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Sunday September 17th, 2017 at The Granada in Lawrence, KS
Stiff Little Fingers, Death By Unga Bunga, & Boss Hooligam Soundsystem

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I'm afraid there's just enough time for a quick summary and nothing more.

Although the doors opened late, Rico Dejoie of Boss Hooligan Sound System began spinning a nearly hour-long set of skinhead reggae, dub, and ska right exactly on schedule. Ska dominated, and every wave was covered from its earliest Jamaican inception, through Madness and the 2 Tone era, all the way to the punk-infused latest release from The Interrupters. Of course, a mostly-empty cavernous theater is a long way from Tit for Tat club's dancefloor, meaning the DJ set went mostly unnoticed.

It takes a lot to overcome a bad band name, but Norway's Death by Unga Bunga succeeded. The garage-leaning rock & roll quintet quickly won over the crowd of aged punks with three driving guitars, pop sensibilities, big hooks, and a frontman who enjoyed his trips over the barricade and into the audience. Showmanship was key, and the theatrics peaked during finale "Wish I Didn't Know" (from 2017's Pineapple Pizza released on Jansen Plateproduksjon) when the all three guitarists not only slipped in the infamous twin guitar solo from Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town," but played it while jumping and with their guitars behind their heads. I suspect long Scandinavian winters inspire some very creative band practices.

During Stiff Little Fingers' 40 years of existence, the band had never played Kansas City or Lawrence. Locals who have lived their whole lives listening to the band's influential mix of pub rock, punk, and power pop were sure the show would be huge. Sadly, it was not. Of course, some suspected that the band wasn't much more than a tribute act cashing in on history. Thankfully it wasn't that either. Instead what Lawrence got was a small show featuring long-time (if not original) members, playing incredible songs flawlessly. The band's seventeen-song setlist, and the banter that glued it together, sounded as fresh and timely as any set I've seen this year. In short, Lawrence got an amazing night.

Frontman Jake Burns was in excellent form with a voice that sounded even clearer than it did all those years ago. His relaxed demeanor pulled the small audience closer as he shared both humorous stories (a conversation with Phil Lynott that inspired "When We Were Young" or his early experience in the workforce that led to "Breakout") and tackled the tough topics (his own depression as described in "My Dark Places" or childhood sexual abuse by the clergy in "Guilty as Sin"). While the set rightfully included a number of songs from the band's latest album (2014's self-released No Going Back), most of the set was devoted to the classics. The one-two punch of "Nobody's Hero" and "Tin Soldiers" from the 1980 single highlighted the set for me, but I was happy to hear the encore-leading song "Johnny Was" that smartly stressed the dub and skank found in the Bob Marley original, and demonstrated a continuity to the DJ set that began the evening. Naturally, the night ended with "Alternative Ulster" — the band's 1978 hit that never was — ensuring that audience members walked out with hoarse voices, tired legs, and one less band to see on their bucket list.