July 27, 2008
The Beaumont Club
Better Than: Broken homes and broken bones.
By ANDREW MILLER
The Philips brothers and Rancid go way back. In 1997, Brandon, Zach and Adam comprised the Gadjits, a baby-faced ska-punk outfit that regularly covered Rancid singer Tim Armstrong’s former group Operation Ivy. The following year, The Gadjits became labelmates with Rancid on Epitaph, before releasing their next album on Rancid’s own label Hellcat. It’s been almost a decade since the two bands had any formal connection, but it’s a testament to the punk community’s “family forever” ethos that Rancid hand-selected The Architects (the Philips’ current project) to open its Kansas City show.
More after the jump.
The Architects fit better with Rancid, a group that appreciates old time rock ‘n’ roll, than they would with most acts that fly the punk banner. As usual, the Architects played with astonishing energy, punctuating riffs with leaps and closing songs with anarchic flourishes. Addressing the crowd’s preferences on their own terms, the band exhumed Stiff Little Fingers’ “Tin Soldiers,” with Zach Philips nailing the burbling old-school bass line. With their penultimate selection, the Philips brothers came full circle, returning to the Operation Ivy vaults to pluck the oft-covered “Knowledge.” Capitalizing on the audience-energy momentum “Knowledge” generated, the Architects closed strong with “They Call It A Ghetto,” which inspired its own impressively passionate singalong.
If the Architects resemble The Rolling Stones, Murphy’s Law resembles punk’s E Street Band, both in terms of composition (Raven, a saxophonist in sunglasses, stands front and center) and stamina. Back in 1995, Murphy’s Law played a marathon concert at the Daily Grind, incorporating pretty much every song they’d ever written, plus plenty of covers and a festive performance of “Happy Birthday” for a member of the club’s staff.
Working within its opening-act restraints last night, Murphy’s Law played an abridged version of the Daily Grind show, selecting eight songs that all appeared during that set. In fact, the New York-based band hasn’t released much fresh material in the past decade, throughout which they’ve still toured regularly. Perhaps that’s because Murphy’s Law covered everything it had to say (basically, its preferred party ingredients) by 1989.
Murphy’s Law might be most straightforward band in existence, addressing uncomplicated topics with frank, repetitive lyrics. They love beer (Why don’t you drink fucking beer/what’s the matter, are you queer?), though singer Jimmy Gestapo isn’t stingy about spraying his brews on the first rows of fans. They also enjoy weed and smoked meats – Kansas City’s crucial barbecue surely wins it points with this group. Given Gestapo’s lyrical proclivities, standard queries such as “Who likes beer?” and “who likes pussy?” felt less like applause bait and more like apt song introductions.
One variety of pussy Gestapo apparently dislikes is the “VIP pussy,” his term for the people standing at the side of the stage. He generated applause by fanning the proletariat frames against the alleged bourgeois, but he surely bewildered his targets, most of whom were either filing in from the Westport Beach Club entrance (into which all concertgoers were bottlenecked) or waiting in line for the bathroom. Fortunately, Gestapo refrained from dedicating the incendiary closing tune “Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight” to the “VIPs,” thus avoiding an unjustified class war.
“Somebody’s Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight” has become a punk standard, though it actually originated with Fleetwood Mac. This song stretches back almost 40 years, but it maintains its cathartic brutality. At some hardcore gigs, its title serves as a prophecy, but tonight’s crowd was a good-time bunch, and everyone left with their heads more or less intact.
Rancid’s concerts could be summarized by a typically simple Murphy’s Law song title: “Fun.” For all its ominous guns, skulls and riot fires imagery, all projected on a white screen behind the band, Rancid inspires a party vibe, with the jovial opening tune “Fall Back Down” setting the upbeat tone. Joyous fans danced (definitely real, gleeful dancing more than moshing) and pumped their fists to nearly every selection. Rancid ripped through 27 songs in a little more than an hour, sparing no time for between-song banter. With the exception of a nicely executed finale, during which guitarist/vocalist Lars Frederiksen paused to thank the fans right before intoning the “Ruby Soho” line time to say goodbye, the only on-stage chit-chat consisted of a terse request for a circle pit.
Frederiksen bounced on his heels as he belted out his vocals in a robustly amplified power rasp. The always-erratic Armstrong alternated between foggy mumbles and an extremely casual conversational delivery. He abandoned his guitar to gesture emphatically, then lofted it upright to play sharp solos with effortless cool. The duo swaps lines, verses and riffs with a symbiotic rapport that recalls Run-D.M.C. Rancid’s rhythm section remains outstanding, with Matt Freeman adding more to his band than any other active bassist. His “Maxwell Murder” solo produced enough earth-shaking low-end rumbles to make a Richter chart spike as dramatically as a Rancid fan’s mohawk.
This bill drew an older crowd, with lots of patrons in their 30s or older. The size and energy level of this audience speak to punk’s surprising status as a sustainable lifestyle. It appears these lifers will keep spiking their hair as long as they have strands to spike, and they will keep retouching their tattoos even as the artwork starts to disappear into the folds of their wrinkled skin. Punk might be a passing phase for a high percentage of Hot Topic shoppers, but for the rest it’s a permanent commitment. If Murphy’s Law and Rancid haven’t assimilated after reaching a certain age, why should their fans?
Personal Bias: Murphy’s Law’s Jimmy Gestapo detailed his affection for the female anatomy in excruciating detail before dedicating “Panty Raid” “to all you pussy-lovers.” It’s a universal subject, I suppose, but such banter always makes me a bit nauseated.
Random Detail: This concert drew the most heavily tattooed crowd I’ve ever seen, boasting even more ink than the Tattoo The Earth tour (Slipknot, Slayer) back in 2000.
By the Way: Murphy’s Law’s legendary Daily Grind gig coincided with an MXPX show at the New Earth Coffee House. Due to the set’s length, quite a few conflicted punks still caught at least an hour’s worth of Murphy’s Law when they arrived after the MXPX encore. Singer Jimmy Gestapo obliquely referenced this incident last night, asking the audience “Is MXPX playing tonight?”