The fog lay heavy over town Monday night, but the guitars were crisp in the Studio at Warehouse Live as War on Women and RVIVR primed Houston for Propagandhi.
The studio was just over half full when War on Women began the night with a fury of shredding guitars, pounding drums and Shawna Potter's crazed eyes as she shouted lyrics that admonished cat-calling and raised awareness of other issues. She ended the set with a most unexpected statement to hear at a punk show, "You guys have been super sweet."
Houston immediately took to the melodic tunes of RVIVR, a four-piece out of Olympia, Wash., though they stopped playing during the first song when about six people started pogoing and bouncing into each other. Guitarist/vocalist Erica Freas told them to be respectful and not bash into one another. Between songs, the group heavily championed gender equality, women's rights and admonished police brutality in a strong set that left the crowd was pumped and ready for more action.
If you are not familiar with the speed-metal/thrash-punk stylings of Winnipeg's Propagandhi, their former label Fat Wreck Chords describes their music as "both enlightened and incendiary...many consider them to have picked up where the Dead Kennedys left off." Their newer music is not simply punk, though, progressing into a heavier type of metal over the years.
Monday, their catalog spanned three decades and eight albums; fans were familiar with them all, but seemed to have come for the earlier tunes. The beginning of the set contained More recent songs such as "Cognitive Suicide" and "Failed States" came early on as the crowd moshed, pogoed, fist-pumped and sang along, but clamored for songs from debut album How to Clean Everything.
Surprisingly, Propagandhi took heed from their album Less Talk, More Rock and ran through their 90-plus-minute set with minimal diatribes. The biggest message of the night was to "help each other." Front man Chris Hannah reminded the crowd to "be respectful" on several occasions, so one can only imagine that whatever befell the young fellow who left the venue early wailing and holding his arm and shoulder in place did not occur from ill intent.
A personal favorite of the night was Clean Everything's "Haile Selassie, Up Your Ass," a down-tempo song with a reggae vibe and religious and politically charged lyrics. Hannah adjusted a few lyrics that were in accord with issues relevant to today's world. His vocal style has evolved over the years, moving from a shrill screaming shout to more melodic and friendly tone. Second guitarist David "The Beaver" Guillas played some short solos that left the crowd in awe, and founding member Jord Samolesky kept the energy up as he blasted on his drum kit.
When not singing, Todd Kowalski moved around like a spastic caged tiger, constantly giving the crowd fist-bumps and interacting with those in the first few rows. Gaining speed and momentum, he then propelled himself backwards off the stage monitor.
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The encore was set off by "Back to the Motor League," as the Canadians were briefly joined by two of the ladies from Women of War. Fan favorite "Stick the Fucking Flag Up Your Goddamn Ass, You Sonafabitch" filled the room next, Hannah screaming with enthusiasm and stopped to let the crowd to shout the song's spoken-word section in perfect unison: "but wait a minute dad, did you actually say freedom/ Well if you're dumb enough to vote, you're fucking dumb enough to believe them/ Because if this country is so goddamn free then I can burn your fucking flag wherever I damn well please."
The show finished where Propagandhi's debut album began, with "Anti-Manifesto." Fans met the show's crescendo with amazing energy and impressed the veteran punks as they walked offstage.
Personal Bias: I have liked Propagandhi for many years, as How to Clean Everything was the first actual record that I purchased in the mid-'90s. I remember being shocked by some of the lyrical content. Remember, that this was in the day just after Tipper Gore and others worked so diligently on having Parental Advisory labels placed on albums with dirty words.
The Crowd: A mix of all lovers of punk and metal -- colored hair, a few vegans, carnivores, young professionals, some moms and dads, some people with grey beards.
Overheard In the Crowd:
Chris Hannah: "You know what Dallas said about you?" Houstonians: "Fuck Dallas!" Kowalski: "You know what Austin said about you guys?" A Houstonian: "We've got no beef with Austin!"
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