Punk, it appears, is not dead after all. This is the conclusion I came to while driving back home to Sheffield after this gig. Not the 1977 punk aesthetic, but that raw on the edge punk that thrills, revolts (in both meanings of the word), assaults, and, basically, does not give a shit. Last night’s gig at the Brudenell left me feeling confounded, excited and, most of all, provoked in the same way that an Arthouse movie may do.
It was not supposed to be that way, after all I had only really gone along to see The Hookworms, currently one of my favourite bands. I thought it would be worth the trip because Pissed Jeans were a Sub Pop band and were therefore likely to be worth seeing.
In some ways Punk is part of my DNA. I became a teenager in 1977 and, while the majority of my classmates were arguing over whether Jimmy Page or Richie Blackmore was the more proficient guitarist, I was part of a minority that took on the Year Zero attitude of punk and rejected all that had gone before (something that I finally renounced around 15 years later). Having said that Punk does not feature highly in my listening these days. I think that I have become tired of what I saw as the endless copyists and throwbacks who say and do nothing particularly new.
I thought that Pissed Jeans might well fall into this category on the limited chance I had had to listen to them before last night’s gig. I also thought, as The Hookworms ripped through their set with slab after slab of pulsating psychedelia (Away/ Towards, Radio Tokyo, Form and Function, Teen Dreams), that Pissed Jeans might have rued getting such an exciting up and coming band to support them. I was wrong..really wrong.
I do not want to take anything away from The Hookworms, they were tight and exciting; and I am already looking forward to seeing them again in September. They are getting better all the time and they deserve to get bigger (if that is what they want).
In some ways, however, they were a strange choice to support Pissed Jeans on their two UK dates; although they did seem to go down well with the headliner’s crowd.
The main reason for my post-gig contemplation was the performance of lead singer Matt Korvette who spent just over an hour cavorting through persona after persona as he delivered his message to the crowd. He began by marking American Independence Day saying that he wished America was still British: much better to have a monarch than a president “I like kings AND queens”, BOOM – about 3 clear political points in one sentence…and off they went into what, to start with, seemed like a regular punk gig.
Before long, however, I began to feel unsettled. I realised that this Insurance Adjuster from Pennsylvania was giving no ordinary performance, but one which was at the same time sexual, angry, dark, hilarious, hard-hitting, political and, strangely, both introvert and extrovert. His lyrics are very personal, and this is really played out here. May punk bands seem to want to blame the world for everything; Pissed Jeans songs take this and think about what it means to them and for themselves.
The gig drew to a close with the democratic process of stage invasion and diving, and of a member of the audience taking over from guitarist, Bradley Fry, and duetting with drummer Sean McGuiness while Korvette took photos of the event on his phone; and ended with only the ‘guest’ guitarist playing and McGuiness surfing the Brudenell crowd.
It was an extraordinary way to end an evening that will remain long in my memory: an evening where I realised that punk need not be as moribund as I thought. Quite the opposite, it can be vital, funny, angry and, most of all, unpredictable. I imagine that no two Pissed Jeans gigs are the same, particularly given Korvette’s assertion that they do not practice. This is the true punk way. Love live punk!