I arrived to the show kind of late due to bike trouble. The first band, Horse or Cycle, had already started, though they were only in their first song. Horse or Cycle is basically an indie-rock kind of band, but more like the originators of the genre than some of the more recent stuff. They combined clean vocals with noisy guitars that intertwined interestingly or sounded off percussively like the Gang of Four or the Pop Group. It was a good set and not too long; I would definitely see them again. Cool stuff.
After Horse or Cycle was Brass Chariot, who I had heard was a classic rock band that stuck close to the genre and was generally boring. This was not exactly true; Brass Chariot ended up being more like a cheesy, fast punk/garage band. The band was composed of three old guys who might have been members of the Melvins and a younger guy who looked like Fred from Scooby-Doo (ascot included). The first song they played was something about hating life or something; the older guitarist guy sung it and it was pretty cool. Whenever the Fred looking guy sung a song it always seemed like he was trying too hard. His vocals always seemed really off, like he was pushing his voice in a way that just didn't work. Even though I really like some of what they were doing, Brass Chariot started to annoy me by the end of their set. There were far too many guitar solos that always started after short breaks in their songs and Mr. Ascot's song intros were so very rockist and always something like, "Fuck yeah were gonna take you to another fucking planet," or "Next up we got Rocket from the fucking Tombs!" I guess Brass Chariot are alright, but they should try to be less generic and maybe get rid of that ascot guy. Brian was basically right, but they were more like Millions of Dead Cops than Mountain.
After Brass Chariot had left, the tension started to build. Rocket from the Tombs started setting up. They had some shredded amps and old guitars; all of Cheetah Chrome's guitar pedals were red with cream knobs. Craig Bell, the bass player, looked a lot like Benjamin Franklin, and Steve Mehlman, the drummer was very similar to Kurt Cobain; Richard Lloyd's replacement, Gary Siperko, looked like a younger Lee Renaldo. The rest of the band stood onstage for a few minutes until the crowd separated a little near the steps to the stage and local poet/show promoter Che Elias appeared with David Thomas right behind him. The Rocket from the Tombs and Pere Ubu singer was a lot thinner and haggard looking than I expected, but here he was, looking like an ancient sailor who had been lost at sea for ten years. I became very nervous from his presence.
Pere Ubu kicked their set off with their new single "I Sell Soul" which sounded great. David Thomas' whiny vocals whizzed around the speeding guitars. It sounded pretty close to the studio version. Next they played the acid-blues "Good Times Never Roll" with Siperko's psychotic, but cerebral guitar solo and then the forlorn, early Pere-Ubu-ish "Birth Day." I did not know either of these songs, but they sounded pretty good here. After the two new songs, Rocket from the Tombs played the old songs "So Cold," which governed an audience cheer as the opening riff started, and "What Love Is." The latter song had the audience sing along and brought a lot of energy with it. Next up was a new song, "Anna" and then the classic "Amphetamine," with Cheetah standing in for the late Peter Laughner; this song was especially solemn and tear-inducing. Craig Bell sang his weird femme-fatale metaphor "Muckraker" about a Nazi girlfriend or something then David Thomas sang "Maelstrom" about telephone calls and the somber B-side "Romeo & Juliet." Some punk guys to the left of me got rowdy during "Butcherhouse 4." Before the song had even started they said, "Hey can you guys play 'Ain't it Fun'?" in a bored annoying way. David missed some lines and looked worried and anxious while Steve Mehlman became very nervous and snapped his drum sticks, but the band got right back together in a moment. They played "Six and Two" and then went right into "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" which brought a really fast and manic breakdown. The next song seemed to be the song everyone was waiting for, "Sonic Reducer;" as soon as I heard the opening chords everything was perfect. It was fast and ferocious and the whole crowd sang along. Gary Siperko did some weird watery, springy guitar stuff and Craig Bell did some backing vocals like in their original version before the later one by the Dead Boys. Waiting on the stage for everyone to finish clapping, Rocket from the Tombs went right into their encore sort of thing (I'm pretty sure David Thomas hates the ritual around this and thus sort of doesn't really do one). Cheetah said, "I guess you guys sort of have us trapped now don't ya?" while some guys yelled stuff and then they played my favorite, "Final Solution." Rocket from the Tombs ended the night with "Sister Love Train" and the discordant "Life Stinks" and then got their merchandising set up. Brian and I talked with Steve, who I gave some Satyr/Elfheim stuff to, and Craig for a while. I had a nervous conversation with Cheetah Chrome as he chuckled, trying to disconnect his gear. David Thomas shook my hand because I waited for him to get change for me and then yelled at Mr. Ascot from Brass Chariot when he patted Mr. Thomas on the back as he went to get his stuff. It was a good night.
[This review previously appeared in Sneak Attack #3, the South Seas Sneak official fan zine]