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Thunders closes tour with raucous house show
Posted January 31, 2014 by Rob Peoni

 

Description from the Facebook event page:

Ready to rip? It’s time to rip. You better slip those fuck up boots on one more time for the end of January cause we’re bringing a whole mess of trouble. Got a date? No worries there’s plenty of babes on both sides of the gender to mingle on. We’ll have beer, bebs, and burgers because we like to pretend it’s summer all year long at the palace ala the palmjuana trees. Come get lit and light up your lighters, this one’s gonna be a sweaty betty.

***

I arrived at Debbie’s Palace of Noise & Laundry, the alias for a turn-of-the-century house at 945 E. Morris St., around 9:30 on a frigid, Wednesday night. The house is easy to spot, as oversized, crippled, cardboard fingers protrude like corn stalks from the home’s snowy front lawn. The digits are a relic from last summer’s Cataracts Music Festival, which several of the house’s inhabitants helped organize. Inside, familiar faces from the evening’s performing acts are lining the walls. Given the subzero temperature and the fact that the show was scheduled to kickoff at 9 o’clock, I wonder whether the turnout will justify the bill’s four bands.

 

The host for the evening, Jacob Gardner is swift to reluctantly hit me up for door money: an unspecified donation to benefit the evening’s touring acts. I happily fork over the four dollars in loose change that was floating around my pocket, knowing I’ll likely empty the remainder of my wallet on Thunders’ latest LP, Weird Spines White Trash Whatever.

 

The first band, Heart Attack Jizzers, started to play around 10. They began with a vengeance, with the bassist peeling back his eyelids with two middle fingers prior to dropping into his first note. The lead singer was spastic, flopping on the floor and wielding his microphone with the unpredictable ferocity of a buoy in choppy water. The lyrics amounted to inaudible shouting, but the frontman's aggressive enthusiasm seemed to entice the crowd into a controlled frenzy. Intense, amicable shoulder to shoulder knocking broke out in front of lead singer toward the end of the third song. After the shoving match, the song ended abruptly, but intentionally. Lead singer: "Alright let’s settle down. This place is weird. You guys are acting weird. Let’s take it down a notch. There’s Christmas lights, and it’s not even the season."

 

The living room at Debbie’s is really two rooms with an open-air arch separating the “stage” from the audience. The crowd was thick in front of the band, but the pushing never broke out into the larger room, and fans began to simmer down quickly. After a couple more songs the set ended. The listeners up front seemed exhausted, yet exhilerated. Their giddy expressions read something like the visage of someone fresh off a good fuck. A guy in a camouflage jacket immediately began rapping to a nearby girl about the recent UK/Louisville basketball game. He apparently recognized her as the offspring of some ardent Kentucky fan. She looked puzzled and uninformed, standoffish to the guy's aggressive chatter. There was idle talk of her dad and true fandom.

 

 

Throughout the show, a VHS tape of old Twilight Zone episodes played in black and white on an early 1990s-era television. It was a subtle nod to every great dive bar and the ubiquitous, vaguely identifiable b-movies that run in a continuous loop in the background of those establishments. The volume was muted, so Gardner proceeded to explain the plot behind the current episode:

 

A salesman is confronted by Death, who offers the man a chance to continue living if he provides a legitimate, unfinished accomplishment/feat/piece of business. The man offers several excuses to no avail. None of the salesman’s reasons for sticking around meet Death’s scrutiny. So Death leaves the man with two days to ponder his existence before he threatens to come back and take the life of a small boy who lives in his Brownstone. The tradeoff is the result of the salesman’s unwillingness to accept his fate. When Death returns, the salesman stalls the dark lord by presenting him with the varying cheap watches, insurance policies and knick knacks that comprise his trade. Gardner thought he remembered that the kid ends up living. His synopsis seemed plausible enough, but I stepped out for a cigarette before I could confirm.

 

 

By the time Thee Open Sex set up, a sizable crowd of younger, unfamiliar faces looking to be in their early 20s had showed up. They seemed acquainted, but not necessarily with, the kids that had created a stir during the Heart Attack Jizzers’ set. The room was packed. The stage room was filled to capacity with listeners lining the wall in the shape of the letter "C" with the bottom curve in front of the band proving particularly packed with flesh. The second room was full, but not uncomfortable.

