Saturday, June 14th, 2014 – Punk Rock Prevails at Day 4 of The Elm Street Tattoo & Music Festival
The fourth night of the Elm Street Tattoo and Music Festival was the second date of it I made; and like the first, Club Dada was my destination.
Some club hopping might have been done early on in the night, but I had already purchased a single-day ticket before I knew some of the other acts performing elsewhere. That worked out alright, though, because the lineup this night wound up being pure insanity.
The show was going down on the outside patio, and Stymie had the privilege of kicking it off. The quartet mentioned they were from around these parts, before one of their friends/fans quickly called them out, saying, “No you’re not, you’re from Denton!”
They raced through quite a few songs (eight total) during their 26-minute long set, and for the most part, they jumped from one right into the next. After a handful, their singer/rhythm guitarist mentioned they were going to do some newer songs. “…But these are probably all new to you, anyways.” he remarked after thinking about it.
Indeed, they were. Those who had arrived early did seem to be enjoying them, though, and after knocking out a couple more songs, he mentioned it was their favorite point of the set. He asked the bassist if he wanted to tell everyone why, but he gave it back up to the singer. “It’s our last two songs.” was his answer for why it was their favorite part.
Their music had some punk rock elements to it. I don’t know if I’d classify everything they did in that genre, but they did have a few songs that were over in just a couple of minutes at most. The energy they put into the show was also fitting of a punk rock outfit, though they weren’t on the same level as the bands that would follow.
They were a very enjoyable act to watch and listen to, though.
The night got super interesting when Mugen Hoso took the stage. The band had been in Texas for a few days now, playing cities like Denton and Fort Worth, and I had heard a lot of buzz about this Japanese duo regarding how sensational their shows were. Let’s just say the Tokyo-based duo did not disappoint… And that’s putting it mildly.
Drummer Taro appeared to understand and speak English a little better than singer and guitarist Hiro did, and he helped him through the sound check (translating the questions the sound guy was asking). The two then stood at the forefront of the stage as the now sizable audience looked on, wondering just what they were about to see.
“We are from Japan.” Hiro said, his accent thick, but still understandable (at times). “Lock and load.” he then said, repeating it another time or two while Taro situated himself behind his drum kit. Their opening number did have a real punk vibe to it, and what could easily be understood was the often repeated line, “It’s only rock and roll…”. The music was great, but it was the stage where this band excelled. Taro was running all over the deck, jumping and soaring through the air, landing in another spot and then repeating. It was off-the-wall craziness at its best. They segued it directly into another number, showing off their serious chops as musicians as well as some humor in the latter portion, when Taro would let loose some beats before stopping. Hiro stopped at the instant he did, making some faces that you just had to laugh at, before they picked back up and repeated. They already had everyone enthralled, and this new collection of fans took those pauses to voice their love for their new favorite band.
They were so coordinated; and the first break of their set they used to voice their love for the Lone Star State. “Come back, Texas. Come back, Dallas. Love, Dallas! Fun place! Happy…!” Hiro said, still getting his point across in his broken English; and, as people usually do when their hometown/area gets mentioned, that had the crowd roaring. Talk then turned to a previous tour they had done, and while in North Carolina, Hiro had gotten bit by a dog. He even took his shirt off, showing everyone the mark he still had on his chest, and mentioned that incident had resulted in a song. “North Carolina, bit by the dog.” Well, I think that’s what he said, but I really don’t know for certain. Parts were understandable, others I think were sung in Japanese; and then they eased things into a moment of silence. “I will bite, you!” Hiro said wide-eyed, as he pointed at a guy in the crowd. They then ripped back into the tune, and Hiro seemed to glide across the stage as he jumped on one foot over to one side, then back again, and then back and forth once more.
