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Music Review: The Gospel of Punk

Rebecca Loh -- The Tech
Justin Sane of Anti-Flag leads the crowd in SaturdayUs show. East coast bands The Explosion, :30 Seconds Over Tokyo, The Pinkerton Thugs, The Unseen, and The Trouble also performed.
By Rebecca Loh
photo editor

It is a universally acknowledged truth that an all-ages punk show in Boston featuring six hot east coast bands must be expecting a large turnout. This was definitely the case at Saturday's show at the 1st and 2nd Church of Boston, where over six hundred punks from around New England assembled to watch The Explosion, :30 Seconds Over Tokyo, The Pinkerton Thugs, Anti-Flag, The Unseen, and The Trouble. It was an odd scene on the corner of Marlborough and Berkeley, last Saturday at 2:00 PM, with kids sporting leather jackets, studs, spikes, mohawks, chains, body piercings, and tattoos, all waiting to be let into a church.

When the Middle East announced it would no longer be playing all-ages shows following the injury of a girl during a Ducky Boys concert, there was some concern that there would be no more Boston-area venues for punk shows. With no local space to hold shows, punk fans would have to travel to Quincy or Worcester to see out-of-town bands. The 1st and 2nd Church of Boston has come through, though many are still skeptical about its remaining open to hosting shows. Disrespectful punks vandalizing buildings and injuring each other have caused many other venues to close down.

This was my first time watching a show at the church, and it was quite different from the Middle East. The floor space was larger, and there was a second floor balcony with limited seating, where people who were not up to the heat and crowding of the floor could still watch. The stage was small and only slightly elevated from the floor, and punks were constantly running on stage to stage dive or enact their dreams of singing in a punk band by seizing the mic to belt out a line or verse. Though the floor was a little too well-lit, and there was a strongly enforced no-smoking and no-drinking policy, these did little to take away from the energy of the show.

I got to the church at exactly 2:00 PM the posted starting time of the show only to find about two hundred punks ahead in line waiting to get in. The line was amazingly slow in moving, and I was afraid they would stop letting people in long before I got to the front. At last, though, I made it in, but by then the first band, The Explosion, had already finished their set, so I missed out on hearing Boston's newest band.

Next up was :30 Seconds Over Tokyo, a Boston-area band I had never seen live, but whose music I listen to. Their songs are energetic and fun, and it was great to watch them play live, with punks all around singing along and dancing like there was no tomorrow. The band played really well, with an energy that came out much better on stage than in their CD.

The crowd increased in size for The Pinkerton Thugs, as the last of the people in line were let in to watch the Maine band. Again, loyal fans sang along with every song, and again, the dancing was fast and furious. I liked some of the songs, but some others were a bit slow for me, though the energy of the crowd made up for the lagging tempo.

For some inexplicable reason, Anti-Flag, a Pittsburgh band, was next to take the stage. Most kids came to the show to see Anti-Flag, and I had assumed they would be playing last. The church was absolutely packed, as punks crowded in to watch the band with the catchy tunes and meaningful lyrics. There was hardly any space for dancing, yet dance they did. People were singing along so enthusiastically that when the lead singer stepped back to adjust his guitar mid-verse in You've Got to Die For the Government, the song continued without missing a beat.

Anti-Flag sets an excellent example of what every punk should be. The band makes a point to stress respect among punks and respect for the scene. Before they start a set, they make sure to remind fans to have fun, but take care not to seriously injure anyone. They usually open with Davey Destroyed the Punk Scene, a typical Anti-Flag song written against the poseurs who think the punk scene is all about having punk clothes and punk hair, instead of understanding it as a community of kids who get together for the music and camaraderie. During Drink Drank Punk, when many people in the crowd fell due in part to the enthusiastic dancing and in part to the domino effect brought about by the crowded floor, lead singer Justin Sane interrupted the song to make sure no one had been hurt.

After Anti-Flag came The Unseen, a Boston band most notable for its fast-paced tunes and outrageous hair. A sizable portion of the crowd left after Anti-Flag, but the place was still comfortably packed. The Unseen played really well, with fast, edgy, hardcore songs. Unfortunately, the singer's voice was really scratchy and the words unintelligible. As impressed as I was by the instrumentals, I was more impressed by the band's hair, as the guitarists each sported a fine mohawk, one being platinum blond and one being turquoise.

The last group to play was The Trouble, another Boston-area band. By this time, the crowd was pretty tired, and many had already gone home. The people in charge decided to cut this last set short, as some people had taken to jumping off the second floor balcony onto the crowd below, and there was some fear someone would get injured. The songs were pretty slow, but when the band announced its last song, the crowd rallied in one last dancing frenzy, ending the show with a bang.

Saturday's show was a good one. The chance to watch six east coast bands deliver to an enthusiastic crowd of Boston punks was well worth the $7 charge at the door.