|Venue:||King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut|
With the meteorological predictions indicating that a wet Armageddon is fast approaching, I decided to spend the afternoon filing the animals in two by two; the distinctly Scottish horizontal rain giving my skin a youthful and radiant glow through microdermabrasion. Then it was into the canoe and a quick paddle up St. Vincent Street to the legendary King Tut's Wah Wah Hut.
You may have guessed that the weather is less than favourable, but merely an inconvenience to those of us long accustomed to the traditional Scottish summer; the seemingly waterproof Black Flag t-shirts are out in numbers, shuffling quickly into the venue in anticipation of a dry spot and a barrage of punk rock.
Tonight sees Californian hardcore punk revivalists, OFF! return to the UK, having spent the past few months garnering stellar reviews off the back of a blazing European tour to promote their recently released, and Beard Rock-approved eponymous debut album.
Braving the monsoon with me was the evocative yet ebullient Darkwulf, who, by his own admission, is not an OFFicionado (see what I did there? I won’t do it again) but was titillated by the inclusion of strident post punk Danes, IceAge. My intrepid colleague traversed the sodden city streets akin to Brendan Gleeson in a sou’wester.
His excitable gesticulation inducing fear and panic among the assembled clientele; most of those present believing that Darkwulf was guiding British Airways Flight 3478 in for an emergency landing on St. Vincent Street. It saddened me somewhat to learn that IceAge had cancelled their performance; their absence unexplained, my associate unfulfilled.
By combining the deft chaotic touch of ‘No Heroes’-era Converge with Negative Approach’s grinding hardcore intensity, Trash Talk prove that they’re not here to fuck around. Within two songs, a swirling circle pit is in full flow; a bewildering amalgamation of hipster fashionista chic and youth crew aesthetics. Under normal circumstances, I would provide terse criticism however, their collective passion for the band is irrefutable.
I am often wary of over-enthusiastic singers negotiating their way through crowds at concerts. Worried that I may be singled out for ridicule, a microphone thrust into my face, beckoning me to sing along to the chorus of which I know no words. I am often worried that I may be violently attacked for being handsome. In the case of Trash Talk, vocalist Lee Spielmans’ commitment to an inclusive experience for their fans is the least of my worries. It’s the rest of the bloody band.
The crowd hold Spielman above their heads like they’ve won him in a raffle, while the bassist and guitarist throw themselves into the crowd, stage right and stage left respectively. Casual spectators to either side of the stage, now seemingly at risk of permanent facial disfigurement as Spencer Pollard wields his bass like a weapon. I narrowly avoid a tuning peg to the left eye.
The growing crowd hanging on every larynx-shredding lyric, vying for optimal position to trade screamed vocals with the insanely energetic vocalist; prepared to overlook a stray elbow or resulting concussion for that one opportunity. It made feel nostalgic and misty eyed, reflecting on my youthful dalliances with Sick Of It All. Although in all honesty, these dalliances are now less youthful, but relatively regular seeing as I was on the receiving end of a surreptitious windmill during ‘Death Or Jail’ last year.
In spite of the historical plaudits of the respective members’ previous bands, and the impressive critical acclaim of their debut album, there’s no fanfare, exhibitionism, or egos to be sated; OFF! consist simply of four scene veterans; a refreshing humility as they casually wander onto a tiny stage, tune their instruments, tape down set lists, before delivering some classic no-frills hardcore punk rock.
There’s a fleeting calm before ‘Panic Attack’ tears through the PA; half of King Tut's descends into a paroxysm of punk rock euphoria. The brevity of the song is exhilarating with Keith Morris’ voice sounding as direct and energised as it did thirty years ago, Dimitri Coats purveying an air of infinite cool, and Steven McDonald of the perennially underrated Redd Kross genuinely looking as if he’s having the time of his life.
A brief lesson in the history of The Gun Club precedes ‘Jeffrey Lee Pierce’, Keith Morris’ frenetic yet impassioned eulogy to his best friend, long since passed. Stylistically, it shares similarities to Jeffrey Lee Pierce-helmed amped blues; held together by Steven McDonald’s bounding bass-line. Incidentally, Morris’s declaration that ‘Fire of Love’ was the definitive Gun Club album lead to a fleeting post-show altercation, as the omnipotent Darkwulf festooned him with beer-soaked vernacular, asserting his own preference, ‘Miami’. It was painful to watch.
The frontman's prelude to the ‘Borrow & Bomb’ is drowning in abject cynicism but save from polite recognition of an appreciative crowd, it’s as interactive as it gets. The opening bars of ‘Wiped Out’ immediately feel familiar, the fuzz-laden immediacy instantly confirms it as a natural successor to Black Flag’s ‘Nervous Breakdown’; this does not feel like anything approaching pastiche, as Coats plays on this familiarity to convey a fresh dynamic on which Morris effortlessly constructs his biting diatribe.
‘Toxic Box’ brings the set to a close but after barely five minutes waiting in the wings, OFF! launch into a ferocious encore of ‘Black Thoughts’, ‘Darkness’, and ‘Upside Down’. Three songs. Three minutes. No respite. A veritable punk mirepoix of pessimism, anger, and aggression.
A last minute request for a Circle Jerks classic is acerbically denounced with a curt, "This is not punk rock karaoke!"; no greater confirmation to highlight that OFF! are a band who are looking to future challenges, and not harking for past glories.
Photos courtesy of Darkwulf
Posted: Mon 9 July 2012