It is 1:45 in the AM, I am extremely tired, and I smell like a hell-spun mixture of beer, cigarette smoke, and ass; none of which was mine, but all of which somehow ended up all over me. I would love more than anything to climb into bed with my lady and sleep the night away, but I have to get this experience out of my head before I forget it all. Plus, the late night might inspire some quirkiness of my verbiage and vocabulary that might be entertaining for you all. Where in the F do I begin…
I had the opportunity of going to see Guttermouth tonight – one of my favorite bands growing up. I have seen them somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 to 10 times over the years, but it has been a while since the last time I saw them. In fact, I haven’t been to many punk shows lately, as I’ve been cutting my teeth at mostly hardcore and metal shows. I’m not sure if I forgot how different punk shows were, or if this show was unique, but it was an experience I am not likely to forget any time soon.
As we walked up to the Tiki Bar, a 21 and older club/bar, I could already see that I stuck out like a sore thumb. I have always prided myself on my ability to dress differently from the fans of the music I listen to, while still remaining within the stylistic ball park. Tonight was a whole other story, as I had chosen to wear some khaki shorts, a white Make Do and Mend shirt, a blue Dodgers hat, and my Toms. This might not sound too jarring, but considering that I was amongst a crowd of black shirts, denim vests, Chuck Taylors, and plaid shirts, I had might as well have been wearing a suit and tie. Add to the fact that I am 6’3 and 285 lbs and you begin to see my point. We got to the venue at around 9:00 and the first band, Unit F, had just started playing. WTF? With a life-time of all ages shows under my belt, have I just been taking advantage of the early start times, or is that abnormally late? I’d love to tell you about the three opening bands (Sidekick and El Centro also played) but I honestly didn’t pay any attention. I was there for Guttermouth, and trying to acclimatize. Luckily, my Dodgers hat was a brilliant ice breaker, but there is only so long I can talk about how terrible the Dodgers are before I want to start slitting my wrists. The point of this diversion is that the crowd was surprisingly friendly. Not that hardcore kids are all assholes, but I feel like everyone usually keeps to themselves at hardcore shows. Of course, that might have something to with the lack of alcohol.
Regardless, I met and talked with a slew of different people, all genuine in their interest of what I had to say about whatever it was that we were talking about, and all with a story of their own. Short guy that works construction and has struggled with crime and drugs his whole life? Check. Singer for local punk band not on the bill tonight (who was also a Giants fan, grrr)? Check. Random dude that I had to lie to and say I liked Emmure so as to not come off like a douche? Check. Singers from two of the opening bands? Check. Dirty punk chick with crusty 15 year-old denim vest? Check. I know it’s random that I talked to two of the singers for the opening bands, but I did, and they both oddly approached me in conversation. And it was a sold out show. See? Odd, right? It was probably the khakis.
The cherry on the top of the night (other than Guttermouth, don’t worry I’ll get there eventually) was running into an old friend from high school that I worked with at In N Out and hadn’t seen in 15 years. I still cannot believe how hammered this guy was. He was so far gone that I got the super weird vibe from him that you get from crazy homeless people where you almost expect them to lash out at you randomly so you are always on the defensive. After talking with him for a good 20 minutes, I still wasn’t positive that he even remembered me or knew who I was. I kept asking, “Do you remember me?” and he kept answering, “It’s all good.” It’s all good? What does that even mean? Unfortunately for me, he followed me into the show and proceeded to play drums on my back and shoulders through the first 7 or 8 songs before I got fed up and moved to the back.
It was somewhere around 12:30 am when Guttermouth took the stage. I say Guttermouth, but what really took the stage was Mark Adkins and four other dudes I have never seen before, all clad in Hawaiian shirts. Apparently sometime in the last five years, all the original members left the band. That being said, once the band launched into ‘The Dreaded Sea Lice Have Come Abroad,’ the crowd went crazy and it didn’t matter any more. I should note that the last time I saw Guttermouth, it was somewhat of a pathetic showing. The venue was half empty, at a capacity of 800, and the people that were in attendance seemed far from stoked to be there. In contrast, the Tiki Bar is a 250 capacity and was sold out. Since the venue is so small, barricades were non existent, which really made the show.
As the band ran through classics like ‘Race Track,’ ‘Hit Machine,’ and ‘Bakers Dozen,’ the crowd was busy rocking the mosh pit and holding the front lines, making sure that Adkins had some help on the mic. This is how punk rock is supposed to be played. Nothing kills the spirit of punk more than a damn barricade. A punk show is an experience between band and crowd that is shared with blood, sweat, and sometimes (unfortunately) spit. You can’t do that with a barricade. The show continued its roaring pace with the band playing crowd pleasers ‘LipStick’ and ‘Lucky the Donkey’ off of Musical Monkey. What impressed me the most was the energy of front man Mark Adkins. He must be pushing 45 now and he kept it going the entire show like his life depended on it. Knowing Mark, he was probably on some kind of pills or blow, as he has been known to dabble in such substances in the past, and it is impossible for any human in his 40s to have that much energy. Were most of the songs a sloppy, drunken mess? Yeah. Probably. Isn’t that the beauty of punk rock, though? If I want calculated musicianship played to a steady time, I’ll go to a Rush concert. I, and the rest of the crowd, came to the Tiki Bar to see a dirty display of pure punk aggression, mixed with the antics that Guttermouth has long been known for, and we got it.
As far as the set list went, they kept it pretty frantic throughout the night, playing fan favorites off their many albums. Highlights included ‘End on 9,’ ‘Derek,’ ‘She’s Got the Look,’ and ‘Can I Borrow Some Ambition?’ The crowd seemed more interested in moshing and moving their feet than what the band was actually playing, but I would imagine that they were satisfied. In my extensive experience with Guttermouth, they have never had a problem playing the crowd favorites and catering to their fans. Tonight was no different, as songs from their self-titled debut were mixed in with tracks off of their last few albums on Volcom Entertainment.
Overall, this performance screamed 1997. Let me put it this way: I have seen a lot of bands live that are towards the tail ends of their careers. In most cases it seems as if the band is on strings and being controlled by a master puppeteer. They are there, but they aren’t really there. You hear the songs and can see the band moving around on stage, but something is missing. Guttermouth have now been around 24 years, and I can honestly tell you that seeing them tonight was just as good, if not better than it was when I first saw them in 1997. The craziness was still going down at 1:15 am, so I had to call it a night and check out before closing time (some of us work you know). I imagine the show continued in pure Guttermouth fashion, with all the antics and riff raff ensuing (I forgot to mention that I saw one guy get dragged out by five angry bouncers and that the cops showed up and looked as if they might break it all up, but didn’t). It was a weird and random night, but it was nice to return to my roots, if only for a few hours, and be awestruck one more time by a band I considered all but dead.