It was chilly that night and the fog was just starting to roll in off the water, curling upwards like smoke toward the cloudless sky. I forgot how cold it could get on summer evenings in San Francisco but was reminded as soon as I got out of the car. My dulled senses snapped back into sharp focus. It was a monotonous drive up the peninsula that evening and the earlier stop-and-go traffic had me in a semi-vegetative state. I made my way down Harrison and took a right on 11th eyeballing the graffiti and trash strewn sidewalks while zipping up my jacket. I'm from the South Bay and although it is only a 40 minute drive away, the evening temperatures are quite a bit cooler due to the closer proximity of the Pacific Ocean. The colored liberty spikes and greased pompadours stood out on the street corner contrasting sharply to the dressed up folks that were mingling outside of the DNA lounge. A few yards further down on 11th and the neon sign outside of Slims gave off its familiar reddish glow. It was a scene played out countless times in my past with too many shows to remember. Tonight was nearly the same except for the fact that the lineup about to play at the club was perhaps one of the absolute best. Each band on the last leg of the Punks vs. Psychos tour that evening could have headlined their own gig at Slims and each would have individually drawn a considerable audience. Epitaph/Hellcat had assembled an unmistakable and incendiary lineup. In my review of the first leg of the 2004 Punks vs. Psychos tour I stated that "For all you folks who are actually getting Nekromantix or the Horrorpops on the bill you have no excuse not to go when this hits your town". Naturally I was very excited to see that the last leg of the tour was featuring these bands as well as a new headlining act.
Although I was looking forward to seeing the entire line-up, all of which I had seen before, I was especially looking forward to seeing Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards. The last time I saw them I only caught the very end of their set. The fact that the Murphys and the Utter$ also played that show years earlier almost made up for my missing them that night. I say "almost" because like the Faction and Los Olvidados before them LFATB as well as The Forgotten have strong roots in the South Bay and hold special significance to me. Take a look at the liner notes of the Bastards first album and you will see my back yard. As I neared Slims I fondly recalled the last time I had seen Rancid play there. It was 10 years earlier with Sick of It All and a then fledgling band from the East Bay called AFI opening. It was a great show and I left it completely inebriated by the energy. Tonight's lineup had set the bar even higher.
I arrived at Slims about ten minutes after the show had started and was immediately greeted by several kids outside looking for tickets. The show was sold out and had just barely begun. I was surprised not only because it was a weekday but also because across town the legendary Adicts were also playing a gig. The first band, Horrorpops, were in full swing and mid-song when I entered the club. The first time I had seen them was on their short US tour with the Dragstrip Demons, Ripmen and G-String in September 2003. At this time "Hell Yeah!" had not yet released so it was nice to actually know the songs from the LP this time around. Anyone who has seen the Horrorpops knows that they are in for an audio/visual treat. The already sizeable band along with the two rotten go-go dancers jumping around on stage in their cheerleader dresses while waving the candy striped lollipops makes for a nicely packed stage. Their dancing and backup singing of the go-go dancers truly adds to what makes Horrorpops so much fun. The psychobilly influence in the music is evident but the band has so many different sounds going for it that they defy classification. Patricia knows how to get the crowd going and incited a sing-a-long and skank-a-long on Where They Wander and Girl in a Cage respectively. She traded instruments with Nekroman on Psychobitches Outta Hell after asking all the women if they wanted to see "daddy play mommy's instrument". The audience loved the recently-performed-on-Jimmy- Kimmel Miss Take while Baby Lou Tattoo was dedicated to getting and collecting tattoos. They closed their set with Kool Flattop. The crowd was left hungry for more.
Roger Miret and the Disasters were up next. Their set was short yet very sweet. They sounded as tight as ever with the guitars blazing and the percussion puncturing kid's eardrums. The San Francisco crowd responded enthusiastically to the sing-a-long street punk anthems. As anyone who has witnessed the Disasters in action can tell you the passion in Roger Miret's voice is awe-inspiring and charismatic. The Disasters seemed to encourage a bigger pit after each song with little effort. The set list basically followed their self-titled release from 2002. They opened with Run Johnny Run followed immediately by Kiss Kiss Kill Kill, then Smash It Up, Give 'em The Boot, Radio, Radio, It's Alright and Punch the Clock before finally ending with their CockSparrer cover of England (N.Y.) Belongs to Me. Having seen CockSparrer on their first and only tour of the US in Feb. 2000 I can say that the cover does the original much justice and it's nice to see this old favorite being reinterpreted. I did not hear any new material from the Disasters, but what they played was excellent.
