Hey everybody, my friend Greg offered to do a write-up of that enormous eight-band punk show that happened at the Majestic last Friday for Wisconscene, so I went ahead and let him! So here’s that, for your pleasure, and I think we can expect more great things from Greg in the future!
Andy + Nick’s Punk Rock Double Header
The Majestic Theatre 7-14-12
by Greg Mulhern
There is nothing quite as cathartic as a great punk show. So when I saw that there was a double-show going on at the Majestic here in Madison, I was hooked. There was never a doubt in my mind, despite the fact that I only knew two bands on the bill. However, those two bands were more than enough, so I went online and spent the whole ten dollars.
I had never been to the Majestic before. Let me rephrase that. I had never been inside the majestic; I had walked past it at least a dozen times in the past half-year alone, mostly on a beeline to the Great Dane. To me, the Majestic has always been associated with dance music; every time I passed under its marquee, it mentioned dance parties and the like: definitely not my thing (imagine my surprise when in the bathroom, I saw fliers for the Jesus and Mary Chain and Dinosaur Jr.). But, seeing a potentially great punk line-up, I went ahead regardless of my pre-conceived notions. I don’t know what I really expected with the venue itself (other than a mental mix-up where I almost drove and parked near the Orpheum), but it was smaller than I anticipated (possibly because I was still confusing it with the Orpheum for some reason). Of course, the beer prices were disappointing compared to the venues I usually frequent (you know, bars), but I had already anticipated that. What I hadn’t anticipated was the Sconnie pint cans; the jury is still out on that one. It was a popular choice that evening, but it may have only been because its dollar price advantage over the other pint cans. That was my predominant reason at the very least. So, beer in hand, the show started.
Initially, the metal band Enabler from Milwaukee was on the bill, but apparently dropped out. So, at the last minute, the punk band The Moguls (also from Milwaukee) were added to the lineup. I had the old adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” come to mind when I heard them start up, and I definitely mean that as a compliment. The Moguls are punk: a general ambition towards a standard 90s sound, with a bit of pop punk sentiment, and they play it very well. No frills, no gimmicks, just a straight up sound and a solid, energetic performance. I have to give them a huge level of credit as well: paying first bill not only earlier than a usual show (I’m used to a 9 to 10 o’clock start time on most local shows, not the 7:30 for the first of the “two” shows), but with a very small crowd that hadn’t filled in yet. There were some enthused claps and cheers, but they operated mostly in silence when they weren’t ripping through their songs. They took it in stride, and it definitely did not sway their set. I have to say, if I get the opportunity to see them again, I definitely will: hopefully, the atmosphere is a little better, because with the catchiness of their songs, I know they could really get a larger crowd going.
After the Moguls finished up, and I successfully acquired another beer, Break the Cycle from Southern California took to the stage. There’s a lot going on there; maybe too much in my opinion. They utilize multiple styles, punk at the very core, which is refreshing, but I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t think it’s for a lack of trying, but it was a little to all-over-the-place. However, there was a generally positive response from the crowd that followed their performance.
Despite a bass cab with a fresh hole in it due to an onstage “accident,” Pyroklast was third bill during the early show. By this point, more people had shown up, but not nearly enough to give credit to how good Pyroklast is. These guys were one of the bands I went specifically to see, and I’m not going to mask how much I like them. They set up, and just went off like a gunshot with their brand of thrashy, crusty hardcore. From Madison, Pyroklast is a fixture in the Madison Punk scene, and I’ve seen them tear apart multiple venues across the city. They ran into the same problem as the Moguls that night, however. But, like it or not from my stand point, Pyroklast rolled with it expertly and played as passionate and furious as if the Majestic had been packed to the gills. While the atmosphere in the audience could have used some adjusting, the atmosphere onstage was dead on what I’ve come to expect: ripping their way through songs like “Extermination of Permanence” and “Welcome to the Third World” without skipping a beat and with nothing but pure passion.
