King Rat twentieth-anniversary show brings '90s punk vibe to the present

Categories: Concert Reviews

Tom Murphy
King Rat at 3 Kings Tavern

Few bands that were around in 1994, at least in Denver's punk milieu, are still around. But somehow King Rat has endured and reinvented or reinvigorated itself again and again, despite personal turmoil and the vicissitudes of public tastes in punk and music in general. And it was the reinvigorated King Rat that played this twentieth-anniversary show at 3 Kings Tavern on Friday night. This, in spite of frontman Luke Schmaltz's genuinely clever self-deprecating comments, including a joke about the ability of the band to endure playing a 36- to 40-song set. (The number was dependent upon how you counted the way the set came together.) Who plays a set that long other than the Boss, Leonard Cohen, George Clinton or a jam band?

Tom Murphy
King Rat at 3 Kings Tavern

Despite the fact that the band's songs are about drinking, heartbreak and making it through rough times, and that they are in that harder edged, melodic punk vein that isn't hardcore, metallic or pop punk, the songs aren't short on creative ways to tell those stories. The guys played it like they still absolutely enjoy playing the material, even dipping into a song or two that dated back to a time before King Rat's formal existence.

What was most notable, though, was the way the performance and the show felt like traveling back to a time in the '90s when knowledge of bands like King Rat weren't as widespread as it is now. And to get to see a band be startlingly good and new to you again because it is playing with the energy, confidence and conviction of youth. All jokes aside, King Rat opened that door into a memory of punk past without any bitter aftertaste of nostalgia, because it is still happening here and now. Also, the group's latest material, such as the title track of its new record, Buy the Ticket Take the Ride, perhaps a Hunter S. Thompson reference, isn't some toned-down, mellowed-out, essentially subpar version of the earlier music. It has the grit of going to the 15th St. Tavern in the '90s minus the profoundly beer-sticky floors and cloud of cigarette smoke. The crowd knew a lot of the music and sang along, and more than a couple of people made their attempt at something like a circle pit without being ridiculous about it.

Tom Murphy
KIng Rat set list for 20th Anniversary show at 3 Kings Tavern, June 27, 2014

Location Info


3 Kings Tavern

60 S. Broadway, Denver, CO

Category: Music

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