What do Keith Morris, Mike Ness, Jack Lloyd Jones, Tony Cadena and John Feldman have in common? At first, that question might seem like the punchline to a bad joke. But with the likes of the current mainstream media praising a motley crew of drug addicts and misogynists as patriotic heroes or even the pure hypocrisy in the PMRC badmouthing a certain prince of darkness only to turn around and PRAISE him at a high class dinner all in the span of about 20 years while arguably admirable, is indisputably hypocritical. And with the pervasively apolitical mall-punk scene of Good Charlotte and Simple Plan refusing to take any political stance not for the purpose of HONESTY, DIGNITY, or INTEGRITY rather merely as a tool to sell more records amidst the mainstream media at Hot Topic outlets across the U.S (notice how THOSE keep sprouting out)., the concept of "punk" itself has become diluted. Perhaps no man recognizes this distinction as much as John Feldman, who helped to produce a slew of pop-punk bands after the third wave ska movement of bands like Reel Big Fish, NOFX, Sublime, the Suicide Machines, No Doubt and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones that either faded away, broke up or died out. As a matter of fact, mid-to-late 90's third wave ska almost sounds as abrasively Crass as 80's punk when compared to today's "punk" bands. So does that mean that Goldfinger's live sound would be altered to compensate for the times that are a-changing? I would certainly find out at Minneapolis' historic First Avenue venue.
City Sleeps opened the night's festivities to a relatively scant (albeit receptive) crowd. Their sound wasn't really emo or pop-punk, but the band sounded tight and serious. Though each song sort of blended into each other and the vocals were barely audible (though that wasn't NECESSARILY the band's fault) the group was pleasant to the crowd and not too jaded with "Ordinary High" and "Just Another Day," two highlights of their 24-minute set.
Just as New Found Glory had used while opening for Green Day, theSTART hit the ground running with a clip of Elle whistling, which segued into "Like Days." Throughout the course of the set, Aimee Echo worked the crowd well, encouraging everyone to clap along and even playfully swatted a slew of red balloons that dispersed among the audience (though I didn't quite count, I'm guessing about 99 red balloons diffused throughout the audience). Like fellow Nitro label mates the Damned and TSOL, theSTART refused to confine themselves to archaic, conventional punk clichés by incorporating keyboards and synths into their sound, though these layers of depth were often lost in First Avenue's imposing atmosphere. They put on a rather energetic stage show with their guitarist swinging from side to side as their keyboardist managed to smoke a cigarette and play a keyboard. "Peacocks," a song about the world crashing down, served as a pessimistic albeit appropriate conclusion to their set.
Taking a cue from fellow punk veterans Bad Religion, Goldfinger took a good hour to set up their gear as chants for "Goldfinger!" would start and cease every ten minutes. The wait was tolerable since they picked a great PA set list ranging from Bad Religion, Agent Orange, TSOL, Minor Threat, the Adolescents, Black Flag, the Descendents and Social Distortion. By the time "Another State Of Mind," the single song culled from the infamously disastrous US tour blared, I began to pick up on the subtle, subconscious message Feldman conveyed while selecting songs. Finally, light shone through two Goldfinger signs as Gob's theme from "Arrested Development" played, a clever metaphor for how punk is now all about IMAGERY and not actually substance. Darrin, Kelly, Brian, and John waltzed out to their infamous "metal walk," which closed many shows from the 2001/2002 era. I wondered if Gob's song coupled with the metal walk would serve as a reversal of fortunes from their sub-par performance opening for Sum 41 in 2002 and return them to the tenacious glory of their magnificent Crouching Fish Hidden Finger tour. As I suspected, Goldfinger opened up three of their most abrasive songs in quick succession: "I'm Down," "Spokesman," and "Question." Suddenly I realize the brilliance behind Goldfinger's live show: while ON RECORD "I'm Down" sounds like it would serve as the PERFECT theme song for "Malcolm In The Middle" with its They Might Be Giant-esque dynamics, "Spokesman" sounds like a weak version of NOFX's "Dinosaurs Will Die," and "Question" sounds like a bland Rancid B-side; LIVE, these songs sound like bile-spitting coming of age anthems due to the ABSENCE of auto tune and overdub technology (funny side note, Dickey Barrett seems to understand this concept because he was once advised to an aspiring musician "make your albums sound mediocre so your LIVE SHOWS SEEM AMAZING"). In terms of stage show, no one can match the band in terms of energy and speed. You know how Sugarcult play that poppy song "Bouncing Off The Walls?" Goldfinger are LITERALLY bouncing off the floor with their choreographed jumps and runs around the stage. So, I was somewhat disappointed