MDC @ The Parkside 5/12/10

Written by Big Smile Staff

Posted Jun 1, 2010, by The Bear.

Featured Artists: Dopecharge; La Plebe; MDC; The Restarts; Genre: Punk; Whenever U. K. Punk band The Restarts come over to tour the U.S., I always seem to be out of town when they come through Los Angeles, meaning that if I want to see them I have to add extra details to my travel plans to catch them somewhere else. For the second time in a row, The Restarts have come to the U.S. and scheduled their Southern California shows for when I had to be in Alaska for my annual trip to the Last Frontier Theater Conference. I’m starting to think that when they plan U.S. tours they purposely check the conference’s website first to find out when it will start and then schedule their Los Angeles area dates to coincide with it, knowing full well that 1) the only way I’ll be able to see them is to add an extra stop on my way to Alaska to see them somewhere else, and 2) That I will do exactly that because I like them that much. If that’s so, then they’re absolutely right. In 2008 I stopped off in Las Vegas to see them before heading north. This time I stopped off in San Francisco to see them. Was it worth it? In a word: YEEEEESSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, so the show was at Thee Parkside on 17th street. This being only my second time in the Bay Area, and, since I’d never been in downtown San Francisco before obviously I’ve never been to this venue. It’s a good place. They do a lot of Punk, Hardcore, and underground rock shows, among others, and they’re very supportive of the local bands. Just one problem: the actual room with the stage is very small, and I do mean very small. CBGBs was bigger; the Troubadour is bigger; the Chain Reaction is bigger; I think even the Continental in New York is bigger. The PCH Club’s performance room was smaller, but that’s not saying much. The Anarchy Library is smaller too, but that’s also not saying very much. When a headlining band plays people really pack into that room and it IS crowded, especially since there’s also a bar in there. On the other hand the club has a large outer area inside its walls, but partly open to the sky, with a second bar and a kitchen, and tables and benches where kids can go and hang out if they’re not watching the bands play. There’s also plenty of room to sell merch. So, despite the small playing area I give this club high marks overall and I would definitely go there again.

As to the show itself: there were four bands peforming. The Restarts were touring with MDC, and they were supported by two local bands.

First up was Dopecharge, a band which contains two former members from Cropknox. Now any band that contains former members of Cropknox is worthy of respect. Dopecharge is already building a following in the scene and they were tight, and played loud, fast punk rock.

Next up was La Plebe, and they were something of a revelation. They’re a Ska Punk band, with a greater emphasis on the Punk part than the Ska part. Their line-up consists of 1 guitarist, 1 bassist, 2 horn players, and 1 drummer. I think everyone sings except the drummer; he may sing too, but I couldn’t see him that well. This is probably the minimum number of people you can have in a successful Ska band. And La Plebe succeeded quite well. Their songs were mostly loud and fast (like I said, more Punk than Ska in the mix) but you could still dance to them – well okay, mainly you could slam dance to them. They sang most of their songs in Spanish. They have a large local following and the room was pretty full when they played.

The Restarts went on third and this was obviously the band that most of the crowd had been waiting for because the performance room was so tightly packed it was almost impossible to move around. Not that this in any way stopped a furious mosh pit from breaking out and, despite security’s efforts, a lot of crowd surfing.

The Restarts have always been a tight band ever since I first saw them in 2004 at CBGBs. They’ve had a line-up change since I last saw them in 2008, with the then drummer Darragh leaving. He’s been replaced by Bram, an old mate of Robin’s and he was doing really well when I saw them that night. They got things off to a fast start with “Legacy of Bigotry,” which is an older song off of the "Slumworld" album, and they kept things moving at a fast pace all through their 40 minute set without ever letting up.

They played a good mix of older songs and new songs, including five of the newest which have just been released on a split CD with MDC entitled "Mobocracy." All of them were good but one in particular is almost certainly destined to become the band’s latest classic. The song is “The Pied Piper” and Kieran said that it’s about a friend of theirs called Spider who recently passed away. Rather than mourning a death the song celebrates the life of a man who in his 70s still wore a large mohawk and owned about 300 acres of land in the U. K. where he would often hold Punk festivals. The song itself is good British old-school Punk with good hooks and a catchy chorus.

Even though The Restarts were already performing at high level throughout the show they still managed to kick things up a few more notches with their last three songs, which were “Frustration,” the first song they ever wrote and a general favorite, “Outsider,” the title track to the 2007 album, and the finale, “Big Rock Candy Mountain” which the fans always want to hear. As also happened two years ago when I last saw the Restarts a crazy show became even crazier as the dancing intensified and bodies flew all over the place – much to Security’s chagrin but they couldn’t stop the crowd surfing, and eventually they stopped trying as long as no one got hurt. Everyone seemed to be having a great time, including the band themselves. Unlike some bands who seem to feel that smiling is bad for the “street-cred” the guys in the Restarts actually enjoy it when a show goes well and are not shy about making that known from the stage, which in turn helps them to connect even more with the crowd. Robin said afterwards that it was the best show so far on the tour.

MDC, which usually stands for “Millions of Dead Cops,” but can also stand for “Multi-Death Corporations,” “Millions of Dead Children,” “Mariah Death Cult,” “Magnus Dominus Corpus,” and any of a number of other things, took the stage after the Restarts and closed the show for the night. MDC has been around for over three decades; many bands, including the Restarts themselves, either cite them as an influence, reference them in their own work, or both. The range of bands that do this is big and includes bands that you would expect, such as NOFX and Rancid, yet even includes a band like They Might Be Giants, who referenced MDC in a song from their first album.

This was my first time seeing MDC perform live and they were quite good, as one would (hopefully) expect from a band that first formed in 1979 and, except for one five year period when they were on hiatus, has been around in one form or another ever since. They’re very tight in performance, and, although mainly a hardcore band they vary it up in some of the songs so their set isn’t so much in one style that it would all start to sound similar eventually. I particularly liked one song they did that the singer said was written in the mid-90s (I forget the name of it unfortunately) which, through its rhythm, hooks, and riffs, showed that they do have a larger range of musicality and song writing when they feel like it.

The main problem that MDC had that night was one that wasn’t their fault. Being an American band, and one based in the west, the fans in the Bay Area can see them fairly frequently, whereas this was only The Restarts’ fourth time in the U. S. in 15 years. There was a good crowd but it wasn’t as wild as when the Restarts were playing. At one point during MDC’s set I went out to the merch. tables to talk to Kieran and he asked me “Are things absolutely crazy in there?” To which I had to say “No, I think the crowd spent the bulk of its energy on you guys,” which was true. The Restarts and MDC were co-headliners and that night MDC happened to play last, but The Restarts were the band that a majority of the fans had really come to see; that’s just the way it was.

It was a good show in a good space. Hopefully The Restarts will be back fairly soon, and maybe I won’t have to take a plane or a really long drive to see them next time!

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