Everyone was in total awe at this point, making them all too eager to clap along once they got their next song going. Hiro showed little regard for his physical wellbeing this night, and this was one song where he would jump into the air before falling onto his back. Let me just point out that this is a wooden deck. Some of the pieces are broken and jagged, too. I’m not saying a concrete stage would be much easier on the body, but you’d have a better shot of not getting so scraped up. Still, he could have cared less, doing that a time or two before rolling over towards the drum kit. Then, at the end, he laid down, stuck his legs in the air, and with his axe laying beside him, shredded like no one’s business.
“Love is beautiful. Love is wonderful. Sometimes, love is crazy.” Hiro told the crowd afterwards, doing a good job of sounding like an insane person when he said that last sentence. “My name is Love Monster.” he then told the crowd. I can only assume that was the title of their next number, and both he and Taro placed a hand on the top of their head, extending their pinky and index fingers to look like horns. The spectators were brought into the show during this one, quickly picking up that they needed to sing along on a “La la la la…” part. They were loving it, the band was loving it. It was a beautiful moment.
They then surprised people with a cover of The Who’s “Young Man Blues”. “…When a young man was a strong man,
all the people they’d step back.” Hiro sang, having some fun with that line, as he stepped further and further back from the mic, until he was almost at the fence that made the back of the stage. That got a huge rise from everyone, and even more exciting was when he got out in the crowd and interacted with everyone. He returned to the stage stage, and while it was only trace amounts, there was some blood dripping from his left elbow. He even had a little wound on the back of his head, no doubt made worse by the dive he took at the end, when he again hit the stage at full force.
Sadly, they were already onto the final song of their 34-minute long set, and they got a chant of the songs title going: “Ichiban”. I don’t imagine anyone knew what it meant, nor did they care to know. It was all irrelevant. “We are Ichiban!” Hiro began chanting later on in the tune. Everyone soon joined in, growing louder with each chant of the phrase, until it was all consuming.
No sooner had they finished then people began demanding more, something they didn’t have time for. “We come back next summer?!” Hiro said to everyone, asking if that was okay. It was, but I have a feeling the summer of 2015 can’t get here quick enough.
This was one of the most spectacular shows I’ve seen a band do. Really, it’s been a little while since I was left wowed by a bands set and looked on in complete awe over what was taking place. Mugen Hoso left me experiencing all of that, and it was amazing.
I also loved the fact that despite the slight language barrier, it was never a real issue. The crowd was able to understand everything that really needed to be well enough, while the band was able to read the audience and know how much they were enjoying it. Just goes to show that music is the universal language, and it transcends all.
They do have some dates left in the U.S. (going through July), so check out their OFFICIAL WEBSITE to see if they’ll be coming to a town near you.
After that performance, I was wondering if even The Riverboat Gamblers could top it. I should have known better.
“We’re a band! We’d like to play some songs for you!” frontman Mike Wiebe told the now packed patio as soon as the sound check had been completed. “We’re gonna play this song for you! It’s called True Crime!” he then exclaimed. With that, the quintet who originated from Denton went from 0 to 120 in about a millisecond. 2006’s “To the Confusion of Our Enemies” was in full effect this night, and the intense pace coupled with the vocal assault of Mike singing and guitarists Fadi El-Assad and Ian MacDougall and bassist Rob Marchant doing the backing vocals quickly incited a mosh pit. I don’t even think they were halfway through the first verse when people began slamming against one another; and all the while Mike was jumping around, throwing the mic into the air before catching it just in time for the next line.
That album may have been the primary focus, but many of their records were represented this night, and they bridged that right into one of a couple old songs this night: “Sunday Dress”. That truly punk rock track served to further rile up the crowd, and once Fadi and drummer Ian Walling ripped into “Save You”, well, that ensured they had everyone completely captivated. Mike again threw the mic high into the air after he finished the first verse, catching it without even really looking at it; while towards the end of the tune, the fans shouted along, “You’ve got the rhythm, but you’ve got no soul! C’mon!”.
