Off With Their Heads kick off tour with punk rock bowling at Memory Lanes


Punk bowling at Memory Lanes: The crash of balls, the clinking of glasses, the occasional skipping record. What better way for local punks and new Epitaph Records signees Off With Their Heads to fire off a good-bye shot to the Twin Cities before their leave on yet another epic tour? I ventured out into the nasty snow--why does it seem like every show I review comes with crappy driving conditions?--along with a couple hundred other folks to check out the fun.

Starting the night was Western Curses, a new band full of familiar faces. These guys have been more local hardcore, punk, and indie bands than I could possibly hope to list here: Holding On, Getting Even, and the Deaf, just to name a few. Formed out of the core membership of the punk rock n' roll Holy Ghostriders, Western Curses shoots for a slightly less cock-rock, slightly more melodic style of punk with strong guitar hooks and full-steam-ahead energy. Vocalist Andy Hart's trademark growl was unmistakable, however, and gave the gritty but catchy songs a little extra edge. Still, the band didn't take themselves very seriously, at one point launching into a Nirvana cover, seemingly as a joke, and then finishing it simply because they didn't feel like stopping. "We like to stop every couple songs and drink beer," Hart announced to the crowd, and no one seemed to have any objections.

By the time Amen and The Hell Yeahs fired up their set with an ode to their favorite West Bank bar, the energy of the kids in the crowd was definitely picking up. I wasn't immediately hooked: their basic, Screeching Weasel-esque drunk pop-punk is a style that needs something to set it apart beyond a touch of addled disaffectedness. "I can't wait to be done playing so I can go smoke some weed," one of their guitar players announced, and I found myself agreeing with half his statement. However, I stuck it out, and I'm glad I did: as I watched their set I started catching some defiantly offbeat, weird little twists in their songs, almost Toy Dolls screwy, that made them stand out more than your run-of-the-mill crew of kids wearing their love of the Ramones on their sleeves.

By the time Off With Their Heads hit the stage the crowd was plenty lubed up on PBR tallboy specials and there weren't many bowlers left. "I wanna see someone bowl another human being down one of these lanes," announced OWTH singer/guitarist Ryan Young before ripping into another blast of high-speed punk with enough hooks to sink the entire room to the bottom of Lake Superior. Off With Their Heads mix lock-step driving drums and bass with guitar melodies and vocal lines that betray a definite pop influence far beyond a pile of beer-soaked punk LP, topped off with Young's uniquely no-bullshit, brutally matter-of-fact lyrics. Off With Their Heads is more or less living on tour these days, and it showed last night in their impeccably tight set that had the kids crowd surfing right into the gutters.