Off With Their Heads have been a road band so long that Ryan Young and some members of his squad don't even have actual residences here. However, as they proved Friday night at their release show for In Desolation (their first album on the giant LA punk powerhouse Epitaph Records), they're more than happy to crack open a case or two (or 100), and party down with friends.
Hamburger Help Me! won the best name award for the evening, three mysterious gentlemen in pajama pants, black t-shirts with silkscreened necktie images, and ski masks firing off a barrage of songs that clocked in at times that have to be a Land Speed Record (pun intended). The average length of song seemed to be about 31 seconds, but each was as tight and catchy as it was blistering and obnoxious. If I knew better, I'd say that the songs evoked other recent local wild rock bands like Sweet JAP, Gay Witch Abortion, and most obviously the Fuck Yeahs, but I can't imagine Jeremy, Sean, and Takashi having time for any more bands, so I guess the identity of these masked men will remain a mystery.
The Arrivals, on the other hand, didn't disappoint the entire time they were on stage. This long-running Chicago band, featuring local madman Paddy Costello (who buses down for practice) on bass, doesn't song like a "pop-punk" band, or any sort of new-school "genre" punk band. Instead, they craft incredibly finely tuned rock songs that bear a host of influences from '60s garage to '80s Midwestern punk to '90s indie rock, and then they crank the speed up to a breakneck pace that rivals any skatepunk or hardcore band the Warped Tour can shove down your throats. With Paddy in the (relative background) holding down rhythm section duties with drummer Ronnie Dicola, guitarists Isaac Thotz and Dave Merriman share vocal duties that range from soulfully gruff to passionately reckless.
Is it possible to storm a stage, but laconically, like that moment in an old Western where the gunfighter walks in, all eyes on him, and leans against the bar for a minute before all hell breaks loose? Well, that's what Off With Their Heads brought. Ryan shocked most of the room by exclusively handling vocal duties without his usual guitar playing, handled in this case by regular guitarist Zack and occasional member Francis. I am not going to lie, OWTH's rotating line-up of members, which seems to feature three drummers, a touring bassist, and a "recording bassist," as well as the guitar arrangements for this tour, make me crazy--it's like watching a committee play punk rock. Luckily, they do their brand of pissed-off, self destructive pop-punk ridiculously well. Their set was a mix of old songs and new, and while I will always bear the strongest affection for the songs off their oldest release, "Hospitals," the entire set was a strong, debauched throwdown with audience members and various other bands rushing the stage, picking people up on shoulders, and all in all partying down until the next time our local boys decide to pay us a visit.