Wednesday July 11th, 2000 at El Torreon in Kansas City, MO
Groovie Ghoulies, Death Is Your Language, & Rock over London
We'll subtitle this one Tips and Digits. After discovering that although I had meticulously packed my digital camera, including batteries thoughtfully charged to their fullest capacity, I had not brought a necessary memory card to hold the photos I proposed taking. So I resigned myself to working at the snack bar.
Working is a bit of a misnomer of course (hell so is snack bar but who's keeping score?). I mean it is only the most miniscule duty, however I'm used to doing only the most infinitesimal tasks in my 9-5 and getting paid obscenely for it. This is, of course, a volunteer position at best, and a drafted one typically. The best you can hope for is tips (which since you do nothing but reach in a cooler or locker and retrieve packaged goods, all priced evenly at a dollar, even fifty cents tossed your way is an incredible vote of confidence or a sign that people will throw money anywhere). Oh and there are also digits. It's happened. Steve got digits once. He didn't call her said she was too young. She didn't look too young to me. Unfortunately they usually don't. Am I a perv?
I was excited to see the night's opener. Rock over London had received some lovely press from the punk kids in the neighborhood and someone was even using the phrase "'77-style." Hey I like '77! Although the members have been floating around the highschool and the just-post-highschool punk scene for a while, incarnated as One Damn Canadian or as part of Cat Fight or another dozen bands I'm sure I've never heard of, the band seems to have created (or stumbled upon) some sort of success as Rock over London.
Stylistically I'm not sure it's '77 though I'm not sure you could lump it into any category. There are elements of the early snotty UK punk and of southern California punk (and later northern California pop-punk) and elements of a more modern discordant punk from God knows where. When all the elements combined well, there were smart backing vocals (or dual vocals) and a guitar that knew well enough to stick to simple leads when it wasn't playing simpler power chords. However an ambitions drummer seemed to resent the K.I.S.S. method and every beat seemed to be doubled and he galloped on obliviously. Even in the band's slow song (really just a slow opening bit) he was playing to beat the band. Slow down there cowboy, this ain't Pantera, leave that double kick pedal at home.
A cover of White Riot by The Clash brought the band to full Rancid snot-appeal, with the most thrilling moments coming from the shortest songs of the night: a fifteen second ditty called You Suck and its counterpart played later with the title/lyric translated into German. Fun abounded and the band ended with a new song that might have been the best of the night. The kids on the block were right, again.
"A very diverse show" is how Braden Govoni of Death Is Your Language described the night's show. We of course had no idea what he was talking about as Rock over London and The Groovie Ghoulies certainly had more than a cousin's neighbor's babysitter in common. Richmond's DIYL however knew something we didn't. They knew the cute grrls in pigtails, in schoolgirl skirts, sparking in glittered body soap and their shiny-faced boyfriends in bondage pants with novelty haircuts weren't going to embrace the dark power-violence they were hocking. Luckily Lazlo (the sometimes promoter who got this band added to the bill) had shown up with several thrash fans in tow. The stood in front of the stage and pushed into each other and danced as best as you can dance when you know you're probably the only one doing it.
The band was as good-spirited about it as their singer as they ran through a fifteen-minute set consisting of roaring instruments each louder than the last. A distorted sampler provided atmosphere and at times was allowed to even lead the songs while instruments crashed in and out at irregular intervals -- maybe gasping for their last breath, maybe bored with the lot they had been given. Neither the audience nor the band was impressed and unfortunately a misbooking claimed the life of another band that will remember KC as the place that sucked.
Twenty minutes later the Groovie Ghoulies would turn everything around. The crowd (whom had been pumped for the opener earlier) packed the front of the stage with visions of sugarplums or other more current sugared treats in their heads. The Ghoulies have been coming though the area regularly since I moved here and audience knew what to expect. However that is the sad part about expectations, sometimes they aren't met and there weren't boundless supplies of candy tossed to the waiting crowd. What the band did provide is the most upbeat, insanely cartooned, revved-up pop songs ever and a frontman as engaging and witty as any out there.
Each Groovie Ghoulies song is sheer plagiarism; they must be. How else would you explain songs where you know where all the changes are coming, where the melody is already a part of you and where you can sing the chorus the first time you've ever heard the song? The one wrinkle is that I'm good about recognizing theft (good enough to piss off any band with designs on uniqueness or any casual listener who doesn't care about such things as the same four note sequence also appearing in "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus") and I can seldom place the source of the Groovie Ghoulies theft. Which leads me to the only other logical conclusion: somehow the band has used their connections with the aliens and implanted all past, current, and future Groovie Ghoulies songs into our collective human intelligence. Finally the aliens do something worthwhile!
Between bands I sat back at the snack bar using all of my will power to keep from eating bags upon bags of snack chips [I was successful thank you very much] and reading Naked by David Sedaris. Singer, frontman, and pogo artist Kepi reminds me of Sedaris with his thin physique and good looks, his high nasally voice, his quick referential wit and propensity for word play. I'm not sure if half of the readers get Sedaris's short stories, nor am I sure that half the audience got the stream of conscious jokes of Kepi the pop-culture whore. I did, and I think I'd go see the band next time if it were just Kepi bantering about and the band never played a note. There were, however notes played.
There was B-Face's bouncing bass line, Matt K.'s snapping and simple drumming and Roach's guitar that can cook or twang or buzz. Together they make pop and surf and punk all filtered through some Scooby Doo Monster Island movie from when the Addams Family were on. Yeah, the Globetrotters weren't on every episode despite our deepest wishes.
So to wrap up loose ends, the band played these songs, I made $3.50 in tips by accepting money from kids who have far less of it than I do [Is there a moral dilemma here? I'm not sure.], I didn't get any digits so the jury is still out on whether or not I'm a pervert, or at least if I'm a practicing one. I did get a Groovy Ghoulies license plate holder and it says "The Groovy Ghoulies Ride With My Amp," and I don't know what that means. So I guess I can't wrap up all the loose ends.