 

Dense. Sludgy. Thee Open Sex distill the most euphoric moments of a jam band into 3-minute punk songs. There was a lot of feedback on Rachel’s vocals, but in the moments her voice punched through, she sounded great and in command. The crowd was too tight to carry over the raucousness from the first set, until Brandon Jackson showed up. The room was so packed that a single man could move the entire crowd. Anyone who has been to a show with Jackson, the former bassist for Vacation Club and talented musician in his own right, understands that he was just the man for the job. A straightjacket couldn’t prevent that dude from busting a groove. Some healthy jostling stayed amicable throughout the remainder of Thee Open Sex's set.

 

Thunders took the stage next, and sounded great. This is one helluva band with Tyler Watkins (Margot & The Nuclear So and So's) on bass. The precision that comes with a couple weeks of grinding on the road definitely showed. Drummer Mike Preuschl (Hotfox) had a serpentine disposition throughout his energetic set. His tongue snarled around the corner of his mouth while sweat sprayed from his schoolboy haircut. Watkins poured beer down Preuschl's beak mid-song in a bonafide rock n’ roll move.

 

Reidy can shred. He looked like Heath Ledger’s version of The Joker from Dark Knight. Maniacal, with his shoulder-length hair draped over his left eye. Midway through the set, he ripped through a solo with his guitar slung over his head standing on what must’ve been the bass drum, though I couldn’t confirm as his legs and feet were invisible through the thicket of humans that stood between my vantage point and the stage. He continued ripping away, pressing his guitar dangerously into a light bulbless fixture above the band. Reidy's vocals were the best of the night by a long shot. My Old Kentucky Blog found the best adjective for his delivery in their recent premier of the single “Noasis,” calling it sleazy. Surprisingly, his vocals prove less abrasive in a live setting with the muscle of the bass and drums behind them.

 

 

The crowd had thinned without dispersing before Raw McCartney took the stage shortly after midnight. I secured a spot on the staircase directly behind the band. The set opened with samples of Luniz's "I Got Five On It." Duncan Kissinger (Skin Conditions), who has played every instrument in this band at one time or another, sat in on drums with a stern look of seriousness cast across his face. Maybe he was on edge due to the crowd's earlier volatility, or maybe he had sipped several Hamms. His play is fundamentally sound, without any flourishes of grandeur. Perfectly suited for Raw McCartney's straightfoward, punk rock format. Gardner sang through a harmonica microphone adhered to his mic stand by a tangle of electrical tape, giving his vocals a distant, indecipherable reverb.

 

A few songs into the set, it became clear that the space vacated by departing listeners had allowed for a resurgence in pushing and shoving in front of the band. By this time, the crowd was noticeably more inebriated. The revelers jostled into walls, threatening to knock loose mirrors and shelving. At some point the pushes escalated and two fans took a tumble, taking a younger girl with a GI Jane haircut with them. The fall collapsed Gardner's suitcase of effects pedals and sent his microphone stand crashing. Punches were thrown as fans attempted to regain their footing, leaving one fan's nose bloodied.

 

 

The confrontation ended as quickly as it began with the puncher finding himself ejected on the front-lawn and the punchee standing with his nose bleeding as the band quickly re-assembled its gear. It was rather remarkable how quickly the mood transitioned from chaos to equilibrium. "Play a fucking punk rock beat," the punk with the bloody nose shouted. With that, the music resumed and Raw McCartney launched, full-throttle, into its wall of noise.

 

Music critics in national publications often bemoan the death of punk, citing corporate America's attempt to adopt the genre as a conduit to marketing to 20-something males. There is certainly some merit to this argument, but for those in attendance on Wednesday night all of that was irrelevant. Punk's greatest draw has always been its live format. The aggressive, three-chord structures still displayed an ability to transform the listener, taking them to places of both euphoria and aggression. Every cliche about the transformative power of live music was on display in its rawest, most authentic form. Punk might be dead for the masses, but it was alive and well for the few dozen people on hand at Debbie's, and for that I'm grateful.

 

All photographs courtesy of Dave Jablonski

 

 

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