Royal Headache, The Arrivals, Condominium live, Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis, MN, 6/9/12
It was with some intrigue and, admittedly, mostly trepidation that I made my way to the Triple Rock last night to see Sydney, Australia’s Royal Headache. Originally my curiosity had been piqued because Extreme Noise, the beloved local volunteer-run punk rock record store, was sponsoring the event. Rarely do they attach their name to something that isn’t completely worthwhile. Yet, my apprehension levels had skyrocketed right about the time I read Royal Headache’s press release, which stated “They craft tight, irresistible, R&B-inflected punk songs, and hone a universal message of redemption through passion.” Now I understand a thing or two about drumming up interest in a band, especially when paid to do so, so I was not scared off so much by the “universal message of redemption through passion” part. That’s just one of those puzzling strings of words that press release writers craft in hopes that it will give their product some attention. No, what made me cringe was the “R&B-inflected punk songs” part. Other than hip-hop or the increasingly rare musical side of Justin Timberlake, I don’t really get into “R&B-inflected” anything, let alone punk. In the early ‘00s when everyone was in front of the stage shaking their hips to the Bellrays or the Dirtbombs, I was at the bar irritably ordering more drinks, wondering how I got duped into believing this was punk. So, despite the chances being high that Royal Headache would be something I ultimately wasn’t going to enjoy, I begrudgingly drug myself off the couch and out the door to see what all the hubbub was about anyway. Besides, Condominium was one of the opening acts, and passing up an opportunity to see them would be foolish.
Condominium were as compelling as ever. If I had to guess, this was probably the first time many of the people present had seen them, as they were clearly the odd band out on the bill. Their brand of noisy, arty hardcore is best served in smaller rooms, but that didn’t stop them from winning over the sparsely populated crowd at the Triple Rock. Condominim has that It Factor, and they proved it again last night, just like they do every time out.
The Arrivals were next. Complete with the prerequisite beer bellies and beards, they played the type of music that, to the best of my knowledge, thrives amongst the pages of Raczorcake Magazine and annual festivals in Gainesville, FL. Unfortunately, at this point It doesn't come across as the loveable Midwestern pop-punk that it once was—now it’s more like schmaltzy classic rock. Not that all classic rock is bad (see: the Dazed and Confused soundtrack and its companion piece Even More Dazed and Confused) but this type was—it was just completely uninspired and tiresome. And made even more agonizing when they allowed the hopelessly unlikeable Jesse Thorson on stage during “Simple Pleasures In America.” Punk rock for bros, bro.
By the time Royal Headache took the stage they were well received by the small but enthusiastic audience. It was clear that the majority of the folks in attendance were familiar with the band’s record, as they were all singing along from start to end. I don’t know why, but I was slightly taken back at first by just how much everyone was into it. Bodies were gyrating at a feverous pace, believe me. I guess I was expecting there would be more people like me, which had not ever heard a lick of the band, but were there strictly on the basis that Extreme Noise put their stamp of approval on it. There were some—most notably Drew Ailes, singer of local hardcore standouts Brain Tumors—that looked a little bewildered by what they had stumbled upon, but for the most part, everyone seemed to be unabashedly enjoying themselves. It’s not hard to tell that Royal Headache comes from a punk background, as the band physically strikes a familiar hardcore pose—guitarist Law and bassist Joe, standing legs spread, heads bobbing; drummer Shorty pounding the skins on a smallish kit with intensity; Shogun the singer, stalking vehemently back and forth across the stage, holding the microphone close with both hands, and leaning out over the audience. If you saw these guys without sound, you’d think they were like Bear Trap or Manipulation or something. But, that’s the strange thing right there. Despite the ferocious energy put forth in appearance, the sound emanating from the stage was on a totally different level. It was sugary and sweet and clean and…well, it was pop music. There were certainly elements of soul, R&B, mod, and even ‘70s style punk, but by and large it was straight-up pop music. And they were playing it under a giant Extreme Noise banner behind that stage that said “PUNK ROCK.” Neither the band nor anyone boogying their asses off in the crowd seemed to be at all embarrassed by this and it was completely baffling to me. And in retrospect, that was actually pretty goddamn cool.
Royal Headache: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Royal-Headache/136799649689670
Extreme Noise Records: http://www.extremenoise.com/
Triple Rock Social Club: http://www.triplerocksocialclub.com/
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