Screeching Weasel Warehouse Live August 20, 2010
For more photos from Friday's show, see our slideshow here.
There is a certain amount of baggage involved in seeing a band you've loved since high school for the first time, especially when that band carries some baggage of its own. Put your expectations too high and you're setting yourself up for disappointment.
The baggage that Screeching Weasel brings to the stage is exactly the reason why the band resonated with Aftermath 15 years ago. The boys from Chicago are easily lumped in to the same category as other Lookout! Records "hitmakers" The Queers and Green Day, but while those bands were singing mindless pop-punk about girls' tits and masturbation, Ben Weasel (born Ben Foster) was writing songs about paranoia, depression and anxiety, ailments he famously suffers from. He was also writing songs about girls who refused to shave their legs and strong-willed women who had succumbed to the American Dream.
But 24 years as a band, as Weasel frequently reminded the crowd Friday night, has not exactly been kind to the guys. John Jughead, the second-longest serving member, left the band last year and Ben Weasel is now joined by a group of musicians nearly half his age, including a guitarist with the goofiest stage dance in the history of all music, along with on-again-off-again guitarist/bassist Dan Panic.
The intermittent history of the band is probably the reason why Aftermath never got to see them. In fact, every person we talked to at the show remarked on their excitement at seeing the band for the first time. Even 30FootFall singer Butch Klotz expressed the same at the end of his band's set.
"I'm stoked to see Screeching Weasel," he told the crowd. "I've never seen them before."
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Weasel took the stage apologizing for a stomach bug that had laid him up for a few hours. He also shouted out the Axiom, where the band had previously played. He was clad in a faded Ramones T-shirt (but of course) and had a sizeable beer belly, but as the band launched into the first notes of "Cindy's on Methadone" he sounded exactly like the nasally 17-year-old voice he's always been.
From then on it was an onslaught of three-minute power chords with very little break in between songs, except for when Weasel had a story to tell. The band sounded steady - not drop-dead amazing, but good, and according to a friend of Aftermath's, better than they had sounded at shows just a few years back.
For a while Weasel was known as punk's most infamous curmudgeon, advocating a "fuck everything" aesthetic in his regular Maximumrocknroll column, but the years have obviously mellowed him. He wondered aloud about the punk tradition of flipping off bands onstage and asked the crowd to give him a thumbs up instead.
He talked a bit about his struggles with depression and growing old. And he desperately wanted to bridge the security-guard-filled gap between the stage and his fans, spending a good five minutes looking offstage for either a way climb down or someone to help him.
"I don't know if I can get back up. I'm a middle aged gentleman," he said. "I wanna come down and high-five the guys who've been giving me the finger all night. Why do you cats do that?"
Eventually he settled on climbing atop the speakers flanking the stage, and later tweeted happily about meeting fans after the show.
Even if Weasel has calmed his punk ethos, the crowd at Warehouse was all too eager to let the aggression fly. A number of women who had decided to crowd-surf emerged from the security barrier with their T-shirts torn to shreds, and some lackey was paged to wipe up the beer and water flung onstage.
Several fans decided to crash the handicapped area to the left of the stage. Aww, punk rockers. So very charming. At least the attitude was no different than any other concert night in Houston.
As Aftermath stood there thinking we were too goddamn old for that kind of nonsense, another thought occurred to us. Screeching Weasel had already covered "You Are My Sunshine," right after a song about creepy-crawlies in the brain. Then they launched into "I Can See Clearly Now."
The dichotomy that is Ben Weasel - curmudgeon full of love, agoraphobic frontman, conflicted punk jock who wants everyone to go get ice cream together - and his multi-faceted personality is what drew us to the band in the first place.
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Personal Bias: We may have outgrown that phase, but we still have the CDs.
The Crowd: Lots of Manic Panic and Screeching Weasel tattoos.
Overheard In the Crowd: Not overheard, but spotted: All-American Rejects guitarist Mike Kennerty.
Random Notebook Dump: The last time The Energy played "Runnin' Down A Dream" was when they opened for Jay Reatard.