Saturday, June 7, 2008

24 hours of ringing

Perhaps, as a friend suggested on my facebook page, I am getting old. Or at least old enough to need to invest in a pair of ear plugs. Last night at the Santa Fe Brewing Company the Detroit Cobras and X blasted through a 2-1/2 hour punk rock set that may have been the concert of the year. The crowd was wild, the band dead on and the old school punkers out in full force.

I knew the audience would be dead on as a group of friends and I, mostly dressed in the requisite black t-shirts, took stock of the retro punk band attire that the mostly 40+ crowd rocked. Residents, X-Ray Specs, etc. These were people who knew where they were. There was even a woman sporting a torn up 1982 X tour t.

Everyone waited with anticipation and the second the Cobras took the stage the crowd huddled in close for a listen. The altitude got to the band a bit and they staved off the lack of oxygen by passing around an inhaler--an activity that I thought never left the halls of junior high schools. Once they got their steroid kick they were on it. Such a fun band and an amazing amount of energy. They didn't want to stop their set but had to because of the 10 pm curfew.

I was pretty close to the stage during the Cobras and was pretty sure that I'd better go grab a beer before the changeover. Yeah, right. There were three lines for brew and each of them had a line some 30 people long. So I ditched that idea quickly and headed back to my spot. The little jaunt to the back also showed that tons of people were piling in and my place 3 rows from the stage was going to be a coveted one.

During the quick changeover some familiar faces from the local music scene started popping up all over the place. Bill Palmer from Hundred Year Flood was a few rows back and Sean O'Neal from the Late Severa Wires showed up in a fantastic Siouxie shirt. I was a little surprised when KBAC DJ Honey Harris disappeared though. She'd been grinning like the Chesire Cat throughout the Cobra's set and seemed pumped for the show. But it was Harris herself who got the chance to introduce the band and if she's had a smile before I don't know what to call the enthusiasm that had washed over her face for the intro.

Once X took the stage the crowd burst forward and my ear drums began to take a beating. The sound wasn't perfect, with vocals going in and out, but right up front it didn't really matter. Of the four members, Billy Zoom was definitely the most fun/creepy to watch. His face was set in a robotic "take my picture" pose while his hands threw out a series of complicated chords. Zoom certainly also had a thing for the ladies in the crowd, making direct eye contact and offering them to touch his guitar. It would have been way better from the back because both times he thrust the neck into my face and smiled like an overly Botox-ed Stepford Wife I was totally creeped out. Not hot Billy, not hot.

When the mosh pit broke out I used the pushing to my advantage to secure a spot a little closer to the center and front of the stage. My main advice for mosh pit movement is to use passive resistance. An "Oh my God I totally just got pushed/deer in the headlights" look helps too. Act like you didn't mean to move over a step and no one in front of you pushes you back. Works every time and soon I was second row and center. Which meant two things: No more looks from creepy face and distance from the speakers. There was a very small, probably 10-year-old boy with his dad to the left of me and I tried hard to make sure the kid was safe and having fun. By the look on his face I was guessing this was his first concert, which is awesome. He looked awestruck most of the time and just stared at the musicians. Once the pit got a bit more intense he smiled as he was jammed against bodies but realized he was completely safe. Eventually I was pushed all the way to the front and spent the end of the concert trying not to end up sprawled across the stage. I've got to give the security guys credit for keeping such a close eye on everything and immediately pulling out anyone who was having a problem.

I don't know X's music very well and don't spend the time that I used to listening to punk. I remember friends touting the band back in the day and I know I had a tape at some point, but we were more into the Operation Ivy wave of punk at that time. These guys were already legends by then, and as high schoolers often aren't, we weren't too interested in history. I wish I knew their songs better, but it really didn't matter. This wasn't a sing-along kind of show anyway. It was watching a band that has more than 30 years of musicianship under their belts, know their instruments in and out and have the energy of teenagers.

When 10 pm came they announced that they'd have to stop playing soon, that there had already been a few complaints about the noise, and quickly launched into another song. No one wanted to stop. The band looked like it could have played for another hour, at least, and the audience would have gladly screamed through the set, no matter how long it went on. In the end it's probably good. If they had kept going I probably wouldn't be able to hear my neighbors on their porch right now and I can barely hear the cars driving down the busy street that's only a block away.