I once read a Zen proverb: "Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water." I've always liked that because that's just how it goes: you have your epiphany or whatever, but then you've still gotta deal with your day-to-day crap. On a similar tack, what do I do after I've had what is easily the most-viewed post in this blog's history (by the way, thanks for reading, everybody!)? I go out and get an oil change for my car. I fret about finding a decent day job. I go check out another show.
I grew eager to see Tuesday's show when I saw that the Jerkwadz, one of my favorite Boise punk bands, would be playing. Also, I've wanted to write a post on the Venue for a little while now. From what I've observed, this place doesn't seem to get a whole lotta respect around town. A few well-meaning folks may pay it lip service now and again, but many people still seem to regard it as the bratty brother/sister who tries to follow and emulate the cool older kids. That's a shame, because I think that it deserves some props as one of the few all-ages places in Boise as well as a crucial supporter of the local punk and metal scenes. (I'll admit that I myself was a little wary of going to shows there a couple years ago, but as Dylan said, "I was so much older then.")
First up for the evening was Toilet Babies, a promising, two-thirds-female hardcore trio based here in Boise. The Sleater-Kinney devotee in me is always glad to see women deciding to kick out the jams, and this band had in spades the locked-in rapport that all good bands need, regardless of gender or genre. Some of their material didn't feel fully developed, but their grounding bass, eyebrow-raising guitar riffs, quicksilver drumming (that guy probably burned off 5 lbs during the course of their set) and call-and-response shouts encourage me to keep an eye out for this group in the future.
Next up was Black Bolt, a local four-man group. These guys had slightly smoother rough edges than Toilet Babies did: they gave more advance warning for their tempo shifts, and they had not only melodies (and pretty good ones at that) but harmonies too. Their set included a cover of one of my favorite Circle Jerks songs ("I'M BEING FRAMED! IT'S ALL A SET-UP!"), a lot of friendly, self-deprecating banter ("Let's not play that fast ever again.") and an original song with one of the greatest titles I've ever heard: "You Don't Look Like a Video Poker Machine."
Static Thought, a four-man group from Oakland, CA, followed Black Bolt. Lead singer Eric Urbach got their set off to a good start by politely asking everybody to come forward and form a circle around them (which they did) and by shaking one audience member's hand. The band's music didn't sound as nice as that, but of course, this audience didn't pay for nice.
Static Thought's un-bluesy, powerful riffs and adrenaline-crazed drumming made me think a little of My War/ Slip It In-era Black Flag. They were more streamlined than that, though: they eschewed lengthy guitar solos and didn't force the tempo shifts too hard. It was as if they didn't want anything impeding their forward motion. Their ominous intros gave their metallic punk a brooding feel, but their three-man chants/shouts brought me to attention and suggested a healthier and more outward-directed precursor for their music: Fugazi. Someone told me later that they've seen Static Thought play here a couple of times before. I'll look forward to seeing them again.
After Static Thought came another local four-man group, Pig Noose. Following the Oakland band couldn't have been easy, but this group still sounded (and looked) kinda rote and lackluster in comparison. The bassist and guitarist spent most of the set with their backs turned to the audience while the singer ambled around up front, his eyes cast down. Aside from some guitar noise and whirlwind drumming, I didn't hear much to distinguish Pig Noose's blur and din. I don't know--maybe seeing so many familiar faces in the crowd tempted them to just go through the motions (the singer chatted with quite a few folks at the front).
The Jerkwardz closed out the night with a set that went surprisingly well, considering how drunk they professed to be. You could maybe call this power trio pop-punk if you didn't mind losing a few teeth. They could almost rival Spondee or the Very Most in tunefulness, but their tough rhythm section and terse guitar solos bring the RAWK. Fusing these two strands together is frontman Jimmy Sinn, who proves that John Doe didn't use up all of punk's reserves when it comes to orthodox great singing. It's been a while since I last saw them, but I don't remember them sounding quite as tight and fierce as they did this night. And goddamn if it didn't feel good to shout along to the chorus of "Shotgun" again.
You can find info about most of these groups on Facebook. And for those of you in the Boise area: if you haven't seen the Jerkwadz before, do yourself a favor and catch them at Liquid this Monday (5/21). Cover's only $5.