with Laddio Balako, the Fucking Champs, and Neil Hamburger
I-Spy, Seattle, WA • September 21, 2000
Arriving at the club in time to hear the last two songs by Laddio Balako, the place was already almost too crowded to move. I pushed my way to the edge of the upstairs balcony to take a song in before heading to line up for a drink, and was impressed by the tight chaos of the band. Almost like Trans Am in their energy, but darker, and with some amazing horn action.
Wishing I had arrived earlier, I managed to get a drink and get a good spot before the Champs came on. I know I was there to see Trans Am, but the Champs, yeah, the Fucking Champs, proceeded to blow me away. Those three guys playing that hard rock, that early, glory day, riff-riding heavy metal. No lyrics, just dynamic and tight and drawing on influences that range from Thin Lizzy to the Melvins. It’s stop and start and kick-start your heart, and I just fell into a delighted trance from watching the drummer. short breaks and long anthems that got the hose shaking. How, I ask… how could they have let Neil Hamburger on stage after that?
Not sure what I can say about the “comedy” of Mr. Hamburger. Some people love it, most people hate it, but nobody says it’s funny. He did, however, get to stand up in front of a full house, insult a lot of people, and introduce Trans Am, which got the loudest cheer of all.
The first thing that amazed me is that the drummer played the entire set with bare feet. The second thing that amazed me is how they can accomplish that sound, pulling songs off albums like Futureworld, The Surveillance, and even Surrender to the Night, and making them breathe and live and grow off the stage and ride the audience into a frenzy. The passion and energy combined with the tightness of the band was breathtaking. The band talked a little between songs, and that’s always good when there’s a connection between the stage and the floor, so you know you’re not just watching people play music, you’re involved… and when they started introducing songs from their latest epic, Red Line, everyone was yelling, shouting out their favorites. They played a few more songs with vocals than I had expected, and when they broke into “Play in the Summer,” I was glad they did.