Last week I went to the Rock and Roll Hotel to see punk veterans/madmen/icons Swingin’ Utters. I’ve mentioned R&R Hotel before and have been back since my first review at the location. I really like this venue. It’s about the size of most spaces I used to play in the Bay Area and the absolute perfect size for an intimate, hot, disgusting punk show. And I got just that last Tuesday.
I got there a little late (which should be my hook-heavy refrain by this point) so I only saw the closing song by Walk the Plank. The most I can say for them is they were fast and loud, but R&R Hotel tends to group acts really well, so you should probably check them out. The Goddamn Gallows were up next.
I’d done a little research on The Goddamn Gallows beforehand and was really excited to see them. These guys are excellent showmen, truly entertaining and talented. They’re a five-piece band: trap-kit, stand-up bass, guitar, banjo and accordion/chest washboard (played with spoons). I think in the lit I read they were described as gypsy-punk (sort of like Gogol Bordello) or hobo-hardcore, or something like that. Watching them I got a good whiff of psycho/gutterbilly, punk and Americana mixed together, along with a feeling of drifting down a river or swamp, so I dubbed them Bayou-punk. It might have been the lead singer’s particular twang (affected or not) that tipped it Bayou over just Americana/Southern, but it probably had something to do with the accordion’s effect on the mix as well.
The musicians in this band, though their instruments were varied, actually switched out from time to time. The guitarist and banjo player switched out for a couple songs, and the accordion player switched to drums to let the drummer scream some backing vocals to the last song of the set. I’m always impressed when bands have multi-faceted musicians. The Goddamn Gallows are a rare gem, indeed.
Anyway, shut up, Courtney, The Goddamn Gallows were magnificent. If you want a great little punk show with enthused, rowdy, fuckin’ dirty fans and active pit, get out and see them.
It’s the Swingin’ Utters’ 25th anniversary this year. That’s 1988 y’all, for those counting, those crazy fellas started one of the best punk bands in history. They’ve got a sound that still feels like the beginnings of American punk, strains of the Descendents (mostly around the basslines) tickled my ears. First time I heard Swingin’ Utters I wasn’t into them -probably because I wasn’t into the guy who introduced me to them in the first place – but they grew on me in large part probably from living in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost 8 years. I especially like their album Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass and Bones.
25 years old and the Swingin’ Utters still sound amazing. Lead singer Johnny Bonnel paced the stage like a caged animal finally let out to do some damage and he kept the show at a sprint. It was amazing. Swingin’ Utters is actually on tour with a fill-in drummer as Greg McEntee broke his hand before tour. I didn’t catch the name of the fill-in but he did a great job of workin’ that trap kit and being easy on the eyes at the same time. Well done, dude.
One thing my friend Jess (who accompanied me to Face to Face but not to Swingin’ Utters) noticed among older punk dudes, onstage and off, is a prolific use of hats. Kangol hats and little straw brim hats. Swingin’ Utters was no exception. The guitarist and drummer each wore kangol hats and the bassist a straw-looking brim hat (which he tossed off about halfway through the set to reveal a gorgeous, sweaty mop of hair) … can I officially posit the question of WTF?? Why the hats, dudes? I mean, if you’re balding or something, maybe. But who dropped the memo about the hats and when? A note, if I may: if you’ve got nice hair let it out. Nothing I like better than imagining raking my fingers through some sweaty, unruly hair. Hats aren’t helping you.
One thing about a weeknight show is there are generally no Metro closings and clubs schedule shows to end in a timely manner. I’m not in my twenties anymore. I like seeing a show and getting home early enough to read a book before bed, and this show got me home around midnight. I left happy, 13 bucks light (the show was 14 but I found a dollar in the street on the walk back to Union Station) and stoked I got to hear “No Pariah” from a band that’s been around almost as long as I’ve been alive.
Punk music, Swingin’ Utters and The Goddamn Gallows are what’s up.