Massachusetts, Ohio, Hawaii...the New York City CMJ / Rock Against Bush collaboration was easily the penultimate east coast punk rock show this part of the year, probably even all year, and people thusly came from all over for it.
Before things *really* got started, The Soviettes took the stage. For those of you not already aware, the three-fourths female/one-male outfit plays garage-styled punk with some new wave overtones here and there. Their first song proved the latter best, sounding like something straight out of early 80s mainstream. From there, the set consisted of a much more distorted, power-chord type sound, with three, sometimes four differing vocalists, all of whom wail like demented banshees. I couldn't really get into them until they played their Rock Against Bush contribution, "Paranoia Cha Cha Cha," but the band stayed tight and confident in front of a decidedly "punk" crowd, and for that some credit is due.
The night really got its foot off the ground though when None More Black was finished preparing their hearty bowl of hard punk-pop. Sure, the band definitely has their dashes of unabashed pop influence, but their mostly guitar-driven rock delivered that night. Hearing Jason scream "check! whoa-oh!" into the microphone put a permanent smile on my face. They played all the choice cuts off File Under Black, including "Bizzaro Me," "Zero Tolerance Drum Policy," "Wishing There Were Walkways," "Banned From Teen Arts," and "Everyday Balloons" and "Dinner's For Suckers" back-to-back. We also got to hear two new songs off the upcoming Loud About Loathing EP, one of which was pretty much standard NMB, while the other was straddled with a really awkward pace, although it could've just been a syncing problem with the band themselves playing it. They closed out with "Nothing To Do When You're Locked In A Vacancy," playing just about every song I wanted to hear. In a word, audacious.
Strike Anywhere's set was a bit of a mixed blessing. While the band is one of those rare live acts that actually remember they have a debut full-length (about half their set was Change Is A Sound material, maybe more), Chorus Of One was completely ignored. I accepted this compromise and joined dozens of others in vigorous finger points for songs like "You're Fired," "Blaze/Amplify," "Timebomb Generation," "Infrared," "Lights Go Out," "Laughter In A Police State," "Sunset On 32nd" (interestingly placed right in the middle of the set and a bit laid-back for my liking) "To The World," and probably a couple others that my memory is failing to recall. Tomas seemed to make sure that every single person in the crowd got their own little "Whoa-oh!" into the mic. Good times had by all.
Let's get something out of the way right now: prior to the night, I was just about completely unfamiliar with Dillinger Four. Sure, I'd heard "Noble Stabbings!!" on a Fat sampler a few years ago, but nothing beyond that. D4 must've known this, because they proceeded to rock every goddamned face in the place for the next forty-five minutes. The crowd appropriately lost it for just about every song. I can only tell you they played the aforementioned "Noble Stabbings!!" and "Doublewhiskeynoice," calling out Green Day for ripping off the latter's riff ("what the fuck, man?"). The band's mission that night, announcing it before anything else...? "DILLINGER FOUR NEEDS TO GET SIGNED TO A MAJOR LABEL." Paddy was downright fucking hilarious, discussing topics such as stealing from your boss, ditching your small hometown roots for art school bullshit, the pressing need for a $3.25 shot of Jack's, how a man of his age and weight could be marketed as a perfect magazine-cover boy once their major deal is signed, how ugly Paris Hilton is, his obvious Christian faith, and dedicating a song to the White Stripes and Sleater-Kinney for not realizing the amazing power that is the bass. We even had an "emo moment" with him ("this is some fucking Cashboard Confessional shit right here"), as he stood at the edge of the stage seemingly sulking during the bridge to one song. Post-set, he even handed out some nachos and cheese to front crowd spectators. Any person of sensible reasoning must've surely became an instant fan, including myself.
Neither was I familiar with Avail, but this wasn't going to stop me from enjoying the band's RVA hardcore punk stylings. They played a nice chunk of songs, and judging from the variety, presumably anything in the Satiate to Front Porch Stories spectrum. Needless to say, they were another perfect addition to the show. At this point, I probably could've left happy, but then the Bouncing Souls took the stage, and everything fell even more into place.
Jersey's own had every pair of feet in the building moving, playing everything from "Kids And Heroes," "Gone," "That Song," "Hopeless Romantic," "Born Free," "Singalong Forever" and their east coast fuck you to "Kate Is Great" and "I Like Your Mom," and even brought out Johnny X to sing his ballad (among others, of course). Greg was very calm, relaxed, and laid back, and still yelled every song with graceful ease, always rousing the crowd with his trademark positivity. They finished out the night with "True Believers."
Despite it being cited as a Rock Against Bush tour stop, there really wasn't a huge focus on politics the entire show. While D4 made some comments about how Bush has had the pleasure of being rich and spoiled his entire life, politics in general really didn't seem to be the ultimate mission of the night to make sure everyone votes - a band here or there would simply ask who is over 18 and registered to vote, applaud their efforts and then ask the other overage crowd attendants to join up and register themselves. It wasn't pushed on the audience at all - rather, the night was just a unified, packed five hours of good times, good friends, and lots of crazy balls-to-the-wall punk rock.
ADDENDUM: I left early due to circumstances beyond my control (honestly). All apologies for the blatant mistake in my Bouncing Souls paragraph.