Gonerfest Saturday: Guitar Wolf, Armitage Shanks, New Bomb Turks and More

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After resting up from an afternoon of rock at Murphy’s Bar — The Lamps, Burning Sands and Golden Triangle all put on great shows — we were ready for the rigors of another night of rock at the Hi-Tone. And rigors there were: As Armitage Shanks frontman Dick Scum observed, “It’s fuckin ’ot in this joint, i'n'it?” Made up of five stylish men in white collar shirts and skinny black ties, the band played classic fast, stop-starty punk in the manner of Buzzcocks and The Jam. Scum provided snarly Cockney vocals, observing early on that “it’s Sat’dy night! We should be pogoing!”

The setlist included favorites like “Shut Up” and “Drowning, Not Waving.” The band sounded great, tight and enthusiastic. Scum introduced Bongo Debbie of Thee Headcoatees, wife of Shanks drummer Vic Flange, as a special guest on drums: “Thee fuckin' Headcoatees, and we married one of ’em!” (Technically, they didn’t all marry her, but we suppose it’s a communal achievement.) They covered the Television Personalities’ “Part Time Punks,” altering one key line to say that the titular punks have “got two-fifty to go and see Guitar Wolf tonight!” As their set ended, Scum enthused that this was “the biggest fucking crowd we’ve ever played to!”

The next band to take the stage was New Bomb Turks, known for their ultra-fast, aggressive garage punk. “You call this Saturday night? I call this Saturday morning, motherfuckers!” exclaimed lead singer Eric Davidson, in what was to be one of many aggressive remarks. They played “It Just Don’t Matter” and “Born Toulouse-Lautrec.” Davidson had a memorable stage presence — the fit-looking lead singer was continually waggling his tongue, jumping up and down, posing outrageously and shouting lyrics into band members’ and fans’ ears. His performance was part Henry Rollins aggressive, part campy.

The crowd was into it, and we spotted a guy in a George W. Bush Halloween mask with swastika crowd-surfing. Davidson: “You people have spunk beyond your years.” He introduced the band (Sam Brown, Eric Davidson, Matt Reber, Jim Weber), made a semi-inspiring remark about how there’s no time like the present, and then commanded, “Let us dance in the spirit of that bullshit I just said — even that guy in the Damned T-shirt with the really long sideburns. Nice mutton chops. Your mother must be proud of you.” Ha!

Most Guitar Wolf Fans express their feelings with words like “awesome!” and “bad fuckin’ ass,” and with good reason: Their music just doesn’t lend itself to measured critical reflection. This was clear as soon as they came out in their signature black leather and sunglasses. Drum Wolf and Bass Wolf established a rhythm first, and the crowd was getting rowdy before Guitar Wolf (aka Seiji) began playing. Seiji has as much rock star charisma as it’s possible to imagine, and impressed us with his heroics, aiming his guitar at the crowd like a machine gun during “Machine Gun Guitar.” His stage patter, although difficult to make out, was also entertaining: “Motherfucker … [inaudible] motherfucker!” The set list also included “Jet Generation” and "Wild Zero.”

Seiji’s Ramones- and Link Wray-inspired playing is amazing, but the band’s overall guitar tone is perhaps the most distinctive aspect of their live performance — a crushing, ultra-distorted rumble not quite like any we’ve heard before. Seiji finished up with a wild solo number. We could have headed a few streets over for a Cheap Time after-party, but we were looking forward to the cool, quiet and solitude of our hotel room. We’ll be back next year, though.

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