Last Friday and Saturday conspired to leave me with nothing better to do than nap my afternoons away and store up enough energy to awkwardly shuffle and nod as bands played very loud music for people who more or less looked like me but appeared to be having way more fun than me.
Friday (March 30) found me doing my lonesome show-going thing at the Fist Fite/Batmen/Drats!!! soiree hosted by Club 21, while Saturday (March 31) sent me post-hardcore joy in the shape of Michigan's La Dispute, who played to a surprisingly sparse-ish and mostly mosh-averse crowd at Branx.
When I was not obsessively checking my phone for Facebook messages or softly whistling to myself and scanning the middle distance in imitation of someone who was waiting for his friend to finally show up, I was very carefully (and possibly drunkenly, at times) studying the soundtracked scenes unfolding around my lonesome person. Today, I would like to share with you the important things I learned during my solitary weekend of sound.
1. Punk shows never start on time. I have learned this lesson hundreds of times already, and yet some sick faith compels me to trust a flyer that says "9PM", and so, as happened Friday night, I show up at nine on the nose and proceed to pace, fidget, smoke, drink and whinge for ninety minutes as a club fills with people who see "9PM" and understand it to mean "like, whenever". I have a dream that one day we will live in a world where bands and venues value punctuality, a world where guys who like to get to bed by midnight will not miss the headliner (Drats!!!, in this case) due to sleepiness, a world where "9PM" means fucking "9PM".
2. Batmen can do no wrong. I feel like a doofus writing about Portland's amazing Batmen yet again, but it bears repeating: this band is on the verge of great things. Or rather, the world is on the verge of getting hipped to the great things Batmen is already doing. Like its set at the Know a few weeks ago, Batmen's Club 21 performance was an exuberant, sweaty demonstration of punk prowess. New tune "Can I Finish", which seems to be Batmen's go-to opener, is as good if not better than anything on the essential demo I've already spilled mad slobber on. See this band already.
3. Do not sleep on Fist Fite. Jonnie Monroe, Fist Fite's lead singer and synth wrangler actually told me as much a couple weeks ago, when I had occasion to meet her and explain that I had not seen her band since it opened for HEALTH at Backspace a few years ago. During our conversation I referred to Fist Fite as a synthpunk band, and Monroe did not seem overly stoked on that genre tag. She told me Fist Fite had changed a lot. On Friday I found out she was right. I also found out that Fist Fite has changed for the better, having become a four-piece conjurer of proggy menace and intensity. I'd always thought of Fist Fite as a band I could dance to. Now I think of Fist Fite as a band I could murder to. I believe they have a record coming out soon. It's going to be a monster.
4. Club 21 is a great venue. I'd never been to a show there before Friday night. Hell, I'd never even gotten a drink there before Friday night, so I didn't know what to expect. Turns out it's a perfect bar for punk stuff, with a PA that gets just loud enough to punish eardrums without crossing the line into deafening, shapeless noise. The "stage" (basically the elevated section of the dining room) is just high enough to grant bands special visibility, but low enough to allow for various sweat-slicked engagements with a rowdy crowd. I will be going back.
5. Wholesome, kid-friendly post-hardcore bands are startlingly efficient and professional entertainers. La Dispute's Saturday night set was everything I'd hoped it would be--chock-full of youthful exuberance and sincerity, most of it channeled through frontman Jordan Dreyer's slender frame and incongruously big voice--but I was most impressed by the way La Dispute went about its business before the music started. I'm telling you, this band and its crew set up with purpose and focus, and those amps and guitars and mics were ready to do their thing quick-like. And the band before them, Balance and Composure, had gone about decamping in a similarly soldier-like manner. Ultimately, I'm more comfortable at sloppy, rowdy shows like the one that went down at Club 21 the night before, but I'm not gonna lie: seeing a bunch of hale, clean-cut, clear-eyed kids getting serious about time management did warm my cockles.