The Shanks. A punk band. A spectacle. A throw-back to an era of anger as theater. A form of entertainment that makes you rethink your definition of what entertainment is. To the uninitiated, The Shanks are nothing more than a bunch of drunk guys with their amps turned up too loud screaming at each other and the crowd. To the rest of it, each show is an example of entropy and schism and human frailty.
There were a few shows at O’Leaver’s over the past month where I thought The Shanks were beginning to, well, mellow. Sure, their music was just as abrasive and shrill, but they appeared almost professional on stage. That wasn’t the case Friday night at The Saddle Creek Bar, a venue whose own strange DIY sound system makes it almost tailor-made for The Shanks. I caught only the last couple songs by The Terminals, their lack of a bass player (usually no prob as Dave handles it well on the keyboards) was accented by SCB’s odd midrange-heavy acoustics. You could not escape the midrange.
Then along came the Shanks in a cloud of painful, whistling feedback that never went away. Their set began in a blaze of white noise/heat, and before long, off came their shirts — as good an excuse as any for a couple of the guys in the band to make out with each other on stage. I’m told this is not new to their act, though I’ve never noticed it before. If this were, say, Pansy Division, the effect would be different, and the crowd would likely be even more shocked. Instead, everyone wrote it off as typical punk hi-jinx.
The show began to devolve halfway through, as the band argued with the crowd and itself, starting and stopping songs, stepping into chaos, and then just as quick, they got their shit together and began playing in earnest, like a phoenix from the ashes. It’s best not to over-think The Shanks. Just watch and listen. It turned out being one of the best Shanks shows I’ve seen, albeit without blood. Then, a few moments after the set ended, while I was chatting with a fellow music writer, a fight ensued between the drummer and the guitarist, people holding each of them back as threats of “The end of the Shanks” were being yelled across clinched forearms. Blame the booze. Blame the violent music. As far as I know, The Shanks are alive and well…
I spent Saturday night down at Slowdown Jr. As I warned, the show sold out and no one was getting in without a ticket. I asked the door guy why they didn’t just open the big room. He said you could have a half-empty big room or a capacity small room. The vibe, he said, would be better with a serious crowd, and he was right. At capacity, with the tables pushed out of the way, Slowdown really does seem like a rock club instead of candle-lit lounge. I got there in time to see The Cops rip through their set of angsty punk, harder than I remember it. Then at around a quarter to 12, Criteria took the stage, looking and sounding exactly like they looked and sounded two years ago. It was as if time had stood still. I and everyone there had missed the band and its music, and it was a trip to get to see and hear it again. The new songs sounded as epic and regal as the old songs. It seems the band hasn’t skipped a beat in spite of its hiatus. Frontman Stephen Pedersen announced that Criteria will be opening for Tokyo Police Club at Slowdown at the end of the month, so if you missed them Saturday night, you’ll get another chance to see them in a few short weeks.
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Two noteworthy shows going on tonight: At The Waiting Room it’s the dance stylings of Australian trio Cut Copy. You like pretty dance pop? You’ll love these guys. Opening is the band that has been designated as “the next big thing,” Jacksonville’s Black Kids. See them before they explode. Also opening is Mobius Band. $15, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, down at The Barley St., local celebrity and all-around man-about-town Marq Manner is celebrating his birthday with an evening of music by singer-songwriters Kyle Harvey, Scott Severin, Matt Whipkey, Brad Hoshaw, Adam Hawkins, Justin Lamoureaux, and more. The show is free and begins at 8. Drop by and buy Marq a celebratory cup of coffee.
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