A hodge-podge showcase of contemporary punks that made no sense.
Ska-punk giants The Interrupters filled The Observatory with fans adorned in checkered stompers, suspenders and Fred Perry polo shirts. The swampy aroma of pot and spilled beers wafted through the air. Heads were covered with flat cap hats and spiked mohawks. The crowd didn’t seem too welcoming to the opening bands, Skating Polly and Culture Abuse, though. They were here to see Interrupters and nobody else.
Skating Polly, a young three-piece from Oklahoma City opened the evening. The bassist wore her hair down all the way, and sported a polka dot skirt under a graphic tee and a silk nightgown, as if she were playing the part of a rockabilly Stevie Nicks. The guitar player wore a modest tee shirt that read, “More Feminism, Less B—s—,” and the drummer was wearing a nondescript bowling shirt a-la “Malcolm in the Middle.”
Their sound was almost identical to the mishmash of their outfits. Some songs sounded heavily influenced by grunge acts like Nirvana, while others were more akin to Riot Grrl tunes of Heavens to Betsy or Bratmobile. The dynamics between the two vocalists also further complicated their identity, one sounding more throaty and full-bodied and the other nasal and screeching. I’m still not entirely sure what to make of them, but they came across like a band that was displaced directly from the mid to late 90s.
Their bass and drums were booming and solid in the house mix, but Skating Polly’s single-coil guitar couldn’t quite fill the rest of the sonic space. For the most part, it came across as lacking something.
Following them was the Bay Area punk ensemble Culture Abuse. Having the advantage of a more populous band made them sound louder and beefier in contrast to Skating Polly. They stumbled onto the stage, jokingly introduced themselves as The Interrupters, and were by far the least sterile group of the evening. While also promoting a message of positivity, saying inspiration lines such as, “you can be anything you want in this world,” they also took time to say “f— America.”
Lead singer David Kelling delivered each line with furious envy, jamming the melodies into your chest like a forceful shove. The rhythm guitar player and bassist’s hair was at knee length and covered their faces, and when they bobbed their heads to the beat they looked like Muppets.
The show was also the first with their new drummer, who played so hard that the stand for his ride symbol collapsed from the force of his beating.
Just before the song “Calm E” the tremolo pedal on the lead guitar player’s rig gave out, and he frantically rearranged his cabling in order to get a clean signal. The lead singer joked, “well s—, if I knew this was gonna happen I woulda smoked a joint.”
At last, The Interrupters triumphantly pranced onto the stage, filling the entire space with both their sizable equipment and performative presence. Their sound was air-tight and well balanced. The organ player doubled as the trombonist, the guitar player scratched staccatoed triads on the off-beats, and the bassist noodled playfully. Aimee Interrupter, the group’s lead singer, was right on the money with her pitch and had impeccable control over her growls and snarls. For a punk headliner, they were rock solid in terms of musicality.
The crowd was notably unenthused by the first two bands, but this was probably from a lack of receptibility. They had come to see Interrupters and nobody else. There was no capacity on their end to be exposed to new artists, and this was reflected in their indifferent reception for Skating Polly and Culture Abuse’s sets.
When Interrupters came onstage, they ceremoniously lit joints and languidly two-stepped in a sheepish circle pit.
While the bands did just fine in the realm of performance, they all seemed a little out of place. Neither Skating Polly or Culture Abuse have been touring with The Interrupters, so it made for a crossroad exposition in more ways than one. The only perceivable commonality between the three was that Culture Abuse and Interrupters are on the same label, Epitaph Records. Beyond that, it seemed as though the booking agents were a little uninspired when putting the show together. I imagine two guys wearing zip-up hoodie sweaters in a board meeting frantically googling “punk band” at the last second.
Venue: The Observatory North Park
Date: April 19 2019
Image courtesy of Tyler Faurot