So an interesting and noteworthy thing happened last Thursday night at a club called Thunder Road in Somerville, Massachusetts, the traditionally working-class city located immediately north of Boston. However, an evening that we thought, at the time was noteworthy for good reasons became noteworthy for negative reasons in the span of about twenty-four hours. I’ll explain…
Thursday night in Somerville should have marked the halfway turnaround point for one of the most internationally-diverse touring bills we’ve had come through this way in quite some time, which is compelling enough given the current sociopolitical environment but especially given the brazenness with which some members of the, shall we say ‘less culturally sensitive’ members of our society have been emboldened and empowered in displaying their less culturally sensitive ideas under the current administration. (Nazis, folks…we’re talking about Nazis.) Barb Wire Dolls hail originally from the Greek Island of Crete, and kicked off what should have been an impressive span of forty-one shows on October 6th in Laguna Niguel, California, that all featured support from controversial, in-your-face ex-Russian punks Svetlanas and South Korean alt-rock duo 57. The trio of bands should have wound their way clockwise through the lower 48 before coming to rest in Los Angeles on November 25th and it should have been a triumphant feat to behold. The road to hell is paved in good intentions, though, and tour date #22 in Somerville turned out to be the last. Because Nazis. New Hampshire Nazis.
57 kicked off this evening’s festivities and did what I imagine they did over the first three weeks of tour: caught a room full of unassuming Americans completely off guard. The duo (Jun plays guitar and sings, Snow plays drums) hail from Seoul, South Korea. They’ve been plying their wears throughout Asia and Europe for the last three years as a band, and and brought their show across The Pond for the first time for this tour. And what a show it is. Dynamic is the first word that came to mind, as the band have perfected the sort of loudQUIETloud sound originated by the Pixies a few decades ago, only if that sound were completely fuzzed out a la Sonic Youth and, of course, produced by only two people. The crowd was slow to arrive on this night (it never did really “fill out” in the traditional sense, leading a friend who was working the venue to make note of the seeming 1-to-1 press/photographer to crowd member ratio), meaning that the limited few of us in attendance were treated to a special, memorable performance. I have absolutely no prior knowledge of the South Korean music scene — K-Pop notwithstanding — but I will say that 57 deserve to be big no matter where they play.
Boston’s own The Devil’s Twins followed, providing local support for the evening. The band have been slowly, steadily making their way up the ranks of the local music scene, culminating in a few recent Boston Music Awards nominations. If you’re not from around here, the band have themselves billed as an “American Noir” band, and I’d say that is pretty accurate; there’s sort of a goth surf rock vibe combined with a black-and-white, throwback stage vibe that evokes images of a haunted Salem graveyard.
Which brings us to Svetlanas. Frontwoman Olga Svetlanas is all of five-foot-nothing and yet brings an intense stage presence that has earned her — and her band — a reputation as one of the most intense and powerful figures in our scene. Her band — Diste on drums, JJ on guitar and Steve Armeli on bass — plays loud, tight and fast, combining to create the effect of sweeping the show-goer up in a hard core punk rock cyclone. Those who complain that punk rock has become too safe or too tame in recent years would be well served to take in a Svetlanas show to regain their bearings. It’s brash; it’s aggressive; it’s political; it’s confrontational — Svetlanas are the real deal. You don’t have a choice but to pay attention when Olga and crew are playing; they bring the show right directly into the crowd. On this particular night, the crowd was trended largely male and largely of the “over-30” age bracket, yet was just as engaged and involved in the show as many a crowd half is age might be, not scared off but instead reveling in the politically controversial whirling dervish in their midst. As is usually the case when Svetlanas play, they more than stole the show, even if their set was cut a few songs short due to Diste’s obliteration of the kick drum!
Barb Wire Dolls closed the show out with an extensive, nay exhaustive, set that didn’t wrap up til the wee hours of Friday morning. By now the story of the Barb Wire Dolls and their having been signed personally by Lemmy Kilmister has been told far and wide. Co-founders Isis Queen (vocals) and Pyn Doll (guitar) have been touring endlessly for the better part of seven years with bit of a rotating cast behind them that currently (bassist Iriel Blaque, drummer Crash Doll and new rhythm guitar player Xtine Reckless) sounds and plays as tight as ever. The sound was a little thinner than might be expected with twin guitar attack, though that may have been a PA issue more than anything else. For a band with an international make-up, Barb Wire Dolls are a quintessentially Los Angeles rock and roll act; clad in leather and lace and oozing sweat and sex appeal through a chorus that owes as much to Nirvana as it does to The Clash (sometimes those musical comparisons are a little too close for comfort, but that’s a story for another day). Barb Wire Dolls seemed to be right at home on the larger stages afforded by their stint on the Warped Tour this past summer and their stage show more than fills the smaller confines of a club show; as evidenced above, Isis Queen and the gang left it all on stage (and, in fact, off the stage as well after she took an unplanned tumble off a wobbly monitor early in the set only to escape seemingly unscathed).
Sadly, as it turns out, this would mark the last night this trio of touring bands would appear on a bill together in the States. The following night in Manchester, NH, brought with it an incident in which an individual in Nazi paraphernalia showed up at the show. Threats were made (and continue to be made), safety was jeopardized, and ultimately, Svetlanas refused to play that particular show. In the day that followed and in a story that’s still developing, both Svetlanas and 57 have dropped what should have been a triumphant “fuck you” to the xenophobic members of the power structure and the rank and file it supports.
Check out our full gallery from the evening below.