Concert review: Rock ‘n’ roll still alive and kicking with the Safes, Thee Fine Lines and Roundheels at the Firebird, Friday, July 29

The Safes

The Safes sound like they are ready to revive rock ‘n’ roll with their relentless punk sound — and they did just that last night at the Firebird.

Visiting from Chicago the band played this one-off show for an apparently big fan’s birthday party at the St. Louis club. And a good birthday it must have been. Everyone was moving, dancing and having a fine time. The Safes have just a couple of releases under their belt but a massive number of songs — the kind of songs that would make the Minutemen proud.

The opening acts aided the evening with high-quality, nervy indie rock. St. louis band Roundheels took the stage first, and although I’m not sure whether to compare them to Iggy and the Stooges or the Libertines, they ravaged through a energetic set complete with a howler on vocals (who’s only instrumentation was a megaphone with which he had quite a bit of fun) and loud, gnarly solos that would make Ron Asheton wail on air guitar.

But it was the second band, Thee Fine Lines from Springfield, Mo., who tore the joint up. With their chanting vocals and jerky rhythms they sounded as if hipsters hijacked the Descendents, or vice versa. You know it’s a raw rock show when the bassist has to keep a frequently sliding kick drum in place on stage.

After the show I had the pleasure to chat with these guys and they had mentioned that their only citable influence would be the notorious song “Louie, Louie,” and that most of their songs are some sort of variation of that garage rocker. This is especially true with “She’s Long Gone”; the rhythm is clearly lifted from that standard.

In between sets DJ Ryan Snowden spun the wax and got the crowd all worked up with CBGB classics, setting the mood for all the garage rock bands. And of course only a song by the Damned could be a decent segue for the Safes. A relentlessly rambunctious garage band, their set was an aural assault with little idle chatter between songs (except for maybe a few sales pitches and pointing out “the guy from Bunnygrunt”).

But about half way through the set brothers Frankie and Patrick O’Malley (Patrick Mangan holds down the low-end duties) swapped spots on drums and guitar and vocals. I’m convinced they are twins. Identical twins. Impossible to tell apart. The switch up threw my OCD tendencies askew. But nonetheless the band continued to rock (and sounded the same if not better after the switch).

The Safes have a Fonzy-vibe to them: The music, although modern, conjures up images of hotrods, chicks with big hair and cigarettes rolled up in sleeves. But I think that’s all intentional. After all they have a sound that will never go out of vogue.

It’s always a moot argument when claiming rock ‘n’ roll is dead, or that music today is awful. It’s bands like the Safes and Thee Fine Lines that will never allow rock ‘n’ roll to grow old and weary.