Double-Up the Punx: Punk Pairs We'd Like to See Live
Olga Svetlana and her band are half of one of our dream teams.
Photos by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
There’s no fancy intro required for this one. Simply put, these are ten punk bands we’d like to see teamed for future shows here in town. Each pair includes a visiting act and a local favorite. That’s it. So, as the late, great Ernie Banks would say, let’s play two:
All Torn Up! at NYC's Punk Island fest
Photo courtesy of All Torn Up!
ALL TORN UP!/KHOBRETTI
Consider this pairing to be something like visiting two art galleries. All Torn Up! is housed in one, its offerings so vividly created and detailed that there’s no question what these NYC-based artists want audiences to take from even a passing glance. From murderous drone use to Christian fundamentalism to border wars, every canvas is covered in fading red, white and blue. The songs propel themselves to life thanks to a band that appreciates the masters that came before them (think ’80s hardcore and a healthy course of crack rock steady bands) and the fervent immediacy in singer Joey Steel’s delivery. Every song on ATU’s Bandcamp page for 2015’s Drone Life is translated into Spanish, ensuring nothing is left to ponder for most Americans. If you need just one brushstroke to know what they’re about, see the beginning of “No Man’s Land,” a searing indictment of border walls that opens with the chant, “La chota! La migra! La misma porqueria! We’re all illegal!”
Houston’s Khobretti is the abstract artist in this scenario. Like ATU, they too are influenced by the masters (Bad Brains, Joy Division, The Damned, etc.), and they also are practitioners of hardcore punk. The band formed in 2013, and over a short period of time, they’ve established a solid following by staying busy and giving audiences the Jackson Pollock treatment. They throw the paints of dissent and turmoil in the crowd’s faces with unabashed musical precision. Where they differ from All Torn Up is in lyrical content. Khobretti’s lyrics are less-pointed, practically poetic in their brevity. You’re supposed to look and take from it what you attach to it. If that sounds like your kind of art, they’ll next be on display April 21 at Fitzgerald’s with hardcore legends MDC.
FANTASTIC PLASTICS/GIANT KITTY
Brooklyn’s Fantastic Plastics are wife and husband Miranda and Tyson Plastic and their specialty is EDP, or electronic dance punk (New Wave for you old-timers). If Le Tigre and Thomas Dolby
had a baby engineered the ideal musical prototype, this is what it would sound like. They're programmed with good looks, catchy songs and an exuberant live show, and it’s easy to focus on those enjoyable attributes and miss the dire warnings in their lyrics. Songs like “Electric Eyes,” “We Are Obsolete” and “Time To Assimilate” address the consequences of trading one’s humanity for bits and bytes. Thirty years ago, their predecessors began warning us of the same and we now spend hours in the virtual worlds of RPGs and Facebook.
Giant Kitty at SXSW
The link between these bands is they both love Devo. And, as Devo-tees, they bring that band’s blend of subversive fun to life. If Fantastic Plastics have a point about our eroding humanity, then Giant Kitty is its natural counterpoint. Songs from their debut album, This Stupid Stuff, remind us with unmitigated clarity of our human strengths and faults. (See “Old People Sex” for the former and “Tough Girls” for a brash example of the latter.) Like the best punk bands that came before them, the Kitties don’t shy away from the issues that still perplex humankind. When you hear those songs live, though, it’s less an indictment of our flesh and blood and more a celebration of what it means to be alive.
MISCHIEF BREW/SIDEWALK SLAMMERS
Mischief Brew is a criminally under-appreciated act. Plugged up or acoustic, the Philadelphia-based band qualifies as anarcho-folk royalty. Front man Erik Petersen has written some of the genre’s staple songs since coming onto the scene in the early 2000s, tunes like “Roll Me Through The Gates of Hell” and “Thanks, Bastards!” On one hand, those songs are known to and sung by buskers from Rittenhouse Square to Trafalgar Square. On the other hand, the Brew’s killer musicianship and stellar lyrics deserve a much broader, even mainstream, audience. Last year’s This Is Not For Children was among the best albums I heard, with Petersen and band dragging their aging fans into a more mature worldview of dissidence and personal responsibility.
Sidewalk Slammers' Freddie Boatright
To the best of my knowledge, Mischief Brew has never played Houston. But when or if it ever does, my vote for opener would be Sidewalk Slammers. The Slammers is really, at its core, singer/songwriter Freddie Boatright, formerly of U Not I, which played Free Press Summer Fest a few short years ago. Occasionally, he’s joined by Jordan Yen on washtub bass. Boatright’s subtle guitar playing and husky voice draw listeners close so they can get the full impact of lyrics like “I’ll play football, just like grandpa did/Every night when I go home, I won’t beat my girlfriend, but I’ll play football just like grandpa did.” From suburban and religious hypocrisies to less complex subjects like marijuana appreciation, Boatright infuses his songs with interesting word play.
Peelander-Z at FPSF 2011
PEELANDER-Z/GNAR WORLD ORDER
If the Teletubbies passed puberty and morphed into older life forms, they’d come out on the other side as Peelander-Z. The punk rock popsters from Planet Peelander are off-the-charts energy in the form of primary colors and outlandish outfits. Their songs appropriate alien life, too, with lyrics that marvel at a world with “So Many Mike” (and "so many Joe," too) and delicious “Taco Taco Tacos.” Their turn at FPSF 2011 made us fans for life, and we’re always thrilled when they land their mothership in our part of the world.
Gnar World Order
Photo courtesy of Gnar World Order
We don’t have to wonder which local band is a good pair for PZ, since Galveston’s Gnar World Order is booked to play with the Peelanders this Wednesday, March 30, at Nu Grooves on the island. The room at 4102 Broadway used to be House of Grooves and has probably never seen a show the likes of this. GWO is a hardcore act, a D.R.I.-influenced band with some edge to coarsen up the evening. Think of them as the sea salt to PZ’s sticky sweetness. Doing its thing since 2011, GWO recently took their War on Tourism to Guadalajara, San Luis Potosi and Monterrey as part of a spring tour. They’ll be back home just in time to welcome the otherworldly Pee-Zs this week.
They’ve been dubbed “The Most Dangerous Band in The World” and have reputedly been banned from performing in their Russian homeland, where they are considered enemies of the state. If you really need more info to be sold on Svetlanas, there’s this – their new album, Naked Horse Rider, is a hard-charging 12 minutes of sometimes hilarious, sometimes scary and always entertaining punk rock. There’s so much vague intel about the band that it’s hard to know what’s real and what isn’t. If you don’t care whether members maybe once were KGB spies in the 1970s and are only in it for the music, you’ll dig offerings like “I Must Break You,” “Crimea River” and “Go Fuck Youself.” You’ll be amazed by the band’s unmerciful live set. And you’ll be smitten with frontwoman Olga Svetlana – if you aren’t cowering in fear from her intense, pop-eyed gaze. When Dying Scene asked if she believed the band would be imprisoned if it tried to return home, she answered, “Yes! What the fuck you think? Russia does not do the fucking around like in America.” Swoon.
Houston’s got a band with some border lore, too – hardcore outfit Alimañas. The band has been around since 2008, but a peek at its Facebook page only shows history since last year, which included out-of-town dates in NYC and Philadelphia. Like Svetlanas, the stories that abound regarding Alimañas toddle on the edge of truth and fiction. The band’s Mexican-born members have allegedly been deported untold times, only to return to thrill the masses with cop-baiting songs like “Askeroza Policia” and fully extended middle fingers to authority, like “Insumision.” Every word of the band’s catalogue is in Spanish, but the universal language of discontent is what drives fans to its shows.
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