Tell a musical laymen that punk rock has just as much in common with folk and country music as it does with hard rock or metal and they’ll probably laugh in your face, but it’s the truth. Bands like Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly have been flying that flag for years, and newer bands calling themselves indie rock continue to emerge with the same melodic intentions. So, with that said, I found myself at Underworld for a set of bands that fit this bill nicely, though they may be just a little dirtier than their distant cousins.
The first band to hit the stage were the Dropkick-inspired Irish Nails. Firing through a short set of fairly simple songs, it was fun to see the five members (including one on the mandolin) rocking out together, even if the crowd were largely indifferent. Bonus points for the introduction, “Here’s a song about saying the word fuck.” Unfortunately, their set was short, and just when it felt like the crowd was starting to warm up to them, they finished rather abruptly.
Up next on the menu were Montreal’s The Von Rebels. If you’ve been lucky enough to catch frontman Chris Von Danger play in his other project, Heroine Hayride, then you know just how diverse this guy can be. Right off the bat, the Rebels were much more dynamic musically than the Irish Nails. A solidly punk rock cover of CCR`s “Bad Moon Rising” served as a solid template for what their own material sounds like. What was obvious was how much these guys must rehearse together; every transition was flawless, and not a single moment was left feeling too quiet or awkward. “I hope there’s a couple people out there who like whiskey,” they joked before playing a riff that could be the soundtrack to a man falling over due to heavy consumption of the aforementioned liquor. By the end of the set, Von Danger was yelling so hard he was practically spitting his lungs all over the microphone. Theirs was a solid performance.
It was well past midnight by the time the evening’s main attraction, The Matadors, finally hit the stage. They wasted no time running through their songs and jokes, with frontman and band mastermind Hooch Parkins looking especially flashy in a glittery, fire red blazer, with a guitar to match (though, it didn’t take long before he was shirtless).
Watching him play, it isn’t hard to believe that Hooch really did sell his soul for an inhuman ability to rock the guitar and sing like an angel. He can make that instrument sing like almost no other man I’ve seen, and it’s a real treat to watch. Their offensive set of songs and jokes went over well with what seemed to be a fairly loyal, if not small fan base. It’s really too bad to see an exceptionally talented band play to an ever thinning crowd, but those are the consequences of getting on stage so late.
The visual aspect of their show is just as fun as their songs, with a devilish figure, clad in a hood, standing ominously to the side, serving only to occasionally wipe down Hooch’s face and keep him stocked in alcohol while he played his fingers to the bone.
If you’re interested in the Matadors, and you should be, you can check out my interview with Hooch himself, or you can head over to their bandcamp to listen to their awesome tongue in cheek new album, Say You Love Satan.