Although there were only about 75 people in attendance, as long time roadie to the punk rock stars Pete the Roadie took the stage, he was greeted with the enthusiasm of an international star. As Kicker tore through their set at San Francisco's Thee Parkside June 23, blasting out one classic three chord punk tune after another, they made it clear how much life is left in the "classic" punk structure.
First and foremost, the band exhibited how important actual song craft is in live shows. Kicker's songs are rooted in classic, UK82 smashing, but they are neither just anger nor speed. Rather, while the songs maintained a classic structure, the riffs themselves were snappy and fresh. Most impressively, the band knows how to write a hooky chorus. When Pete held out the microphone on "Innit" the crowd instinctively knew the chorus before even the first refrain.
The energy of the band was also impressive. Although all members are over 40, and some are even over 50, they whirled their dozen-song set with little breaks between songs. This kept the energy high, giving each song a feeling of more and more urgency. Masterfully, while the band doesn't necessarily focus on subtlety, their wry humor was able to creep through despite the speed of their songs. Pete, in his heavy British accent, hilariously shouted "Your baby is ugly and it cries!" on "Wrong Things."
The band's pedigree makes it have a most interesting sound live. Including Toby from Filth, Dave Ed of Neurosis and Mauz of Dystopia, the instrumental section all comes from doom/cryst backgrounds. But, Kicker is more of a street punk or classic U.K. punk that likes doomy riffs and soundscapes. So, when the band does cut through rapid three chord bangers, the music has a uniquely heavy, but urgent sound seldom heard in punk or anywhere else.
Still, while the band pays tribute to its gloried past, punk problems of yesteryear popped up. Early on, after Pete screamed "I hate vegan food," the closing line from "Wrong Things," an attendee who was apparently a fan of the stuff began to heckle Pete. Pete took it in good stride announcing "Up the punks...but not the hippies!" However, the heckling escalated throughout the set with the heckler eventually grabbing Pete on the last song, which caused Pete to swat the side of the heckler's head and end the set with Pete giving the heckler a classic British two finger salute. Although it did somewhat mar the show's mostly fun evening, somehow a concert ending with Pete the Roadie giving the British middle finger and screaming "Fuck off" is the most fitting way for a Kicker show to end.
The show opened with local band Rock Bottom. A classic-sounding punk band rooted in the sound of Rancid as much as early East coast hardcore, the band cut through about 10 songs, with most dedicated to beer. While the songs were energetic, the band seemed a little docile on stage, and the songs could have used some more distinction. Perhaps once Rock Bottom gains their footing, they'll be able to separate themselves from the pack. Still, they did have about eight or so mildly heavily inebriated fans that were into the set and at the end, one of them even shredded his skateboard over the guardrail.
Next, Berlin's Modern Pets cut through a set of power pop meets Richard Hell punk. Certainly, the band upped the energy from Rock Bottom, and the nearly full crowd warmly received the group. The band seems to have perfected the pop song played by punks in order to give the matter somewhat of an edge. Still, while their refrains and riffs were catchy, after a while, all the songs seemed to sound the same.
Just before Kicker, Portland's P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. ripped through Portland-style hardcore. The band features members of Poison Idea and Defense and it shows. In contrast to the relatively sunnier opening acts, P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. focused on the darker side of life, screaming out in anguish and pain, that when plied with its energetic hardcore thrashing, made the songs less of despair then of demented anger. Echoing MDC somewhat, the band did make it a point to laugh at their own situation with songs like "D.U.M.B." all while commenting on the larger scheme of modern politics as a whole. While all the acts were at least good, between Kicker and P.R.O.B.L.E.M.S. it seems that the old guys are beating the young turks at their own game.
-Why does it seem like the most depressed punk bands always come from Portland? Why is that place so wretched? Why move there? Why not move, to say, Rio De Janeiro? Depressed, apocalyptic crust-hardcore almost NEVER comes from Rio.
-During sound check, Thee Parkside's soundman told a member of Modern Pets that he needed to turn the volume down, as the band was too loud on stage and most of their music would come from the rig, not their stage amps. The soundman then said, "We've got the music piped through the sound system. You don't need to be so loud. This isn't Gilman Street." Without skipping a beat, the German replied "I am sorry, but I do not know this street that you speak of," leaving the soundman temporarily flustered. I don't know if the Modern Pets guitarist was messing with the soundman or not, but I'm pretty sure the Germans won that battle.
-Still, the bassist of Modern Pets wore jeans so tight that you could literally see the outline of his wiener through the denim. Who knew that all it would take to destroy the stereotype that Europeans dress better than Americans was a single pair of ill advised size 28 Levis?