I strolled into Red 7 around 11:00 P.M., missing five of the seven or so opening bands scheduled to play before Reagan Youth. I'm fine with two or three openers, but SEVEN? Come on, people. Unless it's some sort of festival or it's dollar beer night with "Dateline: To Catch a Predator" playing on the TV above the bar, there's no way any sane person wants to sit in the same smelly dive bar for that long.
Doomsday Hour was the first band I saw. They put out a pretty standard set of metal-influenced hardcore with a fuzzy distorted bass sound that reminded me of Nausea and Behind Enemy Lines, but other than that, there wasn't much to differentiate them from many other similar-sounding bands.
Next up was Mouth Sewn Shut, a hardcore band based out of Boston. They cranked out a decent set of energetic hardcore with lots of heavy riffs, a few breakdowns and a tiny pinch of ska, believe it or not. These guys know how to work a stage and get the crowd involved with sing-alongs and such, so their set was a bit more interesting to watch. I expect that we'll hear more from them in the near future.
As Reagan Youth plugged in and sent the first blast of feedback shrieking through the room, everyone outside put out their cigarettes and started swarming up to the stage. Unlike many other headliners I've seen, RY didn't waste any time getting set up and soundchecked -- they actually moved like they had a purpose. An upside-down American flag with the Reagan Youth logo emblazoned across it was nailed up behind the drum riser, and as founding guitarist Paul Cripple laid down the mellow-sounding opening riff to "It's a Beautiful Day," substitute vocalist Pat Distraction introduced the band and thanked everyone for coming out. By this time, the area in front of the stage was packed tighter than a subway car during rush hour, a giant undulating collage of smelly denim jackets covered in patches and studs. As Pat snarled the first line of the song ("It's a beautiful day....for a BARBECUE!!!"), the crowd erupted into a ballistic, churning frenzy.
From then on, it was mayhem -- the crowd only stopped between songs to untangle their wallet-chains and recover missing studs on the floor. The band sounded tight and focused -- every riff was fast and accurate; every drumbeat rained down with the precision of a military drill team. Without wasting much time on stage banter, the band favored their much-loved staple songs over their later material, though they did play "Jesus Was a Communist" and "What Will the Neighbors Think" in addition to fan favorites like "New Aryans," "USA," "Go Nowhere," "No Class" and "I Hate Hate." As the set winded down, Pat took some time out to honor a "fallen comrade" -- namely, Dave Insurgent. We all knew what was coming, and as the opening riff of "Reagan Youth" came blasting in, it set off a previously untapped reservoir of explosive energy; audience members clambered over each other like crabs in a bucket, hoping to be within shouting range of the microphone for the chorus -- "We are Reagan Youth! Sieg Heil!" The band closed out with "Degenerated," which some of you might recognize from the movie "Airheads," and called it a night. After liberating a flyer from the wall for my collection, I walked out of the club triumphantly, reminded once again of why I love this music so much.
Reagan Youth is among the finest re-united punk bands I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing (compared to the visceral disappointment of Black Flag's "reunion" at the Palladium in 2003), and I highly suggest checking them out if you have the opportunity -- even though gas prices are much higher now than in 1981, Reagan Youth is worth a three-hour drive.