Things have certainly changed since I first got into Propagandhi. I’m a slave to the grind now, not some ravenous teenage delinquent seeking a few obnoxious midnight chuckles. I’ve given up rebelling against the oppressive boogey man of the week, instead finding excitement in putting money into an IRA account. I own a Fitbit, and plan on getting my health in check. I have become the white bread, consumer, yuppie devil punk rock warned me about all those years ago.
While I’d like to think I grew up, it’s probably more the case that I was never as punk rock as I thought I was. Quick, somebody give me a studded jacket, 40 oz of Mickey’s, and an alley to piss myself and pass out in. Oi! Oi! Oi!
Monday night is no night for a concert of this caliber, especially in the flaky Houston scene. Everyone who was into Propagandhi is well into their 30’s by now, and would probably much rather get a few extra hours of shut eye then to risk the baffling inevitability of the 3 drink hangover.
I arrived a little early, and was met with the pungent smell of B.O. and cigarettes wafting in shifts through Warehouse Live. A disheveled handful of onlookers were busy tossing back cheap beer, while merch attendants stood vigilantly over their seven by eight section of zines, albums, and t-shirts, like some last bastion of punk rock hope. Judging by the merch, every band on the bill seemed to have the agenda of opening your eyes in some shape or form. Certainly not a bad thing in this age of meaningless noise.War on Women
The first band to hit the stage was Baltimore’s War on Women. While I’m sure plenty of people enjoy their brand of angst fueled, feminist punk, I feel that this is a band that focuses too much on their message, and not enough on their music or performance. WoW certainly had a fair amount of energy and stage presence, but their sloppy guitars, and muddy tone didn’t do them any favors. Lead singer, Shawna Potter, played the part, striking rock and roll poses whenever possible. The 5 piece stumbled through a 30 minute set of songs while I caught up with some local legends.
After a brief intermission, and a sudden boost in attendance, RVIVR was ready to rock it. The Olympia pop punk quartet are big supporters of gender equality, and they lit up the stage in a fury of sound. Guitarist, Mattie Canino, sported a sequined skirt while absolutely killing it on vocals. Kevin Rainsberry’s metronome-esque drumming provided the perfect juxtaposition to the distorted twang of Erica Freas’ catchy pick work. RVIVR’s performance stood out as the most impressive of the night, leaving the audience wanting more. Definitely check out their album The Beauty Between if you’re even remotely into pop punk.RVIVR
It was around this time that the real star of the show made themselves known. Somewhere between RVIVR and Propagandhi, a random concert goer decided to raise a stink. The flatulence that this anonymous dynamo was emitting would haunt the entire crowd for the rest of the show. I normally wouldn’t even make note of it, but a stench of this magnitude deserves it’s own spot on the bill. Several people were visibly scouring the crowd for the culprit in the obvious hopes of getting to give the prince of poo gas a congratulatory handshake. From one crop duster to another, I tip my hat to you sir or madame.
The crowd joyously shouted as Propagandhi picked up their instruments. Thirteen years have passed since the Canadian punks last rolled through Houston, and the anticipation in the room was palpable.
While the mix was somewhat poor causing the band to sound a bit muted for the first few songs, Propagandhi delivered. They ended up playing a good deal of newer music, which isn’t a bad thing, but I was mainly there for their classics. Chris Hannah and Todd Kowalski entertained, jumping around stage, pumping fists, and providing album quality vocals, and guitar performances. After “Hallie Sellasse Up Your Ass”, the mysterious fartist gained Kowalski’s attention, as he made note that “someone may have shit themselves in this area of the crowd”. The band flawlessly ran through old standards “Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes”, and “…And We Thought the United Nations Were a Bad Idea” before briefly retreating backstage.
A minute had passed before Propagandhi returned, answering the cries of “8 more songs”, and effectively selling out to their crowd. I wasn’t going to complain though, as the encore started off with “Back to the Motor League”, easily one of my favorite songs about being sick of everyone. They managed to save the best for last, and finished the night off with “Anti Manifesto”. Upon hearing the opening chords, the packed room rushed the stage with a fervor normally reserved for fan girls. Everyone knew the words, and in that moment, a few hundred people became best friends. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, second only to a floating bag I filmed in high school.
I may have waited 18 years to see Propagandhi live, but this show made the wait completely worth it. While it may have been better catching them in their heyday, having a chance to see them run through an anthology of a set was just as fulfilling. If this tour is coming anywhere near you, go. You may never get the chance to see punk rock like this again.