Nothing brings out the "hang by the bar" crowd quite like a mid-`90s local phenomenon reunion show. Standing in the back to protect your $5 drink, brittle old bones and Friday night outfit is just fine as long as there's a younger, more excitable contingent in the crowd to fill up those now un-coveted front spots. The younger set never seem to be at these things, however, and whatever schlock ex-band members took a night off from work to reform for a masturbatory set of classic tunes only manage to capture a fraction of their former glory. If you're booking the Riot Fest pre-show, I suppose you could actively recruit a bored/boring audience by having a show with bands whose hey-day audience was comprised of 16-year-olds at a 21-and-over bar.
Chalking that decision up as a subtle nod to the "no outsiders aloud" gene that plagues so much of punk reminiscence today, a capacity crowd ventured to The Double Door last Friday to try to capture some of that youth spirit they sort of remember they had. Guest list and will call problems arose early in the night, causing a line of legitimate ticket holders to form around the block as the Tossers played. I don't think everyone made it inside before they finished, which is a shame; they played well and sounded good (even with all the tin whistles and stuff). The crowd reacted well as they played (what were apparently) crowd favorites with appropriate opening-band gusto. Just as the place started to fill up, they were done.
Much to everyone's surprise, the Blue Meanies were up next. Revealed as the "special surprise guest" weeks earlier, any one rational person would have assumed that the better-liked, longer-running and once major label-signed band would have played last. Even the Riot Fest people thought so; they were booked to headline the all-day late-`90s wank-fest two days later. That aside, the Blue Meanies stormed out after a mind-numbing 45-minute set break. There was visible shock throughout the audience, who, no doubt, thought that the Bollweevils were coming next. Audiences of this one's median age don't react well to change, and the fanfare that the Blue Meanies had paraded out to at previous reunion shows (uh...) never materialized. They played with precision and energy, hitting most of their career highlights plus "Chemicals," their major label single that I assumed nobody liked (not on the account of elitism, more due to the fact that's it's an atrocious mess of a song). Most notably absent was perennial favorite "Pave the World," but I guess it's not a good idea to play a seven-minute song in a thirty-minute set.
By the time the Bollweevils were to start, a third of the place had cleared out, teaching us two things: (1) The Blue Meanies should have played last, it was expected, and (2) The crowd might have been rabid when they were 16 and the band was playing at 9:00, but now that they're all in their mid-20s and the set starts at midnight; they've probably got other things to do before the night's over. Some of them might even have to get home to their wives. Learned lessons aside, the Bollweevils (eventually) came out and played…exactly as you would expect. Daryl's voice sounded good, everyone played their parts right, but the spirit was strangely missing. Chalk it up to a late start and a generally unspectacular set list if you want, I still found myself either staring at the walls or watching someone else stare at the walls until the band wheezed to a halt. I can only imagine that Riot Fest, at its eight-hour scheduled time and all of the discussed bands participating, was a big of a snooze-fest as the "pre-bash."
P.S. I guess Shot Baker played as well; there was a bunch of merch and someone handed me a demo CD as I left. Now THAT is what I remember about Bollweevils-era shows: the free stuff.