HOMEREVIEWSCONTACT LINKSARCHIVES FORUMS

July 27-29, 2006
Southpaw, NYC

If I have my way, I will steer clear of Dubois, Pennsylvania until the day I die. My friend, Ned, and I were about four hours into a twenty-hour drive on our way to a punk festival, cruising through Pennsylvania when the timing belt on my new (to me) car snapped on the outer limits of town. We didn’t have to wait too long before a passerby stopped to help. He was a mechanic and diagnosed the problem immediately, then offered us a ride into town where we’d be better able to solve our dilemma. As we got in his car, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was playing at full volume; this should have been our first warning. We had trouble finding a mechanic who could take us in and get us back on the road before the weekend demanded that we stay for an extended period of time. When we found someone, he had trouble finding a supplier in town with the right parts so it took hours longer than his estimate, and we were left to wander. As I often do, I had a camera around my neck, figuring that maybe our cursed luck would at least find me an unexpected gem of a photograph. Towards the end of the afternoon we decided to sit down in the lot adjacent to the auto shop as we waited. Here we heard a yell that caught us off guard; it was the voice of a very angry 14-year old boy repeating his mantra over and over until we finally realized that he was talking to us: “Gimme the fuckin’ film.” He thought I’d taken a photo of his mom’s mini-van as it drove by us, and they were pissed about it. When I walked over to his mom’s vehicle I understood why she’d sent her kin: she barely fit in the seat and getting in and out was surely a chore. “I saw you take a picture of us and that’s illegal”—she was venomous. She even added that she saw—as she drove by at 30 mph—my finger push down on the button. Less than 24 hours in Dubois and I was defeated; in one of the few regrets of my life, I actually exposed the film for her (an act to which she responded, “that’s bullshit, I know you switched rolls on me.”)

Shortly after, my car was ready to hit the road again. The mechanic took most of my money and sent us on our way. Four hours later, somewhere in Ohio, the car stopped accelerating, so I pulled off the side of the road. I was fucking clueless about cars, and what makes what go wrong, and why, so I dealt with the problem the only way I knew how: I cursed a lot. And an hour later I turned the key again and everything was normal for a few hours until it happened again. This time we ended up at a rest stop and decided to call it a night. Ned asked me to pop the trunk so he could get something from his bag, and no sooner did he walk around the car than I heard him scream. The trunk was on fire. Most of our stuff, clothing included, fell victim to the blaze. After much scrutiny, we discovered a hole on the topside of the muffler that must have leaked exhaust fumes hot enough to have somehow warmed the undercarriage enough to set the trunk aflame. A trucker who assisted us in piecing together that puzzle noted the proximity of the heat to the gas tank. The next morning we found a muffler shop to fix up the car in exchange for the rest of my money, and we drove straight on to our destination, arriving only a day or so behind schedule.

That was my first fest, and as nightmarish as it was, it was also perfect. The journey, anticipation, and challenge of making it there made up for all the bullshit along the way. It didn’t even matter that when we got there we found out that the two bands that we really wanted to see had cancelled. I think the old curmudgeon in me has that trip in the back of my head whenever I think about the state of festivals in punk rock today. The days are behind us where once a year there’s an event that could be referred to as “the fest.” Lately, there are just a whole lot of fests, and because of the proliferation they’ve come to mean something else. It seems that punk festivals aren’t so much about the experience as they are about going to a really good show.

The third annual Dot Dash fest was, indeed, a really good show. The lineup was stellar, at least on the days that interested me, and included The Dicks, Rocket From the Tombs, Angry Angles, Marked Men, and Pissed Jeans, among others. Those bands were organized on two shows, Thursday and Saturday, sandwiched around a 60s-themed Friday, with the Alarm Clocks headlining over some newer (and older) retro-garage bands; I might’ve attended the middle day if I’d had a bit more energy and money, but as it was, I was tired and broke, so I stayed home. Though Dot Dash didn’t break free from the fest template, and had notable overlap with other recent fests, it was a well-organized event, full of memorable performances.

By the time I made it to Southpaw on Thursday night, Live Fast Die had already finished and Pissed Jeans were playing. They were shirtless and sweaty, so they may have been on for a while already, or perhaps that’s just how these boys always look. Nevertheless, what I did catch seemed like a full set’s worth of noise that was true to the sounds of their recorded output.


PISSED JEANS

The Carbonas were up next and played a fairly pedestrian set. The songs lacked the spark or energy that are promised by their records (and that I’d seen them convey previously). Part of it, I think, might have been that the stage was too wide, too high, to allow for the band to play off and interact with the crowd. They seemed isolated up there, and I would’ve preferred seeing them in a more intimate setting. The last few songs were closer to expectations, and they really nailed “Frothing at the Mouth.” Marked Men followed and, as they always do, played a great, tight, fun set. They left off some of my favorites, but I guess with as many “hits” as the MM have, that’s inevitable. This was the first time I’d seen the band since hearing the new album, so it was fun to compare some of the newer songs to their recorded versions.

