Houston Gets Happy (and Empowered) with The Interrupters

The Interrupters
The Interrupters Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

Ask some punk acts how they prepare for a gig and you might get a list of sordid and possibly criminal deeds. Not so with The Interrupters, it would seem. During last night’s packed show at Warehouse Live, the band’s guitarist, Kevin Bivona, said the group’s members used the hours ahead of the show to do something they’d never before done.

“Today was the first time - we’ve been a band for seven, going on eight, years – it’s the first time that the four of us ever went for a run together!” he exclaimed, conjuring cheers from the crowd.

If that also conjures Partridge Family-like images in your mind, that’s probably okay with the band. It is comprised, after all, of three Bivona brothers and their sister in music, vocalist Aimee Interrupter. The family vibe is strong and even a bit wholesome. In concert, they’re much closer to Keith and Laurie than Sid and Nancy.

That’s not to say they’re delivering Partridge-like bubble-gum pop. Lyrically, The Interrupters tackle pertinent subjects like abusive relationships and standing up for what’s right in a world that daily seems more committed to wrong-headedness. And there’s enough edge to its pop punk and ska rhythms to draw stalwarts of any city's punk community to the shows. About halfway through the set, a sight familiar to anyone who’s attended a punk show in Houston in the last several years materialized before our eyes. One of H-town’s supremely dedicated punks, who we’ll just call Shabs, went crowd-surfing across the room and right to the head of the stage, where she was met by Aimee Interrupter. Later, the band split the audience in half, seemingly setting up a “wall of death.” The idea is both sides of the crowd will furiously charge into each other, like those warring clans in Braveheart, on the strike of the first note. When the band played, the opposing sides sort of bounced around and then melded into a unified, happy, dancing group.

As Shabs put it later, “That was the friendliest wall of death I’ve ever been in. Good times, y’all.”

click to enlarge The Interrupters made family from friends at last night's Warehouse Live show - PHOTO BY JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
The Interrupters made family from friends at last night's Warehouse Live show
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

The band opened with “A Friend Like Me,” from its 2014 debut LP, and ended with “Family,” from the same album. By design, the set list bridged the gap by taking us all from “friends” to “family.” Kevin Bivona, who handled much of the onstage patter, told the audience Houston is a favored tour stop for the band, echoing thoughts he shared with us in a phone interview ahead of the show. He noted that last night’s crowd was about four times the size of those the band has played for on past Houston dates.

The band’s profile has markedly increased since it last performed here, thanks in large part to a mega-hit, “She’s Kerosene,” which emerged in the band’s encore. It’s a track you can’t help but move to, but its subject matter is fairly heady, though less overt than “She Got Arrested,” which was higher up the set list. That one includes the lines, “put his hands on her in anger,” “she got arrested for shooting down her man” and “she said, ‘I’d do it again.’” On “Easy on You,” Aimee sings about self-image and how it’s imperative to forgive yourself for your past mistakes. The band speaks to empowerment in songs like these and has its share of anthemic tracks, like “Take Back the Power” and “Title Holder,” to urge listeners to love themselves.

No matter which song they played (including snippets of Metallica, Aerosmith and Green Day songs ahead of a full cover of Operation Ivy’s “Sound System”), the crowd was into it, singing along and feeling jubilant. “Friends to family” mission was fully achieved by the end of the night. The band was three-quarters through "Rumors and Gossip" when a fan fell in the pit. The music came to a screeching halt while the fallen soldier was seen after and removed to safety. Then, the band polled the crowd about moving onto the next tune or starting "Rumors and Gossip" again from scratch. The crowd chose the latter, just to have an unblemished experience. The underlying element to the set and its selected songs – 20 in all, balanced pretty evenly between newer and older stuff – boiled down to this: c’mon, get happy.

click to enlarge Masked Intruder - PHOTO BY JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Masked Intruder
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

The Openers:
The ski-masked antics of Masked Intruder were on display ahead of The Interrupters. They and show opener, Rat Boy, are touring on practically all of the 40 dates of the tour and their faux criminal schtick seems like a good fit for the bill. Most of Masked Intruders songs harp on love and prospective love (bordering on creepy stalking, especially on fan-fave “Heart Shaped Guitar,” which included guest vocals from an audience member.) Their set was spirited and fun, with favorites like “Stick ‘Em Up” and “I Fought the Law” served up with a big wink-wink. “I Fought the Law” includes the punk rock lyric, “fucking pigs are trying to ruin my good time,” but the notion takes on a comedic element when a “police officer” standing onstage to eye the band’s every move strips away his uniform and dances in his undies to the band’s jams. If Masked Intruder left you feeling a little cheated for your fix to rail against corrupt and murderous cops, you might instead take in Tuesday night’s Leftover Crack and Cop/Out show at White Oak Music Hall.

Our apologies to Rat Boy, who we just missed on arrival, and much to our consternation. The British singer/guitarist has had his mash-up of punk and hip-hop sampled by Kendrick Lamar and he’s toured with Oasis’s Liam Gallagher. This was only his third show on American soil and he’s headed to Coachella by the end of this tour, so he’s the sort of artist you definitely want to see if traffic, weather and a long line of The Interrupters fans snaking around the venue allow you to be on time for his opening set. We have it on The Interrupters’ authority that his set killed, following suit to the ones Rat Boy performed in Phoenix and Dallas earlier this week. We have it on Masked Intruder’s authority that “he’s not part-rat” and is, in fact, “100-percent English human.”

The Interrupters Set List

A Friend Like Me

By My Side

Take Back the Power

She Got Arrested

This Is the New Sound

Title Holder

Haven't Seen the Last of Me

Broken World


Easy on You

Good Things

Jenny Drinks

Gave You Everything

Rumors and Gossip

Sound System (Operation Ivy cover)

On a Turntable

Got Each Other

She's Kerosene

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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.