with Golden Pelicans, Panther Camp, Foul Shots
Wills Pub; Orlando, FL • November 22, 2015
by Jen Cray
I saw Nobunny and I didn’t have to see his penis, so that feels like a success to me!
(Record scractch) What now?, you say.
A little background may be in order: Nobunny is Justin Champlin a garage punk dude with a love for 60’s pop music who started performing in the character of Nobunny way back in 2001. He struts his stuff in black underwear (or sometimes nothing at all) and a bunny mask that covers the top half of his face. He may also accessorize with leather jackets or lace stockings, but ultimately the visual is this: a creepy nearly naked dude wearing a mask that’s the stuff of nightmares. The contrast of this bawdy visual with the catchy, often bubblegum, pop music he shells out is as explainable as what compels half the town to cram themselves into the venue to witness it.
A flock of local bands greased the stage before our anthropomorphic headliner, beginning with Foul Shots. The group, who haven’t played in a long while, share band members with The Secret Tracers, but this project has got a cool surf punk, garage vibe going on that’s completely different from the psychedelic heaviness of that band. It’s a good vibe, and the crowd digs it. Another band that doesn’t play too often, Panther Camp, graced us with their pop punk presence. Theirs is a matured take on the genre that wears the mark of experience and an all-inclusive approach that really only fits into the “pop punk” tag because their sound is melodic and catchy. The group’s full of local music scene veterans, headed up by front man Jason Smith, who used to head up a great rockabilly punk act called The Country Slashers.
Golden Pelicans, and especially frontman Erik Grincewicz, are the most intense – borderline dangerous – thing to happen to Orlando punk rock in years. Their metallic assault is bred from the bed of AC/DC, but their stylistic approach is grime scraped from the gutters, lit on fire and thrown into the eye of a hurricane. Throwing full cans of PBR at the band and having Grincewicz drench the crowd while he tosses them back seems to be a thing, and I lose count of how many cans I see sailing over heads. It’s a term of endearment, and one the band seems to accept like a high five. By the end of their exhaustive, ear ringing set, fans — and the floor — are drenched and reeking of malt, but smiling.
Nobunny stays unseen until showtime. Or maybe he has been strolling around, mingling at the bar — perhaps he was one of the ruffians in the pit during Golden Pelicans. It’s hard to say, since what he looks like without his mask is a bit of a mystery. The first time I know that he’s in the building is when he squeezes past me to hop up onto the stage. He opens the set with a solo accapella bit of creepy, the song “Your Mouth,” with the words: Lollipops and Kisses/ Your mouth/ I bet it tastes delicious/ Your mouth/ I really wanna try it/ Your mouth. The voice he uses, combined with the strange visual of his Nobunny persona, makes this a tune that makes the hairs on the back of your neck prickle in the stranger, danger! kind of way. It’s eerie, and uncomfortable — like a 70’s horror film — and when the rest of the band soon joins him and the next song kicks in with it’s full force of rock ‘n’ roll blaze, I feel grateful to be past the moment.
What was most surprising about a Nobunny show, because this was my first, was aggressive the mosh pit was! I’m no stranger flailing arms and legs, and I’ve had more than my fair share of knock-arounds, but I was caught off guard by such intensity for Nobunny. The room got nuttier than it did for Negative Approach the week before! If you close your eyes and listen to the music, Nobunny is basically pop music with a dirty edge — for a song like “Mess Me Up” I would’ve expected dancing, or pogoing, not punching and kicking. It was weird, it was wild, and it was unexpected.
But, I guess, when you go to the freak show (and I mean that in an amusing, non-offensive way) you have to expect the unexpected.