Though I always question the motivation behind old bands reuniting to play again, there has never been a doubt that The Dicks are sincere. So often it feels that reunited groups are just going through the motions, either trying to recapture some lost part of their youth or make a long-overdue paycheck. That doesn’t bother me, but the result is too often just a bland, uninspired reminder of what once was great. Not long before the fest I was out in Austin and overheard part of a conversation between Davey Jones, an old Texas punk who’s been playing guitar with the Dicks since their reformation, and a friend of his. Though I was involved in my own conversation and was not interested in eavesdropping, every so often I’d overhear something that caught my attention: “Man, this music has been passed down from generation to generation, and these kids who weren't even born when we were starting know every word and sing along…You hear about performers talking about feeding off the crowd, well this is absolutely the case. People are going nuts and it's such a rush…” and so on. These guys are playing again because they love it.

Gibson Haynes, Dicks fan

The New York crowd was a packed house, with a good handful of old-timers crawling out of the woodwork. Besides the aging New York punks, a few Texas folk made the trip as well, including Gibby Haynes and an ex-member of the Pagans (ATX). At one point Gibby was pogoing furiously, knocking into everyone around him, when someone grabbed him by the neck. For a few moments it seemed as though a brawl was about to start until Buxf said from stage, “Oh hi, Gibby...we have a Butthole Surfer in the crowd.” The tension dissipated as the old friends took a second to greet each other (and the aggressor immediately apologized).

When the curtains opened, the band meandered into their first song and within moments worked up to a furious pace. Gary Floyd was howling as Davey Jones attacked his guitar. Floyd was stage center and his presence stole the show. His voice was full and booming as imaginable, and his performance riveting. For this tour, they played as a four-piece, with only Jones on guitar (in their prior Texas reunion shows there was a second guitarist to help fill out the sound), and he played with a ferocity that compensated for the lack of a partner. The band played through most of their early material—songs from the EP, split, and LP—ending with “Hate the Police.” With the first note, the crowd erupted, as everyone present cried out, fists up. The song is timeless, and every bit as relevant now as it was when it was written.

The performance was riveting, but lacked the intimacy of the prior Texas shows, which were as much reunions as they were gigs. With the old Raul’s crowd present, the band played with a confidence that you only exude when around those closest to you. They’d fuck up and joke around and take it all in stride. On the east coast tour, the sets had a slightly more formal separation between the audience and performer.


I'M AT THE BOOKSTORE

Saturday night the fest resumed for me. A few friends had mentioned that the previous night’s show (that I skipped) was fun, if under-attended. We got to the club early as to make sure we didn’t miss Angry Angles, who were scheduled to play second. Opening the show were the Imaginary Icons, a band who had been repeatedly described to me as a “UK DIY-styled” group. Though they were enjoyable, their approach was a little too competent and deliberate to justify that label. Still, the set was full of interesting compositions firmly rooted in pre-‘80s three chord punk and post-punk.

The Angry Angles followed with what I thought was a surprisingly early slot on the show. Jay is a performer and always shines on stage, even when the stage is obscured with theatrical curtains (the band introduced themselves, “We’re the Angry Angles and we don’t like curtains.”) The group is doubly interesting since their live and recorded personas differ immensely. Where the released versions of the songs are often calculatingly paced, live they are frantic and explosively performed. The band’s set included about a dozen songs including the sublime “Things Are Moving” and a high-intensity take on “Crowds.”

After the Angles played, I was tired of standing around the club and needed to get out. I missed the next couple of bands (DC Snipers and Little Killers) while walking around the neighborhood, catching up with an old friend. When we decided to head back to Southpaw, Rocket From the Tombs was on stage, within seconds of starting their set. Besides the young drummer, the band showed their age, especially Dave Thomas, who kept a chair on stage to get rest during his non-singing moments. His endurance, however, lasted through the set and he was in prime form to bellow. The set list was immense, with one timeless song after another. It’s remarkable that the group lived their day without recording a proper record, considering how visionary their music was. It goes without saying that the band’s sound differed from the thirty year-old rough recordings that I’m familiar with, but the songs remained vibrant and full of life even when polished up a bit. As the set wore on, I found myself with closed eyes and a face-wide grin, singing along here and there, as I just soaked in and enjoyed the songs, the first and, likely, only time I’d hear them performed together.

Though I am one of the throwbacks who’ll scream and cry about the current punk rock festival circuit and how I miss the good ol’ days, it’s also hard to deny that there are promoters behind each of these working hard to top one another in pursuit of the ultimate show. Dot Dash consistently finishes at the top of the pile, and though I miss the importance and urgency of fests in years past, I look forward to seeing what Dot Dash will come up with in the future.

Review by Dave Hyde
Pics by Dani



PREVIOUS PAGEHOMENEXT PAGE