with The Queers, The Spears
Hard Rock, Orlando • June 12, 2010
Carl F Gauze
Walking down the malfunctioning electric sidewalk from Universal Studios King Kong Sector 407, I noticed a large number of young men in mohawks and young women with fluorescent hair colors traveling along with me. Their uniforms of black jeans and punk rock t-shirts made me think these kids were not here to try the Butter Beer at the new Harry Potter Ride, and the thought was reinforced by the titles on the shirts — every 45 I ever owned appeared, from The Adolescents to Social Distortion to Teenage Bottle Rocket. I knew I was in the right place. Outside the gate hung the maladjusted and middle-aged, finishing beers and comparing notes on other recent shows as curious tourists snapped photos. As I entered the ticket scanner line an official told me, “This probably doesn’t apply to you, but no moshing or crowd surfing.” Where’s the fun in that?
Inside, opening act The Spears were about halfway though their set. I checked out the cool show poster at the band’s table and noticed they had their name misspelled on the Hard Rock’s website. Despite such a technical snub, this St. Petersburg-based quartet put down a solid hardcore set with a line or two of early rising fans up against the security fence. These guys are skilled musicians and play songs that have multiple chords and even a key change or two. Vocalist Chris Barrows was a lively lead, bouncing around and belting through such potential hits as “Nothing Funny Anymore.” He scrunched up his face like a good punker, and let us know how much he appreciated this not-quite-hometown crowd.
More t-shirts wandered in during the break, and at 9 p.m. sharp The Queers took the stage with little fanfare but big response. I’ve had a fondness for this band ever since I discovered the second wave of punk that appeared in the mid ’90s. Their clever lyrics and sexual perversity set them apart from bands who figured that “loud enough” was “entertainment enough.” The issue here is these guys are a great studio band, but are rather static on stage. They opened with “This Place Sucks,” which can be applied to most any place you play in the middle of the tour, yet the crowd was 100% behind them — even as they held their ground in the face of the $5 Budweisers the audience launched at them. I don’t blame the audience; the beer here is completely foul and I can’t imagine drinking it except in an emergency. The Queers soldiered on, and by “Ursula Finally Has Tits,” they had the crowd surging as Ursula progressed to larger and larger cup sizes. A few more quick tunes, then they left us with “Fuck the World, I’m Making Out With You Tonight.”
By the time Screeching Weasel appeared, the room was packed. Movement was possible, but only in the back of the pit and around the bar. No one seems to introduce bands anymore, that was always a big deal for some local DJ long ago. I guess Clear Channel isn’t into audience relations, but that’s fine, we all knew who was on stage. Despite warnings about moshing and surfing, the center of the audience was hopping, beer cups flew into the air and occasionally hit the stage. Ben Weasel stalked the stage and ignored the fluid offerings of the crowd. The set was quick, only 40 minutes, but included “Murder is a Mania,” “Am I Alive?,” “Joanie and Johnny,” and an almost out of place “Summertime” from the Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. They may be punks, but they have deep cultural roots. As concerned security dudes watched, the crowd behaved, but just barely. At the end of the assigned time, the band quickly walked off stage, telegraphing “Encore? Sure — we just need to wipe down.” Two minutes later, the refreshed Weasels reappeared, crowd surfing began in earnest and the band nailed a quick threesome, leaving us begging for more with “Jump On You.”
The die-hards hung around, hoping for more, but the general exodus told me all I needed to know. I took the long way back to King Kong 407, taking pictures of the neon fantasy land that Universal has created. Sweaty punks passed by me, ignoring the overpriced drinks and designer-label deep-fried food. We all ended up back at the garage, tired and ready to find cheaper drinking arrangements. Too bad we were too well-behaved to have a proper riot.