The Cult, Against Me!, The Icarus Line House of Blues June 19, 2012
Before I begin this review, I must let you all know that someone took a dump on the floor of House of Blues' balcony Tuesday night. That's not really pertinent to the action onstage itself (Failed vision quest? Babysitter canceled?) because all three bands were fun and delivered, but I just thought you should know.
I learned of the pooping from a Houston police officer, who was still reeling from the news, during the middle of The Cult's headlining set. He said that Cult crowds are some of the most combative and angry that he has ever seen, working security at their last two shows in Houston. For the Cult's part, they weren't inciting people to shit on the ground.
With all the face-eating, bath salts and fecal matter in the headlines, it was only a matter of time before something like this happened at a concert. Mark my words, someone will ingest a toddler at the Vans Warped Tour this year.
But like I said, all three bands were great from start to finish, even if, as one friend put it, "Watching the Icarus Line was like watching old Stooges clips on YouTube."
That's a half-compliment, I presume. Lead singer Joe Cardamone is currently rocking a very Iggy circa-The Idiot-mullet at this point, so the comparison was easy to make. TIL no doubt converted a few of the aging Cult fans in the crowd.
The inclusion of punk rockers Against Me! on this bill turned a few heads when it was first announced in the spring, but when lead singer Laura Jane Grace made waves with a Rolling Stone article revealing her transgendered identity, it took on a whole new importance. Since the former Tom Gabel has come out as female, she has been met with excited fans and well-wishers at each and every tour stop. Her wife Heather has even been working the merch tables, meeting fans and getting plenty of hugs and high-fives.
Grace is going through hormone therapy, and now dresses more feminine onstage, sporting heels and a slinky black tee. Her hair is longer than it has ever been, and there is a faint hint of mascara. Her voice is a tad higher, but now the signature Gabel howls have mellowed into a healthy growl. She's just a bad-ass rocker chick now.
For an AM! longtime fan, not much has changed, except maybe that Grace's stage persona has a touch of sass to it now. The frontman is also a great frontwoman, natch, and if anything it proves that maybe rock itself is androgynous, no matter what you have in your pants.
The new topical material ("True Trans Soul Rebel," "Transgender Dysphoria Blues") treat the recent developments with the band's trademark wit, grit and gleam. Another fresh cut, "Dead Friend," went out to a Texas compatriot of Grace's who passed on last year.
"The Ocean," from 2007's New Wave was the first time the name Laura Jane was mentioned, and its inclusion in the set was met was cheers.
The Cult went on a few minutes late, opening their set with "Lil' Devil" and running right into "Honey From The Knife" from this year's Choice of Weapon. As they did two years back at the HOB, the band and lead singer Ian Astbury still cast a devious glow pose onstage, more than 30 years into this operation.
Be sure to check out my satisfyingly mind-bending interview with Astbury right here. Try compressing a 45-minute bull session into 700 words.
The illegal dumping upstairs aside, Cult fans are a boisterous and virile breed. They skew older and heartier than your average HOB concertgoer and they bring their A drinking game to the venue, for better or worse. There was a fight in the pit during "Nirvana," of all songs, and a few sweaty brawlers were dragged out of the hall.
"Good ol' boys, huh?" cackled Astbury from the stage behind black glasses and furry coat as the melee in the pit cooled. From the looks of it, the guy who had been throwing elbows in the crowd was neither good, nor a boy. More like rough draft of a drunk with a Tuesday-night temper.
The Cult is touring behind Weapon, which as Astbury said onstage, is their best in years. Well, I guess he has to say that, but I actually agree with him. The material sounds like classic Cult material, which surely can't be said about their last two discs.
These songs feel like home for Cult fans, and they play well with "Fire Woman" and "Wildflower." Even fans who normally don't keep up with current material were pumping and humping in time with "For the Animals."
My only beef? No "Sweet Soul Sister" on the set list, though one or two more songs Tuesday night and the crowd would have probably stormed the stage like the beach at Normandy.
Personal Bias: Any show where someone sees fit to shit on the floor in excitement is a show for me.
The Crowd: Like a clothed Roman orgy and a punk show had a baby, got breast implants, and grew hair down to its ass, and spilled beer on your feet.
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Overheard In the Crowd: "These people are all dickheads," said one police officer.
Random Notebook Dump: That's what she said.