Ben Weasel at the Knitting Factory
Ben Weasel, frontman for pop-punk bands Screeching Weasel and the Riverdales (and now a solo artist), played his first two shows EVER in Los Angeles this weekend. I went to the Saturday show and felt something I had felt at a punk show in more than a decade: excitement and fun.
I'm 29 and by music standards, that's old and lame. But that's fine because I am old and lame. I don't sing along anymore. I don't stand up front. Hell, I rarely go to shows and when I do, it's usually some sit-down jazz thing, not something where I know punks will be bashing into themselves.
But Weasel was a whole different bag.
Screeching Weasel was one of the first punk bands I got into as a teenager and instantly they became one of those groups that made the hairs on my pubscent arms stand up. The older I get, the further I travel from punk, but SW is one of those special artists that still does it for me.
Based on Saturday night, I think those tunes will still be doing it for me for a long, long time.
These shows were special for a few years. First, as I mentioned, Ben Weasel has never played LA in any band. The fact that he's been a well-known singer for nearly two decades and isn't from some war-torn country halfway around the world and never played the second largest market in the country speaks for itself. But the other reason was the inclusion of long-time SW/Riverdales member Danny Vapid. SW did records without Vapid, but to me, you can't have Screeching Weasel without him. His back-up voice is too essential to the songs for him not to be there. But that's my opinion.
So even though founding guitarist Jughead wasn't there, this was as close to the real Screeching Weasel as LA was ever going to get. And the band didn't disappoint.
The fact that the show was billed as a Ben Weasel solo gig allowed him to dip into his entire repetoire. But the singer knows what side his bread's buttered on as the majority of the show was SW hits. The small room at the Knitting Factory went apeshit when they opened with "Cindy's on Methadone" and kept the emotions high for the better part of an hour.
The set was raining hits as we got treated to "Peter Brady," "My Brain Hurts," "You Are My Sunshine," "Every Night," "Ding Bat," "Veronica Hates Me," "Cool Kids," "Guest List," "I Can See Clearly," "The Science of Myth," "What We Hate," "I'm Gonna Strange You," "Joanie Loves Johnny," "This Ain't Hawaii" and a whole bunch more.
I think it was three songs (and three beers) in when I throw off my old man duds and leaped out of the proverbial phonebooth ala Superman for a time-travel back to when I was the kid who stood up front, threw my hands in the air and waved them like I just didn't care. Hearing these songs live, the songs that literally shaped my teenage years, was way too much fun to sit with my arms folded in the back of the room. I got up there and went for it and probably had a massive grin on my face the whole time doing it.
Weasel didn't say much, but did mention he got shit in Chicago for trying to sell merch. He explained that he and his wife operate a farm and all the money spent on merch would help the cows. He asked the crowd to name one cow who ever hurt a person, but no one could come up with a decent response. I wanted to see Taft (that fat motherfucker), but I kept that to myself.
To make things even sweeter, San Pedro's the Underground Railroad to Candyland opened. Their tunes get my feet tapping and my ass shaking and the pogoers in front of me were bouncing so much the floor at the Knitting Factory started to dip. Good times.
I'm glad I went and would highly recommend anyone who had a Screeching Weasel fixation at some point in their life to see Ben Weasel if he comes to your town. You'll be glad you did.
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