Learning Curve Records X-Mas Showcase thrives on aural assault

Photos by Warren Wills

Photos by Warren Wills

My first visit ever to the Triple Rock and it's for an all-out, punk stained, ear drum scorching collection of fresh young talent and wily veterans. It was chock full of technically amazing drummers, baseball bat-wheeling front men, bad jokes, and dramatic poses. It was the most exhilarating evening of rock I've seen around these parts in a while I loved every minute of it. There's nothing like a punk show to kick off Christmas right...

The first act of the evening was venerable trio the Deaf. While they haven't been playing live as much lately, you wouldn't have known it by their solid set Saturday night -- they immediately set the standard for all who followed with drummer Jack Kalyuhzny's fast, hypnotic delivery and David Safar's reverberated screams. They were a technically clean and especially tough act to follow.

Yet in their wake came the thrashing, spastic, and especially intense stage presence of Ben Crew and the indefatigable In Defence. When he is assuming his favorite place on the stage (the center monitor), one never quite knows what will come out of Crew's mouth: a dead baby joke, recently sipped water, blood curdling screams, any variety of obscenities, spittle. It was all on display for those who sang along in the front row and watched with wary eyes as he swung his bat they "use in their softball league." It was a surreal, raging delight of hardcore punk, old school thrash with excellent scaling riffs, unexpected time signature changes and evidently excellent eyes for detail amidst the onslaught brought by Crew.

To take a break and take out my ear plugs for a second (which actually helped me understand In Defence's lyrics better), I stayed put in the main event arena, thus missing the brief set put on by the traveling troupe of musicians know as Seawhores. I regretted missing their set, which they played jammed tight in front of the old corner bar.

The first of the two headlining acts was the only band I'd seen before, Gay Witch Abortion. Those who've seen them know what's coming when they take the stage: all out armageddon. Shawn Walker's amazing drum work never tires, and he and Jesse Bottomley have an unseen communication between them that's beyond ESP, as if they feel the vibrations they create, rather than the superficial sonics we hear; they operate on a completely different plane. After opening up with a few new tracks they just released, they dug into their material from Maverick and the place nearly exploded. It was ridiculous.

One might think it difficult to follow an act that nearly brought down the house, but the Blind Shake looked as if they'd done it before. Coming to the stage with shaved heads and black track suits (emblazoned with their own duct tape designs) and with blinking bike brake lights wrapped around their necks, I had no clue what mischief was to follow.


What did happen was the most eclectic and original sound of the night. Frolicking on stage like Devo, this trio performed as if they'd just been cut loose from the madhouse: Dave the drummer's crash cymbal and stand were knocked over onto the floor within minutes, full-on Rockette-esque kicks ensued by the lead guitarist (Jim), and baritone guitarist Mike was spinning around the stage when not singing. What it sounded like was even more impressive, which turned out to be a fast punk groove, at times going into surf rock, new wave, and garage rock, all at full-throttle.