Naked Raygun - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Naked Raygun

Live in Grand Rapids (2014)

live show

Most of the best known '80s punk and hardcore bands were from the east or west coast. The seeds sown in New York and Los Angeles eventually spread to every corner of the country. The Midwest had a lot of great but lesser known bands. Chicago had a thriving scene with bands like the Effigies, Articles of Faith and Big Black. A lot of 40ish punks were really excited when it was announced that Chicago legends Naked Raygun were playing one—off shows in Indiana and Michigan. The Michigan show was in Grand Rapids on June 28, 2014 at the Pyramid Scheme. The club is a great 400—person downtown venue that's become the best place around for punk, metal and indie shows.

Detroit weirdos Child Bite opened the show with a razor sharp set of chaotic punk/metal. Frontman Shawn Knight is part Charles Manson and part rabid dog. This is inspired noise that I recommend you check out. Daggerdown from Grand Rapids had the unenviable task of playing in the middle of the bill. They were stuck between the highly animated Child Bite and the highly anticipated Naked Raygun. They raced through a brief set of post—punk.

Naked Raygun took the stage with almost no fanfare. Singer Jeff Pezzati grabbed the mic and said, "Last time we were in Grand Rapids we played at a VFW hall". Knowledgeable locals told me that the band hadn't been in town since the mid—'80s. I was impressed that quite a few of those fans, cultivated almost 30 years ago, still support the band. This show also continued a disturbing trend I've been noticing lately: segregation. Not among the skinheads and long hairs, or even the mohawks and the fauxhawks, but along the lines of age. Very few young people are coming to classic punk shows, and few older people are supporting the up and comers. This was an oldster show for sure.

When Naked Raygun launched into their first song, Pezzati threw his head back and closed his eyes. He seemed to lose himself in the song. His voice was strong and clear, it has aged well. The vocals are arguably the bands greatest strength. When Pezzati wasn't lost in the song, he was holding the mic in the crowd for them to sing along. Everyone seemed to know every word to every song. Truthfully, I felt like a bit of an outsider, being only a casual fan.

While Pezzati is the main attraction, the whole band was great. They were pretty tight for not gigging all that often. The highlights of the set for me were "Rat Patrol" and "Surf Combat" from Throb Throb and "Home of the Brave" and "Peacemaker" from All Rise. The whole room was echoing with oohs, aahs and whoas. I cant remember the last time I saw a band getting so much love from the audience. Naked Raygun ended their 75—minute set with fan favorite " I Don't Know," with its refrain of "What poor gods we do make." On this night, I think everyone in attendance disagreed with that sentiment.

A couple additional things:
1. Chicago is only a three hour drive from Grand Rapids, and (along with Detroit) heavily influenced its music scene.
2. Naked Raygun will be playing their classic Throb Throb album in its entirety at Riot Fest Chicago 2014.