Brick & Mortar, San Francisco
May 7, 2015
At the end of the night this was easily my favorite show of 2015 so far.. Yes, it was more fun than seeing Metallica for free with free food and alcohol. Dead Men Walking were completely off my radar until literally 3 or 4 days prior to this show. How can that happen in this Interwebs day of instant info!? I quickly learned that Lemmy's rockabilly side band The Headcat was spawned with Slim Jim Phantom after his involvement with the Roots Rock / Rockabilly vibe of Dead Men Walking. For the newbies (like Umlaut) here's a list of the revolving cast of musicians who have spent time performing in Dead Men Walking:
Slim Jim Phantom – Stray Cats
Captain Sensible – The Damned
Mike Peters – The Alarm
Chris Cheney – The Living End
Duff McKagan – Guns N’ Roses
Fred Armisen – Saturday Night Live / Portlandia
Kirk Brandon – Spear of Destiny
Glen Matlock – Sex Pistols
Pete Wylie – The Mighty Wah!
Billy Duffy – The Cult
Brian Setzer – Stray Cats
Lemmy – Motörhead
Topper Headon – The Clash
Bruce Watson – Big Country
Mick Jones – The Clash
Wow, right!? Amazing. Given the level of music history represented by the participants it's an interesting way for a band to exist in this day and age. Tonight's version of Dead Men Walking was made up of Slim Jim, Captain Sensible, Mike Peters, Chris Cheney with a guest appearance by Jello Biafra. I have seen all of the members in either their previous or current bands so I couldn't really picture them sharing the stage. It was that sense of the unknown and the opportunity to see something inspired and new which made it easy for me to leave Casa de Umlaut for the show.
However, upon arriving at the venue I was stunned by how empty it was as there were literally only 6 or 7 other people in the room only minutes before Barb Wire Dolls were due to start... but it never gets old seeing Jello enter a show through the front door like any other civilian. Thankfully once the night got started the room filled up to a respectable level.. but it was still not nearly as crowded as it should have been given the headliner.
I'll save time and simply say that Barb Wire Dolls started out of the gate good and the singer does her best to channel Wendy O. Williams... and they did hold my attention for a bit.. but then the songs got samey and the band really is very-L.A... so I'm sure they translate well down south.. but by the middle of their set I was deep in conversation at the bar with a Prohibition Ale.
I didn't know what to expect from Dead Men Walking since I knew so little about them...but once they strapped on their gear and got started I was totally into them. No bullshit. No pretenses... and all of the members were smiling from ear to ear the entire set. It was obvious they were having a great time simply playing music together.
The band's original songs are not throw away songs and I recognized most of them from the quick listens I'd given their new album via a pre-release stream. The old man Music Geek in Umlaut is still resistant to listening to music like that... but the 21st Century Music Geek in Umlaut liked what he heard and will be buying the album.
The set was peppered with nods to the participants other bands and included a couple of songs that Peters did with The Alarm.. but sadly not '68 Guns'. Honesty is my only excuse: Umlaut liked The Alarm.. They were a grittier U2 but from Wales and I saw them in the 80's. Slim Jim's old band got the nod with a great version of 'Rumble In Brighton' and Captain Sensible's legacy was trotted out with 'Smash It Up'. The camaraderie between the current members of the band was obvious as Peters and Slim Jim told the story of how they first met in London in 1980. It was the type of loose, F-U-N vibe that my life has been missing by only going to see dour Metal bands. Nothing against Metal of course.. but I'm needing the variety now more than ever.
After a rip roaring main set, Jello Biafra swaggered onstage (introducing himself as Fred Armisen.. HAHA!) and watching him sing The Stray Cats 'Rock This Town' while swinging his hips was a complete revelation! This was followed by a great version of the DK's 'Let's Lynch The Landlord' dedicated to all the renters in rent-crazy San Francisco and then a rip roaring 'I Fought The Law' (non-Dan White lyrics).. and then the F-U-N night closed with Jello and Captain Sensible sharing vocals on The Damned's 'New Rose'. Fantastic!
This show was the type of head cleaning live music experience that I sorely needed. I didn't do a merch audit... I've really been spacing about remembering to do them. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced kids called me a fag. Full disclosure: Umlaut will probably not be ranting about too many Metal shows in this space for the near future. Even if I attend some my head has simply been hard pressed to think of anything I haven't already said before about the Metal shows. We will see... but I can't imagine any Metal show being so positive and F-U-N like this was without spraying (fake) blood on folks.
"I gotta New Rose..."