with Jackson United, Beat Union
Since the inception of punk rock, it has been combined with virtually every other vaguely underground musical genre. Metal, ska, country, reggae and hip-hop have all been meshed with punk over the past thirty years, but it was only recently that good old classic rock has been thrown into the mix. Bands like Lucero, The Gaslight Anthem and even The Bouncing Souls have shown that it’s okay to derive influence from Bruce Springsteen, Bob Seger and Tom Petty. As punk has become more mainstream, many artists have come to embrace mainstream music. This show not only featured a band who takes cues from the working class musicians of the ‘70s in The Loved Ones, but also Jackson United, a band led by a genuine rock star more used to playing arenas than garages. It’s a bit of an odd thing to say, but punk rock and mainstream rock may be a match made in heaven.
The Loved Ones (courtesy of myspace.com/thelovedones)
I didn’t get a chance to see locals Swans of Never open up the show, but I did get to see Birmingham, England’s Beat Union for the third time this year (you can check out a review of the first time I saw them here), and my thoughts on them haven’t changed much. They seem to really like The Clash and The Jam, and really want to be The Clash and The Jam, but they’re just not quite there. They were plenty energetic, and they deliver a danceable bland of punk, post-punk and ska, but the crowd just wasn’t feeling them. I feel bad for these dudes, as they’ve been touring the states all year and they’re decent enough, but they don’t seem to have much of a following. Maybe next time they come to town they’ll get a better reception.
It took a long time for Jackson United to take the stage, but when they finally got going, they were great. Led by Chris Shiflett (also of the Foo Fighters and Me First & the Gimme Gimmes and formerly of No Use For A Name), they delivered a solid set of Clash and Stiff Little Fingers inspired punk. Though Shiflett may be a Foo Fighter now, he got his start playing ‘90s style Fat Wreck pop-punk, and it really came through in Jackon’s performance. On record, songs like “21st Century Fight Song” and “White Flag Burning” come across as a little too polished, but this band adapts really well to a live setting. Shiflett noted that before the addition of his 18 year old cousin on bass, the band’s median age was 37, so though most of the band are elder-statesmen of punk, they can still hold it down with younger bands live. Shiflett probably won’t be playing anywhere as small as Kilby for a while, but it was cool to see that he can still connect to his roots.
The Loved Ones have been at the forefront of the punk & roll movement since they burst onto the scene a few years ago, and they’ve only gotten better with time. While their early releases were comprised of emotional pop-punk with hints of Springsteenian influence, their newest release, Build & Burn is something entirely new. The Loved Ones have cranked up The Boss’ influence to ten and scaled back on the poppier aspects of their sound. They even spent most of the summer on the road with The Hold Steady. Needless to say, The Loved Ones are at the top of their game. Their audience this night was on the small side, but the band didn’t disappoint, delivering songs from across their entire catalog, including a version of “Massive” from their first EP with an added keyboard intro, thereby injecting their new sound into their old sound. The highlights were many, including a great version of “The Bridge” that got people singing along and pumping fists into the air and a very energetic version of “Suture Self” that even got some of the seemingly out of place hardcore kids into the set. The band closed with “Louisiana,” which is probably the most rousing and energetic song they’ve written. It’s a simple song, but it has an undeniable driving energy that gets your blood pumping and your mouth singing along.
All in all, this was a great show. The crowd was small (as it always seems to be when I go to Kilby), and their energy wasn’t always up to par with the bands, but it was another reminder of how great and powerful live music can be.