Tennessee punk Jay Reatard played New York’s (le) poisson rouge last night, sandwiching his set between four other bands, and it was one of those rare nights where the slew of supporting acts thrilled as much as the headliner. When the show came to a close at 3am, no one seemed ready to leave. We break down the wonderful and bizarre evening into five acts.
Act I: Useless Eaters
You could tell it was going to be an odd night when the first opening band featured the headlining performer. Reatard ferociously slapped the bass guitar as Useless Eaters vocalist/guitarist Seth ran through some scratchy, scrappy punk tunes. His guitar playing was more than sick enough to shred your face—and they were the most normal band in the lineup.
Act II: Box Elders
The Box Elders went on next and demonstrated what happens when punk rock befriends ’60s party rock. These boys are frat-rock revivalists, and they’ve got the goofball drummer and swingin’ organist to prove it.
Act III: Jay Reatard
When Jay Reatard went onstage, it was already late into the night—not that anyone seemed to care. There’s something about Reatard’s guitar playing—fast, heavy, messy, and loaded with surf-garage reverb—and his harpy-punk voice, which sent fans willingly into spasmodic joy during favorites like “My Shadow” and “I’m Watching You.”
All that exhilarated thrashing turned out to be a problem for several people in the crowd: bouncers descended upon would-be moshers before anyone had achieved the pleasure of a bloody nose. It made sense at first—someone in the audience was throwing empty beer cups at Reatard—but after the actual hooligans were ejected, the staff was still intent on grabbing anyone jumping around, which seems silly at a punk show. You shouldn’t have to ask, “Excuse me sir, was I rocking too hard?” Those afraid of getting knocked around are already cowering near the bar.
Surprisingly, Reatard kept his cool with the troublemakers. Earlier this year, he threw a girl offstage, but last night, he actually warned hecklers before motioning for security to whisk them away. Could someone who goes by the name Reatard be growing up?
Act IV: NoBunny
Instead of an encore, a man in nothing but tight red underwear and a sickeningly well-worn rabbit mask greeted fans. Ladies and gentlemen: NoBunny. His lo-fi power pop draws heavily from the Ramones and ’60s bubblegum rock—nothing new, but still great. Nevertheless, it’s hard to pay attention to the music when a man is prancing around onstage, sweating in a bunny mask and bulging out of his underwear. Frightening but oddly alluring.
Act V: Hunx and his Punx
San Francisco’s Hunx and his Punx took the stage last. Those staring at his leopard-patterned leotard and Robin Hood cap didn’t have to wonder long—Hunx began by telling people to watch their liquor, unless you were a hot straight man he could take to bed later. This glammy punk band’s songs are cute but familiar numbers in the Beach Boys/Ronettes vein. What Hunx lacks in vocal range he makes up for in stage antics. His bored-diva expression while he shoved some (lucky? unlucky?) random guy’s head into his crotch was priceless, and his Rocky Horror-styled posturing in songs like “Gimmie Gimmie Back Your Love” was a charming way to wind down an intense evening.
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