Saturday, December 23rd 2017
The Bends, St Petersburg FL
Originally published at Apathy & Exhaustion
If a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, a liberal is a European radical who’s been living in Florida for a decade without a car. “I’ll stop telling people that green capitalism has no hope in hell of saving us! I’ll stop jaywalking in a vain attempt to reclaim public space! I’ll support the biofuel processing of workers who have starved to death because they have no way of getting to their unfulfilling jobs! Just put more buses out on this shithole road! ARRRGH!”
Well, if you can’t beat them, join them. That attitude seems to explain the existence of thousands of punk Christmas parties the world over every year, of which tonights is just one. As if by seasonal miracle, and despite flabbergasting ideological incompetence, I arrive in time to see most of the Kevin K Band. Their one-note, repeated riff rock & roll is so gloriously loud that you’re forced to firmly plant your feet shoulder-width apart, lest you fall over like the singer’s drink (the first of many casualties). Although it might be in part due to the volume, Kevin's voice comes across relatively timid, and combined with the simple guitar it’s an inspiration for an even more simple bastard like me who has only recently begun to learn how to play. These Kids of the K Band remind me of some of the old school stuff that the BBC might stick on around this time of year while giving 75% of their staff the week off. It’s not too surprising to learn that K shared stages and was friends with the likes of Dee Dee Ramone and Johnny Thunders, and the performance is so stripped down that you can make out some Johnny B. Goode-era sounds too (R.I.P., 2017). Just as I have this thought, the set ends, I go to the toilet, and an appropriately placed poster of Elvis has had the face scratched out and replaced with the words Chuck Berry.
Minutes later I am stood outside same toilet (The Bends is a really small venue, but nicer than the olde toilet circuit) and in friendly conversation am told that the next act, Chris Barrows Band, are punk rock led by an intellectual. Barrows is best known as the singer of Tampa staples Pink Lincolns and The Spears. His self-titled ensemble start by blasting through five songs without much intellectualising, preferring homespun wisdom: topics include beer, feelings, being human and being a loner. So almost needless to say, it’s hardcore goodness. Then Barrows requests that the hoity chandelier above us be turned off, in preparation, it would turn out, for their cover of ‘Transmission.’ Despite being a hefty interpretation it is still as affecting as all self-respecting versions of the track should be -- I wonder if it’s existence has anything to do with CBB’s Peter Hook association at 24 Hour Service Station, their Tampa label. The band also slip a Devo number in I think. On the topic of interesting musical clothing, I’m glad to see that the infamous Warped Tour Jesus has come out for his season, almost as glad as I am to see drummer Scott Brazil’s refreshing “This City Sucks - St. Pete” t-shirt. My complaining about transit at every chance is really only part of the story: I’ve also gone out less often in recent years because certain local residents are engaged in a perpetual and irritating circle jerk. There are some cool things here, but there are also wank things, and fermentation and gentrification will only allow a place to be so interesting or ‘weird,’ mate, so get your head out of your arse. Barrows Band end on ‘Fuck the World,’ a thirty-year-old song that they feel might be more appropriate as 2017 comes to an end. Coincidentally, days after this gig I found a copy of Pink Lincoln’s Sumo Fumes 3 EP, which also features a few proper fine covers and more unflattering images of one Mr. Presley.
Finally to rock around the pagan tree we have a band that actually remembered to name themselves. Car Bomb Driver, like the other acts tonight, keep holiday references to a minimum in favour of frills-free punkin’, but the brief statements that frontman Car Bomb Dave does make are designed to smirkingly bewilder. “This one’s dedicated to those who serve.” Ah yes, the minimum-wage masses! “It’s called Vietnam Vet!” Oh. Well, they have my support too. “This one’s about Marlon Brando, which means it’s about getting fat and old.” The world’s myriad problems? Female empowerment? Combatting sexism on all levels like an Oi Polloi song? Shaking babies, chick fights and streetwalkers. Maybe their track ‘Sympathy Hug’ is about the Gillman’s misunderstanding with Julie Adams depicted on this gigs flyer; this guy also had a hard time with explanations, being a hideous rubber fish-creature and all. I normally like politics in my punk, but frankly this sort of approach/line-up was a more enjoyable after-dinner mint to a year in which shit both personal and global finally got too unbearable to pay closer attention. Perhaps appropriately Car Bomb Driver finish off with a song about blues musician Jimmy Johnson (or something to that effect), which has a tune reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’ (which I think ended here last week). Jesus presses CBD into a quick encore before I order my rideshare home, see the Saturday night bill (what happened to the billion dollars Google just gave you Lyft?!), and get back into wanting to bomb a few driverless cars myself.