Immediately upon entering the Independent in San Francisco on February 8, 2009, I noticed the menacing, stun baton-wielding guards that were patrolling the audience. With their metallic silver skin and riot gear uniforms, the robot guards were straight out of George Lucas' "THX 1138."
Shortly thereafter, the opening band Leather Feather took the stage, dressed from head to toe in white medical regalia concealing all but their eyes. The band began their set, a mixture of Rush, Sabbath and Faith No More while "THX 1138" actually played in the background. Loud, thick and hard hitting, their tunes seem to lessen the menace behind their faceless guises. The band seemed to throw the crowd for a loop by switching up styles of metal with almost every song, but the similar theme of the songs kept the change-ups interesting and made the audience ponder "just what the hell is this band" rather than jarring. The best part of the set was the finale, where the band broke out into discordant jamming only to be physically beaten into submission and drug off stage by the robot guards.
Next Mika Miko took the stage. With their powerful riffs and cacophony of noise, the four ladies (and one dude) sure did justice to women in rock. While the number of women in rock seems to be rising, they still are the vast minority and it was nice to see a band that didn't resort to using the fact that there are girls in the band as a hook. Rather, they were a band that rocked out that happened to have women in the band. The music was somewhere between the power chords of the Ramones and the stop/start/screech of Black Flag, which was made all the more vicious by their dual vocalists that weren't afraid to use the nails in their lungs. Some more variety in their tunes would have been nice, but I'm sure that if they keep the originality and the energy in their current songs, they'll be great in no time. Plus, one of the lead singers uses a telephone as a microphone. Hilarious!
The last time Fucked Up played San Francisco, they were at the Hemlock Tavern and played a brutal but super short set. But between then and now, they've released their second LP, The Chemistry of Common Life, been on MTV and Fox News a bunch of times and have generally become one of those rare bands that gets respect in both indie and punk circles. It appears that their newfound "fame" has affected their performance. The set featured savage but rough versions of their songs; when Fucked Up played The Independent, they kept the energy level up, but the songs themselves seemed cleaner. Even Pink Eyes' throat of glass seemed more sensitive. But this has positively affected the band. Their more grandiose style of playing makes the delicate songs from Chemistry really jump out. The set list opened with "Son of the Father" and consisted mostly of newer material. They even pulled out a few of their more obscure B-sides, including "I Hate Summer" from the Crooked Head single. While the newer songs rocked along with intensity, the place exploded when the band broke into "Police," which included a stage-diver who I swear had a hang time of about five seconds. Pink Eyes also took time to discuss the tragedy of the BART station shooting. While the usual Fucked Up wackiness was ever present, which included Pink Eyes taking off most of his clothes and sticking plastic cups to his head and nipples, the high point of the set was unquestionably the encore, which consisted of Jello Biafra spanking a completely naked dude hanging from Pink Eyes neck while the band performed their rendition of "Blitzkrieg Bop."