when the poppier side of Goldfinger was evidenced by the next six songs, the proverbial "hits," so here goes a brief description of each: "My Everything" sounds OK live but not phenomenal, "Counting The Days" still has the classic sing along chorus/"1234" breaks, and "HIYB" still sounds GREAT live seeing how Kelly has finally mastered the subtleties of playing speedy 8th and 16th notes in a punk/ska band after his stint with Fear. "Skyway" paid homage to the Replacements (and pandered to the MN crowd, but hey, it was FIRST AVE, what can you do?). A short detour into "King For A Day" segued into "Mable," which saw a slew of kids rush the stage to help Feldman sing the S/T classic (this shtick sort of runs thin after you've seen it before). "Open Your Eyes" saw Feldman lose the guitar and focus on his vocals (as well as STAGE DIVING!) while "Miles Away" adopted an extended form with (gasp!) Darrin riffing on guitar and performing their patented guitar toss. "Wasted Again" saw Kelly play the mandolin as a confetti cannon shot shreds of paper from the sky that seemingly signaled the end of the set. But John dedicated the final song to a certain band that he FIRST helped in 1997, none other than the Reel Big Fish, a band who probably inspired him to work as a producer/A&R rep in the first place. The older crowd loved the song for the nostalgia associated with the 1990's whereas younger kids recognized it from "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater Vol. ?" Chants of Goldfinger started again and I was vying for an encore of "FLA" segued into "Pictures," but was welcomed by the familiar beat of "FTN," a seemingly child-like song in melody and verse but a far more visceral, almost NOFX-like allegory on a deeper level. "99 Red Balloons" closed down the set and though I was a bit disappointed with such a predictable end to the night, it was an appropriate and pleasing closer.
So, I guess the suspense has been building long enough: what do Keith Morris, Mike Ness, Jack Lloyd Jones, Tony Cadena and John Feldman have in common? They were all wildly successful in the So-Cal punk scene, have admittedly dabbled in drugs but admitted their errors, and in doing so, developed a fair and balanced social conscience that allows them to empathize with others. Unlike certain hypocritical groups (Phish and the Dave Matthews Band, for example), they have acknowledged the error of their ways and told a lost, misguided generation of 90's punks that the answer to their problems didn't lie at the bottom of a bottle of alcohol or the tip of a heroin needle, rather, a pen and a sober mind. And for those of you from the jaded West Coast/Berkley scene who might argue bands like that RBF and GF aren't AS influential as other 80's punk groups, go check out the Suburban Legends. They're pretty young (early-to-mid 20's), put on one the most energetic AND competent live shows you'll ever see (Tim would never do a silly jig while trying to compensate for a backing track and blame his band) and sound just like the Turn The Radio Off-era RBF and self-titled-era Goldfinger a-many third wave ska-punk veterans adore (Aaron Barrett loves 'em so much he put him on the Coast To Coast Tour for a REASON - he called them the best ska band in the US right now on his Show Must Go Off! commentary track and judging by how much anger he spit out during those TWO HOURS, it might have been the most positive thing he said). Just don't complain when they sell eight million records and start selling out arenas. How do I know this will happen? Look at Green Day! They were criticized for being apolitical, snobbish, pop-punk brats until they started lifting Who, Clash, and Bryan Adams riffs to write their songs instead of the more "obscure" influences such as the Sex Pistols, Descendents, TSOL, Social D, the Adolescents, and of course, Stiff Little Fingers. It's an odd paradox to consider that those crazy 80's punk and 90's third wave/ska bands actually uphold some sort of sense of HONESTY, DIGNITY, and INTEGRITY. While each third wave 90's ska band was criticized for being a flavor of the month fad, it sounds almost as relevant as the classic 80's punk. But such a paradox is the irony of what is quickly becoming a mad, mad world.
6:18 P.M. - 6:42 P.M.
- As The ?
- Ordinary High
- Not An Angel
- Be A Man
- Just Another Day
Elle whistling (Kill Bill Vol. 1)
7:02 P.M. - 7:39 P.M.
- Like Days
- Death By Satellite (better I?)
- I'd Do Anything For You (NOT A SIMPLE PLAN COVER)
- Life Is Sweet
- Rise Up / Hey
- All Or Nothing
- song about war (supports troops but opposes war)
- The 1234
8:32 P.M. - 9:30 P.M.
Gob's Theme From Arrested Development
- I'm Down
- Question (John sans microphone; stage dive)
- My Everything
- Counting The Days
- Here In Your Bedroom (extended with A-0's)
- Skyway (Replacements Cover)
- King For A Day (tease)
- Mable (hordes of fans onstage)
- Open Your Eyes (John sans microphone; stage dive)
-talks albout new material vs. old shit-
- Miles Away (extended; Darrin on guitar)
- Wasted Again (Kelly on mandolin)
- Superman (dedicated to Reel Big Fish)
- FTN (John stage dives)
- 99 Red Balloons