So, I haven't done a good, proper show review in like six months, but that's not to say I haven't seen some KILLER bands in 2010. Why, you ask? Well, to be honest, the local scene has grown a bit STAGNANT, for lack of a better word. Sure, I've seen The Harlequins, 20th Century Tokyo Princess, The Guitars, and The Lions Rampant play some absolutely face-melting sets as the seasons have changed in the old Queen City, but I've written about them over and over again, and it gets kinda tiresome trying to come up with new, fresh, and creative ways to say "Hey moron, why the fuck aren't you listening to these bands?!" Cincinnati rock n' roll bands are as vital and amazing as ever, so if you aren't a fan by now, it's not my fault, OK? Please don't think I'm using the word stagnant as an insult, but I'm not the only person in 2010 to suffer from musical ADD, and there really aren't any new bands sprouting up to challenge the monotony of awesomeness bursting out of the garages, practice spaces, and dive bars in the tri-state epicenter of America's heartland. Sure, I could have coughed up a few words about how Nobunny and Harlem have blown through here in the past few months to lay waste, but I was too goddamn busy having fun, swilling beers, and losing myself in the MOMENT to care. However, last weekend, the motherfucking New Bomb Turks played a rare reunion show in Columbus, with a night-cap performance by the legendary Oblivians across town, so I would have been a goddamn fool to miss out on it, and figured it was as good an opportunity as any to dust off my poison pen and document the experience. Let's GO!
As I mentioned yesterday, Turks frontman Eric Davidson just put out a book entitled We Never Learn: The Gunk Punk Undergut, 1988-2001, which chronicles the history of the '90s garage punk movement that sprouted up like surly weeds underneath the polished Lookout Records-style punk rock scene that took all the glory during the middle years of the last golden age of music. I long ago gave up my snotty music nerd bias against reunion shows, reasoning that it just gives folks like me the chance to see bands that I was either too young or too stupid to catch in their heyday. In this case, the New Bomb Turks stopped lighting up Ohio stages right around the time I was show-going age in the first place. I didn't have a car or with-it friends when I was 16, and I was too in thrall with third-wave ska (YES, I admit it!) and the bubblegum punk stylings of Screeching Weasel and Mr. T Experience to give much play to the bands that Davidson terms "Gunk Punk." Now that I'm older, it's a whole different ballgame. So, that's how I found myself making the 100+ mile cornfield-dotted drive up 71 North to Columbus to witness the New Bomb Turks play in the parking lot of the Surly Girl Saloon on a BLAZING hot Saturday afternoon in July.
The smiling happy faces of Cincinnati seem to carry over to Columbus, as the folks at the entrance took my five bucks (a pittance!) and welcomed me to the tiny parking lot filled with people, tents, and food booths. The event was called "Parking Lot Blowout #5," and even at 6 in the afternoon, it was filled with an impressive wall of humanity. After navigating through a twenty foot beer line, I made my way to a clearing slightly behind the stage and started crushing plastic pints of PBR like nobody's business. Local Columbus stoner rock band Eye provided a hypnotic people-watching soundtrack of riffs stolen in equal measure from Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, punctuated by epic solos and blasts of noise. Once they finished playing, I braved the beer line again and tossed my elbows up, managing to work my way to about ten feet from the stage before the New Bomb Turks were about to play. Once the first riff kicked in, it was like an EXPLOSION!
Let me say that I was about ten feet away from the band, and I could barely see shit! Bobbing and weaving over raised fists and jumping bodies, all I saw was the tops of the heads of a band that was seriously JAZZED to be playing in front of an excited crowd for the first time in forever. Mr. Davidson stalked the stage and bounced off his burly, guitar-thrashin' bookends, wagging his tongue like a masochistic prize fighter, and diving into the throng every couple of minutes, tapping into the kind of ecstacy that even drugs or sex can't provide. The hits rocketed from the stage like missles. "Born Toulouse-Lautrec"? "Dragstrip Riot"? "Up For A Downslide"? "Professional Againster"? Yep, they were all there! Don't take all my words for it though. Here was my view from the crowd!
