Thursday, November 22, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #52



Ever been at a show and you notice that someone is wearing a t-shirt of the band he (or she, since it’s not just guys who go to shows, of course) is going to see? I guess that’s seen as a breach of show-going etiquette. In fact, I’ve heard that from different quarters, over the years, so it’s nothing new I’m reporting on here. It’s just something bubbling in a corner of my brain, one of those little nuggets to be brought out for a blog or column and here it is now.

But, yeah, wearing a shirt of the band you’re seeing is considered quite uncool. I don’t even know where it started but I tend to follow the same rule. This seems to be particularly true for larger concerts. When I went to see the Dio lineup of Black Sabbath this past summer, there were plenty of vintage Sabbath shirts broken out for the occasion. Some of them rather ill-fitting, in fact. Some of the “those guys” who wore, say, an original “Heaven and Hell” Sab shirt have sometimes, let’s say, put on a couple of pounds and those shirts are a tad ill-fitting. It’s like a security blanket, I suppose, and it makes me wish I had some of my old shirts from when I was younger.

Sometimes, it’s the bands themselves that are “that guy” or “guys.” I don’t recall too many, if any, “that girl” or “girls” doing the same thing. The only “that girl” that needs to be remembered is the one played by Marlo Thomas in the 60s and 70s. Marlo just turned 70, by the way. I don’t believe that. Getting back to “those guys” in bands, you’ll sometimes see a member wearing their own t-shirt. Maybe all their other shirts are dirty or they ran out and they grabbed one from the merch table so they don’t have to bare their torsos but it’s interesting, nonetheless. This often happens with older bands. An example is pictured above--Bones, from Discharge. I’m willing to cut the guy a lot of slack because he plays guitar in fucking DISCHARGE. That trumps everything. Sorry about the quality of the photo. And I also apologize for the quality of the Hirax photo right below here—their guitarist sported the merch at a show I saw a few years ago. I’ve got to give them props for having the brazenness to run their fog machine even in the confines of a 100 capacity club.

I'm sure, in my younger days, I was "that guy" from time to time. I do remember I prevented it once, when a friend and I went to see Kiss at the Worcester Centrum (it has a corporate name now). While we were driving, he said he had a surprise, produced a bag and removed two Kiss shirts, one for me and one for him. I refused to put it on, since even then (this was sometime in the 80s), I knew it wasn't what was done. I was probably wearing some punk rock or hardcore t-shirt. Maybe it was a being contrarian. I was stoked on seeing Kiss--probably not as much as my friend, but still looking forward to it--but I wasn't willing to go that far. Now that I think about it, maybe it was Ozzy we were going to see. Or Priest. No matter who it was, I refused to be "that guy."

Sal from Electric Frankenstein basically made an argument for being “that guy” in one his Loud Fast Rules columns (issue #4), as part of his continuing “So You Want To Be In A Rock &Roll Band” series, basically about having a “career” in the music biz. He writes, “make sure at least one of you are wearing YOUR band’s t-shirt while on stage and that NO ONE is wearing another band's shirt while on stage. Forget all the pussy hippies or “punks” (same thing, isn’t it?) that cry about how conceited it is to wear your own band’s shirts on stage. Fuck them! You just put on an amazing show that made everyone rush to your table to get shirts and CDs and when they go home their great memory of you on stage is the OTHER BAND’s name on the shirts that you were wearing! THINK! That’s dumb! Dumb! DUMB! It is well proven in marketing that people need to see the name 7 times in 9 occasions to strongly remember that name!”

Sal goes on to write that you’re giving away your work to another band by wearing one of their shirts. It’s obvious he’s using a marketing argument. Brand recognition. I was actually a marketing major in college and, from that perspective, he’s correct. But, when applying it to the musical realm in which I’m involved, I’m not so interested in marketing. I’m interested in the music, I’m interested in some sort of community. Sure, it's often a shallow commonality, based on what kind of music we're into. But what do I know? I’m just a pussy DIY “punk.” On a different matter, you might want to offer to buy Sal a drink after he tells you about his miserable experiences with Victory Records. He deserves that drink. Actually, I really do empathize with him after all the horror stories I’ve heard about that label.

Anyway, I strongly disagree with Sal about never wearing another band’s shirt. Why does everything have to be competition? A cool thing is when bands are touring together and they’ll wear each other’s shirts. I don’t think that falls into “that guy” territory but, rather, it’s a way of showing support, kinship. And, considering the stories I’ve heard about bands being at each other’s throats (both internally and externally) during tours, it makes it all the more impressive. But, to repeat, what do I know? I’m also one of those “pussy punks” who isn’t interested in a career in the so-called music biz, although the machinations of such create an endless amount of amusement and gratefulness that I never seriously pursued any of it, beyond music retail.

