Ballyhoo! with Authority Zero, Versus The World, Racist Kramer @ Bar Deluxe 06.15

Posted June 19, 2013 in

As a celebration for their upcoming album, Pineapple Grenade, Ballyhoo! also claim to be the inventors of their own shot called the Pineapple Grenade. Photo: Taylor Foiles

On this particular Saturday, Bar Deluxe was the stopping point for the Summer Sickness 2013 CD release tour for Ballyhoo! and Authority Zero. Not overly familiar with either band’s catalog, although a fan of what I’ve heard, I was excited to get a chance to see both of these bands up close and personal and get a real idea of what they’re all about. Also particularly exciting, I was pleased to note one of my longtime fandoms made the bill, the massively under-appreciated Versus The World. I’m a huge fan of their first self-titled album, although I’ve fallen out of touch with them in the years since. They released an album last year, one that’s also excellent, and they’re also quite the catch live. 

A regular feature of shows at the Bar Deluxe is the hour-long wait for the doors to open. Apparently all the clocks are broken and time management is a mystical art that only other venues seem to understand (I saw you take the “8:15-ish” sign off the door, Mr. Bouncer. You’re not fooling anybody with your false advertising shenanigans). An hour past the advertised 8 p.m. door opening, the gates were released, and it was finally time to get inside and get things started. First up were the colorfully named Racist Kramer, a local band that I knew nothing about and had no idea what to expect from. Opening with an offer of a dollar to anybody that knew who they were, triggering a room full of raised hands—“Wait, there’s a flier, isn’t there? You read the fucking flier, that’s cheating!”—the humor train was engaged. 
A little bit Less Than Jake, a little bit Strung Out, Racist Kramer was an inspired choice to open this show. Their original songs are fun and catchy, despite humorous self-deprecation to the contrary. I call bullshit on “We’re not that great,” and I want a full-length whenever that thing is finally released. The originals were followed by trio of NOFX covers in the middle, including “It’s My Job To Keep Punk Rock Elite,” along with a side of extra banter about how other people’s songs are way better. Another few originals, another dash of banter (this time apologizing for not providing the front row a parka for their “Shamu Section” spit zone), and it was time for us to bid these fellows farewell. I look forward to getting to know these guys better—go like them on Facebook ( and keep an eye out for more.
Next up were Versus the World, starting out strong with litany of sound-check curses, including “cock sandwich,” followed by a delightfully tasteful 8-bit intro. My absolute favorite Versus the World track, “Is There No End,” was first, followed up by the recent single written about and dedicated to vocalist Donald Spence’s mother, “She Sang the Blues.” A little bit on the harder end, Versus The World has a traditional punk rock sound anchored by Donald’s gentle croon and passionate, heartfelt songwriting that never fails to lighten the mood. It’s music perfect for plugging in headphones and staring at the ceiling with, and I’m grateful they’re still around and sharing their talent. Tickling my Freaks and Geeks nostalgia with a James Franco soundbite lecturing that, “Rock and roll don’t come from your brain, it comes from your crotch,” “The Kids Are Fucked” was a fan-pleaser encouraging much moshing. Other notable songs include the sweet serenade of “A Love Song For Amsterdam,” and set-closer “We Were Alive” followed by another 8-bit outro. It was an incredibly satisfying set, and I hope everyone picked up one of the free singles that they were offering. I'll be jumping at the chance to catch them again. For now, I’ll keep rocking their latest album, Drink. Sing. Live. Love. and enjoying the good vibes.
The first of the headlining bands was next, offering up quite a different sound. Ballyhoo!, note the all-important exclamation mark, is a truly fun band to listen to. Despite coming from Maryland, they’ve somehow perfected an impossibly catchy surf rock/ska sound, causing instant dancing no matter who you are. Opening with a song hitting strikingly close to home, “The Friend Zone,” followed by the slightly harder and amusingly titled “Evil Penguin” and then my new favorite, “Last Night,” the warmed-up crowd lost their shit and went wild. The large amount of Ballyhoo! shirts in the crowd bouncing around says even more about their irresistible appeal. Fittingly, the cheers quadrupled at the opening to the politically charged and yet sweetly crooned “Marijuana Laws”—recently released as a special exclusive single, it’s obviously a well-timed song.
Fun fact: As a celebration for their upcoming album, Pineapple Grenade, Ballyhoo! also claim to be the inventors of their own shot called the Pineapple Grenade. Conveniently, bartenders at the Bar Deluxe were also apparently taught this drink, and were mixing it for concert goers. I did not try one of these drinks, but the name sounds delicious. After their set, the crowd begged and begged for an encore, and I don’t blame them. I would have been satisfied if that was the end of the night, and I bet Ballyhoo! makes for a great headliner. Still, with one more band to go, a room full of fans riled-up and raring to go after three solid performances kept themselves busy singing along to the radio. To be exact, they sang the hell of NOFX’s “Bob,” and then made a game out of piggyback riding each other. That’s one way to kick the boredom between bands.
Taking the stage to the strings of a classic spaghetti western intro, Authority Zero wasted no time before launching into the opening track on their new album, a heavy rip-roarer by the name of “No Other Place.” Followed up by “Brick In The Wave” and then “No Regrets,” all fairly standard punk songs with a hard edge, I made the mistake of getting comfortable with their sound, assuming I knew what to expect. One dramatic tone shift and a mild case of whiplash later, and I was bobbing my head to the reggae-heavy “Sirens” with no recollection of how I got there. Comfortable bouncing between both genres, the band's song are a strangely refreshing combination. It's a special treat that I doubt you'll find anywhere else, blowing up a mosh pit and then cooling it down with relaxing groove. My favorite heavy song is a good example of mosh-pit riling, “For The Kids,” and the smooth reggae sound of “Struggle” is a good example of grooving. Mixing both sides of the band into one song, “Today We Heard The News” is a dedication to the late Tony Sly (of No Use For A Name) that starts out grooving and then escalates into another crowd-pleasing anthem at the chorus. In between songs, they joked with the crowd, at one point relating a story about a fan telling Jason DeVore how haggard he apparently looks and how it’s his bandmates’ fault for being hardier drinkers than him, and later asking the venue to turn down the air conditioning because the crowd wasn’t sweating hard enough.
Closing with the inspirational “Lift One Up” off of their new album, “The Tipping Point,” DeVore took the opportunity to let loose, flying from one side of the stage to the other with a bearded grin and full-bodied, gruff-voiced bellow. He’s a lot of fun to watch, sharing the mic with fans and giving high-fives left and right. That sort of passion and love for music makes for the best shows, and now that I’ve had a taste of Authority Zero, I’m on board for life. A shaky cheer for an encore, which I’ll chalk up to an exhausted crowd after an adrenaline-filled night, and Authority Zero obliged with an old reggae jam, “One More Minute” off of their first album, and then the fiery “Get It Right” off of Stories of Survival. 
Thanks to all four bands for a fantastic night of four solid performances! Go check out Versus The World’s latest release, “Drink. Sing. Live. Love.” and don’t forget to check out both Pineapple Grenades by Ballyhoo! on June 25 and The Tipping Point by Authority Zero, released April 2.
As a celebration for their upcoming album, Pineapple Grenade, Ballyhoo! also claim to be the inventors of their own shot called the Pineapple Grenade. Photo: Taylor Foiles