With rosier cheeks than he's had in ages, Leftover Crack vocalist Scott Sturgeon to the stage with a leap. Throughout the concert, his new health proved a boon to the band as the group played a perfectly loose and energetic set to a nearly packed Metro Opera House in Oakland July 3.
As the live show made clear, Sturgeon is the band's most volatile variable. Even as the Punknews' staff's foremost LoC advocate, even I have to concede that sometimes their shows are amazing and sometimes they just plain suck. Usually, this is due to various band members' exhaustion and drug use. Further, shows are not always great or terrible. Sometimes, perhaps heightened by chemicals, the band takes the stage in an energetic blast, but gradually winds down to a sloppy mess at the end of the set. Indeed, as the band blasted onto the stage with a berserk rendition "Homeo-Apathy" I thought to myself, "They are coming out with such steam now that by the end they'll be trudging around the stage."
Yet, I was wrong. Throughout the extended set, which included most of LoC's biggest hits, and four cuts the proto-LoC Choking Victim ("500 channels," "Suicide," "Infested," "Crack Rock Steady") not only did the band maintain their level of energy and engagement, but they tweaked some of their songs to give them a more menacing feature. "The Good, the Bad & The Leftover Crack" featured an extended opening; while the studio version lends itself more towards rockabilly, the new live version features guitarist Brad Logan playing a trudging, smashing crust punk stomp.
Further, Sturgeon's improved health was quite noticeable. While he did seem skinnier than in the past few years (and he was already pretty skinny to begin with) his flesh seemed more full and his skin color a more healthy hue. Gone were the dark circles under his eyes. Most effectively, his voice, which seemed to be a little haggard in 2010, was back to its former glass-meets-glue sharpness, giving words more punch than we've heard in ages. Likewise, Sturgeon opted to go instument-less the entire performance and pogoed, thrashed and stage dived for the entire performance. Instead of wearing down as before, he seemed energized by the crowd's enthusiasm and even convinced the sound man to allow the band to play an extended encore of five songs instead of the planned one.
The show was only LoC's second set since Sturgeon announced that he was putting his other band, Star Fucking Hipsters, on hold to focus on LoC. While the band was nearly in its "classic" line up, one element was missing that did somewhat hamper the band. While Sturgeon, Logan, bassist Alec Baille and drummer Ara Babajian are all still in the band, it seems that guitarist/co-songwriter Ezra Kire was not on the tour. Although the group made no comment about his absence, though they did thank fill-in guitarist "Greg from Apathy Cycle." While Greg did an excellent job, the soaring vocals and uniquely warm tone of Kire were missed. Logan attempted somewhat to compensate by being a more active co-vocalist than in the past. Wisely, instead of trying to replicate Kire, Logan focused on his nastier, heavier, more brutish bark, previously used in F-Minus. Interestingly, while in days passed, Sturgeon has been the nastier hiss to Kire's call, with Logan taking more vocal duties, Logan is now the brutal side while Sturgeon is the more upbeat voice.
Also on display was Sturgeon's wry humor, which is seldom mentioned. When the crowd began to chant "Cops are bastards! Cops are bastards!", Sturgeon, who wrote "One Dead Cop" in 2004, replied, "You sound confident. You have convinced me." Later, when an audience member threw a mystery bag later identified as speed on stage, Sturgeon handed it to the British stage tech, and quipped, "Here take this. Don't worry, they won't deport you." At that time, Sturgeon gave hint as to why he might seem more lively. Commenting on the bag of speed thrown on stage, he announced, "I don't do that anymore. I only do drinking now, a little bit of singing, a little bit of talking…and little bit of dancing." Though he did add, "It was fun while it lasted, though."
Just as interesting was Sturgeon's quick reference to Tim Armstrong, who played his first show a mere seven miles away at 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley. Sturgeon referred to Armstrong's first popular band Operation Ivy, who wrote the hit "Unity," with "A lot of people use the word 'unity' like they don't really know what it means. It is simple. It means everyone. It doesn't only include race and gender, it includes sexual orientation as well!" The crowd erupted into cheers and the band broke into "Gay Rude Boys Unite" a song reportedly written in response to Armstrong courting Dancehall artist Buju Banton (and writer of "Boom Bye Bye") to his Hellcat label.
At the end of the concert, the band exhibited just what makes them so unique. While most political crust/punk/alt/whatever bands seem to never break their doom and gloom facade, during the last song of their set proper, all four standing members climbed on top of amp stacks, and just as the last note was struck, did a David Lee Roth style "Jump" into the air. Just because a band tackles serious topics doesn't mean they can't wink at themselves. Rather, by adding an element of silliness to the show, it almost makes the band seem more genuine.
-And guess who was the stage tech? Why none of other than the bay area's own famous PETE THE ROADIE! And a roight crackin' job 'e did, I say.
-LoC threatened to play Jane's Addiction covers near the end. Honestly, I think a LoC cover of "Been Caught Stealin'," "Jane Says" or "Mountain Song" would really be awesome.
-I'm not trying to be Mr. Cool Guy or anything but I was clearly the most squarely dressed dude there, Yet, some little high school girl asked me "Do you have any cocaine?" I was taken aback! Do I look like someone who would have cocaine? Maybe she thought I was a narc? Maybe she was a narc and was trying to out-narc me? Maybe that's how kids greet each other these days? Frankly, I was surprised she referred to it as "cocaine" instead of something hip like "blow" or perhaps a street code word such as "Wazzlesnozz" or "Frosty's Gak."