Links to blogs on the topic, way wittier than mine: and



Before getting to the music review section, here are a couple of photos from recent shows. I posted a picture of 86 Mentality in an earlier blog so here's a new one. Both of them, at the Ratscellar warehouse/basement space, were pretty fucking off the hook. People went nuts for both bands but there was a much more dangerous, in-your-face vibe for 86 Mentality. Let’s put it this way—I didn’t go NEAR the pit during their set, whereas it was fine for Government Warning. Hell, at 86M, the pit found ME a few times. To see more pictures from these hardcore extravaganzas (and a lot more), go to



ALLEGIANCE-Desperation (Rivalry, CD)
Another band doing the heavy, modern hardcore sound. Allegiance have the big riff mosh-a-rola down to a tee and John Stark barks the vocals with purposefulness—the slight distortion on his voice is kind of cool and the production is definitely on the rougher side, which is also a plus. Still, this is textbook windmill/floorpunching/point those fingers in the air hardcore and really doesn’t otherwise distinguish itself. (PO Box 5242, Concord, CA 94524,

BARBIE AND THE HOOKERS/RF7-Split (Conformist, 7” EP)
Punk rock from the west coast and Xavier, the gentleman who sent this record, plays bass in both. BATH’s sound has a slightly garagey flavor merged with three chord snottiness and the lower-fi production works to its benefit. I’d imagine a fair number of you are familiar with RF7 but, if not, they’ve been around since the 80s and their vocalist, Felix, still has the vocal roughness. Nothing to make you forget “Submit To Them Freely” or “Kiss Ass,” but forging ahead with decent mid-to-fast punk. (10800 Laurel Ave., #L48, Whittier, CA 90605,

BITTER END-Climate Of Fear (Malfunction, CD)
A side note first—the label name Malfunction immediately gets me to start yelling “IT’S A MALLLLLLFUNCTION!” as in the Cro-Mags’ “Malfunction.” And Bitter End have that heavy sort of sound. Metallic hardcore at a mainly slow pace although they break out the thrash from time to time. And that’s when it makes my ears pick up. More songs like the hard-driving “On My Own” and I’d probably like this album a lot more but the lumbering crunch they stick to most of the time hurts the momentum. Kudos, though, for opening track “Panic,” the collage of audio clips that documents the past half-decade of madness, starting with the 9/11 attacks. (

BLOODY PHOENIX-War, Hate, & Misery (625/multi-label)
Relentless grindcore/thrash and played with precision and brutality. These guys stick to the thrashier side, with more judicious usage of double-speed and blastbeat drumming. The lethal guitar and bass pummel and high/low vocal attack create a punishing effect along the lines of early Napalm Death and ENT. A little goes a long way with this style but I’ll bet they rage live. Still, to be honest, it’s not something I’d listen to at home all that much. (


BORN/DEAD-The Final Collapse (Prank, LP)
Kudos up front for the superb packaging, with a gatefold sleeve and booklet that offer a visual depiction of the grim subject matter this Bay Area band lyrically explore. Born/Dead continue to connect with their crust meets US hardcore sound. It’s not just noise—there’s a haunting hint of melody to start and end “Years Of Death”and it frames the blistering rampage of “Nuance.” Another powerful effort. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892,

BRING ME THE HORIZON-This Is What The Edge Of Your Seat Was Made For (Earache, CD)
Iron forged technical metal with lots of double-bass madness, molten riffage and vocalized agony. One of the songs is called “Rawwwrr!” and I suppose that puts their approach into the written form. There’s no doubting the instrumental skill but this kind of bludgeoning heaviness quickly becomes tedious, even with only four songs clocking in at under 20 minutes. (43 West 38th St., 2nd Floor, NY, NY 10018,

DISKELMÄ/DISTRESS-Split (Kämäset Levyt, 7” EP)
With the spiked ‘n studded skeletal imagery and, uh, the names of the bands, it shouldn’t be too hard to tell where these two bands are coming from. Diskelmä are from Finland and Distress from Russia. Diskelmä start with a metallish flair before getting down to the crusty business at hand. Distress have an equally raw attack, maybe not quite as low-tuned. You know what to expect and both of these bands hit hard. (Nakari, Sorinkatu 6 B, 33100 Tampere, FINLAND,

INSTANT ASSHOLE-D.U.I. or Die (Tankcrimes, 7” EP)
Mothers Against Drunk Driving would HATE this band and I’m really hoping the title track is meant in sarcastic fashion. John the Baker’s vocals drip with sarcasm, anyway. A devil-may-care spirit lives and breathes through this band’s flailing punk songs and John’s rants. I agree completely with the sentiments for “Driven To Drink”—life is definitely full of assholes who drive you to that point. Or at least make me want to blast this kind of punk rock and make it all go away. (PO Box 3495, Oakland, CA 94609,

JUGGLING JUGULARS-When I See/Addicted (Zerga/Kämäset Levyt, 7”)
Only two songs here—wow, that’s not something I see all that often with the 7”s I review. The full-on punk of “Addicted” is better of the two. “When I See” opts for a more tuneful/emotional approach. A dominant bass-line carries the load here. Arja’s higher-pitched vocals sometimes go over the top but don’t overwhelm things. (Nakari, Sorinkatu 6 B, 33100 Tampere, FINLAND,

