You can't accuse Screeching Weasel of breaking any new ground, musically speaking. But talk about the soundtrack to my young life growing up. Considering how I wore out cassette tapes of the band's songs solidly throughout the early to mid-'90s at parties, skate sessions and the awkward one-on-one moments in which I tried to impress a girl, the anticipation of seeing the band last night was overwhelming.
Now I can understand why some Boomers trip over themselves to see bands they grew up with, groups like the Stones, the Eagles and Jimmy Buffet. Growing up, the music obviously spoke to them. And Screeching Weasel, whom I considered the torchbearer of the power-chord punk pop made famous by the Ramones a generation before, spoke to me with lyrics that resonated with the disenfranchised outsider kid I thought I was at the time.
Thanks to the ridiculous parking obstacles I encountered, I didn't make it inside the Gothic until close to 8 p.m., which meant I missed Dave Mansfield and the L.A.M.F.s, a band I caught all too briefly a few weeks ago at Bender's. Bummer. And by the time I snaked a beer from the bar, King Rat was sound checking front and center of the near-capacity crowd. It had been a while since I'd seen King Rat, so I settled in and figured I'd see if the band brought anything new to my ears.
Boy, did they ever. After about a 45-minute set of Cro-Mags meets Rancid-style punk, I was convinced that King Rat had played the best live set I'd ever heard. The songs came on top of each other, rapid-fire, with no time to get bored. And while the guitar-chord patterns might have duplicated here and there, the energy was undeniable.
Now, I've seen loads of locals get booked to open shows only to end up killing time on the clock until the headliners took the stage. But on this night, King Rat earned the hearts and minds of every kid in the place. Kinda cool to hear so many people getting stoked on a local band most had probably seen for the very first time just moments before. Hell, I was just as stoked. King Rat owned it!
After grabbing some fresh air crammed outside the front doors with easily 100 other people, I slunk back in and pushed my way up past the railings to the back of the crowd on the lower floor in front of the stage. The gap between bands for Screeching Weasel was frustratingly (but predictably) long. At times, small pockets of people across the crowd would start off chants to speed the headliner on stage, but good things came to all of us who waited.
Screeching Weasel came out on stage to squeals of all the ladies in the house. I thought for a moment this must have been what the Beatles experienced back in the day. Screeching Weasel with screaming fans? Who would have thought! I guess after a twenty-year career that never brought the band to Denver, all sorts of the band's fans were all geared up. And, wow, once the band took the stage, it was like someone took a match and lit a trail of gunpowder leading to a pile of dynamite.
Within the first couple bars of Screeching Weasel's opening salvo, I got past the whole notion that this reunion was really just Ben Weasel with a new backing band. The songs I grew up with were there, crystal clear and tacked onto the most insane double-time drumbeats imaginable, with the entire crowd singing along with every word.
I thought my formative years had prepared me to know all the words to the songs. Yeah, right. Turns out that while I knew some of the band's more popular songs, the crowd knew each song inside and out. Obviously, punk-rock bands like Screeching Weasel have some massively devoted fans. I thought King Rat had more or less melted the faces of the assembled crowd, but honestly, when Weasel and his band took the stage, it was a whole new ball of wax. You could have set fire to the energy in the air.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: I loved Screeching Weasel growing up, so color me biased. Random Detail: Some tiny drunk girl I had never met before kept giving me beers during Screeching Weasel's set, claiming the bartender was giving her freebies. Turns out she was boosting beers from the bar when the bartender would turn his back. By the Way: Ben Weasel and his other band, The Riverdales, do it all over again at the Gothic tonight.
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