The Buttertones With Wild Wing, Guantanamo Baywatch At The Bootleg Theater, Saturday March 25th 2017
What do you do when a show is totally sold out, but they tell you at the entrance they may release a few tickets… but it’s not certain at all… but if you hung out long enough you may get in. So this is exactly what I did on Saturday night before the Buttertones’ record release party at the Bootleg theater. I had no idea the Buttertones were such a hot ticket in town, but they truly were, as a very young crowd was making a long line all around the building just before 8 pm, and I honestly thought I would never be able to get in.
But they finally released a few tickets and I got the first one, entering the theater at the wild sound of Wild Wing. They were at the middle of their set, and I immediately remembered I had already seen this wild bunch a few years ago. They delivered the same crazy set, while the Bootleg was already packed to the roof. It was hard to get a view of the stage, and I immediately gave up the idea to stand in the middle, it was already rowdy and sweaty as hell, so I found a comfortable spot on the side where I could watch all the stage diving going on. The Wild Wing quartet had a sort of hillbilly energy, they played catchy tunes while injecting a country western guitar or a Johnny-Cash-whipped-rhythm in their punk songs. It was a diverse, loud and unruly set with shouted harmonies, and a run-after-us-if-you-can attitude. Since I had waited outside to get in, I unfortunately only saw their last songs, but a Tennessee backyard was galloping during the next tune, with weird chord progressions and a Black Lips’ flippancy. As their furious set was progressing, they were going faster and crazier with catchy riffs and one of them removed his shirt before jumping in the crowd… it was ‘a fucking party’ as one of them said,… they wrapped up with a punk cover of ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin”, making kids mosh harder. Wild Wing are a lot of fun, punk at heart, controlling their chaos at the tip of their flipping middle finger, as they released an album on bandcamp, Doomed II Repeat, just in time for these insane times.
Guantanamo Baywatch were next and the party didn’t slow down a bit with their punk-surf guitars in full assault from start to finish, and a nod to the Cramps with a retro-reverb sound. The Portland-based quartet was part sweet 60s doo-wop, part cheesy beach soundtrack, part debauchery, part Dick Dale classic surf guitar, revamping everything with mayhem and a punk eye. They also had these sweet calmer songs, starting like a Sam & Dave tune, continuing in an aggressive full-hair flying mode, like some amped-out golden oldie. They had a campier version of themselves, almost going into a surf polka or punk triumphs, alternating with 50s-doo-wop sweetness. They surely had studied the classics, mashing them up into a stronger, bolder and louder sound, at the image of their moniker, which is combining the name of a detention camp with that of a trashy-sexy TV show.
But it was the Buttertones’ ‘Gravediggin’ record release party, an album which will be out on March 31st via Innovative Leisure, and they were welcome like the heroes of the night. The Buttertones have style and swag, they have style mostly because they dress up with elegant suits and have a saxophonist just like an old school punk band – whereas they have probably barely the age to drink in a bar – and they have swag because of the way they deliver their ambitious music, not so easy to figure out at first, but very easy to like. Punk anger? They certainly had plenty of it, post-punk- precision and detachment? They did too, with adventurous songs delivered with their singer’s baritone croon or morose-to-angry tone. He had a unique way to look at the crowd, a hand in his pocket, looking like the most satisfied and grateful guy in the room.
They had fast songs, trying to catch a galloping horse, and the crowd got rowdier and rowdier, moshing, crowd surfing, stage diving in an increasing tropical steam, while sweat was running on everyone’s back and face. Mixing 60s-like sugary melodies (‘Bad Girl’) with surf guitars, rockabilly and punk, the Buttertones have found a crowd-pleasing niche, charging with a true punk anger during ‘Two Headed Shark’ and ‘Dak’s Back’, delivering songs after songs with rawness and anxiety, and a beach-goth vibe that were transporting all these kids in heaven. It was great fun to watch all of them moshing and singing at the sound of this 60’s throwback sound, punked up enough by surf guitars and intense bass lines, often doo-wop-ed enough to have been written in 1963 (‘Baby Doll’), and spiced up by a night-club ambiance of a distant and gritty saxophone. Who gave the idea to these kids to use such an unusual instrument as if they were the Sonics?
After the title song of their album, ‘Grave Diggin’, a Cramps-like tune freaking out in the right places before sweetening into a dub party, they came back for two songs in an encore, and the rest was only made for the crowd jumpers. The line to get in was a mile long, and inside we were all melting like butter on hot toasts at the sound of their damn 60’s surf guitars. I have rarely seen a show attended by such a large and young crowd, and it became so rowdy and unruly that I have to believe the Buttertones are becoming a real phenomenon.