Standing in the very back of the crowd, trying to crane my neck and peer over the writhing, black-clad masses, was the closest I came to seeing any of the bands perform. Finding it impossible to push forward in the crowd and fearing a set of broken glasses had I tried too hard, I resigned myself to the bar to gather what I could from the deafening sounds emerging from the opposite end of the venue.
First up, North Carolina hardcore punkers Double Negative growled out one minute-and-a-half song after another. Being mostly used to the mix I hear at indie-rock shows, the heavy bass drum and heavier vocals were both refreshing and oppressing. The band played no frills, old school hardcore with furious energy, inciting the first (but not even close to the last) crowd surfers to take flight.
Blasting fog and performing in front of a giant skull with strobe lights for eyes, Seattle’s the Spits felt just right. The band’s brand of Ramones-tinged garage punk was sandwiched in between two hardcore bands and gave the night a decent variety in heavy-punk sounds. I got the feeling the Spits are the type of crew to put out 7”s quite regularly; my assumption was validated when I checked the band’s back catalogue the next day. In a time when it seems garage rock is peeking its greasy head out of the basement and into the underground spotlight once again, it was sweet to see a band that seemed to have the formula down for quite a while. Squealing electric guitar, gang vocals and the occasional synth riff dominated the set.
Last to hit the stage, Off! thrashed out old-school hardcore with a get-in-get-out mentality. Playing short and fast songs – most had no more than a single verse and chorus -- the Los Angeles band held up to the hype.
Featuring Keith Morris, former vocalist for punk mega-gods Black Flag and the similarly iconic Circle Jerks, Off! fit well with FUBAR’s vibe. The walls were plastered with old Fugazi and Ultraman flyers, the lights were dim and the toilet overflowed. Combine that with the fuck-it-all attitude of Off!, and it was almost like a night straight from the early '80s. The show had a number of facets that I've been missing of late. First off, the bands kept between-song banter to a minimum. With the exception of Morris (his wisdom on politics and war were fascinating), the bands just churned out song after song with reckless abandon, leaving no time to flex their egos. The level of intensity from the crowd was awesome, from crowd surfers to older guys getting into the pit. Best of all, the night was void of any pretension. Most everyone there acted like they wanted to be there and to have a good time -- and not really care about much else.
It was well worth dipping into a scene I don't usually get a chance to observe. So here's to the three tenets of punk rock: short, fast and loud.