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Monday, June 14, 2010

Saturday Night: Subhumans Rail Against Prejudice and iPhones

Posted By on Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 8:50 AM

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@Bottom of the Hill
June 12, 2010

Better than: Shoegaze, twee or drone.

Skinny, disheveled and bespectacled, Subhumans lead singer Dick Lucas is among an endangered species of classic 1980s punk icons.

Darby Crash of The Germs is dead. Sid Vicious is dead. Steve Ignorant of Crass is rarely seen or heard from. That basically leaves Lucas, Keith Morris (of Black Flag) and Jello Biafra as the remaining few memorable punk legends still in the mix.

And while I wasn't around back when Subhumans got its start, I'd imagine little has changed about its performance since the days of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. The U.K band still plays fast and sweaty anarcho-punk jams that are energetic and full of political venom.

Lucas, clad in a typically ill-fitting, cut-off MDC (Millions of Dead Cops) shirt, commanded the audience's attention at Bottom of the Hill last night from the first song, "Adversity," and held its interest through "Rats," "Minority" and a slew of other politically charged Subhumans hits. 

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Every song began with Lucas explaining, "this one's called..." in his thick, nearly unintelligible British accent, and kicked off with a speedy drum roll. In between songs he railed against California bourgeois, every imaginable prejudice (from race to height), clothing made by children in third world countries and iPhones. ("If I asked everyone with an iPhone to leave, would there be anyone left?"). But as stereotypical as this all sounds, Lucas is as authentic as they come.

When he began the striking lyrics to "No," the audience joined in immediately: "No -- I don't believe in Jesus Christ, my mother died of cancer when I was 5. No -- I don't believe in religion, I was forced to go to church, I wasn't told why..."

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During each bass-heavy song Lucas shook his fist, leaned in to the crowd and sang in his signature snotty, thickly accented vocals. As one might expect, there were circle pits, a plethora of folks stage diving, and a few sweaty brawls. There also was fist pumping, arm thrusting and group chants. One attendee appeared to be dripping blood from the first song through the duration of the hour-long set.

Near the end of the show, Lucas called a younger, noticeably better-kempt lad to the stage to play keyboard for just one song. The markedly slower paced, ska-influenced tune recalled the music of Lucas's other popular band, Citizen Fish. The crowd didn't seem to know what to do with itself.

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Immediately following this disjointed moment, Lucas and crew went into hits "Society" and "Mickey Mouse is Dead" in break-neck speed. This riled the crowd up one more time before the tired-looking Lucas hopped offstage, returned for a one-song encore, then slinked off yet again, spitting on the ground as he made his way outside.

Critic's Notebook:
Personal bias: A decade ago I owned a pair of cargo shorts on which I safety-pinned a patch that read: SUB|HUM|ANS.

Random detail: Bottom of the Hill reeked of sweat and booze, in a good way.

By the way: Lucas is also a published author and has performed at spoken word poetry readings. 

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Emily Savage

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