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Monday, 29 April 2013 19:16

Concert review: The Men (with Organs, Flaming Death Trap and NRML PPL) blitz the Firebird, Sunday, April 28

Concert review: The Men (with Organs, Flaming Death Trap and NRML PPL) blitz the Firebird, Sunday, April 28
Written by Brian Benton

For a show headlined by a punk band called the Men, Sunday night at the Firebird was surprisingly civil. Sets started on time, if not even a few minutes early, and the small pit in the front only included those who cared to join. It really was a pleasant way to enjoy punk music.

Civil, of course, shouldn't be taken too literally. The Men's set was incredibly loud, sweat dripped from the brows of the musicians, and at the end of the night, empty PBR cans littered the floor. Still, there seemed to be an order to the madness and the Men appeared intentionally wild, as if they perfected a pristinely clean live show and then injected a bit of recklessness into it.

Locals NRML PPL and Flaming Death Trap opened up the night, followed by Pennsylvania's Organs, whose harmonica and tambourine-infused garage rock was unexpected and fun. Organs falls right between traditional guitar/bass/drums/vocals punk music and the eclectic sounds of gypsy punk, different enough to be engaging but no so much that it seemed forced.

The Firebird, sometimes chokingly hot and sardined packed, had just the right number of patrons on Sunday. The closer to the stage you got, the more tightly packed it was, but there always seemed to be room for dancing and head banging. Of course, when I go to a show I always hope it's sold out for the band's sake, but this size of a crowd was almost as good.

Without any introductions or separation between their sound check and first song, the Men began their crisp punk rock. The band get universally positive reviews for their albums (2012's "Open Your Heart," for example, got an 8.5 out of 10 from Pitchfork and a 9 out of 10 from Spin), and the solid sound definitely extends beyond the studio. With a drummer, two guitarists, a bassist and a keyboardist, the band alternated between vocals and fired off song after song. The tunes were heavy and strong, with thick bass, but the keyboard provided an upbeat twist.

With hits of surf rock and folk, largely coming from the keyboard and extra vocalists providing harmonies, the Men's 60-minute set had no low points. Few songs really stood out, but none were downers either. Unlike some rock shows that come as a series of staccato punches to the gut, the Men's set hit like one extended blow. The one real break in the show came when smoke appeared on stage near the drum kit about 20 minutes in, but even that quickly got fixed and the music came back just as hard. "Turn It Around" for example, fast and full of riffs, sounded a bit like early Foo Fighters. "Electric" was just that, and came across as more rugged than much of the setlist.

The show came to an end when guitarist and vocalist Mark Perro explained that his guitar only had four strings left, so the band could only play one song more. I am not sure if more songs were planned, and the broken guitar cut the night short, or if the band had intended for the final song to really be the last, but it was kind of disappointing to see the show end the way it did. Part of me wished the guitar string had not snapped, and the band could have kept playing. But considering how ferociously the Men played through the night, I guess it's a blessing the equipment even held up as long as it did.

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