Monday, July 2, 2012

The Disconnects - Crazy & the Brains - Black Checker - The Pharmacists -- Velvet Lounge - Jul 1 2012

The Pharmacists - This local trio was disguised as a duo tonight, as the bass player had trouble with traffic. This is a fair excuse as the weather has done some damage around here this weekend. We are left with guitar/vocals and drums blasting away at some slightly above rudimentary punk rock songs. The vocals had the typical harsh intense approach while the guitar playing had a pleasant tough grinding sound to it. The drumming was quick and to the point and the 15 people in attendance enjoyed it all simply enough. The crowd never got much bigger and included band members. This capped off a week's worth of shows that had some of the relatively lowest attendance I have seen in a while. But I read Japandroids sold out, so maybe it's the shows I am going to (not that I am ever going to change who I want to see by ensuring I hit the trendier shows).

Black Checker - I am prepped and ready for this local trio, as I just reviewed their four-song ep this weekend. These guys bring more power pop to a punk sound and it's a successful, balanced marriage between the two styles. I mentioned La Peste in the review, but you can toss in the Zeros and even a touch of the Dicks into the mix here. A couple of songs featured dual vocal work which was good as the two voices are different and can work some interesting harmonies. Hopefully, they will explore that further as they keep playing and writing. And that is about all that is needed here--like just about all bands, regular gigging and thoughtful writing could elevate this good band into something even better. But for now, the guitar sounds great, the vocals quite good, and the rhythm section has a fun careening feel to it. So I had a good time tonight, and will be happy to return for more next time around.

Crazy & the Brains - The first of two 'Joisey' bands hits the stage with guitar, bass, drums, and... glockenspiels? Yes, the guy is playing a couple of them with good technique using two mallets in each hand. So, I apparently have not 'seen it all' in 35+ years of punk rock listening and viewing. Their first song reminds me of Plastic Bertrand and is quite amusing. Then it's a straight up cover of the Ramones' "Oh, Oh, I Love Her So". These two tunes set the tone for the rest of the set with catchy fast power pop punk tunes and loads of three-voice singing. This is a good pairing with Black Checker, although there are differences. The goofy humor is more present here, but it's not over the top. They also did the Shangri Las tune also covered by Johnny Thunders, "Great Big Kiss". Only two negatives with this set:  First, the screams in the vocal mikes needed a bit of restraint as they were needless pain; and second, the set went about 6-7 minutes too long as the edge was wearing off. But, there was some fun to be had here.

The Disconnects - Hmm... more punk rock in store here, obviously with the look of this twin guitar-quartet. A more twisted, bespectacled Billy Zoom on lead, a singer/guitarist with a studded belt and a hairstyle reminding me of Kid'n'Play (Kid's, of course. I now see that 'Play' is a professor in North Carolina). I hear the classic "Sonic Reducer" riff as they are warming up, and that turns out to be a perfect foreshadowing of what is to come. These guys blast out the classic punk with a fervor and style that makes you instantly stop worrying about cliches or precedents and just step back and rock out. There is always just that little bit extra push or flourish on guitar (just as the Dead Boys had) and the rhythm section keeps it all together. The vocals are solid, straight-up and I don't have a thing bad to say about this band. It is particularly refreshing to have a straight punk band put on an entertaining set for me. I am a tough sell in 2012, since I have been doing this since 1977. But the Disconnects delivered a winner tonight.

Quote of the Night: "You are really tough on bass players, showing up."... This from Black Checker's bass/vocalist as we met at the last Presto Bando show where their bassist did not make it either. Maybe so, I thought, but no, nothing to do with me... Then again, I was supposed to go to the 9:30 Club this Friday and I was arranging this with a publicist, they found out that their band had to cancel due to a hospital stay. Then Saturday night, both bands were a question mark as I stuck around a near-empty club until I finally had enough....  Pardon me, while I ponder this further...

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