The Dead Milkmen
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Better than: Mall-punk.
Some mosh pits are sloppy, some mosh pits are scary, and some mosh pits are absolutely freaking gleeful. The one that broke out at Slim's last night, as the Dead Milkmen ripped into crowd favorite "Tiny Town" in their first S.F. show in 17 years, was decidedly the latter: With Rodney "Anonymous" Linderman careening around the wide platform, shouting into as many faces as he could reach, a crowd made up of equal parts young skate kids and veteran punk folk pushed and shoved and stumbled over one another in a torrent of pleasure. It was less like finding yourself in the middle of a brawl than melting into one large, rambunctious organism, a creature that knew every word to almost every song and shook with joy at hearing them live.
Last night's show was the first of a three-night West Coast run the sardonic Philadelphia punk band is on after tentatively returning to the limelight last year with a new album, The King in Yellow. As a poster given out afterward indicated, last night's performance was "sold the fuck out"; the upcoming Portland and Seattle shows are the same. And that's completely understandable: Unlike many older bands touring the reunion circuit, the Dead Milkmen haven't lost much of their edge over the years.
The only non-original member is bassist Dan Stevens, filling in for original member Dave Schulthise, who tragically committed suicide in 2004, at age 47. Vocalists Linderman and Joe Genaro have grayed a bit -- Linderman likes to joke that he's old, fat, and bald -- but their voices still have that adolescent snottiness that makes Milkmen classics like "Punk Rock Girl" and "Bitchin' Camaro" so casually subversive. Linderman rages around like a madman in a black leather cowboy hat, jumping up and down, dashing from one end of the stage to the other, reaching out as far into the crowd as he can, and pouring a torrent of anger into the mic when the mood of the song turns from satire to fury.
Even the other members of the band looked alarmed during Linderman's improvised monologue during "Bitchin' Camaro." The original recorded version, of course, has him and Genaro bantering about drinking beers, seeing a band, and going to the beach. But last night, Linderman used the long bass-and-drums breakdown to tear into an episode of the reality TV show 19 Kids and Counting, where the parents of the giant family visit San Francisco. As he told it, a male waiter here teasingly told the Southern couple that "My boyfriend and I love your show" -- thus prompting the father to air some complaint about how marriage is between a man and a woman.