I've come to the conclusion that Mike Ness is the "Jim Jones" of punk rock. Not in the sense that he wants kids in studded belts and patches to drink the proverbial Kool Aid, but closely enough that any outsider would see him as a falsely worshipped idol. Whatever your point of view is, it is rather difficult to deny the man's uncanny ability to draw a crowd.
Opening the show was Boston's own Street Dogs. Anyone unfamiliar with the group, I'll spare the redundant details about their history and boil it down to basics. The band comes from your typical street-punk backgrounds, yet manages to fuse the sound with melody and traditional rock tendencies unlike any other in the often-too-crowded genre. The set mingled with tracks from both the stellar debut Savin Hill, and the recently released, and in your humble reviewer's opinion, underappreciated follow-up, Back To The World.
Front man Mike McColgan has a stage presence unlike any I have ever witnessed. His delivery and presence is so forceful and potent, yet at the same time almost eloquent. Yet, most noticeable about the recently solidified lineup is the comfort level they seem to have with one another. To anyone unfamiliar with the band, you would assume the boys had been playing together for years. Former Kickover/Disaster Johnny Rioux and former Bosstone Joe Sirois add the needed balance in rhythm that seemed to be lacking from previous live sets. The band plans to continue touring like madmen; I'd highly recommend you check them out when they come through your town.
Up next was the Backyard Babies. I must admit I was completely oblivious to the Stockholm, Sweden punk/rockabilly/whatever-the-hell it is sound they offer, and at first, was not impressed. As the set continued on, and their energy and passion continued to increase, and they slowly began to win me over. By set's end, I was learning the choruses as the songs went by and singing along where applicable/able to. I picked up their most recent offering Tinnitus, which I highly recommend.
Naturally, as Mike Ness and Co. took the stage, the crowd erupted like the fucking Beatles had landed. As the set began, the NorVA seemed to come alive, with the entire club bouncing up and down and screaming every word to every song in a unified chorus. Highlights included "Ring Of Fire," "1945," "Don't Take Me For Granted," and, well, practically the whole set. Compared to a recent show I had seen of Social D in DC a few months back, the band seemed much more inspired and focused. Not a single song seemed like set list "filler."
My only complaint would have to be Mike's sometimes monotonous rantings about punk of today versus punk of yesteryear. Yes Mike, I know that years ago you couldn't walk down the street dressed the way kids do now. We've heard it on the live record, and we've heard it at every show before. Just be grateful that society is much more accepting of a lifestyle and scene that you worked so hard to create and maintain. However, Mike did take a moment to recognize some of the younger audience members, and asked the crowd to give it up for the younger kids who will be leading this scene into the next generation.
Overall, I can't complain much. Social D never disappoints, the Street Dogs impressed me more than I thought possible, and the Backyard Babies introduced me to their interpretation of punk that hasn't left my CD player in 3 days. Let the good times roll.