Turns out sock hops still happen, in the form of the weekly Side Door Audition Night, every Tuesday, as young bands skip onstage with their rock & roll gear -- electric guitars, bass, drums -- with the hope of someday making it to the big time and landing that prestigious gig opening for the Why Store. And if the sound of the future is the sound of teen thrash bands heard on this night, the news isn't good. These musicians are very, very angry at you, me, their parents and, most important, their handful of adoring fans.
At least Necro Creep is pissed at us. Here's an exercise to illustrate the sound of Necro Creep: Go into a secret corner of your home, where no one can hear you. Now, drop your voice as low low low as it can go. Carry the sound up from your bowels, like I imagine Tuvan throat-singers do. Now, maintain that deep, gurgled roooooaaaaar. Roar loud, roar angry, roar till you're almost weeping, and then roar some more. Add some standard Napalm Death sheets of punk metal guitar, bass and drum, and you're there. Actually, maybe Necro Creep is a Napalm Death cover band, although no self-respecting Napalm Death cover band would have a lead singer who wears an Agnostic Front T-shirt.
Necro Creep played for 30 glorious minutes as the crowd, urged to "fucking dance" by the Agnostic Front guy, were treated to one picture-perfect love song after another.
In between bands, host Devon Baker insulted the crowd and welcomed the parents of the bands (who were sporting cameras and acting as though this were prom night) with a string of profanities that made softhearted little me blush. Then he introduced the next band, Cleared Out.
Deconstructionism is funny business, because if you adjust your ears and pretend that these loose, budding musicians are not simply unpracticed and wet behind the ears but genius theorists who have consumed the whole of punk and metal, considered them at length during roundtable strategy sessions and arrived at the conclusion that the genres as they stand are dead in the water and in need of some heady examination, you can fool yourself quite easily. I mean, my first thought as Cleared Out started to perform was, "Whoa, slow down. You're playing a little too big for your britches." They'd start a song and the drummer would be racing out of the gate while the bassist struggled to keep up; the guitarist, God bless him, just played wherever and whenever he wanted; and the singer, in his shiny blue-lame shirt, uttered gibberish. It was a mess, and my immediate thought was, "Get back down there in the basement and don't come out until you can hit the beat together."
But then I thought of Pussy Galore -- that messy art-band of the '80s. And once I did, the whole of their sound transformed itself from a garbled disarray of teen enthusiasm sans practice to heady art project, all without Cleared Out having to do anything. Their clutter was magically revealed to be complex and intellectual, the stuffed South Park figure on the amp, a grand statement on both music and youth at the end of the century.
Or maybe they just sucked, too. What do I know? I'm in my 30s.
If you're a rock band and want to maybe perform at Audition Night at the Side Door, call 231-6402 or e-mail [email protected].
-- Randall Roberts