They kept it coming, immediately firing up “The Gamblers Try Their Hand at International Diplomacy”. The brief number just made things more thrilling, and once it slowed down near the end, Mike began spinning his microphone, giving it a lot of slack as he held the cord. He progressively got faster and faster, and then BAM, they wound it right into the subsequent track from the record, “Walk Around Me”. It was hard to tell which songs fans enjoyed more, that one or “The Song We Used to Call Wasting Time”, which featured another segue where there wasn’t even a split-second between songs. I would say perhaps the latter, due to the extreme amounts of energy the packed into it. Mike was again making the rounds of the stage, and if not during this song, it was around this point that he grabbed the speakers that were on stage right, climbing on what was nothing more than a small ledge, standing on it and holding on to the top speaker. He then jumped atop one of the monitors by Fadi, using a member of the crowd (myself, actually) to get balanced on it while he continued to spit out the words, “…Being spurned is fine if it means that I can eat…” Then, right at the end, he did his usual standing and then falling off the edge of the stage, allowing the audience to catch him and push him back up.
Walling kept the beat going as they took their first break of the night so that Fadi, MacDougall and Rob could change keys. “I don’t even have to tell you what to do.” Mike said, referring to the clapping fans had instinctively started doing in time with the drums. He took just a moment to catch his breath, before saying that ten and a half years ago to the night, they were sitting in their rehearsal space, brainstorming of some new thing to do. They came up with it. He said it was the motion of striking one hand against the other, and they called it clapping. “We don’t get any royalties from it, but goddammit we should!” he roared. By that time, they were ready to carry on, and surprisingly, “Blue Ghosts” was the only song they did from “The Wolf You Feed” this night. (I say surprisingly since most bands always focus on their newer stuff more. Just goes to show they’d rather give the crowd the old music they know they want to hear.) I wouldn’t have minded some other tunes from that record to be honest, but that single is pure Gamblers, and a cool moment came before the last chorus, when Mike lept into the air, pulling his legs up behind him, before landing and grabbing the mic stand.
“…My faith in humanity is restored!” Mike shouted afterwards, talking about what a crazy world this was. “Kittens are attacking puppies to save little kids!” he then exclaimed, before saying he has five therapists, all of whom were telling him different shit. Yeah, they’re more than just a stellar band, they entertain with great banter, too.
I would have thought the mood had already reached its fevered pitch, but with the announcement that “Rattle Me Bones” was the next song, it was evident it had not. Mike led everyone in a clap along there at the start, and MacDougall and Fadi again added some excellent backing vocals, the trade-off between their parts and Mikes’ being incredibly precise. “DissDissDissKissKissKiss” came next, before they tackled another one from the “Backsides” record, “Mark My Words”. MacDougall appeared to be shredding extra hard on that one, while Mike added to the percussion with a tambourine. He tossed it in the air at the third chorus, trying to catch it, but just let it drop once he realized it was out of his reach.
“That’s an old song…” he remarked afterwards, before beginning a speech about how it was okay to look back on the past, so long as you kept your eyes on the future, too. “It’s okay to nostalgiaerize the past.” Mike told everyone, adding, “That’s a word. Look it up. I went to Harvard Word School.” He said it so convincingly that I now consider my computer to be wrong since it is telling me that is not a correct word.
A surprising lull came next, and it may have been a cover, or perhaps a new song for the record Mike had mentioned earlier (a record they will soon be taking some time off to work on.) “…Love is just infatuation…” he crooned. It was an awesome song, and with only two left in their 36-minute long set, they had saved the best for last.
“We’re excited to be playing with The Vandals tonight!” Mike screamed. “We’re excited that Brutal Juice is playing right next door tonight!” he then yelled, giving a shout-out to the iconic local band. “We’re excited to be playing this song! It’s called Don’t Bury Me… I’m Still Not Dead Yet!” he finished. Mike did some real crowd surfing during that song that acts as an anthem for the outcasts. Everybody took it as that, too, passionately singing along to every last word; and once it was over, the mic stand fell apart. The piece that holds the microphone came out of the rest of the stand, which toppled over, as Mike gave it a perplexing look, before waving it around and holding it out to the side as if it were a flag.
