There is nothing punk rock about the House of Blues at all. Sure they sell PBRs in those big cans, but it is not the typical place for punk rock bands to take over on any given evening. That’s not to say punk bands have never played there before, I am just saying when I think of a punk rock show playing a club, it is not HoB. Hell, there’s even a bathroom attendant who will hand you a paper towel after you just pissed away said PBR. I will say that the HoB is a clean, organized venue, a venue that hosts some kick ass shows at that.
Wednesday evening was the perfect example of this as the the place was filled to the rim of punk rockers of all types thanks to the popular independent godfathers of punk rock NOFX bringing their Eastcoaster Tour to town with special guests Anti-Flag, Old Man Markley and The Bombpops.
Thanks to an accident on Euclid Ave., it took me a moment to get parked and into the nearly sold-out HoB show. Apparently someone felt they were ok to cut off one of those giant RTA futuristic train-looking busses. Needless to say, there were lots of flashing lights and Cleveland’s finest Fire, Police, and EMT cleaning up the mess. Because of this, I missed the opening act The Bombpops. From what I heard, their female driven pop punk rock was actually pretty enjoyable not to mention the two ladies in the band are beyond cute. I will be checking them out soon.
Punk / bluegrass act Old Man Markley took to the stage just before 9 p.m. and showed Cleveland just exactly what they were all about. Having never been to Cleveland before, the band gave it their all while performing tracks from their Fat Wreck Chords debut Guts n’ Teeth. With seven members on stage playing their version of “Newgrass”, they proved Cleveland that they were not copying the likes of Flogging Molly or Gogol Bordello.
John Carey and Annie DeTemple took turns signing a whole slew of songs including “Do Me Like You Do”, ” Guts n’ Teeth” and the ever catchy “For Better For Worse”. The crowd clearly was loving what that heard and for the first time ever I witnessed a square-dancing circle pit . Ryan “Old Man” Markley played the absolute shit out of his washboard and Katie Weed (swoon) just about sawed her fiddle in half. Then there was Joey Garibaldi and his homemade washtub upright bass – impressive. The band decided to close their set with their unique rendition of Screeching Weasel’s “Science Of Myth”.
To say I was entertained by the band was an understatement. I have been wanting to see OMM live since I first heard about them a year ago and can not wait to see them again next month when they play an after show at Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin. This band performing live was right up my alley. I see good things happening with them in the years to come.
Up next was Pittsburgh’s pop political punk rockers Anti-Flag (and clean cut too) who welcomed to the stage by cheers and boos. Apparently some Browns fans just can not shake the fact that if a band hails from the rival team’s city that they suck too. I might as well admit that I am not the biggest Anti-Flag fan, or shall I say I have not been the biggest of fans for a while now, but these guys killed it on stage. Their stage performance was well-done and they had the crowd obeying every command. Playing what seemed a ton of songs with a few from 2006’s For Blood And Empire including “The Press Corpse”, “This Is The End” and “1 Trillion Dollar$”, the band rocked out throughout their entire set and played like the rock stars they have become.
At times it appeared that Justin Sane and Chris Barker were trying to outdo one another with stage kicks and jumps (Barker actually jumped from atop the bass drum at one time), but it was all in good fun for the foursome. Barker made the comment that the Cleveland stop was the “second best” show that he had played on the current tour and left it up to Cleveland to make it the absolute best by starting a giant circle pit. I think Cleveland earned the title of best show after they were just running in circles.
It was no surprise to me that the band started preaching politics and many of the young ears listened. Speaking of the whole Occupy Wall Street amongst other current political affairs, the bad knew what they were preaching and hopefully inspired one or two folk in the crowd to learn a little more about what goes on in this crazy country we live in. I was more interested in the rock and not the talk so once they started playing again I started paying attention again and good thing I did as they performed a cover of “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” and nailed it.
During the last song of their set there was some commotion on stage and suddenly Pat Thetic jumped in the crowd and was handed some of his drum set by Sane and Barker. In a moment’s time, with help from the fans in the pit, Thetic assembled his set and started playing his drums with fans holding on to it preventing it from moving while the rest of the band played on. I’m pretty sure they played “Power To The Peaceful” as the closer, but to be honest I was too busy jumping up on the barrier between the stage and crowd so I could take some pictures. It was a pretty awesome site to witness.
Finally the band that everyone was waiting for all night was to take the stage. The curtains rose and there was El Hefe standing there by himself admitting he had no idea where anyone else in the band was. Smelly soon jumped behind his set and did not have a clue either where Fat Mike or Eric Melvin were. 11 minutes later the missing half stumbled onto the stage. Fat Mike, sporting two drinks in hand, took a few moments to sip out of each cup and made faces that clearly proved whatever he was drinking could fuel a car.
Within the first two songs, the band signaled out a the-die wearing hippie dude in the crowd and started maxing fun of him. The hippie dude took this opportunity to crowd surf to the front and Fat Mike yelled “dude, you don’t even shave your legs?”
I loved that they played one of my all time favs, “Linoleum”, as well as “Franko Unamerican” and even “Seeing Double At The Triple Rock”. I also enjoyed hearing “Arming The Proletariat With Potato Guns” as well as watching the people dance around me during El Hefe’s horn playing. Honestly that may have been more entertaining. NOFX also played Rancid’s “Radio Radio”, a version I almost prefer more to the original.
During “Lori Myers”, the two girls from Bombpops came out to fill in for female vocal duty after El Hefe called their band “Kids-bop” and sang the part pretty much perfectly followed by a well deserved stage dive into the crowd. As much I wanted NOFX to play “The Decline”, they did not as they played it at the HoB in 2006 (the only time I missed them), but they did play “Murder The Government”, “Don’t Call Me White” and “Dinosaurs Will Die”, a couple other favorites of mine.
15 years ago I got to see NOFX play a Warped Tour in a gravel parking lot and then later that year with the Bouncing Souls and Hi-Standard at the Agora. In those 15 years, they have put out 6 albums and toured the world god knows how many times. A lot of songs played that night spanned throughout their almost 30 year career but they played pretty much the same songs that they have the last two times I have caught them live. I would have loved to have heard more songs off White Trash, 2 Heebs, and a Bean as well as Punk In Drublic, but I guess there is always next time. El Hefe seemed to be the sober man of reason that night while Melvin was in his own little work of happiness and Fat Mike, who admitted he was not on pills to the crowd that night, was half way to black-out land.
For a band that never signed to a major label or ever has their songs played on commercial radio, they filled up the HoB with no problem. It was a good night of music from all the bands on a Wednesday night. People young and old were all over the place having a good time and sang along at every opportunity. Based on the condition of the crowd by the end of the show, I am guessing many called off work the next morning or went in with a severe hangover. That’s punk rock right? Regardless it it was or not, it was tons of fun thanks to all of the bands played to Cleveland.