Punk still rules at the Bottleneck

Punk O Rama; Agnostic Front with All and Voodoo Glow Skulls - Oct. 5, The Bottleneck, Lawrence, KS

Midway through Agnostic Front's headlining Punk O Rama set Thursday night at The Bottleneck, the Huntz Hall of thrash, goofball guitarist Vinnie Stigma, raised his arms and exclaimed, "Welcome to the hardcore show!" And with little hesitation one could accept the idea that this was indeed the hardcore show.

At first blush, looking in on hardcore at the end of the Clinton administration is a whole lot like looking in on it at the beginning of the Reagan administration. Superficially, little has changed, but fundamentally, the organism now thrives in an entirely different cultural petri dish, and the effects are not difficult to see.

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Michael Newman/J-W Photo

Singer Roger Miret and guitarist Vinnie Stigma kick out the jams at the beginning of Agnostic Front's headlining Punk O Rama set, October 5 at the Bottleneck.

The music seems less overtly political. Gone is the leftist punk pamphleteering of the Reagan era. Yet still present is the anarchic, do-it-yourself/do-it-your-own�way ethic as well as a richer sonic palette, which includes doses of metal, hip-hop and funk. As it always was, the crowd at a punk show is still more elaborately coifed, pierced and tattooed than the folks on-stage.

Punk O Rama III is the third of hardcore punk label Epitaph's Punk O Rama tours to hit the club circuit this year. The current features headliners Agnostic Front, with support from All, Straightfaced, and Voodoo Glow Skulls.

Descended from The Descendents, All, fronted by its third post-Descendents singer, Chad Price, launched the show with an energetic set of tight, poppy punk reminiscent of early Jam. The set mined tunes from its 10-year history, including the band's most recent release "Problematic."

Riverside, California's Voodoo Glow Skulls are another veteran band, with 12 years to their credit. You have to grin in the presence of a bunch of good-time thrash rockers with a two-piece horn section that rocks hard without leaning back on ska-punk clich�s. Led by hairless, horn-rimmed singer Frank Casillos, the Glow Skulls are pure party. It's hard to imagine another hardcore band with the sense of adventure to cover The Coaster's 1959 comic hit "Charlie Brown."

Headliner Agnostic Front took the stage in lieu of Straightfaced, who surrendered its spot due to Agnostic Front's ongoing transportation woes stemming from a bus collision with a caribou earlier in the tour. Hurriedly soundchecking on the spot, in front of the crowd on borrowed drums and amps, Agnostic Front delivered a staggering aural onslaught of taught, raging rock and roll.

The silverbacks in Epitaph's touring troop of primates, Agnostic Front consists of its 1983 lineup: Roger Miret on vocals and guitar, guitarist Vinnie Stigma, Rob Kabula on bass, and drummer Jimmy Collette, which reunited in the late '90s. The members sounding fresher than they have any right to, their brand of growling, machine-gun rock and roll differs only from that of modern metal bands only in the length of their hair. Slap a three-foot wig on Stigma and this band's ready for Ozzfest.

Songs such as "Victim of Pain," and "Something's Got to Give" revved their overflowing audience to a frenzied, stage-diving, crowd-surfing pitch. While silly self-assertions of their status as anarchists and rebels, supported by tales of teenage vandalism, tend to dilute the simple reality that in the stewardship of passionate musicians, even hardcore punk is ageless and timeless.

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