One Angry Samoan

Had a ball last nite watching old pal Billy Vockeroth with his Angry Samoan (just the one) at Cafe NELA. Seen him and Lizzie plenty of time at our xmas bashes over the years, but we haven’t seriously hung out (or been to their rural digs) in hell, a decade or more. I’d forgotten what a perfect drummer he is at this stuff, a tutorial in how to play punk rock not like an idiot or like a good drummer slumming or exactly like the Ramones. Better yet, you can’t name him stylistically–he doesn’t sound like anybody except, well, happy crazy Billy Vockeroth. I hadn’t watched a rock drummer that knocked me out just being a rock drummer in a long time, not like I do the jazz and Latin cats. But Billy is great, a blast to watch and when called for, he shreds. When not called for, he can sit back, every backbeat and splash and perfect little fill completely in the pocket, as they say, tight where it should be tight, with natural precision. And it wasn’t even his kit. Fifty years of drumming and you learn a thing or two. He even sings and plays, like Moulty or Karen Carpenter. The three non-Samoans are perfect, too, tight but with an edge, the two kids on guitar nail it as well as take most of the vocals, and bassist Mike Villalobos (aka Mike V, a creative cat, here solid as always) was loving every second being half of a rhythm section where the drummer is always there. (It was also Mike V’s birthday bash, a good one.) They did all the hits and people spun around crazily bopping into and off each other when the music got frantic, old style, though nothing–beer bottles, equipment, bones–was broken. They finished up the set with My Old Man’s A Fatso and the place went into Brownian motion again, and when they encored with a couple ancient Black Flags tunes, Wasted and Nervous Breakdown, the crowd went even more nuts, bouncing off each other like crazed eastside dervishes in a miniature pit. It was all harmless fun, though. This stuff ain’t scary anymore, it’s not menacing or dangerous or bloody or revolutionary. It’s not even angry.  It’s just thoroughly entertaining, and everyone went home happy and exhausted, even the old geezers who thought they’d never write a punk rock review again.

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