Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I still want a sticker that turns my ride into a national security threat.

So I mean, really, what's better on a Friday night than a bunch of earnest beard punk? Is that a proper term for this? Planet Plan-It-X, maybe. What is for sure is that a summer evening can certainly bring out the party and the olfactory in an otherwise dull side of town.

It was the first time I had been to The Fort, and it took a second to reacquaint myself to the familiar-but-different trappings of the punk house. Photographs and even descriptors don't really do much justice to the subtle and glaring differences between various abodes, but then again, who's really looking that close if you're on the outside? In any case, this particular spot definitely belonged to the Bloomington school; decor and odor both differed wildly from the noisy artists' residences in Providence and the crusty 80's revivalist basements in Boston to which I'm much more accustomed, despite the abundant eclecticism shared by all.

Half the show takes place on the stoop. There's an element that is always outside to serve as signpost, town crier, and skeptic for newcomers. Sometimes even as guard or look-out. I tend to go to shows alone and the approach can sometimes be a bit harrowing; these are all strangers, and since punk houses to tend to support a small army, they're all strangers that collectively don't know you. I ended up missing most of artists-in-residence opener Stupid Party, but having previewed the material, I was alright with missing the enthusiastic if generic set. The Gainesville-Bloomington axis on which the sound is firmly located isn't too hard to find, and that's why This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb was here.

Brief aside: Even beyond decorative and odorific differences was the anarchical crowd behavior. In Boston, where four-on-the-floor punk and hardcore is having a heyday of massive proportions, etiquette is a little more puritan. This is a given for dress (patches, Boston sports, and second skin denim to boot) but also for dancing. Channel that energy into the circle pit and get the two-step going. Here it was just mayhem: D.I.Y. hair cuts, uniquely mangled wardrobes, and alcoholic containers of every shape and form pogoed, thrashed, and generally bounced without any uniting theory except chaos. Even standing on the wall was no good; delineation between crowd and observer wasn't just protean, it was non-existant.

Northern Liberties followed and I can honestly say I wasn't really expecting what ended up happening. The set-up was typical: basic drum kit, overly stickered bass, and marching band drums to be manned by the dress-clad, Stardusted lead singer.

What followed was an extended space jam complete with snake charm bass riffs and a whole lot of vocal reverb mixed the occasional drum solo freakout. I don't know if anyone else saw it coming, but it didn't take long for the crowd to adapt, the battleground being defined by the grey area where exuberance and violence meet. Also, where the unacquainted and unabashed set the stage for night-long faux pas.

Case in point: leather sandals, heat trap jeans, and a sweater shirt disposed of once bad dancer guy decided this weird shit was too much for him not to be a part of. As if the rest of the kids losing their minds wasn't enough, we've got a human pinball causing much consternation by both excessive ground movement and excessive sweating. At least the ultra-aggro drunk kid knocking back the Yuengling in the white Partisans tee was misantrhopic enough to say fuck the world and stay out of the pit after being excised by consensus.

A compatriot on the wall demonstrates the only way to combat the ultimate trump card, a sweaty and naked back.

Here's a punk Statue of Liberty play. In case you couldn't tell, it's time for This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb. I'm waiting for the new album to come out on vinyl, but early listening shows it's more of the same, and in this case status quo is A-OK.

More anthems, more politics, more folk creeping into those oddly melodic bellows. That's what everyone was here for, and that's what everyone got...mostly. The old standards still set everyone in motion (how can you NOT be moving for Star Song), but there's something lacking nowadays in the live-set. The last time I saw them was at Plan-It-X Fest about three years ago with a radically butchered line-up, and I don't know if the supergroup I saw then was just infallible or they're losing it or maybe The Fort just couldn't provide the support necessary, but the band definitely sounded a little milquetoast. Too much liquid courage or maybe not enough, but I wasn't nearly as stoked as I thought I'd be.

Closing up was Shellshag, but by that point in the night I was exhausted and had to ride on home. My bad, at least I think. Checked 'em out later and ran across the record in Academy today, and I don't think I'm done with them. Apparently a two-piece, it seems they specialize in anthems: piano-driven, sludge-powered, even epic riffage, there's more than a few engines going on this thing. Hit or miss, but the LP on Starcleaner (which is also responsible for the Stupid Party 7") looks like it'll be worth it when I'm not so far in the red.

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