It’s easy to be cynical about the state of rock music. I often find myself wondering how long it can go on. Has everything been done? Maybe we should treat it as a slice of nostalgia and invest in some heavy duty lap-tops instead? Thankfully, one awe-inspiring rock show can make you forget such depressing thoughts. True rock is purely guttural. It’s not something that requires deep analysis. You just know what it is when you hear it, and on Monday night I sure as hell did. That’s not shocking with the legendary punk band Buzzcocks headlining, but Residuels and The Sick Things were just as worthy of such praise.
Last week, I called Id Iota an ideal underdog band. Well, they are nothing compared to The Sick Things. Lead vocalist Cam Turin is a dead ringer for the late, great Alex Chilton, so already that gives you an idea of what we’re dealing with here. It also helps that they sound like the love child of Cheap Trick and The Replacements. Needless to say, I fucking dug their set! I can’t really say that the audience did, because there was barely anyone there. These guys competently crafted pop-hooks with a rough-around-the-edges aesthetic, which I guess the mass public is probably not clamoring for. Oh well, their loss. I’ll take my rock and roll with unkempt hair and a delicious sense of self-deprecation, thank you very much!
I wasn’t sure what to think of Residuels at first. That’s not to say that I doubted their credentials. The second I noticed vocalist-guitarist Justin Pittney’s Wipers Youth of America T-Shirt, I was convinced of their intentions. No, my puzzlement came from their performances. All of them were so radically different in their approach. Pittney’s seemed like the genuine music nerd who gives everything that he’s got, while drummer Mike Cammarata almost looked like a full-time accountant on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Then there was Kyle Garvey in his leather jacket. The dude didn’t move an inch or a single face muscle. He was either bored or didn’t give a shit. That’s not an insult. What’s more punk that not hamming up to an audience? He didn’t have to anyway. They may not be the songwriters that The Sick Things are, but goddamn if their music doesn’t come from a weird and exciting place.
Let’s be honest though, the big reason I wanted to cover this show was because of Buzzcocks. Like many of you (I hope), Singles Going Steady was a soundtrack to my overly dramatic and embarrassingly awkward teen-aged years, so getting the chance to reminisce in a live setting was a real trip. It helped when the vast majority of the audience was comprised of old-school punkers, who also refuse to lose any of their youthful spirit, and in-their-prime teenagers, who seemed completely delighted that their parent’s angst eerily reflected theirs. I found myself shoved by an old fart and a pimple faced weirdo in the same mosh-pit. It was fucking fantastic! For a band that is forty years old, it’s amazing that Buzzcocks still evoke such emotion and inspire such friendly violence across so many generations.
Energy wise, these guys have still got it! I won’t bullshit you though, their voices were barely functioning, and they have physically begun to show signs of their age. Mortality sure is a bitch, ain’t it? The illusion was broken when I realized that the same guy who wrote about being addicted to whacking off has grey hair and is in possession of a mighty pot-belly. No one really cared though. If you listened hard enough, you could still hear singer-songwriter Pete Shelley’s adolescent yelp cracking on opener “Boredom.” Oh, and then there was lead guitarist Steve Diggle, who rarely missed a beat! That dude is what we should all aspire to be. He looked like he was having the time of his life up there, and the crowd responded in kind. Even I found myself clamoring to give him a high five, like I was my mom at a Bon Jovi concert!
After the four-song knock-out of an encore (“Orgasm Addict,” “What Do I Get,” “Ever Fall in Love,” and “Harmony in My Head”) I tumbled out of Corona Theatre lacking in hearing but in possession of a goofy looking grin. This show had solely been intended as a way to relive past glories, so I was ecstatic that things hadn’t gone according to plan. As these bands showed, rock isn’t going to die without a fight, or at the very least a condemnation of the nearest rich kid with an expensive PC and a stage. There might be hope after all.
Written by Shawn Thicke
Photography by Stacy Basque
*edited by Kate Erickson