Saturday was supposed to rule pretty hard. My schedule originally looked like this:
3:00 @ ABC No Rio: Polar Bear Club, Thieves and Assassins, Polka Madre, R-Tronika, and Scream Hello.
7:00 @ Knitting Factory: A Wilhelm Scream, the Hunt and Static Radio (leave before the Unseen because...).
10:00 @ SUNY Purchase: Cursive, closing the second and final day of Culture Shock Festival.
All my initial time estimates showed that this would actually be very doable. However, bands rolling in late to the ABC No Rio -- or perhaps other mishaps -- turned a seemingly fun matinee into a dragged out, early evening marathon that didn't start until 4:45. Scream Hello played an enjoyable set, as was to be expected (check out their new EP, Smart & Stupid); R-Tronika and Polka Madre, due to their respective backgrounds, brought in a large Hispanic contingent, but their tunes seemed a little eccentric for the whites (myself included). R-Tronika was a Long Island City-based guy who, from my vantage point at the back of the room, seemed to have played by himself, including some weird, incredibly long song making fun of hipsters. It was pretty catchy, but that was the only redeeming value about the entire set, which I mostly listened to from the backyard. By the time Polka Madre had even gone on, it was nearing 8:00 and my guestlisted friend and I (with fellow ticket-holders) were forced to leave early for AWS, missing PBC and T&A (at least for me, the major draw for me attending in the first place).
And the attempt to see Cursive later on? Well, we got into Purchase about 9:40 only to be thwarted by a combination of SUNY Purchase campus security and Purchase police, who guarded the entrance and would only allow cars with at least one student in it onto campus property. Bum deal, since I'd heard past years with Culture Shock were a little friendlier/admissible to non-students.
So we got to the Knitting Factory as the Hunt was just starting their set. I'm always sure to check out an opening band I'm not familiar with via their MySpace page or what have you prior to seeing them; I could only groan when I got to the Hunt's page full of promo shots of their terrible haircuts and cringeworthy overtones of some physical glam/`80s post-punk combination. Live, it was equally bad; their stage presence was over the top and they were sure to dress in coordinating outfits. Their singer reminded me of a nauseating cross between Rufio (the "Hook" character, not the pop-punk band) and Bono. Here's the thing: Musically, they were very competent and actually pretty decent, as far as atmospheric `80s post-punk goes (think your typical modern Joy Division aper, but with big arena guitar hooks á la early U2 or something). But the entire get-up was just ruining it for me. Strip away the gimmicks and they'd be an overall solid band.
After chants of the "The `80s are over!" finally died down (which seems sort of hypocritical, since you could probably holler something similar at A Wilhelm Scream about the `90s), A Wilhelm Scream was ready to rock. Having gone two and a half years without seeing them, I was pretty excited myself. Seriously, A Wilhelm Scream is just monstrous live; every guitarist stands on the edge of the stage and noodles away while the sound booms through the venue from the almost over-the-top contribution of every member. Last year's addition of Brian Robinson on bass has made the band's trio of guitarists absolutely mind-boggling with the riffs they manage to put away and the complexity they retain at such speeds. Nuno Pereira did a near-perfect job gravelly bellowing along while inciting the crowd with mic points and amusing bits of acting (i.e. air scrolling while singing "The revolution rock hits sound like shit through your iPod"). They all seemed to be in great spirits, even on the last day of a fairly long tour.
All the while, there was slam pit action from a few rambunctious participants, who must have had a quota of people to bump into that night. Sporadic hardcore kids brought the energy alongside the occasional studded denim jacket-clad street punk or polo-ed out 'normal.' The band's melodic hardcore undercurrents meeting their skatepunk technicality creates a pretty awesome crossover sound that I guess makes sense when seeing the range it draws in. The intermittent stage dive was nice to see, as was the psyched one-man pile-on.
Even though this day didn't really work out in my favor, the one hit in these three at bats was a serious grand slam. I can't say every punk band matches the energy, fun and power of their studio sound, especially one known for their complexity and speed, but A Wilhelm Scream is certainly an exception to the rule.
Set list (8:11-8:47):
- Jaws 3, People 0
- The Kids Can Eat a Bag of Dicks
- Famous Friends and Fashion Drunks
- Killing It
- We Built This City (On Debts and Booze)
- Me vs. Morrissey in the Pretentiousness Contest (The Ladder Match)
- I Wipe My Ass with Showbiz
- 5 to 9
- The Horse
- The Rip
- The King Is Dead
1 from Benefits of Thinking Out Loud
2 from Mute Print
4 from Ruiner
5 from Career Suicide