I find I usually measure the success of a show by two factors: how much I drink and how many cigarettes I smoke (don’t do those things, kids, they’re bad for you). If I drink a lot, it means it was a good show, because I’ll spend most of my time inside listening, and therefore giving the bartenders more of my hard-earned money. On the other hand, the more cigarettes I smoke, the more time I spend outside the venue, you know, smoking. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t run into the latter much that evening, other than the obligatory feeding of my addiction in between sets. But goddamn, Whisky Pig doesn’t use alcohol as a measure of the entire show; they use it as a measure of their set.
I had heard of Whisky Pig prior to that evening, but I had never had the opportunity to see them for myself. So when they had tuned up their instruments, I was surprised that there were eleven people on stage when they started playing. I know, it’s punk, people clamor on stage all the time; I’m used to that concept. But when there’s a six piece band ripping the hell out of wonderfully inappropriate songs about drinking and banging juxtaposed to 5 guys dancing around slamming beers in various fashion and yelling into microphones, it’s a whole new animal; and that’s kind of a symbol for Whisky Pig itself: this fast, drunken beast that’s a little bit Punk and a little bit metal, but a whole lot of awesome. It was the first time I had experienced it in its entirety: background shouters coupled with ripping guitars and bellowing vocals against the blasting drums and thumping bass. I was entirely enthralled at the mayhem that was happening right in front of my face, which reached a moment of pure perfection at the very end. Whisky Pig? You had me at “Party Hard,” which was a great way to end the first of two shows, the night barely half-over.
I had heard the line-up order while smoking, so I rushed back inside to get as close to the stage as possible. The small crowd was now of a very sufficient size, and I managed to get myself right up by stage: it wasn’t a problem during Pyroklast’s set, when I was front and center as Tim Offensive roared above me, but by that point, space was at a bit of a premium. Regardless, I was in the perfect spot as Madison’s own quartet of delinquents, Masked Intruder, took to the stage.
If you’re keeping count at home, I knew two out of the eight bands that evening. Masked Intruder was the second. I had first caught them a few months ago playing alongside Banner Pilot, which is where they first dug their incredibly catchy, ne’er-do-well talons into my mind. So I was dedicated to taking in the whole awesomeness of Masked Intruder. That awesomeness did not disappoint. Their songs are magical in their catchiness and their general crazy gimmick. For those who don’t know, just go over to youtube, bandcamp, or straight to itunes and give them a listen. I’ll wait for you to get back. Masked Intruder does the poppiest of punk about two subjects: crime and girls. The girls thing is a given: any great pop punk band traffics almost exclusively in the subject of broken hearts and rejection. Masked Intruder traffics in broken hearts and rejection while also coming off of a three to five year sentence. It’s fun, it’s catchy as shit (I’ve had numerous Masked Intruder songs from their set stuck in my head over the past week), and perhaps most importantly, it’s good. Really good. As Red, Blue, Green, and Yellow tore it up (for those late to the party, they’re named after the color of their ski masks). I am in great anticipation for their album due out in August, especially based on one simple concept that makes pop punk awesome: the sing along. All of Masked Intruder’s songs are made for a drunken crowd to scream out as Blue sings it out above the fray (with some help from Yellow and Green). That’s what made this show even better for me than the first time I saw them: I knew the songs after listening to their First Offense EP, and just sang aloud as much as my drunken lungs could (at one point, the lead singer of Whisky Pig and I had our arms around each other singing out the lyrics to either “Gimme Parole” or “ADT Security,” I can’t remember which, exactly. Either way, I’m pregnant, so I’d appreciate a call, please). Needless to say, and regardless of any pontification on my part, go see Masked Intruder. I promise you it’s worth it.
Before I get into the band that had to follow in Masked Intruder’s felonious wake, I have to make a brief confession: this was the point during the show that I was drunk. I had plenty of Sconnie beer in me, and I wasn’t ready to stop. But goddamn, did I pay close attention. Lipstick Homicide took the stage, and I was not prepared for it.
