Let's take a walk outside, to the Replay Lounge's world-famous beer garden. Oh my, what do we have here? It seems to be mostly the same thing as any Thursday: the lone mute guy surveying the crowd, some heterosexual couple pawing at each other, a group of people who must all be "the gang" hanging out and being annoying, an intense or situationally dependent loud conversation between dudes and ladies who might be fighting or flirting, a cute DJ playing - and this is no embellishment - the 1965 Leslie Gore hit "It's My Party," of the "cry if I want to" fame, while she nods her headphoned head to the simple, heartbreaking beat.
It's Brad Shanks' birthday, one man who's of the small handful of Replay Records' administrative moguls, who tonight is also celebrating the label's second release - Up The Academy's new 7-inch. This is the guy to watch tonight. He's the dangerous one. It is this man who sprays popcorn all over everybody like a money shot during the Up The Academy set, as the band bangs out yet another pairing of tawdry garage riffs. It's this man who pushes around those dumb enough to stand in front of Ron Miller, the front-man brain-child of the band, so that a chaotic pit forms and dissipates at once.
But let us first discuss the opening band, Muscle Worship:
Although Muscle Worship traverses genres foreign to the get-down/get-laid punk stompers of Up The Academy, the sounds of their set attracted a modest crowd that mostly stuck around and stayed interested. What you have with Muscle Worship, whether you like it or not, is a hefty helping of angular guitar-school-dropout riffs that are cut up by occasional vocals and the hearty chops of a busy but all-too-competent drummer. The bass player plays murky chords that cuddle nicely with the strange, math-whiz progressions of the guitar player, whose glasses slip down his nose, and who screams in ways known mostly to the more emotional inmates of Guantanamo. No one dances because there is no way to dance, because the danceable beat impregnates itself, multiplies, and then eats itself, and vanishes.
Up The Academy, whether they know it or not, is a band chiefly concerned with sex. Their trademark has come to be the holding of a single root-note, which is different between songs and which ends up bursting at the moment that hips can shake at the same speed no longer. And then they take that root-note and dance around it on a pentatonic dance floor, and bodies groove, and bodies sweat, and there you have it.
Miller croons into the reverbed-as-fuck microphone in a tenor as rich as fudge, and humps the air like it's drunk and passed out. It must be twelve songs into the set that it feels like it's about to die down and get over with, but somehow, with minimal on-stage consultation, Up The Academy belts out another five or six songs - one with Ron and his guitar alone. He sings, "Happy birthday Braaaaaaaaaaad...You're so fucking oooooooooold," and the fifty or so people there laugh and scream or do that thing that's both at the same time. Twenty-six should be a memorable year for all of us, though it's probably not tonight, for the drunken Shanks.
It's worth nothing that for the whole of Up The Academy's set (and that of Muscle Worship's), the 1980 military school comedy "Up The Academy," starring Ralph Macchio, is played on a projector over the bodies of the bands. Miller plays a disgustingly sexed-out solo while Macchio gets a bad military-style haircut. Their incredibly adept and sprightly drummer busts a fill that makes your head explode as the stuffy sergeant lays down rules that no one should obey. The birthday boy rips open another of many available bags of popcorn, and showers the band and the audience with them.