Back in 2003, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists posed the question “Where Have all the Rude Boys Gone?” 11 years later, while watching third wave pioneers The Toasters take to the newly revamped Las Vegas Country Saloon stage at about half past midnight, I asked myself the same question.
At the start of the night, the turnout didn’t seem so bad. Locals Franks & Deans had a good crowd of family and friends there for their inaugural show with new guitarist (and PIV photographer) Tyler Newton, who cut his teeth in the Vegas scene as a member of Nothing With Numbers and Jesse Pino’s band. The whole room lit up when the band started playing, putting their own punk rock spin on songs by Vegas legends the Rat Pack. Particular highlights were “That’s Amore,” “The Lady is a Tramp” and, introduced as the Married… With Children theme “Love and Marriage.” If you’ve spent even just a little bit of time in Vegas, you’ve no doubt heard these songs about a zillion times, which means every track on their setlist is a potential sing-along. Dressed in matching tuxedo shirts, these guys know the idea is cheesy but play it with enough humor that it comes across as endearing, and I look forward to seeing them again.
The crowd held steady for the next band of the night, ska/rocksteady act The Remedies, who I haven’t seen live since way back when the Toasters played Vegas last February. This was the most jovial show I’ve seen from the band, which is saying something since the guys always look like they’re having a blast. They shrugged off a few technical problems with the sax and eased through a set that had the slowly thinning crowd dancing around the bar.
This was my first time hearing the next band of the night, The Astaires, and I was surprised to find that they lean pretty far in the direction of classic rock. Really, they reminded me a lot of the Strokes and the Dandy Warhols, that Rolling Stones-by-way-of-grunge style that was huge in the early part of the aughts. While this isn’t really my style, and not something I’d go out of my way to check out, I did appreciate the band’s high energy. Whether it was jumping off the amps, swinging their guitars around or simply throwing themselves into the mics when it came time to sing, these guys did it all with a stage presence that would put much bigger bands to shame. Their cover of The Contours’ “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)” was a lot of fun, but by the time the group got to that number, the Saloon was noticeably sparse.
7-piece Arizona ska band 2Tone Lizard Kings (no relation to Alternate Reality Comics mascot Epstein the Ska Lizard), put on one of the most fun sets I’ve seen so far this year. Vocalist Adam Rankin reminds me a lot of vocalists you see in pop punk, guys like Jordan Pundik and Vinnie Caruana who spend the entire set in perpetual motion. This guy has a more soulful voice with just the right amount of grit thrown in, and I imagine if the crowd knew the words, he’d be right in there sharing the mic. The rest of the band had just as much energy, with walls of gang vocals and choreographed moves that came off far more natural than something you’d see at a Suburban Legends show. With ska, you can run the risk of going too silly, but these guys straddled the line nicely, visibly having fun through a cover of The Specials’ “Little Bitch” that had the whole crowd shouting “One Two,” and original “WayO,” with its pounding refrain of “oi’s.” My favorite of the songs they played was, according to the setlist, “New Girl,” which was neither a cover of the excellent Suicide Machines song (note: more bands should cover Suicide Machines) or the eponymous tv theme.
By the time The Toasters took the stage, after midnight on a Sunday, the venue was practically a ghost town (Specials pun intended), save for about 20 diehards ready to skank like the place was packed. Regardless of the poor turnout, the band still put on an excellent performance. With no introduction and abstaining from the usual pleas to come up front, Toasters frontman Robert “Bucket” Hingley launched into “Pirate Radio” from Enemy of the System, letting the song act as the Pied Piper to lead the slightly buzzed crowd up to the front to dance. Laid back “Shocker” kept the party going and I had a blast singing along with my favorite Toasters track “I’m Running Right Through the World.” Hingley’s voice sounds great and he always puts forth this infectiously chill energy. Though most of the crowd hung out in the back of the room, classics like inspirational “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down” got people off their feet and acted as a poignant message about looking on the bright side, even when you’re playing to almost nobody.
-Steven Matview | https://www.flickr.com/photos/holdfastnow/