Live: Latch Key Kids/The Buzzkillers/Dead to the World/The Hates/Llorona
[Ed. Note: Apologies on the lateness of this review, folks -- it pretty well fell through the cracks for a few months there, but since the Latch Key Kids are playing this weekend, we figured now would be a good time to resurrect it and throw it up into the light of day. Here you go...]
FITZGERALD’S — 1/14/12: I’m an old-timer. It’s true; I’m that weird older guy you see at shows, the one still wearing the band t-shirt (my wife can attest to the fact that band shirts make up a significant chunk of my wardrobe) and trying, presumably, to seem young. I’m That Old Guy, even though I don’t feel old — well, except when it rains, at least, or when I see people wearing sagging jeans.
So it’s kind of nice to catch a show where, hell, I’m pretty much the median age of the people in attendance, and it’s not, say, The Police or Metallica playing. I felt a weird kind of relief looking around Fitz before and during the Latch Key Kids‘ release show for their then-brand-new EP, Democracy: The Art of Maintaining a State of Fear, and I think that was the reason why.
Looking around the room, I saw a lot of familiar-looking faces, guys and girls who’d undoubtedly been around for the Kids’ first reign on the stage, back in the early-/mid-’90s. That’s when I saw ‘em last, myself, and from the crowd, I’m thinking the same was true for a lot of my fellow show-goers. It felt like Old Home Week, seriously.
Unfortunately, I arrived at Fitzgerald’s after openers Llorona had played and with only one measly song to go in The Hates‘ set, which was a shame; the crowd ate it up, though, roaring and cheering as Christian Arnheiter led his bandmates through the now-classic streetpunk the band’s held tight to for nearly 40 years.
Given The Hates’ status as elder statesmen of the punk scene here, it actually seemed a little weird to see them opening for all but one of the other bands playing — I mean, they were support at a show for a reunited band, the Latch Key Kids, who got their start 20 years after Arnheiter and his crew got theirs. Strangeness aside, though, it was great to be able to see a little of The Hates once again, at least.
Next up were Dead to the World, a band I’d heard of but never actually heard, and one I ended up liking quite a bit. Like the preceding band, they played fist-in-the-air, hard-drinking streetpunk, reminiscent of Street Dogs or Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards — gritty, grimy, loud-as-fuck punk that pretty much demands that you yell along.
There were also some Avail-like moments, at least to my ears, where the band brought in a bit of a Southern/country influence, but at the same time, frontman/guitarist Brandon Lyday‘s sing/shouting had a cool, almost Transplants-esque feel to it. Unfortunately, lead guitarist Andrew Manohar had some issues, particularly with the tempos — at times it seemed like he couldn’t hear what the rhythm section was doing, and he may have been new to the band — but overall, I walked away impressed.
Austinites The Buzzkillers took the stage next, and when the band changed, so did the audience, going from excited cheering and mosh-pitting to crossed-arms standoffishness. I felt bad for the band, honestly, for the anemic, aloof response, because I thought they were freaking awesome. They were honestly one of the tightest trios I’ve ever seen, in any genre, blazing through song after song like they could probably do it in their sleep.
Maybe it was the stylistic change that threw off the crowd, really; these guys aren’t streetpunk, by any stretch, but are rather are the best damn ska-punk band I’ve seen/heard since Less Than Jake, and reminiscent of that band’s more straight-up punk songs. When the whole ska-punk scene burned out, it burned out hard, leaving a lot of punks I know unwilling to even think about listening to ska in any form. That certainly seemed to be the case that night at Fitz.
Which is a shame, because The Buzzkillers made fast, tuneful pop-punk with ska rhythms look downright easy, despite both the guitarist and bassist being sick. Even with the constant coughing and hacking in-between the songs, the band tore up the stage.
Then, of course, on came the Latch Key Kids, the night’s headliners, who were celebrating not only the release of their new EP — the first new music they’d made together in a decade — but also their triumphant return to the scene. And the years away seemed to have honed the band’s skills, if anything; as soon as they kicked in, it felt like they’d never left.
Singer Tim Guerinot was the focus, alternately standing with one foot up on the edge of the stage to roar into the mic or ricocheting amidst the rest of the band during the breakdowns. The crowd, for its part, went wild, showing who it was they’d come to see once again, after too damn long away.
At one point Guerinot just stopped and grinned, tongue between his teeth, looking utterly delighted at the spectacle and pleased as hell to be there. He pointed and called out to friends he saw out in the crowd, obviously having a ball up on the stage. The same went for the rest of the band, after a while. At first some of the Kids looked a little uncertain, but as the set rolled on, they became more sure of themselves, smiling and having a good time.
The Kids roared through all four songs on Democracy, “Hear Me Roar,” “Shine the Light,” “Reserve,” and — probably best of all — “Back In The Day,” which earned the band the crowd of old-school fans’ approval. They dug deeper in their catalog, too, hitting long-unheard tracks from both 1998′s Innocence Gone and earlier(?) effort Anytime, Anyplace. I was particularly happy to hear “Knight Song,” off Innocence Gone.
Throughout, the crowd laughed and cheered and moshed, either reliving their glory days or holding tight to the new ones. It was the most genial, cheerful set I’ve seen in a decade, without a single meathead fratboy throwing fists in the pit, and watching from the edges, I couldn’t help but grin. Here’s hoping these guys stick around a long, long time this go-round. END
(All photos by J. Hart.)