New Bomb Turks @ Parking Lot Blowout 5, 07/10/2010
Along the way, I realized that I might just prefer reunion shows from veteran bands from the bashin' and thrashin' from the young bucks. After all, these folks are old enough to know better. All the petty bullshit of the past is forgotten, and the love of the music created years ago becomes the focus. Every riff hits harder, every song gets tighter, and the weight of expectation and history becomes heavier. Woah, wait. These people have packed this shitty parking lot on a humid and nasty day just to see us play?! Holy shit! Everywhere I looked, I saw middle-aged dudes in shorts and polo shirts, grinning like mad because their wives let them out of the house for the day. Are you kidding honey? I can't miss this shit! Sprinkled among them were kids and people like me, who have nothing but CDs and t-shirts to go on, finally witnessing what all those old dudes have spoken of in hushed tones for years. All the bullshit of the 90s washed away in a flood of nostalgia. But it really wasn't nostalgia, it was raw, primal, and vicious rock n' roll music splattered in our faces in real time. I wasn't old enough to go to shows, but I collected punk rock zines, and I remember the backlash when the Turks signed to Epitaph and added horns and pianos and shit to their records. Oh, the fur did fly! That stupid bullshit didn't fucking matter for like an hour last Saturday. Everyone was having way too much fun to care. Hindsight and age and time and wisdom and all that, right? Everyone at the Parking Lot Blowout #5 realized at the same time that life is fleeting, and when a motherfucking FIREBALL is dropped in your lap, you'd better catch that shit before it gets away. Luckily, Scott Johnson captured this video from a WAY better vantage point than I had. Enjoy!
After that, I was kinda spent, so I missed the Gibson Bros. and Scrawl closing out the show. I'm thirty years old and don't see much sunlight, for pete's sake! Instead of sweating it out, I made my way to Cafe Bourbon Street, which is next door to the Summit. The Summit is an ugly concrete building that puts on killer shows, but in Columbus it makes total sense to have a venue without even a sign. I guess that's a preventative measure to keep the weirdos out. Good lookin' out, CBus! Oh well, Cafe Bourbon Street served up decent bar food, dispensed Genesse with gusto, played Jodowrowsky's The Holy Mountain on the TV, and let myself and my travelling companion spin vinyl over the PA. Who could really complain?! Sufficiently tanked and happy, I stumbled next door to check out the Cheater Slicks. They kick up an impressive racket, but they just don't have the songs. Oh, well. Up next were the Burning Bushes, which feature former members of Gunk Punk mainstays the Bassholes. I heard a bunch of droning shoegaze riffs and a few songs that didn't really go anywhere. Oh well x2. Then the Dex Romweber Duo showed the increasingly massive crowd what real rock n' roll was about. I saw Dex tear up a nearly empty Southgate House Parlour a few months ago, delivering amped-up Cramps riffs and southern-style soul with gusto, but on this night the set was cut short by a malfunctioning microphone that didn't want to cooperate. He vacated the stage with haste, looking mightily pissed. Major bummer.
The Oblivians finally got on with it around 1:30 AM, and their set seemed like a triumphant victory lap. Seriously, every young buck garage band owes a debt to these dudes. Jack, Greg, and Eric are more influential than Nirvana if you really sit back and take a look at how music has gone. I started this review by name-checking Nobunny and Harlem. Where would they be without the Oblivians?! Every lo-fi/glow-fi/shitgaze/garage band going nowadays, from Personal & The Pizzas to Hunx & His Punx to Wavves to Gentleman Jesse wouldn't be here if the Oblivians hadn't crawled out from the Memphis gutters in the 90s.They did it all before and now they're doing it again. There wasn't any ego-driven back-patting here though, just a rough and mean run-through of all the songs that made people stand up and take notice back in the day. Like I said, bands gain some weight over time, and there simply wasn't any fucking around for the brief time the Oblivians were on stage. If they were sloppy and inept at one point, I sure as hell didn't see it. All I saw was a trio of folks killin' it for a rowdy crowd of converts drenched in sweat. Holy fuck, was it hot! I can't even remember the last time I left a show needing a shower, but this was the one. I waited three days to wash the stink off, and didn't feel bad about it at all. Sure, it was a nostalgia show, but they played the fuck out of those songs for a crowd that NEEDED to hear them. The lousy indie dad-rock Forecastle festival was going on at the same time, and I'm sure the people who paid $200+ to stand in a field and watch the Flaming Lips, Spoon, and She & Him go through the motions didn't have as much fun as the 200+ people shouting along to "Sunday You Need Love." I think I made the right choice, don't you?!