Live Review: Frantix
The Frantix, Git Some, the Omens and the Purple Fluid
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Better Than: Most so-called “punk rock” shows.
Wax Trax, long a stalwart of underground music in Denver, celebrated its 30th year anniversary this past Saturday with a full day of music. By the time I made it down to 13th and Washington, Mustangs and Madras and at least one band had already played, but there was plenty of great music ahead, including a performance by Git Some. Fresh off its west coast tour, the band played one of the tightest sets I've. Yes, the band is known for its dramatic intensity and unhinged energy and the guys still had that, but, like every other band I’ve seen come off a tour, it also has a high degree of control and craftsmanship honed from having to deliver a performance night after night to a different audience.
The show started with a sparse intro before the guys crashed into the dynamically heavy mayhem for which the they are rightfully known. As usual, frontman Luke Fairchild at times moved as though controlled by outside forces and sang as though driven to the breaking point. Neil Keener and Andrew Lindstrom laid down driving riffs that also somehow hurdle forward with the grace and menace of a giant Viking ballerina. Chuck French’s guitar riffs were savagely beautiful and far more precise than the band’s heady music often sounds. It wasn’t the band’s wildest show, perhaps out of respect for its surroundings, but it was definitely further proof that punk rock is far from dead and far from irrelevant.
I’ve liked The Omens on and off over the last few years but I think with this performance they displayed a welcome and renewed vitality. Instead of the amphetamine-fueled unleashing of fire and angst of old, the band seemed to be having fun. Michael Daboll’s singing was better than ever, and everyone seemed to play with a greater sense of freedom that made each of Daboll’s primal screams a joyfully cathartic outburst instead of one born of a desperation to escape personal hell. As a result, the set was decidedly more melodic and upbeat. It was a mood that suited the band a lot better than the cloak of darkness mixed with brooding intensity bursting at the seams that I’d gotten used to recently. The set, one of the band's best in years, ended with “I Need Your Love.”
Seemed as though a good deal of the people present were there to see the Purple Fluid, which includes the sons of Rick Kulwicki, who, of course, is the legendary guitarist and vocalist from the Fluid. It’s not often you get to see really young people playing music, much less music that well executed. I’m pretty sure the band played only instrumentals but it reminded me of the best aspects of early Alice Cooper and Cheap Trick, particularly when the last band rocked rather than perpetrating cheesy ballads. If these guys are this good now, it won’t be too long before we hear more about them.
The last time the Frantix performed live was probably 25 years ago. Other than playing things more slowly, you'd have no clue these guys had ever quit. Everyone played and behaved like a punk rock band of old. Although Matt Bischoff was scary in his unapologetic intensity, there was plenty of joking with the audience to put the music and its sometimes harrowing subject matter in proper context.
There are horrible things we experience in life but a lot of those things are cosmically absurd and funny in a way. “Face Reality” was an especially powerful song with its chunky groove. Someone in the audience gave the band flack when Ricky and Matt stopped between songs to tune, after which Matt replied saying something like, “The Frantix don’t need to tune but we do because we care.”
Other than the good natured ribbing and other asides, the Frantix performed some of the most urgent and honest and relevant punk rock ever written. The recorded output, as with most punk rock, can’t hold a candle to the real thing, and especially not with the band that played tonight. The last two songs were dedicated to Johnny Trash (of Radio 1190 and Cavity fame), including the closer, the always great, “My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic.”
If punk rock were always this great and played with this kind of attitude of shared release, it wouldn’t largely be the commercialized joke a lot of it has become.
-- Tom Murphy
The Frantix Set List
1. My Dad’s Dead
2. Dancin’ To Punk
3. She’s Got Eyes
5. Static Cling
6. Sharin’ Sharon
7. We Noticed
8. Face Reality
9. FM Ear
10. New Questions
11. My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic
Personal Bias: For those who grew up in Aurora in the '70s and '80s, it's way too easy to relate to a lot of the Frantix’s music.
Random Detail: The guys from Hot White were on hand for Git Some's set.
By the Way: Duane Davis is still probably the coolest record store owner in Denver. There are some others but Duane is tops on my list.