I devour anything that deals remotely with hardcore punk rock. Discovering certain band's influences, or favorite TV shows ("General Hospital" seemed especially popular among punks) isn't unusual for me. Sometimes that can lead to very scary things -- TSOL's stint with hair metal for example -- but every now and then I stumble upon and open some surprising doors. It's especially great to see a punk rocker continue doing cool shit that doesn't exclusively deal with their past fame, or lack of it in most cases, I guess.
Enter Kevin Seconds, seminal hardcore vocalist for Reno's 7 Seconds. Despite his hardcore and alternative rock past, he has since carved out a decent niche for himself as a pop-punky folk singer -- although that wouldn't necessarily be apparent at last night's show at the Firebird. He might draw a sparse crowd but it's a devoted and loving sparse crowd. Being at this show made me think he might ask someone from the crowd to come onto stage with him and his pals to strum on the guitar to "Heavy Metal Jock" or something. And that's not too far from the truth.
Mr. Seconds brought along with him on this tour a couple mates, the mysterious and old-timey Franz Nicolay (best known as ex-piano player for the Hold Steady). Nicolay is an extraordinary multi-instrumentalist, performing with the banjo, guitar and accordion, who might fit in somewhere between Tom Waits and the Squirrel Nut Zippers. Following Nicolay was the goofy Kepi Ghoulie (formerly of the Groovie Ghoulies), who plays kiddy acoustic punk rock for grown-ass people. Fun, sure, but a little over the top. Ghoulie was accompanied by headliner Seconds on drums, giving the performance a bit more of a rock band-type of feel. His enthusiasm was appreciated but ran thin.
When Kevin Seconds took the stage (damn near midnight, believe me Gramps was pissed, and by Gramps, I mean me) I was surprised at the fun and beyond-relaxed feel to the show. This performance seemed more like hanging with some friends and playing music than a national tour. Seconds has traded his punky shaved head in for a fuzzy and graying beard, his skinhead suspenders for baggy fatigues, his anti-Reagan rants for themes of love and friendship. Not to mention the mere physical transformation since his younger days.
But the man, the legend, is still belting out amazing songs. And this dude can sing! He sounded like a wizened 20-year-old pop-punker, and I couldn't help but to compare him to Motion City Soundtrack's Justin Pierre. His right-hand man Kepi Ghoulie sat in on the make shift drum kit, pumping out basic beats and chiming in on vocals as needed, sans microphone. Seconds wandered through his extensive catalog not discriminating between old and new while surveying the fans for requests and telling a fun story about how he was called a rock star for doing a two-date tour with the Dead Kennedys back in 1981. He hasn't much concerned himself if someone calls him a rock star since.
The small and intimate crowd was ecstatic to be hanging with its idol (since it did indeed seem more like hanging out rather than watching a Peter Frampton concert) and took every opportunity to shout out their requests, and Seconds more often than not taking them up on it. Revamped old punk rock songs got everyone excited and got everyone in the mood for yelling out their favorite old 7 Seconds song (seriously, doesn't anyone else like "Heavy Metal Jock"?!) But midway through the set that mad genius Nicolay got on stage with Seconds and Ghoulie to make some fun and vibrant jamming.
Seconds seemed as tickled and delighted as the crowd at the new shape and sound his old (and new) songs were taking with the two guests helping him out on stage, often expressing his own amazement and exuberance after each song. And the three did sound great, fun and loose like a boozy alt-country band, but unpretentious like your weird Uncle's fun-loving cover band.
Seconds heard someone holler out the request "99 Red Balloons" amidst all the other outrageous 7 Seconds requests (Seconds claimed to not know how to play those songs on acoustic guitar, after all he was the vocalist). With Nicolay on the accordion, Ghoulie kicking up the tempo and Seconds strumming out those beautiful chords and belting out those passionate lyrics and melodies, the new wave classic was reborn while also making for the perfect closing song to for the night. "Until next time," he said. Until next time.