The second night of Center of the City Fest: The Sequel: The Reckoning. This installment of the punk rock franchise comes with definitely more people, even more beverages, and a recklessness absent from Friday's solid show.
Pizza Party Massacre wastes no time turning the snotty up in the red until the needle breaks. The drummer looks and plays like a maniac, and cracks bad jokes between songs about their merch tapestry, about Celine Dion, and about how he messes up while playing. The fine balance between accuracy and showmanship is so disregarded that it doesn't even matter for the audience, who is in full Fun Mode despite the early hour. Pizza Party Massacre manages to stomp out their songs at about the same time, and so it all sounds good enough, and who cares anyways? The lead guitarist wails with his Telecaster; it's difficult to understand how he can spill riffs like from a torn artery but then stand so still. The crowd loves it all because the songs are short and fast and terminally stupid.
This atmosphere changes when Kingshifter
takes the stage and begins playing their riff-heavy boogie-rock, songs built like the soundtracks to US Navy commercials. A modest crowd forms - a new market is cornered. The News Room's patio is colder than last night, populated with the old and young, the spiky-jacketed and non-, exactly one legit mullet, and some cyberpunk who appears out of nowhere, riding a Segway. The black bars of the patio's fence feel like they do the work of containment even better than they do of exclusion. More and more people pour into the bar, the patio, the music room, which Hipshot Killer
turns into a decidedly sweeter but still angry place to be.
Between many of Death Valley Wolfriders' songs, the singer explains what's going on: they've got a guy filling in on drums, they haven't played in a while, other details. No matter. It's all gut-punching punk with a classic rock feel, with strings of words and phrases that invoke every other band that has sung about drinking whiskey, or of soaking abstractions in whiskey, or who appreciate women who do those things, despite the dangers that accompany them. After a particularly fast and palm-muted rocker, the bass player exclaims, "That was bad ass!" And for many in the room, it was. But anybody outside is oblivious. Bands sell CD's and T-shirts, a girl with metal in her face sells pins; some youths get wacky taking pictures, and a bunch of people huddle together to drink and laugh. Show fatigue sets in. I go to my special place: the toilet.
There is somehow a glitch in space/time, and Oklahoma's melodious punk ensemble They Stay Dead!
is somehow already midway into their set, glistening. Their drummer looks like a bronzed and bearded Ken Doll, and he whacks the kit with the speed and emotion of a wind-up toy, while the other guys sway or thrash around and play guitars and scream throaty screams. Bombs Over Broadway
play next, keeping in the same tuneful universe of the previous band, but adding nasal-y asides and gang vocals that seem at times scary and at other times plain cute. A mosh pit probably starts, but it's difficult to say with certainty: while not forgettable in a bad way, many of these performances lack memorability, distinctness, if not for the likenesses of the bands, than for their sheer quantity. It's like One Big Show, played by rotating musicians, all looking like they're having fun while keeping off the streets, out of trouble.
The Bad Ideas
stirred up the crowd with buzzed out guitars and uptempo, straightforward punk progressions. The guitar player stood wide-legged, holding a big guitar against her thigh and head-banging like an epileptic mop. The singer switched between pissed off yells and screams, then a less dirty pitch, one almost nice, before going back to pissed off. As if to contrast the stoic bass player, the singer stuck her arms out, moved them around, and antagonized an already-agitated crowd to the point where shoves were given and received with abandon. This set things up nicely for Lazy
, four weirdo punks whose male/female vocals switch from drugged-out to sexy-and-also-drugged-out. The scene degrades, melts down; they hand over their instruments to whoever are the drunkest, dumbest, least easily shamed people in the News Room. And a version of the show continues a while, until it's time to no, not go home, but definitely not stay here.