koffin kats: party time
koffin kats | 2011-04-29 | reggie’s rock club | chicago, il
Last week, a friend was in town, and I said, “hey, we should go see some punk rock.” He said that sounded like a good plan, and so I sent him a list of shows. Of the bands playing last week, the only ones I had ever heard of were playing on Thursday, a day he was not free. This basically left Friday, and a bill I described via text message as “psychobilly strangeness but probably kickass.” And man, I was absolutely correct.
I had never heard of the Koffin Kats. Sure, I like psychobilly, but I am not immersed in it and never have been. Like, are there waves of psychobilly? Do the Cramps count? They are proto-psychobilly, I guess. So anyway, my point is that I know bands like Mad Sin and the Nekromantix and the Meteors, which, if there are waves of psychobilly, they’re probably first-wave. I had not ever heard of the Koffin Kats. I went to last.fm and played Koffin Kats radio long enough to assure myself that the show would not suck. Then I went to the show.
And holy shit, you guys. Holy fucking shit. That is more or less what I have to say. They’re a three-piece, guitar and drums and stand-up bass. The bassist, Vic Victor, is also the frontman. And I was like, oh, a dude with a stand-up bass, how dynamic a frontman can he possibly be?
VERY FUCKING DYNAMIC. He has metal plates bolted to that thing so he can stand on it, which he does regularly. He holds it over his head, one-handed, and plays it. He holds it like a guitar, and he drags it all over the stage, and he jumps on it, and he lies underneath it, and he gives it to the guitar player and stands on the bass and plays the guitar and then plays the bass WITH the guitar. And he sings the whole time, and sometimes someone comes out and pours some beer down his throat so that he does not have to ever stop playing. These dudes do not let up for a second, is what I’m saying, and it is a hell of a thing to watch. I am giving the guitarist and the drummer short shrift here, but they are a big part of this thing, too, just as brutally batshit as Vic, and just as fun to watch if you can manage to look away. (That is difficult, I’ll tell you right now.)
The sound in the venue wasn’t great, to be honest. His vocals were not all that intelligible. I could tell his voice was good, though, deep and rich and pretty well perfect for the genre. (Their albums have proved me correct on this count.) And as for the rest of it, I could hear what mattered: a tight trio driven by the driving slap of that upright bass, some kind of psycho robot drummer, and greasy guitar licks with enough swing to dance to. Assuming you can move that fast, of course.
As if that weren’t enough, the tickets were ten bucks and there were four supporting acts, all of which were excellent. In order, they were:
- Pearls Mahone and the One-Eyed Jacks: straight-up rockabilly with an awesome lady singer, nice boots, and some Wanda Jackson covers. They are also touring (not with the Koffin Kats), heading west.
- Venom Lords: “We’re not a rockabilly band, but we like zombies.” I am pretty sure all their songs were about zombies. They have names like ‘More Brains.’ They switched vocals between a chick and a dude, and her songs were more, mmm, surf-punk, maybe? Hard to tell in a live setting. His were more hardcore. But they were all about zombies.
- nothing to gain: Three-piece that kept making me think that Mad Sin and the Pogues had made a band. I don’t know what their studio stuff is like, and their myspace does not say anything about Irish drinking songs, and no one was wearing a kilt, but there was something in the rhythm that was very Irish to my ears. Anyway, I liked them a lot, too; they were very fun.
- The Ugly: Another three-piece who came out covered in fake blood. The drummer is the vocalist, which is rare, and he spent a lot of time shouting SUPPORT MURDER. Live, they sounded pretty straight-up thrash to me (upright bass aside), but I got their albums (I bought the new one and he gave me the old one for free! Awesome, Ugly dude.) and there’s a bit more swing to that stuff.
And then it turned into one of those shows where all the openers are good, and you’re having a great time. You don’t know the headliner, but based on the openers, you expect they will be pretty good. And then they come out and blow your ass away by being about 37 times more incredible than you were thinking they possibly could be.
My point is that I do not give one fuck if you have never heard the word “psychobilly” before in your life, if the Koffin Kats are coming to your town, go see them. I know you people think my taste is suspect, but I also know a great night of rock & roll when I have one, and I had one last week. I still grin every time I think about it, and that’s going to hold me for a while.