I’m willing to admit something here before I go on: my knowledge of Iowa punk begins and ends with Modern Life is War. In fact, I can actually say I have never set foot in our neighbor to the Southwest-ish. I’ve always had this wonderful view of Iowa as similar to the small town in Southern Wisconsin where I went to highschool: farms within city limits, cornfields as far as the eye can see, and the distinct smell of agriculture (sorry to be biased, but hey, I’m a romantic). So when Lipstick Homicide started playing, my perceptions of Iowa were changed; nay, they were shattered. The three-piece, female-fronted band tore it up. Poppy, catchy punk that had me bobbing my head from start to finish. There was no question about it: their set was great. I can now double my punk band from Iowa count, and I will definitely see them play again if I get the chance, which may also include a bit of a road trip to see what else that mysterious state to the Southwest has to offer. When Lipstick Homicide was finished, I witnessed the beginning of a frenzy.
I had heard of Direct Hit before that night, and also falsely thought I had seen them once before a year or so ago. I was mistaken, and I was not prepared for the wave of awesome that the Milwaukee four-piece was about to unleash. At this point, the floor in front of the stage was packed, and when Direct Hit struck their first notes, it just erupted in people dancing and yelling along. It was insane. I have never seen people get so crazy to pop-punk before. But if there’s band to do it to, it’s Direct Hit! They have a great stage presence, getting right in the audience’s face with their fast-paced playing and cheeky attitudes. I was hooked through and through. I don’t know if Direct Hit uses some auditory-based heroin coating on their amps designed to send addictive music directly to their listeners, but I had a hard time listening to anything else for a decent amount of time after the show. I’ve used the term ‘catchy’ multiple times referring to the bands I’ve been writing about in regards to the show, but that term must be permanently etched on the members of Direct Hit. Hands down, the energy and passion they brought the stage and encouraged in the audience made an already great show amazing. There’s no doubt that I will see Direct Hit again, and as soon as possible (they’re playing with Masked Intruder at the Dragonfly Lounge here in Madison on July 21st). I was stunned, and there was still one more act to go: the Dopamines.
The tentacles of pop-punk from Minneapolis are long reaching and pervasive, and incredibly influential. The Dopamines from Cincinnati are in that same vein. They’re a more national act than the others on the list, and a band I’ve had some exposure to in the past. Comparisons to other bands ran through my head beforehand, but I’m going to refrain from listing any of them here: the Dopamines are their own monster of pop-punk awesomeness, and put on a hell of a show. The crowd, still wound up, was taunted back into another frenzy, which caused a strange phenomenon that I had not witnessed before: mainly, security standing close to the stage, trying to halt the mayhem. It kind of worked. At least one person was pulled from the crowd and bounced out, and while they stopped beer cans from being thrown by the attendees, they couldn’t stop the Dopamines from throwing them from the stage. The Dopamines have a tremendous stage presence, full of sarcasm and comments on drinking (“we don’t want to say anything bad about this place because everyone here’s been really nice to us, but when it’s five bucks for a little one ounce shot of whiskey, that’s bullshit” or something to that effect). They played hard, and I dug the hell out of it; and when the lead singer tipped the microphone stand into crowd at the end, the Majestic security was right in their fighting to pull it out of the crowd’s grasp.
There was mention by the Dopamines of hitting up Woof’s right across the street, but I had stopped drinking before Direct Hit, being a responsible adult. I imagine that was probably a scene in and of itself (if it occurred, I don’t know), but as I left the Majestic, I couldn’t stop humming the cascade of music that had just rolled through my very being. Cathartic and brilliant, it was definitely a great show. Because that’s how it happens in Madison: we don’t always get the big names and the big venues, but we don’t need that. All we need is the great local talent found in the area, fueled by their passion for what they do, coupled with other great bands on their way through town to keep everything fresh and keep everyone on their toes.