The Phenomenauts / Big D And The Kids Table - live in San Francisco (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Phenomenauts / Big D And The Kids Table

live in San Francisco (2005)

live show

This past Warped, my brother and I got the chance to catch the Phenomenauts playing their brand of "spacebilly" twice in one day. It was a whole lot of fun, and seeing them with Big D could only be better. So I trekked down to the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, and after having a bit of a spat with the bus driver, arrived to a mostly empty room.

The first band, the Teenage Harlets, played a mix of surf/pop-punk, kind of like the cheesy Dick Dale stuff mixed with the Descendents. It was fun, but nothing memorable. The best thing was that the singer spent nearly all of his time out in the crowd, getting everyone in on the action.

As the River City Rebels were getting ready, I just got more and more irritated. I would like to petition them to either stop posing or stop playing music. In the past year or so they've slipped completely into this glam image that simply doesn't suit them. While the music (for the most part) is still kind of rockin', it lacks the punch or the relevance found on Racism, Religion, And War, and the lyrics are completely vapid and boring. Add in the fact that their stage show can be best described as if Reel Big Fish's schtick was playing up every stereotype of a New York Dolls/glam band. Good lord, just stop.

Big D came up next. I think they've pretty much become my favorite live band currently. There's just something about their energy that can't be matched. Dave's spastic floor punches and spitting emotion, Sean's bizarre dancing while singing backup, Bush, Dan and Paul's spot-on horn playing and JR's speed drumming all just meshes together into a stage presence that reminds me of another Boston ska band that I miss dearly. They played a nice mix of stuff from their newest album as well as stuff from Good Luck and Gypsy Hill and finally gave in to my request and played "Jeremy," which was wonderful. The highlight had to be the two instrumental tracks "The Sounds of Allston Village" (from How it Goes) and "Great Song" (from Gypsy Hill) because they showed off their real musical chops. It's easy to forget that most of these guys are classically trained in their instruments, some sporting degrees.

Oakland's space-traveling heroes took the stage with a smoke machine and a blast off into "The Year 2000" and it was a lot of fun. They mix up rock, punk, rockabilly and fun into their own style, which they call "rocket roll" and it works really well. I'm not that familiar with their catalog, but their extended non-Warped set was pretty awesome. Dressed in matching jumpsuits and sporting some odd helmets, they rocked and rolled the crowd pretty damned well. I left as they finished their last song, and managed to avoid their toilet paper-shooting gun, but I had a good time. Easily recommended viewing.

The best thing about this concert, and any concert at the Bottom of the Hill, is how intimate the club is. The bands are always hanging out, and everyone who plays there seems to really enjoy talking to all the kids. It's awesome to see that there are still bands that do this, and venues that seem geared toward it. By the end of the night, the club was packed with kids waiting for Big D and the Phenomenauts and it was a great vibe throughout.

my photos from the show