Last night (May 23) was a jarring night for me, a night of being an outsider amongst outsiders. Making my way to The Alley last night, I parked my car in the parking garage at John Ascuaga's Nugget, then crossed the street to pass through the casino before walking down Victorian Avenue to the tiny club. It's Memorial Day weekend, and at the Nugget this is a weekend reserved for country artists and bands. And if you know me, I pretty much despise everything about modern country music. Vapid, shallow artists playing music (that more often than not isn't theirs) that I've often described as a bastard hybrid of the southern rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the twangy pop of The Eagles, without the talent of either. And ironically enough, next door to The Alley is an Irish pub that was hosting live music as well, an 'acoustic' jam that in my humble opinion could've been bottled up and sold as a cure for insomnia. Or for rat poison.
The first band up at eight was, as Reno shows are wont to be, a local band. Priscilla Ford was a pleasant surprise to me, more rock than punk – imagine a young AC/DC. To be honest, they were the best band of the night. Out For War was a blur of hyperactive blasts, every song played at pretty much the same tempo – 'let's see how fast the drummer can play' speed – with metallic guitars and bellowed vocals that were completely unintelligible. Then came the primary support band, LA's Total Chaos. This band were punk-rock holdouts in the highest sense of the word, 24-year veterans of the scene trying their best keep alive the nihilism of the late Seventies and early Eighties. Not to mention the look. Of all four bands that took the stage, these guys were the only ones who actually 'looked' punk. That said, four guys my age dressed up to look like a cross between GBH and Avenged Sevenfold looked kind of pathetic to me, and their music while their music was better than that of Out For War, it still sounded tired and outdated to me.
Subhumans bring back some interesting, if mixed memories to me. I used to be in a band that played their music along with that of other bands of that genre and era back when I was high school, leavening Tony Reed's originals with covers of songs from the Misfits, Hüsker Dü, and early Suicidal Tendencies. But my favorite song we played was a Subhumans track, “Zyklon B-Movie”. Even in their heyday of the mid-Eighties, Subhumans were always odd ducks, mixing their punk with bits of actual musicianship, not to mention leavening their leftist sociopolitical views with an infectious sense of humor. I told their merch guy that I was completely surprised to find that the band was still playing, only for him to tell me that they'd actually gotten back together in 1998, and had been playing steadily ever since, and that this was their third show in Reno in the last few years. I don't know what that shows more, how my tastes have changed since I was a kid, or how little attention I pay to punk these days.
When they came to the stage, Subhumans seemed a little out of sorts at first. Their singer admitted as much almost immediately when he explained that they were all jet-lagged. This was their first show of a quick six-show run, four shows in California after tonight before closing their run in Las Vegas at a 'punk rock bowling' show. But they recovered quickly enough and played a good set to an appreciative audience, the highlight of the night for me being “Internal Riot”.
Too bad the night was pretty much lost on me. I already felt like an outsider among outsiders, and my mood didn't improve when I got a phone call from my bandleader, informing me that a show planned for Saturday had fallen through, and things got worse when I called Joy to tell her, and she began wondering aloud if we'd somehow screwed up, and she got pissed off at me when I stopped her in her in her tracks and told her that I simply didn't know what happened, and that this was no time to go assigning blame to anyone just yet. She doesn't like me interrupting her, even when I know exactly what she's going to say – I think she hates that most of all. And the final insult for me was in the men's room of all places, when I was bum-rushed out of the loo by a pair of SuicideGirls wannabes who walked in on me while I was trying to take a piss. Ever have your dick in your hand when total strangers of the opposite sex walk in? Trust me, it's not an enjoyable thing. I know I turned eight different shades of red as I rushed to put my junk away and did my best to keep myself from going nuclear at these ignorant little twats. Fortunately, the show was almost over at that point, and I was pretty much the first person out of the venue when the last note was struck. I was still so mad at what had happened, I found myself nearly unable to use the men's room at the Nugget as I made my way back to my car, still halfway expecting to have someone try to get into my stall as I was trying to do my business.
I think the thing I took away from this show was that I was still an über outsider, and I didn't really fit in there, even among the other outsiders that Punk claims to embrace. But I think that I'll fit in a little better tonight, as my friends Pain Clinic and Blasphemous Creation will being playing there as part of The Alley's “Heavy Metal BBQ”. Best of all, the show is free. And now that I don't have to get up at the ass-crack of dawn to get ready for a show on Saturday, I can go to this show and still get a decent night's sleep.