7 Seconds, the Copyrights, the Turnaways, Some Nerve Walters Downtown August 12, 2014
"Give the people what they want," seems to be the populist modus operandi of touring veteran punk and hardcore bands, from Youth Brigade to DOA and 7 Seconds, who belted out a stew of contagious hits from the early-mid 1980s at Walters on Saturday night. Sure, that meant a steady flow of lean hardcore, but it also meant a Stalinist purge of their pop-minded fare.
To be sure, the crowd, which swelled precipitously right before the band hit the claustrophobic stage, was eager to chew every morsel, especially when the band unleashed deep catalog shockwaves like "Red and Black," "The Crew" and "You Lose" (each under one minute long!) to dizzying singalong hoarseness and beer slosh that shot out like a fire cannon at times.
Up front, the punk ladies of the humidity-caked night pushed their way forward in a heave of righteousness on tunes like "Not Just Boy's Fun" and made the chorus of "99 Red Balloons" reach immense proportions, like a seismic sonic wave inundating the scene.
And ageism? Not at this show. Grey-tinged old-timers bivouacked across portions of the stage, happy to prove that seeing the band at Apocalypse Monsters Club, Power Tools, the Axiom, and other joints made them own a piece of history that no eager young gun could claim. Front man Kevin Seconds, in fact, asked the crowd, "How many of you are over thirty?" The din was deafening for a split-second. Walters, by no means, was a teenage wasteland.
Sure, some pitfalls came with the territory, including: a few false starts, bewildering guitarist Bobby; a broken string or two hijacking the pace and spiking energy; a few overzealous fans pummeling people to and from stage-dives, leading Kevin to dive into the crowd and lift a roadie from the tumult. Mostly mild-mannered, the singer even threw a mike at the audience during the very first song after a brusque run-in with a fan charging by him.
New tunes like "I Have Faith in You" and "Your Hate Mentality" from their latest, exceptionally spirited slab Leave a Light On, melded fluidly with the "Young 'Til I Die" early barrage, proving that age has not weakened or wrecked the band's vision of tightly-torqued, melodic, hi-intensity craft underscored with layers of sincerity. Oddly, though, their fine-honed and FM-leaning "Leave A Light On," which could be a crossover hit, left people a bit mute and unstirred in comparison -- a shame, since it recalls similar stabs to reach broad audiences by CIV, Shelter and H20, who even cover 7 Seconds' "Satyagraha," which was absent from Saturday's set.
In all, the band was momentous, scarred but not derailed by years on the road and the ever-changing, fickle music trends that sweep each generation. Plus, they keep perennially committed to making sure their message of hope, in the face of divide-and-conquer mainstream misunderstanding and biases against oppressed people of all types, will prevail. If ever the time was ripe for anti-homophobia songs like "Regress No Way," the time is now, and the band knows it.
"Houston has always been good to us," Kevin avowed to the crowd. And for this gig, the band proved its gratitude.
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Meanwhile, The Copyrights, wielding choruses as big as cornfields, offered up their no- frills, mid-paced boilerplate punk steeped in a Midwest work ethic. Drawn from the southern zone of Illinois, home to brothers-in-arms Didjits and Nitro Jr, the band melds the sheer heart-on-the-sleeve sincerity of their comrades Lawrence Arms and infuses it with the direct-attack mode of bands like Ann Beretta. A smallish but hyper-animated fan coterie encircled them, producing much sweat, romp and adrenaline and making fans from even jaded newcomers.
Other openers Turnaways seemed to lift its musical stock right from the 1990s roster of labels like Lookout Records, most notably Green Day and other pop volleys. Flashing good-natured smilesand attacking songs with finesse, they proved easy on the ears. First out of the gate for the evening, Some Nerve delivered the biggest surprise by raising the flag of metal-punk into a biting, hectic and agile form.
Fast as lightning zigzagging over dead cities, and unhesitating in their assault, but also mindful to avoid song structures that tread overworked clichés too much, they echoed Italian brethren Raw Power, due to arrive at the club later this week. Those gig goers looking for scarce parking, or kept at bay by a vigilant fire department trying to stem a gas leak outside the club, missed a potent musical tour de force.
Personal Bias: My band opened for 7 Seconds in Madison, Wis., in 1987 or 1988. So, um, I am diehard fan, to the nth degree.
The Crowd: Riotous at times, other times like an undulating 'can't wait to sing' single-minded extra member of the band, often post-30 years old and proud, multicultural to a core, and beer-centric, even at a posicore show!
Overheard In the Crowd: One longtime fan from Lakes Charles, La. pointed out the crisp, ironed clothes and jazzy guitar capabilities of Bobby, the bandanna-decked and skate-shoed guitarist for 7 Seconds.
Random Notebook Dump: Ends up that I know the came Southern Illinois coal-country friends of the Copyrights, especially from the iconic punk house Lost Cross, a still-extant epicenter of Midwest punk heritage.
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