Vandals revive raucous roots of punk
By Chad Pata
Special to The Advertiser
Make it the headline: "Punks Not Dead" proclaimed the T-shirt, and The Vandals proved it to a crowd of about 500 Saturday night at World Cafe.
The Southern California punk staples for the past 15 years don't look much the part of a punk band, though. Taking the stage with the quiet ease of the keynote speakers at a convention, they looked more like a quartet of accountants. Stepping to their instruments, however, they dispelled any thoughts of tax returns with a raucous version of "It's A Fact."
Drummer John Freese seemed to overwhelm his undersized kit with his energy during "The New You," the first single off the Vandals' new album, "Look What I Almost Stepped In..."
Instead of the usual sneers one would expect from a punk crowd, the swirling faces grinned as The Vandals slashed up a pornographic cover of "Summer Loving" from the musical "Grease," with Freese howling the part of Olivia Newton-John.
The fans took it upon themselves to become part of the act during the sarcastically named "Marry Me." A well-endowed young lady leaped on stage and flashed the crowd, much to the approval of the band.
Not to be outdone, a diminutive young man followed her stunt by taking the stage and removing his pants before leaping into the throng.
The Vandals have claimed in recent interviews to disdain playing their older music for fear of turning off younger fans, but their set consisted almost solely of older punk anthems like "Oi to the World" and "My Girlfriend's Dead."
The vibe was diminished some near the end of the set when microphone problems for lead singer Dave Quackenbush had him sounding as if he were trapped in a well. Veteran that he is, Quackenbush laughed it off and had guitarist Warren Fitzgerald finish the set with a song the name of which we can not print in this paper.
Opening act The Sticklers proved once again they have the panache, if not the practice, to be a force in the punk scene on O'ahu.
Depression-era microphones and a sardonic stage presence give them a refreshing look, but much like when they opened for SR-71, they became lost in a few of their songs. It's a practice they need to lose after five years together.
Twenty-some years since its inception, punk music has lost some its edge.
Themes of anarchy and civil disobedience wrapped in dog collars and mohawks have given way to songs about love and the meaning of life. But the growling guitars and heavy drumbeats still anchor punk to its roots.
Perhaps punk more than any other music has evolved with the times.
A 3-year-old named Darius watched the show from atop a bar rail, resplendent with a mohawk and a Dead Kennedys jean jacket. Watching him bob and wave to the music, one could not help but think that punk may still be here for many years to come.