Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The PirkQlaters, the Useless, JamesPlaneWreck and Skittish Itz @ the Knitting Factory (5/23/13)

"I know you motherf*ckers know the words!" Ryan Sampson shouted midway through the second song.  And he was right: when the chorus rolled around again, the lyrics boomed out from the crowd.

I didn't really know the words.  In fact, prior to this show, I'd never heard nor seen the PirkQlaters before.  I knew the name, however, and their rep as Boise's premier ska band.  Also, I'd come to like many of the band's members both as musicians and as people; Sampson's last project, the now-defunct Hotel Chelsea, was one of the best punk bands in town, and I really don't want to think about how many drinks I've bought from him, Red Kubena, Justin Andrews and Luke Strother over the years.  Anyway, when I added all of this up, I had more than enough reason to check out this Knitting Factory show, which marked the PirkQlaters' rebirth.

There were already ninety people there when I arrived.  When the PirkQlaters played, there were so many that I didn't even bother to count.  I'll say this much, though: except maybe for Sonic Youth, I can't remember any other Knitting Factory show that was so well-attended.  I saw plenty of familiar faces as well, including Ivy Meissner, Dustin Verberg (Black Bolt), Josh Gross, Geno Lopez (the Sneezz), Travis Abbott (Obscured By the Sun) and at least two members of Piranhas (who were originally on this bill but didn't play, for some reason).

Local punk band Skittish Itz opened the show.  "It's not rocket surgery," lead singer Russ Worstell's t-shirt said.  Stupid on the surface but clever when you think about it--suited this band very well, I thought.  Not that their music sounded dumb; it was just that their catchy melodies and buzzsaw riffs did their damnedest to perpetuate that so-simple-anyone-can-do-it punk myth.  Their smart lyrics, complex arrangements, indomitable drums and fluid solos gave the lie, however.  But that just made their love of punk's idealized simplicity even more commendable.

JamesPlaneWreck played next.  After the show, a member of this band told me that they felt uncomfortable being on that big stage.  I can understand that, but from where I was standing, they looked and sounded as if they belonged up there.  Blasting out of the Knitting Factory's speakers, "F*ckin' With Ghosts" and "When We Start to Fold" never sounded more anthemic.  Aaron Smith's rough voice and guitar roared, Shaun Shireman's bass surged along underneath, Shane Brown carved some stinging leads out of his Idaho-shaped guitar and Andrew Bagley redlined his drums.  When the tip of Bagley's drumstick broke off at the end, I couldn't help but wonder why that doesn't happen more often.

Up next was the Useless.  Any fears that one may have had of a restrained, tactful performance were swiftly allayed by the blow-up doll that the band set down on the PirkQlaters' drum kit (it didn't stay up there for too long: one of the horn players chucked it into the pit, where the crowd proceeded to toss it, swing it around and bap each other on the head with it).  Anyway, this groups' throaty vocals, curling guitar licks, woozy brass and bouncy rhythms all sounded as winningly raucous as ever.  In keeping with the revivalist spirit of the evening, when people called out for a number from their straight-up punk days, the band busted it out in spite of their protests as to their age, weight and blood-alcohol level.  The mosh circle started up as soon as the first number kicked into gear, and the crowd in the pit kept up the cheering, jumping, dancing, chanting and fist-pumping straight through to the end.

The PirkQlaters provided a truly grand finale to the night.  Kris Simmons's chugging, melodic bass and Chris Devino's rip-roaring drums provided the engine for the blitzkrieg ska and pop-punk tunes.  Red Kubena's dreads flailed as he slashed away at his guitar, and his and Aaron Clayton's buzz complemented Ryan Sampson's manic chicken-scratch.  Meanwhile, Ryan Sampson's tuneful holler sounded in good form, and it met its match in Justin Andrews's rousing harmonies.  Andrews also pitched in with some jabbing saxophone solos and did pretty much everything he could to whip the crowd into a frenzy (strutting and jumping around the stage, hopping onto the drum riser and urging the crowd to clap to the beat, etc.).  Last but definitely not least, College of Idaho professor Luke Strother contributed some elegant trombone work, grinned, slapped his chest, sang along with and without his mic and generally looked the happiest that I've ever seen him.

Almost everyone in the audience was on their feet for the duration of the set.  The pit became a maelstrom of bouncing, moshing, singing, roaring and crowd-surfing.  The Useless's blow-up doll got popped and torn to shreds (I saw someone holding its arm later on).  A bra materialized on Luke Strother's mic stand.  Andy A from Demoni (and Eightball Break, which Sampson cited as the PirkQlaters' biggest influence) came onstage to play bass on a couple of numbers.  Shane Brown hopped onstage with his shirt open and jiggled his belly at the crowd.  Justin Andrews wished audience member Sage Cooper a happy sixteenth birthday and tossed him a frisbee signed by the band (it got tossed off to the side of the stage not long after; hope the kid got it back).  Between songs, Ryan Sampson crammed in jokes, stories, thanks to the audience and shout-outs to original PirkQlater Zak Gilstrap, the openers and the Boise music scene as a whole.

All told, this was easily one of the best shows that I've seen this year.  "And this is not the reunion show," Sampson told the crowd near the end.  "We're back, motherf*ckers!"

Ryan Sampson holding court at the after-party at Sammy's

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