GBH, Angry Samoans, Reagan Youth and Burning Streets played Gramercy Theater (pics, videos)
photos by Greg Cristman
GBH / Angry Samoans / Reagan Youth @ Gramercy Theatre - 9/26/14
Back in July it was announced that Reagan Youth and Angry Samoans would be canceling their NYC and Boston shows to instead hit the road with G.B.H. for their 35th anniversary tour. The tour roared through NYC on Friday September 26 for a not-quite-sold-out but still very packed gig at the Gramercy Theater.
Since three of the four bands on the bill date all the way back to the late '70s/early '80s, I brought along with me one of my best buds of all time who was a lower east side skinhead back in the mid '80s and who has seen these bands (and hundreds more) back in the day when everyone was basically just a kid. Incidentally, my friend has a brother was was famously paralyzed at a Cro Mags show at the Ritz (now Webster Hall) in the mid-'80s when a skinhead he fought prior to the show jumped from the balcony straight onto him, snapping his neck. That particular show was being filmed for a movie, and the tragic incident occurred while Cro Mags were playing their classic "Hard Times." Video of that very performance is below. Being with my buddy who basically had to drop out of high school to take care of his brother really made me think of this whole Joyce Manor stage-diving mess. I am of the opinion that stage diving is ingrained into the roots and the very culture of punk and hardcore and that any injuries are an occupational hazard. If you are at a show where there might be stage diving and don't want to be injured, then hang back. However, having this friend whose brother suffered a life altering injury at a hardcore show (though, it was an intentional balcony dive and not a stage dive), I can see where Joyce Manor is coming from too. It's a tightrope people. I guess at the end of the day, I don't really give a shit either way. I'm an old man. At one point in between bands, "Hard Times" played over the house system. My buddy sang along word for word. But. I. Digress.
I completely missed Boston-based outfit Burning Streets and arrived at the venue early into Reagan Youth's set. How were Burning Streets? Having never seen Reagan Youth but knowing a lot about their history and the fact that they have one original member, 3 dead previous members, and dozens of other previous members, I didn't really have high hopes for a very compelling performance. And I have to say they were a really mixed bag. When they played their vintage stuff, it absolutely ripped. But the newer stuff was overflowing with wanky guitar riffs and annoying slam-poetry type ranting. It felt like I was watching someone's band practice. It was a bummer; their old material versus their new material was night and day, and I get the feeling everyone preferred hearing the earlier stuff.
Angry Samoans were up next and their set was an absolute killer. I have never seen the Angry Samoans, but I have always loved them. Their brand of hardcore punk is a superior mix of oddball humor and oddball themes and their Gramercy setlist did a great job of capitalizing on these motifs. Highlights included "They Saved Hitler's Cock," "My Dad's a Fatso," "Homo-Sexual," and so many more. Beyond his work with the Angry Samoans, singer and occasional drummer "Metal" Mike Saunders is actually a pretty interesting and anomalous-to-the-scene guy. Not only did he study accounting and make a career out of being an accountant throughout his career with the Samoans, he is also credited with coining the phrase "heavy metal" way back in 1970 when he reviewed Humble Pie's "As Safe As Yesterday Is" for Rolling Stone Magazine. He is such an interesting dude. He was hanging out at the merch booth after the show. I regret not taking a second to talk with him for a while.
After an extremely satisfying set by Angry Samoans, it was time for punk veterans GBH to take the stage. Let's face it: punk is 100% style over substance. People spend more time perfecting their "look" than most celebrities do prior to strolling the red carpet. Musically, it is the easiest genre to play in. Stylistically, it is by far the vainest "look at me!" genre in the books. Therefore, the older I get, the harder it is for me to get jazzed about punk rock. It's a joke and punk fans are ghastly dorks. Sorry punks. That said, GBH absolutely destroyed the Gramercy Theater. After 35 years, they seem to keep the genre interesting and very much alive. Maybe it comes down to the fact that three of the members have been in the band since its inception 35 years ago. Their drummer, although not an original member, has been with them for over 17 years. I think there is a lot to be said about that level of consistency and it really shows in their live performances. They tore through their album Leather, Bristles, Studs, and Acne which took up a majority of the set. After that they played 10 or more classics (I lost count) like "City Baby Attacked By Rats" and "Kids Get Down." I had a blast during their set, and it was great to see my buddy bring his old school pit techniques to the dainty legions of new school punks and basically scare them shitless.
More pictures and a few videos from the show, plus that Cro-Mags video, below...