimes he wraps the cord around his neck. He was wearing some kind of non-breathing, shiny, rubbery outfit, in case you're wondering. As for the drummer, I don't know; I couldn't see him.

They opened with "Cramp Stomp" and then tore through a fairly long set of slow, snarly, inspired, groovy, bluesy hits with little patter in between songs. And despite the slow snarliness of it all, there was still a gaggle o' dickheads in the crowd who moshed. Every now and then, they'd lift one of their own into the air and then pass the human offering forward, where he'd fall, eventually, into the arms of the security guards, who would toss him to the side, where he'd pick himself up, do a lap, and then run back into the pit. All hell briefly broke loose around 10:50 p.m., when the security guards were busy restraining someone. That diversion opened a space for a woman to run onstage and do some kind of menacing wavy arm thing in the direction of a nonplused Ivy. This went on for about three seconds before she was ambushed and carried offstage and more security guards were dispatched.

This was around the time Civilization Guy really began feelin' it, though, so I couldn't really tell you what happened onstage next. (Alison M. Rosen)

1. Pronounced "sua-VAY."

2. She said ascent. I would say the same thing, although I'm a pessimist. Go figure.

3. Because I play in a band and people tell me that all the time, except for the people who say I remind them of Poison Ivy. I like them. I hate everyone else. Did I mention that sold-out shows make me hate everyone?

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