Dive Punk: Agnostic Front, Death By Stereo, Hightower @ Thee Parkside, 1/15/10

I live approximately 8 blocks from Thee Parkside, towards the top of Potrero Hill. It’s a weird neighborhood, man…I love it, everything is right there, but once it gets dark there is no one on the street. So my 9pm walk to the dive bar is completely silent. I’m having a moment, viewing the bay bridge from the top of the hill when some crazy homeless guy starts cackling at me from a hidden spot off the sidewalk. I jumped a foot in the air and made it to the bar as fast as I could. Crazy homeless punk.

There’s a pretty long line to get in, which is rare here- I’ve only seen it for Secrets of the Moon. Luckily the guestlist allows you to skip the line. The place is already packed, and walking onto the main floor I was hit with a stench that would loom all night. Stinky punk boys.

Hightower are on stage. I immediately remember them from a Valient Thorr show late last year. They are more metal than punk, with some doom and psychedelic elements. The drummer takes on most of the singing duties, which always throws me off. The guitarist thrashes around with his large mop of hair, once accidentally stepping offstage and he had to be propped up by another girl and yours truly.

You know you are in a dive bar when:

-a speaker above the stage has a towel taped to the corner to protect people who bump their head.
-someone from the crowd has to help plug in a light in exchange for a free shot
-the ‘barrier’ is really just a step for people to launch themselves onto the crowd
-that smell
-every guy that smiles at you is missing at least one prominent tooth

Death By Stereo– I really wanted to like them, but the music is just not for me. The crowd LOVED them. This is a band I could see doing really well on Warped Tour. It’s hardcore with some emo vocals that just made me cringe at times. But everyone was singing alone, the pit went off, a chick in a LBD and heels bought the band a rounds of shots and delivered them onstage (hitting her head on the above referenced speaker…d’oh!). The band was very eager to please and I was in the teensy minority of people standing there with arms folded. Oh well, instead I watched this girl with a build similar to mine police dudes in the pit. It was mindblowing. She’s grab them by the scruff of the neck and push them back into the pit. Once she had a guy by the throat. Crowdsurfers started popping up, barely squeezing between the crowd and the ceiling.

dbs

By the time Agnostic Front came on, we were packed in like sardines and it smelled like it, too. It was getting really hot as well. I had wedged myself between a beam and the exit just in case- it ended up being a very safe spot. But on all sides of me it seemed like tiny pockets of chaos were erupting. The band was performing Victim in Pain, their debut album which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. However, they put this in the middle of the set, which was kind of interesting. They sounded pretty good- especially in comparison to the previous band for me. The sound left much to be desired- there was a lot of feedback going on at first. But this is a dive joint- so it comes with the turf. So, for the vocals I often only picked up ‘New York’- which they say quite often. The album performance portion was the best for me- the title track is great. I just kind of laugh when I hear ‘Blind Faith’…”There is no justice, there’s just us”…I dunno, it’s a bit much. Divers started jumping on stage to surf the crowd, knocking over the mic stands. The temperature kept rising. As soon as the last song finished, the exit doors were thrown open and people made a mad dash to get out for fresh air. Everyone agreed that they needed air instead of an encore.

You can see a quick iPhone video clip here.

Shows at Thee Parkside are always interesting. I don’t think I’ll ever be blown away by a set here, but I love the authenticity and rawness that these shows always maintain. However, just like my walk home, the weekend should be all uphill from here.

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