Because some of its shows are so absurd, it's hard to tell if Cap'n Fresh and the Stay Fresh Seals is some kind of a comedy act or not. You can't help but laugh, and this particular performance certainly had its silly moments. But more often than not, it sounded like fairly legit, straight-ahead hip-hop that managed to retain a sense of humor and not take itself too seriously.
DJ Ginger Perry joined Mike McNutts and DJ Quatro, who was dressed in what looked like rap star regalia circa 1986, and the outfit offered music to match. Weaving in bits of "Don't Dream It's Over," by Crowded House, into a song admonishing us not to knock something until we try it, Cap'n Fresh, if nothing else, showed us what hip-hop might sound like now had it never lost its innocence a quarter of a decade ago and become so over-produced.
Invoking the spirit of U-Roy, Murder Ranks opened its set with the lively "Let's Fool Around," with Dan Wanush's vocals dancing atop thick rhythms created by Ben Williams and Nate Weaver and the stretched-out guitar gymnastics of Mike Buckley. Manipulating the dancehall riddim with alternating degrees of intensity and spaciousness, Murder Ranks flowed easily from one song to the next, and Wanush didn't skimp on the energy as he leapt about the stage and acted the part of a master dancehall frontman.
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Dressy Bessy has long been one of the best bands out of Denver, and fourteen years into its uninterrupted existence, the act -- whose core still consists of Tammy Ealom, John Hill and Rob Greene -- has maintained its enthusiasm for making music all these years, from the spiky punkiness of its earliest era to the much more fully developed garage pop of the present.
"Simple Girlz" had an appropriate and palpable undertone of sarcasm, but no matter the subject matter, the band buoyed everything up with a spirited performance, with Ealom wide-eyed and Hill smiling secretly over to Green and Gilbert, laughing, either in the knowledge that one of them had made a simple mistake, or simply being caught up in the moment. Ending with "Electrified," Dressy Bessy invited Cap'n Fresh and Dan Wanush to pitch in on vocals. In recent years, it had occasionally looked like Dressy Bessy was forcing the sunny disposition, but there was no faking it this night.
Coming on like a force of nature with "Introducing Ourselves," the Warlock Pinchers hit the stage running and jumping. Three Chord Scissor King appeared wielding his silver Gringo guitar like a glam rock star of old, with a shaved head and a white fur coat, while King Scratchie wore one of his Bieber-Pinchers T-shirts.
When K.C. K-Sum came on halfway through the opening song, he had on fishnet stockings over purple tights. D-Rock and EERok, meanwhile, gave the song an edge of menace, as DC-Creepy-O (Dale Crover) made the Pinchers sound more powerful than the band ever had with a mere drum machine. It's obvious these guys have aged, but you'd never guess it from their showmanship; they performed with a rare ferocity and joy.
After a vocal interlude that included a classic Pinchers chant, we heard the familiar count up to "Where the Hell Is Crispin Glover," which drove the already crazed crowd into sheer mayhem in front of the stage.nd the Pinchers didn't relent, following the song with "Straight Out the Dancehall" and, appropriately, "Devil Without a Pause."
Scratchie and K.C. roamed the stage gesturing and leaping in time with the breakdowns. In between violently battering his cymbal to accent the rhythm, K.C. toasted DC-Creepy-O by pulled out packets of Kool-Aid and scattering their contents into the audience. The utter swelter was sub-tropical, and so the powder ended up looking like some bad fake blood as it mixed with the rampant, free flow of sweat.
Halfway through the set, the Pinchers started playing the music to "Swingtown" by the Steve Miller Band, and both Scratchie and K.C. sang along for a few bars before sliding right into "Billy the Scab" and then seamlessly back into "Swingtown." To make things even more ridiculous, the Pinchers followed this up with "Curious George & the Anti-Christ." All after Satan's Cheerleaders made their appearance around the time Jerko the Clown started prowling the stage, looking like the clown of your nightmares.
After careening through "Confrontation Yeah Yeah" and "Flaming Mimes," the Pinchers got Tammy Ealom to join them on stage for a maniacally jittery version of "Island of the Misfit Toyboys." Then the lights dimmed and the band left the stage as a movie screen lowered to play a bit of Kung Fu Mission or one of those silly Kung Fu movies you'd see on Kung Fu Theater in the '80s on Saturday afternoons.
Once the footage wound down, everyone came back on stage. Scratchie was in a diaper, and so was Brian Murphy, the band's original bass player, who sat in with the band for a few songs, playing a pink bass with an eighth note painted on the back. A pummeling version of "We Got the Beast" gave way to what sounded like "Arnie," and a surge of energy revved up the crowd as the first notes of "Morrissey Rides a Cockhorse" rang out. K.C. even performed the crying parts in a way he hadn't done at the Murder Pinchers shows.
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As "I Think We're Tiffany" started, K.C. left the stage, and Scratchie rapped a set of lyrics while the band built up the song in a way that made it sound nostalgic yet fun. K.C. came back with a wig of long red hair and danced around with Satan's Cheerleaders.
As the song went on, the Three Chord Scissor King got on the drums, and Dale Crover got on guitar and proved to be surprisingly able. Then D-Rok sat behind the drums, and 3KSK got on bass, and the whole thing turned into what might have been a Flipper-esque extended jam out to drive us all away.
The entire time, Scratchie, who had somehow injured or otherwise cut himself like a professional wrestler might, was bleeding from the top of his head, with blood running down his face and bare chest, but he never lost his smile or his laugh. And that was the tenor of the whole show: unadulterated fun.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I've been wanting to see the Pinchers since seeing the video of "Where the Hell Is Crispin Glover?" in 1991. Random Detail: The Warlock Pinchers' USB includes four re-mastered albums, numerous images and a handful of videos. By the Way: K.C. K-Sum had something like a pentagram cut into his hair on the top of his head, visible only when he leaned forward and paused for any length of time.