Review: Speedwolf at The Marquis Theater, 12/16/11
You might be excused for checking what year it might be when Negative Degree got on stage because the band played music that sounded like, with mannerisms that looked like, 1980s southern California hardcore with a twinge of Negative Approach mixed in. But for taking on the style of another era, the guys in Negative Degree didn't play like they were going through the motions and doing the band equivalent of coloring by numbers.
Tom Murphy Negative Degree at the Marquis Theater.
They actually seemed like they were putting themselves on the line a little. Especially when the music got anthemic like only hardcore can get with the lyrics being a communal thing with the people with the guts to show up and be a part of the proceedings. This none more so than with the final number, "Punch Out," when more than a small handful of people in the crowd raised fists and shouted along to the chorus.
Something looked suspicious when MF Ruckus took stage. All of the band members save its singer were wearing bandanas. (The singer wore a backward.) Before the music proper started, at the very least the drummer had a huge sound. Maybe the sound guy this night was just really good at mixing drums -- which is a rarity.
So MF Ruckus started out with a song called "Hell Yeah Back Door." There was a lot of "Oh yeah!" and "Alright!" throughout the show. Like some kind of southern rock thing. But mostly the music reminded me of Dr. Feelgood-era Mötley Crüe. Which is probably the appeal for a lot of people -- but just seemed weird on this bill. Not that there's anything wrong with a bill being eclectic.
After the second song the singer asked the crowd, "How many of you are wearing something other than just a black t-shirt?" Some of us raised our hands. He, for the record, was wearing a white Run DMC t-shirt. Pretending to count hands he said, "That makes 0.1 percent of us. Oh, my Venom t-shirt is in the cleaners." For the last comment he got a rimshot from the drummer.
So there was more than just a little put-on with this band. Besides, MF Ruckus had a song called "Jesus Hellraiser Christ" that sounded a lot like some mid-era Iron Maiden thing. Later on, the singer asked, half-jokingly, and totally sardonically, "Are you ready to classic rock?" Some of the crowd cheered. "This is one we wrote while listening to a lot of ZZ Top." It ended up being some song where one of the lyrics was "Me and the boys are gettin' high as a kite because mama ain't home tonight."
Tom Murphy MF Ruckus at the Marquis Theater.
Were they kidding us?
Well, there was a song called "Balls of Steel" and then the singer told us they were going to play a Thin Lizzy cover. But then proceeded to play an MF Ruckus song. But made good at the end with a legitimate cover of "The Boys Are Back in Town" that blended in with the tail end of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and actually got most of the crowd to sing out the end. Even if you weren't into MF Ruckus, it has to be admitted that band knows how to work a crowd and actually puts on a show instead of just getting up and playing instruments.
Personal Bias: I'm a bit of a Speedwolf fan. Random Detail: Ran into Tiana Bernard and Darren Kulback formerly (?) of Hot White, Ethan McCarthy of Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire (and Keep and Death of Self) and Steven Jackson of Ghosts of Glaciers at the show. By the Way: No Thought currently has out a split tape with Roskopp.