with the Amazing Royal Crowns and the Woggles
State Theater, St. Petersburg, FL • 12.10.97
I approached this show with more than a little trepidation. The Pietasters’ latest album, Willis, is less than stellar, to be generous. It pained me to think that the band was moving in such a disappointing direction. Still, they have never been a disappointment live, so I trudged out to the show hoping to see even a glimmer of the Pietasters of old. Sadly and unfortunately, it wasn’t to happen. There was not an ounce of passion or inspiration in their performance; in fact, I wouldn’t even waste the time reviewing it if the two opening bands hadn’t been so great.
The evening started out with an energetic set of ’60s-styled garage punk from the Woggles. The Woggles play good, old-fashioned rock n’ roll, something far too few bands know how to do these days. Resplendent in matching red tuxedo shirts and black pants, the band proceeded to tear the stage apart with a high-energy performance. While they had some trouble getting the small crowd motivated, the Woggles’ enthusiasm never waned; they pulled every trick in the book to drag the audience into getting involved, and even those that weren’t into the music had to smile in spite of themselves. By the set’s end, three-quarters of the band were off the stage, dancing with various audience members and playing up a storm. If the garage band from Welcome to the Dollhouse had style, talent, and presence, they’d have been the Woggles.
Next up were Boston’s rockabilly kings, the Amazing Royal Crowns. The Crowns have a rep as “the official rockabilly band of ska,” as they play so many shows with ska bands. It should be pointed out that a review in a previous issue of Ink Nineteen mentioned them not showing up for a gig with another ska band, fellow Bostonians Skavoovie and the Epitones. In fact, the band were never booked for the gig and knew nothing of it until they saw the piece, even though they were listed on the bill through no fault of their own. The Crowns were classy enough to apologize for the confusion from the stage, and give the crowd a hefty-sized sample of what they’d missed. Simply put, the “Amazing” part of their name is no mere hyperbole, as they live up to that grandiose adjective with flair. The Crowns play hard, fast, old school rockabilly that puts even the Rev. Horton Heat himself to shame. They, too, had a hard time getting the crowd motivated, but I can’t really understand why, as they worked the crowd well and played with a hell of a lot more intensity than the headliners did.
The less said about the headliners, DC’s own Pietasters, the better. Suffice to say, the set was an embarrassment. Vocalist Steve Jackson seemed more interested in pulling down their trumpet player’s pants than in singing, and dropped the microphone several times within the first few numbers. When he could be bothered to actually use the mike for its intended purpose (rather than swing it about in circles), he didn’t sing so much as he yelped. The band seemed completely uninspired, playing sloppily and without any passion whatsoever.
Six songs were all we could take. We bolted for the door, and my fiancée tearfully said that she was “ashamed to admit (she’s) from DC.” I found myself feeling similarly distraught. The Pietasters had once been one of my favorite bands, but after this show, I believe they’ve let me down for the last time.