The problem with punk nostalgia is that at the end of the night you have to go home.
You’re going to have to get it together enough the next day to get your kids to school and make sure they have their homework assignments loaded on a flash drive. You’ll have to go about that daily life you actively chose to ignore because you went to a (aging) punk show the night before: Go to work, sweat the TPS reports, the constantly failing fax machines, and the optional-but-passive-aggressively-mandatory potluck lunches that happen every Monday five feet from your cubicle.
This is going to happen. It doesn’t matter how many Jäger shots you had or the number of lines you did in the bathroom, real life is simply much closer than when you were sweating a soda for five hours at the Uptown McDonald’s on Hennepin or trying to panhandle for a) punk cred b) bus fare c) none of the above. The hot dish, the gas bills, the trying to make it from soccer practice to dance rehearsal even though that’s a physical impossibility because they’re scheduled five minutes and eight miles from each other—it’ll all be waiting for you in the morning.
And… here come the Dead Boys.
I had my doubts about the show, because everybody had their doubts about the show. Aging into your (let’s be honest, whether you like it or not) former punkitude involves complicated math equations. In this case, on a Sunday night at Triple Rock Social Club, here’s the equation everyone struggled with: Is a band with Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz, lacking the brutally distinct vocals of the late great Stiv Bators as well as guitarist Jimmy Zero and bassist Jeff Magnum, still even the Dead Boys? What exactly does it mean to watch two punk heroes perform the entirety of their most heralded album with second stringers? Or, put most simply: What exactly does it fucking mean to watch a band called the Dead Boys perform a 40-year-old record called Young Loud and Snotty in its entirety in 2017?
Answer: It means everything.
Punk revivalism is a funny thing. It’s like an excruciating long joke, the sort of joke that starts funny, stops being funny, and then—improbably, after too much repetition—becomes funny again. Punk revivalism is Sideshow Bob stepping on a thousand rakes. In a world that refuses to provide any sense of order, once you’ve given up on smoking pot in your living room listening to the records you’ve collected over the years because your teenage daughter referred to them as “vinyls” and that just made you barf, you at least can know that you didn’t really tool for Rancid that hard in their long-past heyday. And somehow, improbably, in between hearing the sound of Imagine Dragons or Insane Clown Posse from your surly kid’s bedroom, you suddenly have a chance to sincerely, honestly grab that brass ring of your youth, because you can get yourself to the Triple Rock and pray at the feet of punk saint Cheetah Chrome. Which is exactly what happened last night.
Here’s what the band dba the Dead Boys needed to do. Cheetah’s leads needed to be perfect. Blitz needed to hold everything together with his drumming. The other guys—bassist Ricky Rat, guitarist Jason Kottwitz, and singer Jake Hout—needed to do their jobs and not fuck up while also not coming off as some sort of twisted wax figures of those living and dead they’d replaced. And to a one, they executed everything perfectly, by far much more than I expected.
The band blasted through YLS like it was 1977 all over again, opening with the classic “Sonic Reducer” and nailing each successive song, including “What Love Is” and “I Need Lunch.” Hout—of the three new additions, filling the biggest shoes--managed to lift the heavy weight of Bator’s vocals without coming off as an impersonator or a karaoke star. Rat’s glammy demeanor and Kottwitz’s Axl Rose-on-guitar style felt appropriate, and everybody—from the bald, aging Chrome and Blitz to the new guys—nailed every song more than anyone in the sold-out crowd could have hoped. I caught one moment where Blitz got lost in the sheer speed of a song, but such rhythmic chaos fit right in with the 40 years of rock swagger the band jammed into one mostly tight set. They band quickly plowed through Young, Loud, and Snotty and, after the most perfunctory of breaks, returned to encore two more songs: “Ain’t It Fun” and “Son of Sam,” both delivered in a swirl of dance floor chaos that everyone—reviewer included—is feeling the next day.
The crowd: A deep mix of enthusiastic punks who missed the Dead Boys the first time around and old-school fans who still might have been too young to get out of the house past curfew in 1997, all drinking way more than they could handle. Hats off to Triple Rock staff, who in their final month might be working more too little, too late sold-out shows than anyone could have expected.
Notes on the openers: Bad Idea is straight-up old-school punk played by guys too old to work their cool points at the Hexagon, which is a shame because they would fit in there perfectly. Trim Reaper played their brand of trashy gunk-punk as well as they ever have, as if opening for legends far older than them made the old guys the earnest, dreaming kids they were 20 years ago.
Notebook dump: If Triple Rock Social Club sells out every show they have between now and the November end date, does that mean they’ll stay open?
Overheard: “I haven’t put on these pants in 20 years. Not going to lie, I’m having trouble breathing.”
All This and More
What Love Is
Ain't Nothin' to Do
Calling on You
Caught With The Meat In Your Mouth
I Need Lunch
High Tension Wire
Down in Flames
Ain't It Fun
Son of Sam