This Little Underground: The Ted Nugent dilemma

Plus live reviews of OFF!, Gay Kiss, Bad Antics


That’s the thing about being a chronic blow-hard. Everyone will always have their ruler out to see if your dick is as big as your mouth. And for a grade-A gasbag like Ted Nugent (Aug. 12, the Beacham), that’s quite a corner to be painted into. Like answers over a megaphone to questions no one asked, this gadfly has spent a lifetime cramming his opinions down the public gullet with eye-rolling bombast. At this point, perhaps only a saint can disassociate his politics from anything else he does.

But the music fan in me is willing to try to look past his gaping assholery because I’ve never seen the Nuge live, and it’s supposed to be something else. So, walking in, the question is whether he – by sheer force of talent and show – can move this listener away from the distraction of his attention-whoring blather and toward whatever greatness he’s said (mostly by himself) to have.

His famous decibel count was there – but I’ve seen Swans, Melvins and Jucifer, so whatever. But it turns out the old coot’s still a flamethrower as an axeman and helms his screaming guitar-rock with command. Was it badass enough, however, to outweigh his self-loaded baggage? Well, let’s see, there was lots of salty jingoism and almost as much cheap flag-waving as you’d see at a Toby Keith concert (I’m guessing on that one since I’ve never been to one and can’t conceive of ever going – everyone has a line). But, basically, there was enough hawkish, entitled patriotism to be dubious of a draft-dodger like Nugent. Let’s not even get into the false macho of being all poster-boy gung-ho and shit about popping off guns in a civilian context but pussy in the face of possibly seeing some real action in Vietnam. But wait, that’s beside the musical point. See how those loud politics can get in the way?

Anyway, there was also lots of Obama-hating. Oh, and there was that reference to the black hollow-body Gibson he used on “Cat Scratch Fever” as his “black girlfriend.” Goddamn, that dude’s hard to like and even harder to take seriously with each spoken word. That’s why I’m thinking my agnostic ass is at least halfway to sainthood by acknowledging his onstage power despite his bottomless bullshit.

On a procedural note though, I’ve been to some rough, sometimes seriously dangerous shows amid everyone from skinheads to gangbangers. But never before have I appreciated the Beacham’s metal-detecting entry protocols more than at this Yosemite Sam parade.

The Beat

OFF! (Aug. 13, Backbooth) kicks legitimate ass. It’s maybe the most stacked punk band going, and it’s the best, most relevant thing Keith Morris has been involved with since his O.G. days. But I’ve already seen the supergroup a couple times already. I made this performance a special point because the Melvins’ Dale Crover was filling in on drums. I suppose I knew better than to expect the band might shift shape around him, but – I ain’t gonna lie – the fantasy existed. Well, they didn’t do anything of the sort, but they tore it up like they’ve always done.

Southern California longhairs Bad Antics were also good. A rubber-burning punk squad with the technique of a serious rock band, they’re fast enough to qualify but not so breakneck that they can’t flash some flair and throw some fiery licks. Since the early crowd was still shy, the singer just decided to use the floor as his personal performance zone. No bitching, no begging the audience to move closer – he just got down there and warmed it up himself. That’s how you do it.

But the surprise standout of the night was Phoenix’s Gay Kiss, whose dark, dense sound is one tough, paranoid and intriguing beast. Imposing a very welcome expansion to the narrow hardcore spectrum, their raging punk invoked bleak and provocative atmospherics found more in noise rock and deathrock. And it made a huge difference in their sum total. Even by orthodox hardcore metrics, Gay Kiss is a real force. But with their effective twists on the form, they’re a band to take serious note of now.

Wasted years: Photos from Off!, Gay Kiss and Bad Antics at Backbooth

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