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StreetPunk 2000: The Midwest Oi! Fest

El Torreon -- Saturday, May 27, 2000

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Back by popular demand for a second year, the Midwest Oi! festival landed at the elegant and ever-evolving El Torreon ballroom. Saturday was the first installment of the two-day event, which took place last year at Gee Coffee in Olathe. Seven bands shared their blue-collar, working-class, shaven-headed shenanigans with a rather packed group of mostly harmless malcontents and beer-drinkers.

Did he say beer-drinkers? Yes, El Torreon, home of persistent harassment by the boys in blue, has finally skirted certain pesky laws and obtained a dance hall permit and, for the very first time, a catering license that allowed the venue to serve liquor during StreetPunk 2000 in a spacious beer-guzzling area. With alcohol for sale in generous Big Gulp-size proportions, the evening went by rather swimmingly.

First to take the stage was Crosshair from Dallas, who seemed to be a cross between spirit-of-'77 Clash and second-wave California punk. Each song was prefaced by a dedication: "To all the local fans who fed us," "To all the motherfuckers calling us Nazis," and "To all the fake-ass skinheads who shop at Hot Topic" were among the most memorable. Fans circled the stage but remained rather complacent. It wasn't until The Brassknuckle Boys, who mixed a touch of hardcore with British pub-punk, had come and gone that the crowd started to show real passion for the music.

The first group to inspire/benefit from the audience's enthusiasm was Kansas City's very own Sister Mary Rotten Crotch, who kicked the crowd in the chest both figuratively and, one occasion, literally. After an overly amorous fan bit her on the leg, singer Liz Nord booted the insolent idolater square in the breastplate. No real violence erupted, but the pit really took to the quartet's super-charged anthems, especially its cover of Lords of Acid's "Pussy." The fact that three-fourths of the band happened to be female added immensely to the testosterone-fueled environment. These ovarian warrior princesses got the crowd fully ready to spin and twirl on the concrete dance floor of this former garage.

The next four bands (Youthful Offenders from Manchester Conn.; The Booked from Corpus Christi, Texas; The Authority from Orange County, Calif.; and Forced Reality from New Britain, Conn.) were the evening's real Oi!sters. These groups targeted young, drunk, blue-collar skinheads with sing-along choruses ("Oi! Oi! Oi!" being the most popular) and pleasant background vocals (mostly "Whoa-way-ohs" and "O-whey-ohs"). By this time, the pit had taken off, even though the crowd around the stage was shrinking. It seemed that the beer garden had more appeal as the night wore on, and some in attendance decided to start their own show, probably after imbibing a few colon-busting big beers. Of course, those who dared to bring ultraviolence into this garden of Eden were promptly banished and hustled out the door, with a mess of fans following the fray for added emphasis.

Thankfully, no real brawls broke out, and the crowd went back to drinking and occasionally bellowing along with the bands. Around midnight, the evening came to a close, a mere six hours after it had begun. And let me tell you, six hours of anything is quite enough. The crowd shuffled out into the parking lot looking a little worse for wear, but most in attendance were probably ready to return the next night and do it all again.

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