Me First and the Gimme Gimmes live in Silver Spring review

Post-punk supergroup night is always fun.
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It was post-punk supergroup night at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, MD on Tuesday night. Three bands, comprised of veterans from some of the most successful punk and punk-adjacent groups of the past thirty years, rocked the house for three-and-a-half hours. Among the thirteen musicians to take the stage were past or current members of bands such as Husker Du, The Ramones, Smash Mouth, The Offspring, and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. And that only scratches the surface.

The relatively new trio – Ultrabomb – was up first. With Finny McConnell of The Mahones fronting, the band was powered by Greg Norton’s bass and the drums of Jamie Oliver. This is Jamie Oliver from the UK Subs – not the global phenom celebrity chef. Greg Norton requires no introduction, at least not to punk fans. He co-founded Husker Du, one of the seminal post-punk bands of the 1990s.

They played a rousing version of Husker Du’s “Don’t Want to Know if You are Lonely” as a nod to the past in the middle of a whole bunch of brand-new material. One of those new songs, “Doggo,” opens their soon-to-be-released sophomore album Dying to Smile. Norton wrote it about his dog and introduced it with a typically punk graphic suggestion directed at South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes know how to entertain

Next up was The Defiant, featuring Smash Mouth guitarist Greg Camp – the man who wrote “All Star” and “Walkin’ on the Sun,” among others – and Pete Parada, who played drums with The Offspring for 15 years. They are fronted by Dicky Barrett, singer for the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, who thanked the other bands on the bill for taking a chance on some new up-and-comers like them.

They played one MMBT tune – “How We Got Away” – as well as new rockers like “Everybody Loves Me,” “We Make Drugs,” and the rousing sing-along “It Is Over.” Several of their songs, as well as their name, offer not-so-subtle commentary on one hot-button issue. It is most apparent on a song like “Where Did Lady Liberty Go?” Several members of the Defiant left their previous bands (or were dismissed) over their refusal to get COVID-19 vaccines. Agree with them or not – the music still rocks.

The headliners of the evening were the current incarnation of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Part hard-rocking punks and part stand-up comedy act, Spike Slawson of the Swingin’ Utters fronts the powerhouse quintet that features CJ Ramone on bass, Pinch (The Damned) on drums, and the dual guitars of Rocket From the Crypt’s John Reis and Strung Out’s Jake Kiley. Me First… blasted their way through 23 numbers – all covers, which is what they have been doing for almost 30 years now. (Slawson pointed out several times that the band could have written any of these songs had they been so inclined.)

The oldest song they did was “Over the Rainbow,” The newest was Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u.” In between they hit on every genre imaginable from country (“Jolene”) to show tune (“Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”), from disco (“I Will Survive”) to classic rock (“All My Loving”). And they did them all at breakneck speed, with Slawson screaming out the lyrics.

Not to say that there wasn’t some variation in the set. On Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” alone, the boys moved from psychedelia to punk to metal all in the space of one pop song that has none of that. For the first encore, Slawson came out by himself, with Pinch sitting far behind him, to perform Freddy Fender’s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” on ukelele.

Me First… and Slawson know how to put on a show. Dressed in matching tropical leopard print shirts and white pants (Slawson was the only one to wear the matching white sequined suit jacket), they bantered their way through the set, with Slawson playing the diva to a tee. He introduced “Karma Chameleon” by saying “I can think of no better way to get to Boy George and Culture Club than through the Buzzcocks.” Before “Danny’s Song,” he announced they were going to make Loggins & Messina “regret ever writing it.” He also asked someone else to intro “On the Road Again,” as “Willie Nelson and I are not currently on speaking terms.”

That became a running gag throughout the set, as Slawson repeatedly asked other members of the band to convey messages to musicians and audience members alike with whom he was currently feuding. It began with his refusal to speak to Pinch, while repeatedly complaining about his drumming. It resulted in Pinch finally responding by calling his frontman a drugstore John Travolta. Slawson, in turn, called Pinch an “arrogant, vindictive prick.” Then they played the next song.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes head south for a week of shows in Georgia and Florida before hitting Europe later this Summer. The tour is in support of their upcoming album Blow It … at Madison’s Quinceanera!. One advance single – Me First’s take on ABBA’s iconic “Dancing Queen” – has been released if you need a taste.

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