With that, it was time to wrap up their action-packed set, and that job fell to “The Art of Getting Fucked Over”. Mike was looking to do something big, and as they neared the second chorus, he climbed on top of the speakers on stage left, which didn’t look like an easy feat in the first place. His band mates brought things down, while he urged everyone to move a little closer to him. “I don’t want to die tonight.” he stated. “Who are you texting?” he then asked one of the members of the crowd. “Is it your mom? Are you saying, ‘Mom, I’m about to watch this guy die. It feels weird.’?” Once everyone was packed in tight, he threw a glance MacDougall’s way, who in turn looked at Rob, Walling and Fadi, and they began amping things back up. “G! A! M! B! L! E! R!” everyone shouted along with Mike, who after a few rounds of that, jumped in the air and spun over to his back. He didn’t die this night, and continued singing while the fans moved him back to the stage.
It was one helluva way to end the show, a show that was superior to everyone’s at Dada this night.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a band who puts on as phenomenal a live show as The Riverboat Gamblers do. They blew my mind the first time I saw them going on two years ago, last summer when I caught them in Denton, and even this abbreviated set was perfection from start to finish.
Apart from the high-energy show that never relents, it’s also very noticeable how much time and effort they’ve put into this (then again, they have been around since the late 90’s.) They’re so cohesive and in synch with one another. It makes it even more of a spectacle to behold.
They’ve got nothing on the books right now, however, you should check out their albums in iTUNES.
Headlining the show at Club Dada was the legendary punk rock outfit, The Vandals, who, I must confess I had never really listened to until seeing them live this night.
Their intro music sounded like something that would have been played to announce a king was about to make his entrance, though, much like the band, there was a quirky twist to it. The patio was near capacity, and people were pushing against one another, trying to work their way up as close as possible to the stage, cheering the band they obviously idolized.
Derek Grant (of Alkaline Trio) was filling in on drums this night, starting them off on their first number, “It’s a Fact”. It didn’t take them long to start having fun, not just in playing the music, bit for example, when guitarist Warren Fitzgerald jumped onto one of the monitors, acting like he was having a hard time balancing on it, and flailing his arms around for a second. “There’s a guitar solo from the guitar Nazi!” frontman David Quackenbush remarked. They kept the blistering pace going by moving directly into “Café 405”. “It’s like we’ve never played that before!” David said with a smile on his face, while he, Warren and bassist Joe Escalante laughed about it. They then started to take requests. “…Be very specific and enunciate.” Warren told everyone, as the massive collection of people proceeded to shout song titles at them.
They decided to go with one of their own; one that also appeased fans and showed off their pure comedy roots: “Live Fast, Diarrhea”. Hearing the title alone was enough to make me laugh, and quite a few folks were singing along with them. “Count down this next song, Jojo.” David said to Joe, who wasn’t too keen on the nickname. “That sounds like a dancing bear’s name.” he said aloud before “4, 3, 2, 1, -1”.
Afterwards, David addressed the crowd. “How’s this festival been so far?” he asked, later asking if the Rev [The Reverend Horton Heat] was indeed playing across the street about this time. “…The Reverend Al Sharpton.” Joe replied, as they all agreed that didn’t sound as much fun as Horton Heat did. Their humor was often showcased, though they always kept it short, too, rather than having long, drawn-out conversations with the crowd or one another. They continued with the all too catchy “People That Are Going to Hell”, after which they again took requests. “That is one we will not do!” David told one fan in a very cherry tone. “It’s like it never happened.” Warren added. A brilliant idea then struck Warren, asking, “How about we do the next one on the set?” His band mates agreed, and that next song was “N.I.M.B.Y.”.
