No Brawling, But Still Fun

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Title: Psychobilly Brawl 2018

This was another of those nights where a bunch of bands play. The venue usually tries to have a theme built around it (previously I’ve seen ska and rockabilly shows). This one, as you can probably guess from the title, was centered on psychobilly.

This is kind of an iffy proposition because psychobilly can take on so many forms. It is typically described as rockabilly  (the name, after all, comes from the Johnny Cash song One Piece At A Time) crossed with punk. The Cramps in the mid 70s actually named it and are loosely considered the originators.

Having said that, it gets complicated pretty fast. Some bands focus on the Billy part (ie The Reverend Horton Heat) while other bands focus on the Psycho part (ie Demented Are Go with their stage blood and song titles like Bodies in the Basement and Retard Whore).

Be that as it may, I checked out three bands. The first two I’d never heard of before. The first was Against the Grain, and right away the big tent that psychobilly encompasses is apparent. Against the Grain is pretty much a pure metal band. The lead singer was shirtless and wearing tight leather pants. The bassist had long stringy hair that completely covered his face while he was headbanging (hence pretty much all of the time). Picture Cousin It gone metal and you get the idea.

And that’s kind of the problem with watching a conventional metal band in the, shall I call it, Post Spinal Tap Years. They were perfectly competent musicians who played their hearts out, but I just couldn’t stop thinking how much they kind of looked like Spinal Tap. I kept waiting for the little Stonehenge to descend from the ceiling.

Next up was The Gutter Demons. They were recognizably psychobilly. They had the muscular bassist who played a stand-up bass and would lift it and twirl it (ala Jimbo Wallace from The Reverent Horton Heat).

Following them was The Goddam Gallows. They were the band that I’d come to see. They have an interesting sound. Their best known song is probably Y’All Motherfuckers Need Jesus. I found it interesting that their live shows seem substantially different than their recorded music. Their recorded music has much more of a country feel to them. The banjo is much more prevalent. Their live show had a much heavier sound with guitar and the stand-up bass taking over.

I do find it interesting when I attend a show with that many bands. As you progress through the opening acts and work your way to the headliner, you can see the proportional rise in musicianship and stage confidence. I missed the headliner (the Koffin Kats) because they probably wouldn’t have even started until after midnight, which is definitely way past my designated bed time. I’m guessing that the trend would have continued even with them.

I’ve gone to enough shows now where I see bands that are opening for another act at a larger venue actually be the headliner at a smaller club. The band behaves different at each. I’m guessing that the opener doesn’t want to show-up the closer (since being a good opener is probably critical for getting more exposure to your band). I wonder if the band also just feels more confidence when they are the opener because they know that the audience has actually chosen to attend to primarily watch them?

The audience, as is typical for a genre that is so broad and has been around for so long (more than 40 years now!), was pretty diverse. For the hard core psychobilly fans, there was plenty of full-on mohawks and extensive face tattoos. There was a bunch of O.G. grey beards there as well. The essential attire for men was leather jackets with patches from their favorite bands. The choice for women were retro dresses, fishnet stockings, bold lipstick and eye shadow, and pinup hair.

It was a lively drunk crowd that was having a lot of fun.

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