Saturday July 1st, 2000 at The Pirate House in Lawrence, KS
Kobra Kai & The Electron Volts

Kobra Kai Kobra Kai The Electron Volts The Electron Volts [more]

It was 214 degrees Fahrenheit on the shadeless evening porch of The Pirate House. A group of crusty punks, college drop outs & other self-made misfits sat on the broken-down front porch furniture indigenous only to college towns. Awkward conversation fizzled up occasionally around the safe topics of tattoos, obscure bands, and the heat. Most were visibly faking it with only the greenest of the loiterers having any real interest in the subjects.

As I sat there sweating and discussing Man is the Bastard, I squareishly decided to point out that the show was scheduled to start an hour ago. My urge to action was quickly discounted and the residents reminded me all flyers have start times listed in PRST (punk rock standard time) which is at least an hour behind the rest of the world. Whatever the explanations offered, for most of us this was only the first stop of an evening that would later end at the Kill Creek/Reflector show at a real club. I tried to light a fire under the show organizers’ butts, but the flaps absorbed most of the heat and the show started exactly when it wanted to, which turned out to be around 8:30.

The Electron Volts began the show with a smooth and poppy Ramones-esque punk. Most songs are dully similar, but since few last much over two minutes, you never really tire of the patterns. The band seems to have made a decision to keep their sound raw; there aren’t sweet backing vocals, they seldom use guitar leads (though the night’s only lead came in the opener and worked extremely well) and there are no elabourate bridges or breaks to glue the choruses and verses together. Personally I think I’d like to see more polish or at least see them in a venue where the PA allows you to understand the vocals.

As soon as The Electron Volts played their final note I applauded generously but made quick designs for the door and open air. The unfortunate baggage of house shows is that windows and doors must be closed to keep the sound in, and unfortunately all breathable oxygen out. Besides, the six members of Cincinnati’s Kobra Kai would need all the space they could to fit in their drums, two guitars, a bass, two keyboards and amps for all.

Even though less than a dozen folks stood inside moments ago for the first band, almost forty were outside coalescing. For many paying the $3 to stand in the hot house to see the band just couldn’t compete with sitting on the porch and hearing the band through old uninsulated walls. Besides outside one could always hope to catch a breeze.

After the pre-requisite trouble with abused musical equipment, Kobra Kai started their cacophony motors and filled the small should-be dining room with all the sound and fury of a warzone. Everything was fast and intense with only the slightest bit of order discernable when a break was loosely arrived at by the rhythm instruments. Each member was in constant motion with the keyboard player having to live a regrettable life with his hands tied to the keys and his body working to get free by bounding in every other direction. The singer Screamed into a cheap hand-held microphone, his arms shaking from the force of his own lungs. He fell to the dirty hardwood floor frequently where he would finish a song rolling in agony, mic cord tangled around all 2000 of his tattooed parts.

I had seen countless bands similar to this in the mid 90s when booking for The Sitcom (an all-ages DIY collective in Indianapolis) and it was a wonderful reminder of that ethic. This was a band that will never play the college bar, they will never get written up in the alternative newsweekly, or a get a review in Magnet, they will never get played on college radio. This is a band created for VFW halls, garage shows & basement collectives. Indie rockers of today: imagine how empowering that is – don’t worry if you don’t get booked into the good club, set out now knowing you don’t want any part of that bullshit. Yeah now I remember what DIY was.

Kobra Kai played about fifteen songs in unbearable heat, each two minute song was followed by a one minute pause while microphone and keyboard stands were set back up and breaths were caught. Although not musical geniuses, accomplished players or even musicians in the stuffiest sense of the word, the six members of Kobra Kai ended their night covered in sweat, dirty, bruised and half naked. Pedro the Lion wont go that far for you, but Kobra Kai did.