I guess I missed the part they messed up on, because once it was over David sarcastically joked about how good they were as a band. “We’re super tight…” he said, before spelling it the cool way, “Tite.” “Can I blow my baby load yet?!” he then asked Warren, referencing a joke he had made earlier. “Who’s the baby fucker?” he then asked, saying he had only recently heard that disturbing story about whatever band that was (I’m not going to take time to look up the story). “One Direction.” Warren joked, before they tore into “Pizza Tran”. Derek, Joe and Warren gave the track a breakdown, during which time a woman joined them on stage, and she was just dancing along to the music while they looked at her. “What day is today? Father’s Day. Or maybe Father Issues Day.” quipped David. They let her keep dancing, which was cool, before Warren eventually hugged her, serving as the sign to leave the stage.
David was afraid they were coming off as too much of a sappy band, and he promised that after one more love song, they would do nothing but “hate” filled music for the rest of their set. “The New You” was the love song in question, and I have to say, the soft intro where he crooned, “Now you say that you like me but you don’t like, like me…” was rather lovely. Then, as promised, they did leave the stuff about love behind, doing a song about a friend David said he had who was no longer around. He was speaking of “The Legend of Pat Brown”, another jam that really excited the fans.
“Is there a bathroom up here?” Warren asked once it was done, before disappearing behind his amp and acting as if he were about to relieve himself. “This one’s about another dead friend of mine.” David then stated, as they showed off their true punk form with “Take it Back”. “I should kill some more friends so I can write some more songs.” he wondered aloud afterwards, before admitting that was kind of a bad joke. Then came “Oi to the World!”, which was clearly another fan favorite, and it became a giant sing-along at times.
“I’ve got a spider bite…” David told everyone after, saying he thought it was getting bigger, and if he died, he wanted the crowd to let him know. The catchy “I’ve Got an Ape Drape” came next, and David even changed some of the lyrics to fit the night, singing something about seeing The Riverboat Gamblers. “And Now, We Dance” and “Anarchy Burger (Hold the Government)” were two more songs beloved by the crowd, and after those, David asked a very serious question. “What happened to all the Cowboys?! Did y’all kick them out of town?!” he asked everyone, saying they had been in Texas for a couple of days now and hadn’t even seen one.
That was a very fitting setup for “Urban Struggle”, which they made out to be their final song, thanking everyone when it was over and bidding them a good night. They never moved from the stage, though. “Is this an encore?!” David asked, before they all agreed that it had to be. They had another request, and David held the mic down to one woman so she could tell them what she wanted to hear. The fans roared once she said, “My Girlfriend’s Dead”. That was deemed a good choice, with David saying they had to do the one where “all the money came from”.
People thought that was it, but then David said Warren wanted to sing a song for everyone, handing the mic off to him, while he took over on guitar duty. “Hi, Deep Ellum!” said Warren, before asking what “Ellum” meant. Someone told him it meant Elm, and he jokingly replied with, “That’s stupid, why not just call it Elm?!” “He just called your city stupid!” David chimed in.
Warren then asked who had maybe come out this night to meet a “wonderful woman”, being answered by the shouts of some guys. He crushed their spirits by saying it wasn’t going to happen, because the few who actually had come to this show were probably taken. No one seemed too broken hearted, though, especially once they busted out their rendition of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, a very fitting way to end their 54-minute long set.
I didn’t know what to expect from this over thirty-year-old punk band, though I enjoyed them much more than I thought I even would.
Even now, they still have it. Their performance was fun and enjoyable, and they commanded the crowd quite easily. Part of that may have been because in these eyes, The Vandals could do no wrong. Still, they did put on a great show that had people laughing as much as it did rocking out.
Personally, I don’t think I’ll be buying any albums, however, whenever they come back to Dallas, I’ll seriously consider going to the show.
On that note, you can find their records in iTUNES, and keep an eye on their FACEBOOK posts to see if they might be playing near you.
And thus ended my experience at the second annual Elm Street Tattoo and music Festival. Given that it ran five days total, I only heard a small percentage of the more than fifty bands that played, but the experience was great. Considering this festival happens during a month with a Friday the 13th, that means it could either be in February, March or perhaps November of 2015 when the third one takes place. Too early to know when, yet, though I’m already looking forward to it.