Friday Night: La Plebe, MDC, Classics of Love, and Others Ignite a Punk Frenzy at Slim's

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La Plebe at Slim's on Friday
La Plebe (Brazo en Brazo Release Party)
Gang of One
MDC
Classics of Love
Niño Zombi
November 5, 2010
@ Slim's

Better than
: Rioting in Oakland, or, in any event, more tuneful.

Slim's filled up early Friday night for an old-skool rumpus to warm the cankered heart of any survivor of the Reagan Age. The goodnatured frenzy of dancing, leaping, and beer-infused bellowing might well be a nightly occurrence at this well-loved south-of-Market watering hole, but such happy scenes among the punk proletariat all but ended in Los Angeles over the dozen years I covered music there. Angelinos, slaves to ephemera that they are, tend to forget good ole verities like stage-diving and romance between sloppy-drunk strangers. But people up here tend not to do things by half-measures -- even down to the leather gear and two-foot high spiked hair seen on Friday night.

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Nino Zombi
The whooping started with the hustling showmanship of Niño Zombi, horror-themed skacore without a U.S. label but with clever songs and one mother-fuckton of hustle. Tight as a Stax soul revue and sporting two trombones, this chunky, churning hybrid music deserved a spot further up the bill, but this kind of depth-bomb opener tends to have long lasting effects on the room. Already, Slim's was full of giggling punkettes and their metal-studded male pursuers, their few inhibitions erased by goodtime noise. 

Classics of Love, being more of an orthodox punk act, was a bit of a comedown, but the party crashed on heedless of it. The band made acceptable commercial-grade ya-ya, distinguished chiefly by mic trouble and Jesse Michaels admittedly low spirits -- "How's everybody doing?" he asked, before blurting "I feel like shit myself, thanks a lot." 

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MDC
The members of MDC, fixtures on the S.F. punk scene since the early '80s, acquitted themselves loudly as the last remaining floor space vanished and frontman Dave Dictor unloaded "Deep in the Heart of Texas" for a finale. The mood dipped for Lenny Lashley's Gang of One, a snarling wedge of punk-folk that brought little consolation save temporal impermanence. My camera-wielding girlfriend, buffeted by moshers, was relieved at the change, remarking, "One-man bands are easy to shoot." If only that were true.

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La Plebe
Still, all this past was but fine, fat prologue for the headliners, who trundled on with assurance and proceeded to bulge the walls with muscular bilingual agit-punk. The new album is Brazo en Brazo and the band celebrated triumphantly. La Plebe is on an explosively crowd-pleasing par with Gogol Bordello or The Distillers in the way they can induce instant community in a group of sweaty, jumping strangers. Slim's has an itemized list of house no-nos tacked prominently on the wall prohibiting moshing, stage-diving, and another other punky tribalisms, but this was gleefully ignored. One weaselly-looking dude slid next to me at the bar and tried to lift my girl's beer while she was snapping pics. I plucked it from him with such a look that he yelped "Whatever happened to punk rock, man?" My foot was sadly too slow for his departing backside to find out.

Critic's Notebook

Spoken: "Here's a song I wrote in San Francisco in 1983 titled 'Nowhere to Piss'," Dave Dictor of MDC.

"This song is a big 'fuck you' to the police out in Arizona," Lupe Bravo of La Plebe.

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