Avengers / Pansy Division - Live in Santa Cruz (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Avengers / Pansy Division

Live in Santa Cruz (2012)

live show

Penelope Houston is one tough lady. At the second of a two night Bay Area record re-release celebration, Houston and the Avengers tore through an energetic set of early West Coast Punk classics with energy and vigor like the tunes were released yesterday. Although the house was packed at the tiny Crepe Place in Santa Cruz, California, Houston's energetic take on the classics cuts kept the crowd moving May 19.

Wasting little time with introductions, the band immediately jumped into "We Are the One." Impressively, Houston's voice is in as good a shape as it was on the 1977 recording of that song, so she was able to belt out the high notes and extended calls with vitality rarely seen in veteran acts. Even more impressive was that her voice was the same pitch as previously heard, and she sounded just as youthful as she did on the studio versions.

Because the show was to celebrate the band's re-release of its only LP, The Pink Album (as named by Houston), and the reclamation of the rights to the LP, the band basically played every track from the release. Midway through the night, Houston commented, "When the Pink Album was released, originally, it was 1983, and we had already been broken up for four years, so it's nice to be able to party for it now."

Avengers 2012, now composed of Houston, original guitar player Greg Ingraham and 50 percent of openers Pansy Division, kept the versions fairly faithful. While the music wasn't berserk or off the law, they were respectful and well rehearsed without being too shiny. Although it might have been nicer to hear a few unexpected surprises, "Corpus Christi" was amended to have a collapsing breakdown at the end. Their version of the Stones' "Paint It Black" was reverent but also unique to the group. Perhaps most interestingly, the band played its track "White Nigger" despite that the term is probably less accepted now than it was in 1977.

It doesn't seem like the Avengers are so much creating a second run as they are preserving their legacy. For an album as perfect as the Pink Album, why try to duplicate what is basically perfect?

Openers Pansy Division, which are composed of three gay men and one straight one, performed about 10 of their pop-punk odes to gay sex. They sang about dudes banging dudes. Getting banged by dudes. Dudes' wieners. Touchin' dudes wieners, and pretty much any permutation thereof. Certainly, the band is making a social statement, but in one respect, the message is almost overshadowed by just how poppy and snappy the songs sound. Perhaps most interesting is how warmly the band was received, in this the year of our Lord 2012. One would think that in the year of their formation, 1991, the members would catch much more umbrage from people inside and outside the punk community. It would be interesting to see if the members evaluate themselves on the progress of their reception, or on how much work there is left to do.

Random notes:

-Concert promoter, Eric Fanali of Grand Fanali productions,was dressed in an outfit which was identical to Paul D'ianno's circa Killers. What is up with that?

-Pro tip to lesser known bands trying to hustle merch: If a potentially interested party starts asking about the differences in your sound recordings for sale, don't shrug your shoulders and say "Whatever. They're just songs."

-I ain't gonna lie. I almost had to throw down on some 35-year-old frat boy who was touching my jacket. Don't be touchin' my shit, yo. The message to take from this is the following: If you even show the faintest hint of aggression towards a bully, at any age, 99 percent of them will flee.