Leftover Crack / Negative Approach - live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Leftover Crack / Negative Approach

live in Philadelphia (2018)

live show

Leftover Crack wouldn’t be Leftover Crack if they didn’t exist in a whirlwind of constant chaos. It’s that sense of unpredictability- something that many more polished contemporary acts have cast aside- that acts as a conduit to greatness and exploration. The unexpected can, and often does, happen at a Leftover Crack show, both to the band’s benefit and detriment. At their December 1, 2018 show in Philly at Underground arts, they reaped both sides of that balance.

Near the end of the set, a young fellow jumped on stage and announced that he had something to ask the bartender. After she was ushered onto the stage, he dropped to his knee and, sure enough, proposed to the young lady. She said yes and the crowd went wild. The proposal followed the main unit of a particularly crazed LoC set.

Surprisingly with early member Mike Trujillo on guitar, the band blasted through their more well known cuts, including a hardcore storming take on “Stop the Insanity” and “Nazi white Trash.” Guitarist Brad Logan has been getting harder and harder with his delivery and the straight up 80s hardcore influence is more prevalent than ever in the band’s 2018 sound. Newer track “Don’t Shoot” was slipped in near the front and made it clear just how much the newest stuff ranks with the best of the band’s catalogue, despite the fact that it might be a bit more “mature” than the earlier hits- mature for LoC that is.

Likewise, singer Stza was in classic ragged form. There is something to be said for artists who come out and hit the mark every night, with every note and every move the reaction of muscle memory. Still, in achieving the rigorous system of someone like, say James Brown or even Charlie Harper, there is a sense of spontaneity lost. Stza, with his iconic vinegar and glass voice, is the polar opposite of this and his performance found him changing up delivery and even cadence with apparent whimsy. He’s been playing the keyboard more on stage in recent years and that has added a newer dimension for the band, with Stza at times, almost morphing into a punk rock Billy Joel- raw emotion mixed with booming melodies. The famed “oooone of usss will be betraaaaayed” line of “Nazi White Trash” was especially loose and underlined how the whole set seemed to be a sort of trapeze act- when the band hit the mark, boy did they hit the mark.

Still, when you dance with the devil, sometimes he stomps his hoof on your toes. Near the end of the show, the band threw two microphones out into the crowd, neither of which were returned. Logan came back out and demanded their return. After much coaxing, one of the mics did find its way back on stage. Still, in a perennial showing of Philly “class,” the second mic was as vanished as the sands of time, never to return to its true owner. Deflated, the band (and the audience as well) spent a few more minutes requiring the return of the device, but alas, it was gone gone gone. After that, the whole show sort of shambled to a stop, collapsing at the end with the crowd gradually dispersing. Leftover Crack shows surely are unpredictable, and that chaos is as much a part of the art as the music itself. How you interpret someone stealing stuff from an independent, hardworking band who actively encourage stealing from corporations, the result of which is a show that ends in breakdown, is a twist you have to figure for yourself.

And speaking of James Brown, before Leftover Crack’s set, Negative Approach stormed through 40 minutes of pure freight train smashing. Negative Approach has a sound as identifiable as the cold death stare of vocalist John Brannon, and the band is as hot and as savage as ever. For the whole performance, Brannon kept that look of ire bolted into his face as he barked out in his junkyard dog howl, the band flying by in a mass of explosive feedback and clanging.

With perhaps a line here or there, the band rocketed from 40 second slammer to 90 second smasher to 40 second basher with little pomp. Negative Approach is a band that shows by doing and frankly, many band shave tried, but no one can duplicate the sheer ferocity of NA. Interestingly, they did do a couple of their classic covers, including Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout,” but even that tune, with its bouncy skeleton, was forged into something meaner and violent.

The set ended with a quite salutation and a final song. Negative Approach didn’t need to tell people who they were or what they were doing, they simply did it, cementing for the zillionth time their legend- it’s not hype, it’s the real deal.

The show opened with up-and-comers Crazy & the Brains. Singer Christoph took to the stage in a Biggie Smalls style fur coat and the band immediately launched into their New York Dolls meets Dead Milkmen style of crazed punk. They’re touring off their excellent new album, Into the Ugly and they focused on that release live. “Hell No” kicked off with its surfs style spiral and Jeff Rubin’s bouncing xylophone, only for Brett M, Ernest Young, and Jon Lango to kick the track into a loose punk snapper.

Much of the audience was crusty or crusty adjacent but by the third song, Catb’s kicked off a rendition of Jim Carroll’s “People who Died” (with LoC’s Brad Logan on guitar) and crowd was won over. From there, the band hopscotched across their discography. An extended take on “Vanity Fare” with audience-xylophone participation got the crowd jumping. Catb’s have been building for a few years now and they’re hitting their marks by creating a sort of demented, but intelligent, fierce, but emotional, classic, but fresh kind of punk that exemplifies what the true spirit if punk rock is. Their Philly set demonstrated this in spades.

Catbs, NA, and LoC don’t seem to have much in common on paper, but as each did their own unqiue thing, it became clear that they are all the same sort of a band- that is, a band that does do their own thing, and does it better than anyone else.