Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Queers: A good ol' fashioned punk show. Sorta.

by Dave Schaefer

The old school punk scene isn’t dead in Columbus, but it’s got a palsy and walks with a slight limp. It was evident on Sunday night at The Queers show at Bernie’s where -- considering the line-up and the quality of the show -- a limited of number of people decided to come out.

By the time the first band, local boys Highnoon Hangovers, hit the stage there were a few stragglers at the bar and maybe ten people lining the side wall -- a couple continued to play pool at the billiards table, seemingly unaware that a punk show was happening a few feet away. And that’s what really struck me. Back in the day at this type of event, no one would’ve been playing pool, no one would’ve been leaning up against a wall. Oh, sure, there was some foot-tapping amongst the guys and a bit of wiggle in the girls, but you don’t foot-tap to punk and you sure as hell don’t wiggle.

The numbers rose steadily as the evening went on -- still meager when Buffalo, NY’s The Snot Rockets went on, but better when locals The Damn Yous hit the mic -- and by the time Alabama’s Backseat Virgins started their set it was beginning to be a somewhat respectable crowd.

But still with the standing around. They may as well have been at a Michael Buble concert. Except with an occasional mohawk and grungy t-shirt. At least the crowd looked punk.

Fortunately, by the time The Queers bounced onto the stage, the crowd was more willing to trounce the dance floor and mix it up a bit. Granted, not a whole lot, but at least they had the off possibility of potentially maybe perhaps getting injured. Or at least get a foot stepped on.

But on to the bands themselves. Each one gave no excuse to those onlookers standing around not moving. The Highnoon Hangovers had the unfortunate task of going first and thus playing to a crowd that would’ve likely fit in my livingroom, but they pulled it out and did a good set that involved a few covers and a couple originals. Their set was cut short by a broken bass string and no time to swap it out. Before that happened though, Don B got on the stage for the first of three songs he performed over the course of the night. I use the term “performed” loosely. But, hey, you gotta love him.

Next up were the Snot Rockets. Having over a decade’s worth of material, they, like The Queers, have the experience and the know-how to pull off a punk show with reckless abandon, but with a slick base. With their lead singer off the stage and out on the nearly empty dance floor [] he created a very weird, very...well, punk dimension to it all. They were having fun on stage and it made you want to have fun with them. Well, as long it apparently didn’t involve actual movement. The Snot Rockets yelled into the mic such classics as “I Hate Punk Rock Girls” and “Crabs.”

The Damn Yous were on it and you could tell, shouting out a really good set. To be perfectly honest, I was having such a great time talking to the members of Backseat Virgin over in the deli that I missed the first half of the Damn Yous’ set, but the second half was excellent. I’m definitely keeping my eye on this band.

Last up before The Queers graced the Bernie’s stage were my conversation buddies Backseat Virgins. Fronted by guitarist Randy and keyboardist Neeta, they shared vocals, giving the line-up’s only female voice in Neeta’s pop-punk-friendly vox. I really liked this band. They had a punchy, fun sound that was neo-punk cool and even had a few people actually moving. Bass player Neesie was clearly having fun. All was well and good until drummer Mike decided the room was too warm and stripped down to his thong. Um, yeah. But Don B sang a birthday tune to Neeta and that made up for it. Kinda.

Then it was time for The Queers. They punched out a show that seemed effortless and flawless. But then, they’ve been doing this for a while, so I’m sure they’ve got this whole punker thing down. This was when the crowd actually began to move, screaming words to songs, and even slamming around every so often. One guy even crowd surfed, hands and feet touching the ceiling mere inches above him. Of course his ride lasted all of maybe five seconds -- that was about all the people there were from front to back. But I have to give him an A for effort. Don B’s final song of the night was backed up by The Queers and was, of course, his now classic “Batman.”

It was a truly phenomenal experience seeing these old school punkers still doing what they do in the same way they’ve always done it. There’s something to be said for the art of transformation, but there’s also a lot to be said for the art of the classic.

I just wish the audience made themselves more a part of it.

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