The waters in the sea of punk are pretty monochromatic. Shades of gray replace distinct colors. The weather here is predictable, if severe. Even the stiffest noise-gales take on a familiar rhythm, becoming humdrum in their ferocity. If you choose to navigate the less-storm-racked latitudes, where hooks and melody and harmony are all plentiful, the problem is only magnified. Pursuing this last tack with a nod to old-school ethics seals the dreaded punk-pop middle-of-the-road deal.
If this is your path, only two things can save you from complete redundancy: unforgettable songcraft or a blazing live presence. Whether or not the Bouncing Souls' latest release, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, scores in the former category is seriously open to question. The band's mastery of a stage, however, is beyond reproach. "The Pete" Steinkopf's guitar cuts through with clarity, heralding each new song as if it were your last favorite, while Michael McDermott drums with drive and bass player Bryan "Papillon" Kienlen rocks out with true punk aplomb. Greg Attonito's front-man presence is simultaneously celebratory and sincere.
This celebratory nature surely holds a great deal of the Bouncing Souls' appeal. This is no grim and negative punk band; like the Ramones, these guys enjoy having fun and don't care who knows it. "Relationship songs" abound, but even those are seen in the rearview mirror and retain an aura of positive reminiscence, as if the events themselves and the lessons learned more than outweigh the attendant pain.
Bouncing Souls with Flogging Molly, One Man Army, Madcap and Strangefolk
Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak Drive
Friday, November 16; 713-862-3838
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In addition to the Fitz's gig, those so inclined can meet the band, get autographs and participate in a number of giveaways (including chances to win Vans shoes and Bouncing Souls CDs and T-shirts) by stopping by Vans Skate Park at the Marq-E Entertainment Center on I-10 at Wirt Road. The Bouncing Souls, who hail from New Jersey, will earmark a percentage of each show's proceeds to the New York City Fire Department's Widows and Children's Fund.