The weekend of July 21 should offer a cornucopia of sounds for those who like their music fast and loud and worthy of earplugs. Friday and Saturday in Cobra Lounge’s parking lot is The Rumble, featuring some of the best hardcore punk, headlined by New York City vets Cro-Mags, while Saturday night Concord Lounge boasts a rare return of local punk/ska stalwarts Blue Meanies.
It would be an oversimplification to compare Cro-Mags to Metallica played at double-time, so I’ll avoid that and instead invite you to consider their music in a vacuum, as if that were possible. It’s also an oversimplification to say that this form of metal-infused punk is just rock played at twice the speed; what the speed disguises is the level of expertise these guys (which the Cro-Mags are, and ninety-eight percent of hardcore is) have to bring to the stage. If the Cro-Mags didn’t chugga-chugga like a well-oiled machine, they would go off the rails of their unique crazy train pretty damn quickly.
Saturday night’s Rumble headliner is Killing Time (also from New York), some lyrics from the title cut to whose “Brightside” album typify the world view of most of these bands—as in “every day I say to myself, it can’t be done, try to look on the bright side, found out there isn’t one.”
There are many other bands on the bill: Hometown band The Killer does a nifty roar adventure called “Welcome to Chicago.” Year of the Knife and its mosh-pit stomp also boasts vocals that will drive a cheese grater through your throat in sympathy. Restraining Order brings punk tempos and angry-as-hell attitude to its approach, Fugitive unleashes a fretboard frenzy on its “Hell’s Half Acre,” Kind Eyes collaborates with UnityTX on its “tell me how you really feel” FU to racists, “Fuck a Proud Boy,” and do classic razor-blade gargling as the tempos slow when they become “Prey for Dogs.” Missing Link might as well have a centerfold in the next issue of No Clean Vocals. Wish reminds me of what Rage Against The Machine might sound like if it were a metal band instead of, you know, whatever it is. World I Hate specializes in salvos of hatred that barely exceed one minute, while Big Laugh’s musical compositions motor perilously close to the two-minute mark, and they’re no happier. Dayz Lost includes a hip-hop sample on one of the cuts from its “2 Song Promo” and brings a hip-hop cadence to its screamo vox on the other track, “Another Night.” Rotting Out’s turbulent brand of punk-metal might send Cobra Lounge’s neighborhood into a state of alert, whereas Turquoise brings the noise, but has its tempos slowed compared to the other acts on the bill. Its vocals are remarkably clean, so it seems like an aberration, if a pleasantly melodic one, on this mostly aggro lineup fittingly christened The Rumble.
Also performing at The Rumble are: Fort Worth Texas’ churning and billowing gaseous emanation Ozone; South Florida’s Domain; African American hardcore pummelers Zulu; Angelenos Militarie Gun; the pride of Oxnard, Dead Heat; straight-edge hardcore artisans from Bogota, Raw Brigade; the female-fronted quintet from Buffalo, Spaced; and local skinhead humorists Conservative Military Image. It’s no stretch to imagine that area chiropractors will be fully booked after these two days of head-banging and moshing.
If hardcore is not your speed, but you still like your live music loud and fast, Saturday night offers another attractive option—you can skank. Blue Meanies started at SIU in Carbondale in 1989 but followed a migration north to Chicago, as have many before. Referred to as either punk or ska—or both, as ska-core—the septet (named after the villainous annoyances in The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”) in its heyday specialized in ska music sped up to punk tempos.
I remember seeing them play at my college back in the early 1990s and they almost blew the doors off the café-like venue they were playing. For this show they’re promising a reunion of the 1995 “Kiss Your Ass Goodbye!” lineup, which will be the first time in twenty-nine years all of those guys (yes, they’re all guys too) have shared the same stage. I’m not sure what to expect, but if they have half the energy today that they did as youths, I definitely expect it to be fun. Revisiting that record in particular reminds me that they were more than just a punk-ska also-ran; they were also wildly creative on excursions like “Aquarium Bong.” There are moments approaching free jazz on tracks like “An Average American Superhero,” and it’s easy to imagine how cuts like “The Shit Fuck Man” challenged college radio programmers in that time period. Between horn-laden exchanges and choruses, there are guitar parts so heavy they border on metal. That’s one of the cool things about Blue Meanies; they are always challenging the concepts of genre and labeling.
But if you had to label what to expect for the uninitiated, you might say that ska is like reggae, sped up to twice the speed, and Blue Meanies very often double that speed. Or, to be more specific, if you threw on a Bob Marley LP at 45 RPM rather than the recommended 33 1/3, added some New Orleans horns, Sex Pistols attitude and Metallica guitar (I’m the first to admit that my metal knowledge is not that deep, so my frame of reference is not that extensive, as if that weren’t abundantly clear), then you might have something similar to Blue Meanies.
They’ve reunited periodically between lengthy hiatuses, like seventeen-year cicadas, and are back with veteran associates The Tossers and Weaker Youth Ensemble in tow, and with Chuck Wren taking DJ honors at Concord Music Hall. While the history of Blue Meanies may be lost on the youth, the band says to bring the kids, since the show is all ages.
Craig Bechtel is a freelance writer and has also been a Senior Staff Writer for Pop’stache. He is also a DJ, volunteer and Assistant Music Director for CHIRP Radio, 107.1 FM, and contributes occasionally to the CHIRP blog. As DJ Craig Reptile, you can hear him play music on the FM dial or at www.chirpradio.org most Sunday nights from 6pm to 9pm. He previously worked in radio at KVOE AM and Fox 105 in Emporia, Kansas, and served as a DJ, music director and general manager for WVKC at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where he also won the Davenport Prize for Poetry and earned a B.A. in English writing. Craig has been working in various capacities within the hotel and meetings industry for over twenty years, and presently works at a company that uses proprietary systems to develop proven data strategies that increase revenue, room nights and meeting attendance. In his spare time, he also fancies himself an armchair herpetologist, and thus in addition to a wife, son and cat, he has a day gecko and a veiled chameleon in his collection.