CRIME / SALEM LIGHTS / KILLER’S KISS, 10-1-04
I went to a reunion of “San Francisco’s first and only rock and roll band”, CRIME, over 12 years ago. This review, from my old Agony Shorthand blog, is the story of that night.
CRIME / SALEM LIGHTS / KILLER’S KISS, 10-1-04, Thee Parkside, San Francisco…..
My evening started at a high-society benefit/Q&A with “Curb Your Enthusiasm”’s LARRY DAVID, which I had to high-tail it from in order to find a way to crash the massive, big deal, ultra-secret-but-everyone’s-talking-about-it CRIME reunion show.
The Larry David thing was packed with black-clad matrons in pashmina wrap-arounds & 5-inch heels, former mayors, back-slapping titans of industry, and glistening glitterati as far as the eye could see. Obviously I was a tight fit with that crowd, my people. Storming the Crime thing right afterward, I found a great American (CO) had thankfully secured me a rare ticket, and that there were plenty to be had regardless.
Apparently they kept the reunion of San Francisco’s first and only rock and roll band a little too secret, but by the time the band got on there were a bunch of hooters & hollerers amped and ready for ‘77-style action. There was even a posse of awesome leather-clad, mirror-shaded Japanese hipsters right out of the Shinjuku underground & straight off the JAL flight from Tokyo, as there always seems to be whenever there’s a big “garage rock” festival in San Francisco. This was the kick-off night of a 3-day “Budget Rock” fiesta, so let’s quit the gawking and start talking about the rocking.
It was great to see KILLER’S KISS back up this year’s loud-ass 45 with an equally tough set. They’re probably the closest thing this coast has in spirit and approach to the REIGNING SOUND, but with a little more in the way of 60s-style growling & pummeling. One guitarist is all about propelling the song forward, the other about jarring feedback and screech, and there’s a anarchronistic female keyboardist pounding away to make herself heard above the racket. A fine way to get the eardrums in shape and my game face on.
I was really surprised by the SALEM LIGHTS, not simply because that was my Mom’s 1970s brand of choice. These guys reminded me of nothing so much as one of my drunk-era early 90s faves, THE HUMPERS, with a glammy Small Faces/Mott The Hoople overlay to big, bombastic, meaty hooks. Another blow-the-sockets rock band, one with one killer crunching song often another. I thoroughly enjoyed them with only a mere sheet to the wind, and in response to the inevitable question – were they simply a “middle band”? I say no way! I’m calling in my pint orders ahead of time next time these guys hit a local stage.
I’ve vacillated on my I-don’t-do-reunion-shows stance after seeing Mission of Burma a couple times, but after CRIME’s flat, lackluster set I’m thinking of clamping the lid back on. I figure these guys – these Crime guys – really don’t deserve a ritual flogging; I mean it was 2/4th of the godlike legends CRIME, right, and you have to throw out some big props just for trying to give it another go. But perhaps it never really dawned on me just what an outstanding guitar player the deceased-since-1996 FRANKIE FIX was, and how that patented ungodly wailing guitar sound was his & his alone. JOHNNY STRIKE, bless him, was and remains a competant rhythm guitarist, but you lose Fix’s incredible 3-second leads (leads that make tracks like, oh, say “Hot Wire My Heart”, unlike any punk or rock & roll band ever) and you lose a LOT.
Pat Ryan from the NUNS stood in tonight but it just wasn’t there. Was there really ever anything more to the Nuns than a beautiful girl, “Decadent Jew”, and friends in the right places? Maybe. I’m feeling generous. But when they tried to play “Hot Wire My Heart”, it was almost unrecognizable without that squealing guitar squirting out like molten toothpaste after every lyric.
They also did “Murder By Guitar” and “Piss On Your Dog”, and maybe another one from the olde days, but it appears this new Crime are going to give the reunion thing a real college try, and that this was the first of several shows to come. Thus, they’ve written a whole suite of new songs, none of which stuck out as particularly memorable nor annoying – songs that just sort of flopped around on the floor begging for attention.
And despite being lucky enough to share a stage with Johnny Strike and Hank Rank, whose hour this really should have been, the garrulous bass player kept bleating about “We’re gonna” this and “We are Crime” that. Dude. A little respect! I too once dreamt I’d be standing up on stage as Ron The Ripper, but in my sweat-bathed dream, I kept as quiet as a churchmouse and let the real warhorses bask in the glory they’d earned. So hey, call it first-night jitters or maybe the soft bigotry of high expectations. I truly applaud Johnny & Hank for getting out there on the rock campaign trail again, but I think I’ve seen what I needed to see of the 21st Century CRIME.