Last updated on September 17th, 2018 at 09:02 pm
It’s a hot night in Saint Paul and I am sitting at the bar of the Turf Club with a drink in my hand and a smile on my face. I just picked up some swanky new Red Fang merch and I couldn’t be happier.
I’ve been to the Turf Club a handful of times for shows, seeing some of my favorite bands and have yet to be disappointed. Tonight will be no different and you can feel it in the air.
I make my way up to the stage, I am bound and determined to park myself in the front for the duration of the show.
Dillinger Four takes the stage around 8:30 pm and after a little hemming and hawing Billy, one of the guitarists, leans into the mic and says, “Well, should we get this birthday party started?”
With a loud cheer from the crowd, we are off to the races.
Hometown hero’s Dillinger Four is one of those hugely influential bands that has had a massive effect on not only the music scene in the Twin Cities but the punk scene as a whole.
They also somehow managed to fly under my radar until about two years ago, so seeing them live right in front of me is a wonderful feeling.
There is a very good reason they have had such an effect on people. They are fantastic. Their sound is everything you could hope for in a punk band: tight punchy guitars, deep growly bass, fast splashy drumming covered in catchy lyrics that are relatable and easy to sing along to. The whole formula is held together with a “let’s give them hell and have some fun” attitude.
There is something for everyone in their set. Need something straight ahead and fast-paced? You have “Nobel Stabbings.”
Want more angst and realism? You got, “A floater left with pleasure in the executive washroom.”
Craving something that is unabashedly poppy that you can sing along to? You have “Gainsville”
If you call yourself a punk music fan and you can’t find one song in their whole set that makes you want to run around with your fist in the air.
Sing along at the top of your lungs or wiggle your butt just a little, then perhaps you should check your pulse because the rest of us are having a great time.
Between sets, I got to chatting with one of the guys in the crowd. Turns out the show tonight was set up by Erik from D4 for a friend of the band’s birthday.
What a great present, right?
He goes on to ask me if I know the bands? I say I don’t know anyone personally, I just know the music and in the case of the next band, the Cro-Mags, I just know that they are considered pioneers.
“John Joseph is the best frontman ever!” He exclaims, “He is just the best, you’ll see.” Well, now I am even more excited about what’s to happen next.
The Cro-mags take the stage and as soon as they hit the first note the room explodes.
The mosh pit opens up right at my back and I trigger down on my camera as fast as I can to catch the action on stage, between jolts from the people behind me.
You see, the Cro-Mags really are pioneers, the name says it all. They were one of the very first bands to mix hardcore punk with thrash metal, creating a whole new breed of music.
They are the rough around the edges diamond that got everyone in the scene to stand up and pay attention in the 80’s.
Their all-killer, no filler approach mixes hardcore punks short song structure, breakdowns, and lyrical chanting with thrash metals frantic and frenzied musical assault.
In short, it is blistering and beautiful. The lyrics are life as real as it gets, and are representative of the time they were written. It is hard not to feel like a kid on the streets of New York City in the 80’s when you hear them.
That is not to say in any way that they are dated and out of step. The song “sign of the times,” written in ’82, proves that point with lines like,“I’m looking around me and don’t like what I see, corruption all around me, cause these, these are the signs of the times. Seems like they’re losing their minds.”
If that doesn’t sound at all familiar to today I don’t know what world you are living in.
Their whole set is like a buzzsaw tearing through the room and John Joseph is, as predicted, a fantastic frontman.
For a guy in his 50’s, he has more energy than many 20-year-olds. But he doesn’t leave you behind at all. He keeps you right with him all the way through the set.
Because punk music is nothing without community, his mic is the crowd’s mic, his stage is yours.
If you want to grab the mic and scream a line he will give you the chance, if you want to get up on stage and dive off on to your friends, you will have that chance too.
By the time the time their set ends the whole club feels about 10 degrees hotter, everyone around me has a sheen of sweat on them and everything feels a little slick to the touch.
Now it is time for Portland Oregon’s Red Fang to go to work and I couldn’t be more excited.
I love this band, I was in all the way from the first time I heard their first self-titled album.
Their approach to stoner metal is such that it makes that moniker seem ill-fitting. While they do indeed have a sound that centers around mammoth guitar riffs that are thick, chewy, and will beat you right over the head.
They also have a punk sense of urgency and classic rock bawdiness that makes you want to want to sing, dance and crack open a cold one right with them.
Their whole set is full of absolute bangers that spanned the band’s four-album catalog; from newer tracks like, “cut it short” and “No air” to older favorites like “bird on fire” and “wires.” They even included their cover of Tubeway Army’s “listen to the sirens“.
Closing out their set was their immediately classic, “prehistoric dog.” A song that manages to fully encompass all of the band’s greatest qualities.
Their dual guitar attack shares Thin Lizzy-ish harmonies, grounded by big ballsy full-throated bass and snappy booming drums that catch you right in the chest. The vocals by Bassist Arron Beam and guitarist Bryan Giles fit perfectly together.
This is one of those bands that has a lot of fun doing what they do.
It shows at every level. I have yet to see another metal band that looks like they are having as much fun on stage as Red Fang. I swear I saw smiles. Smiles! From a metal band, ON STAGE!
It also shows in their music videos. Which if you have never seen any of them go watch their video for the song “prehistoric dog” and work forward.
I dare you to find another band that can write such serious songs while having such fun silly videos. They are a joy unto themselves.
This show exceeded my expectations and I can’t wait to see any of these bands again. You should see them too if you have the chance, you won’t be sorry.