ORDER OF THE WHITE ROSE-Ghosts Of The Sidewalk/Seeds Of Destruction (Unitree/Hawaiian Express, 7”)
The latest salvo from this Hawaiian band isn’t as strong as the material on their full-length but not chaff, either. A pair of melodic punk songs with a lyrical sensitivity although not quite packing the same musical “oomph,” for want of a better term. Fitting in with the theme of the A-side, proceeds are going to support a Hawaiian food bank. (PO Box 880908, Pukalani, HI 96788,

RAIN-La Vache Qui Rit (Peterbilt/Dischord, CD)

Another Peterbilt reissue on CD (following Happy Go Licky and Deadline). It’s interesting to note that all the reissues so far were posthumous releases to begin with. This is textbook late 80s DC emo-style music. Before you go running away, I mean that in a positive sense and maybe I shouldn’t even use that term—but I just did. If you’ve heard bands such as Soulside (guitarist Scott McCloud, who joined the band later on, was in that band) or Ignition then you’ll have a pretty good idea of where they’re coming from. Melodic rock that drives home the hooks and the vocals from Jon Kirschten express passion without going overboard. Scott’s vocal on “Snakeout,” on the other hand, echo Guy from his Rites of Spring days. Very much of its time and holding up well. This is the type of stinging sound that wraps itself around my head. (3819 Beecher St. NW, Washington, DC 20007,

RED HANDED-Wounds Remain (Rivalry, CD)
A smokin’ blend of older hardcore, punk and occasional heaviness. If there’s an overall mood to this album, it’s being fucking pissed off—and I wrote that before seeing the press sheet, which says exactly that. Great minds think alike? The aggro really comes out full-bore for “RH Army” and “Losing Sleep.” Two covers paying tribute to the roots—Black Flag’s “Room 13” (you know—“keep me alive!”) and Void’s “My Rules” (sorry, but bands need to cover other Void songs although it’s a decent version). Red Handed don’t allow themselves to get bogged down in sluggish arrangements. Rippin’ it up. (PO Box 5242, Concord, CA 94524,

SGT. SLAUGHTER-They Call Me Guitar Dickmouth (Social Napalm, 7” EP)
Finally some vinyl for this underrated hardcore band from the northern ‘burbs. It could also be the last for awhile, if ever, since their vocalist Aaron is moving to the west coast. “Home On The Strange” has the classic tense buildup, leading to a thrashy attack and that continues through the four songs here. Some hot licks from the dual-axe lineup and the slight bit of distortion on Aaron’s vocals works well. Sgt. Slaughter have a classic old-school inspiration, without sounding specifically like any one band. (PO Box 4073, S. Chelmsford, MA 01824-0773,

VARIOUS-Perhosten Kerääiä (Roku, LP)
Four Finnish bands and, if there’s such a thing as a classic Finnish HC sound, these bands don’t really follow that blueprint. Laybacks, the only band who sing in English, play a driving street punk sound with an adequate amount of burn. Polttoitsumurna also have elements of up-da-punx fodder, a harder edged guitar sound and it’s merged with a few Scandivanian touches, plus there are male/female vocal tradeoffs. Omaisuusvahinko mix things up, as well. Thrash and catchier punk, hindered by sloppy drumming and out of sync vocals at times. The right idea, not always the best execution. Finally, Dissect also have the right idea, that being raw Scandi-thrash/crust but it’s hindered by god-awful vocals (once again male/female). With a better vocalist or pair of vocalists it could be killer. Their last song, “Perseenuolija,” takes a rougher punk approach and has an endearing raggedness. Nothing particularly essential here. This record is actually a bonus that comes with Perhosten Kerääiä ‘zine and that includes lyrics and info on the bands, interviews with Aurinkokerho and Streittari plus reviews of “kalssikot” (as they put it) records. All of it in Finnish, by the way. (


Oliver / Cultpunk said...

I've written a couple of times about the t-shirt "rules" you mention; I think there are basically 3 "rules" at play here: 1) If you are in a band you are not allowed to wear your own band's t-shirt unless you are the Ramones or Motorhead; 2) If you are gonna be in the audience you can't be wearing a t-shirt of the band you're going to see, and 3) you and your friends cannot be wearing the same t-shirt; i.e. if your carload of people contains two people wearing identical Wolfbrigade shirts, someone must change into another shirt of a different band.

Obviously, these are not really "rules" but ironic observations of how the "punk scene" already behaves. In other words, they might as well be rules, because people already adhere to them. There are tons more unwritten guidelines to punk like this; we (or someone) should try and collect them all, publish them as a sarcastic manifesto.

Also, thanks for the Pure Hell info. I dunno how I missed that the 1st time around. Also recently found out about a short-lived NYC punk band called The Planets, mid/late 1970s, had an African-American singer, but not all African-American members, & I dunno if any recordings exist.


Emil said...

While its something I wouldn't ever do, I would say that being that guy IS ok for KISS or any large metal / hard rock show.