The mighty Nekromantix followed the Disasters and let me tell that you simply have not lived until you have seen this band. These guys know how to put on a show and the theatrics involving the coffin bass and horror-themed lyrics are quite simply the icing on what is otherwise a perfectly delicious cake. I have seen literally thousands of bands and there are precious few that match the intensity this band puts into its live show. Reports of Kim Nekroman's illness had me worried that they wouldn't make their promised San Francisco date due to his being hospitalized. Luckily they were there and looking better than ever. Before they came on Nekroman could be seen on the right side of the stage tuning his coffin bass which had the crowd of girls in front of him practically drooling. The stage grew dark and Black Wedding began blaring on the PA. The kids cheered as the band came out and grabbed their instruments in time to play along with the last few notes. Like the beginning of their recently released seventh full length album, "Dead Girls Don't Cry", the band transitioned immediately from Black Wedding into Backstage Pass to Hell. The crowd witnessed the blur that was Peter Sandorff's hands as he effortlessly attacked his signature Gretsch with a rabid ferocity. The intoxicating sound of the bass was unmistakable psychobilly, yet unique to Nekromantix from the acoustic thump accented by flawless drumming to the sinister yet comical facial gestures of Nekroman as he worked the instrument inside and out. It is very apparent in their live set and on their studio records that Nekromantix know their instruments. Nekroman was often seen twirling the coffin bass, playing it horizontally like a regular electric bass and sitting on it while plucking the strings at hyper speed all with the utmost precision. The guitar playing and drumming as well only confirmed in my mind that the Sandorff brothers were given instruments to play when they were still babies and had probably been playing ever since. Backstage Pass to Hell was followed by a song from their first record on Hellcat, Gargoyles over Copenhagen. The band then went back to their sophomore full-length and played Devil Smile followed by two from 1992's "Brought Back to Life"; Bloody Holiday and a scorching version of Nekrofelia. Two more from 2002's "Return of the Loving Dead" were next with Rubbermonks & Leathernuns and Subcultural Girl, then Struck by a Wrecking Ball off of "Dead Girls". Who Killed The Cheerleader, a Nekromantix crowd favorite, was the second to the last song and was dedicated to Britney Spears with Kim asking the crowd to repeat "Fuck that Bitch" after each time he said her name. In true Nekromantix fashion they finished the set with Survive or Die off of 1991's "Curse of the Coffin". Although the set list borrowed heavily off of the bands newer material I was pleased to see that they played a good portion of their back catalogue even though there were no songs off of "Demons Are a Girls Best Friend". Nekromantix proved once again that they are masters at their craft and one of the best bands ever.
Last on the bill were Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards who no doubt had a tough slot to fill after the phenomenal performance of the three opening acts. On the verge of releasing their second full length album and having not toured for a couple of years I was eager at the chance to see them again. To say that the band played with conviction and blood, sweat and tears dedication is a gross understatement. No doubt each member's incestuous history in other bands has served them well. Their stage presence was simply omnipotent and each song was delivered with a great deal of experience and authority. Sporting sunglasses, a beard, slicked back hair and "SKUNX" newly tattooed on his forehead Lars briefly introduced the band and then got right down to business as he and the Bastards proceeded to assault the audience with an onslaught of verbal and musical shrapnel for over an hour. The final act of the last leg of the Punks vs. Psychos tour did a brilliant job of closing the show and the tour and the audience couldn't get enough. The pounding of Big Jay's two-tone Rickenbacker and the smashing of Scott Abels' drum kit were the perfect backbeat to the twin guitar attack of Lars and ex-Forgotten guitarist Craig. If you have ever seen the Bastards or Rancid you know that Lars' voice is unique and unforgettable, raspy and penetrating it filled every inch of Slims with a raw street punk resonance. The now known Bastard, AKA Gordy Forgotten, added menacing backup vocals to the mix which made for a formidable vocal force. They opened with the ferocious and fast rhyming Dead American followed immediately by Anti-Social. A new song off of "Viking" was played next with Lars introducing it as a sing-a-long titled Switchblade. The incredible Billy Bragg cover of To Have and to Have Not was next with a small break in which Lars spoke of the kids that hang out on Haight Street in San Francisco. If you have been anywhere on upper Haight Street you will know exactly what he is talking about. This short break led directly into Army of Zombies and one of my favorites Campbell California. Wine and Roses sounded slightly different live than it does on the self-titled LP due in part to the chorus enunciation and I enjoyed the subtle differences. Ten Plagues of Egypt was next along with the Motorhead version of Leavin' Here which Lemmy himself would be proud of. In between songs were a few humorous requests for Ruby Soho and 2nd Class Citizen which elicited a few smirks from the Bastards.
One of the things which make bands like the Bastards so likeable is the fact that they truly care about their fans and this wasn't just evident in their playing. Between songs Lars explained that Rancid has always kept ticket prices and T-Shirt prices low and that the Bastards would be back at Slims in a few weeks playing a show for only $6. As a Rancid fan since 1993 I can say that this is very true. One of the last times I saw the band was just after "Let's Go" came out and that show was free. Little Rude Girl and Gods of War off of "Viking" were played next with the former an unreleased Rancid song. The band paused in between songs for a moment at the end of their set and Lars lit a candle in memory of Joe Strummer as he righteously proclaimed that "the day he died was the day rock 'n' roll died". Skunx was then dedicated to Joe and a massive sing-a-long from the crowd ensued after which the band left the stage. An encore followed after a few minutes of everyone chanting "Bastards, Bastards, Bastards". After taking the stage Lars explained that every band has to have a title song and then proceeded to play another new one off of "Viking" appropriately titled Bastards. Six Foot Five was next with several audience members pointing fingers at a relaxed Big Jay during the chorus. The recently released MP3, S.P.D., off of "Viking" was next followed by the last song of the evening, Vietnam, which seemed to transform the crowd into a frenzied mess of a pit. The stage lights cut out and Global A Go Go by the Mescaleros began to play on the PA as everyone left.
The last leg of the Punks vs. Psychos tour was quite simply one of the best shows I've ever had the pleasure of attending. The music was spot-on; the line-up amazing, the sound flawless and the energy from the bands was incredible. The only thing missing were the Hunns who unfortunately didn't make it to San Francisco. Like a few of the shows I've seen over the years the memory of this one will burn brightly. I feel sorry for anyone who missed it. With my ears ringing and Joe Strummer's voice growing fainter by the second I headed back home to the South Bay, just a few blocks from where the number 60 bus heads through Campbell via Winchester before heading north towards Great America. Roots Radicals indeed.