Show Review: The Buzzcocks with The Dollyrots at The Uptown Nightclub, 6/4/10

by Dakin Hardwick on June 6, 2010

Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmam/. Not the Oakland show. This show had much better ventilation than ours.

The Uptown Nightclub is one of the great hidden treasures of Oakland. They have grown to become the go-to venue for punk rock in the Bay Area, but on this hot & sticky Friday night, they have really outdone themselves. They managed to snag The Buzzcocks, one of the most successful and influential UK bands of the late 70’s, for a rare stateside appearance. The last time they played in the Bay Area, they played the much larger and higher profile Fillmore in San Francisco. This show was special for another reason, because they played their first two records beginning to end.

Opening the show was The Dollyrots, a pop punk band that used to be signed to Berkeley’s Lookout Records, but has since moved to Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records. This band has been on my radar for quite a few years, but I hadn’t seen them yet. It was a pretty impressive set. They played a full 45-minute set, and they stopped for nary a breath throughout the whole performance. Singer/bassist Kelly Ogden attacked her bass like Lemmy Killmister, pounding out thunderous chords that added a nice metallic sheen to the otherwise catchy pop punk tunes. The audience responded respectfully, but didn’t really explode until the set closer, a cover of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation,” during which the audience erupted in to a full fledged pit.

The crowd was fairly loose during The Dollyrots. By the time The Buzzcocks came on, though, things were quite different. The Uptown performance space probably holds about 200 people, and it felt like they packed 400 people into that space. The unnaturally warm temperatures outside, combined with the body heat and humidity, turned the room in to a sauna, near literally! My eyeglasses had actually steamed up before the band actually took the the stage!

Of course, things actually got hotter when The Buzzcocks took the stage. The fiddled around with the riff from “Boredom,” before jumping head first in to Another Music In A Different Kitchen opener “Fast Cars.” The crowd was an ecstatic mass of sweaty movement. Many people attempted at taking pictures, as is the normal case at rock shows these days, but the combination of the moisture in the air and intensity of the crowd made it nearly impossible. Singer Pete Shelley sounds as good as he ever has, and despite being many years passed the awkward adolescent rage that was theme of many of their greatest tracks. Fellow founding member Steve Diggle played with an amazing amount of energy. He danced, pogoed, and threw himself around with the kind of enthusiasm that few musicians half of his age express these days.

They band ran through the entirety of Another Music… in full throttle mode, reminding me, as well as the rest of the crowd, as to what a great debut record it was. They essentially laid the groundwork for pop/punk as we know it today. It was an exhilarating aerobic workout, but it was the 2nd portion of the set that helped really show off what the band was capable of.

They opened up, once again, with a little improv from the song “Boredom,” which was never actually played that night, before jumping “Real World,” then, without stopping for a breath, jumped straight in to their first big hit, “Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have Fallen In Love With,” inspiring the first full audience sing along of the night. But, the real surprises came when they made it to side 2 of the Love Bites record. These songs still had the general feel of The Buzzcocks, as most people know them, but much more interesting. There were long instrumental passages, strange time signature changes, and some face-melting guitar heroics that felt more like proto-no wave than proto-pop punk. Whereas Another Room… was the precursor to blink 182 & Green Day, Love Bites was the record that helped give us Sonic Youth and Pavement. Even the lyrics started to move along to slightly more grown-up territory.

After about 90 minutes or so of material, one would have expected any band of aging punkers to call it a night. But, since the band doesn’t seem to actually be aging much, they managed to pull it together for another 20 minutes of encore material. They came out to play a few more singles that weren’t part of the official set (Another Room… and Love Bites beginning-to-end). They opened part 3 of the show with “Harmony In My Head,” classic non-album single, as well as one of the few songs sang by Diggle. They managed to hit on all of the major non-album singles from the time period of these two full lengths, which happened to be biggest crowd pleasers of the night. The closed the entire set with two-fer of their most famous songs, “What Do I Get?” from the Toyota Rav 4 commercial, then ending the night with their classic ode to climaxing by any means necessary, “Orgasm Addict.”

After nearly 2 hours of non-stop rock n roll, the crowd filed out in to the humid night air, still damp from the evening.

Here’s the setlist for the encore:

Harmony In My Head

Promises

Love You More

What Do I Get?

Orgasm Addict

The rest of the set was Another Music In A Different Room and Love Bites played beginning to end, and back to back. Mute Records recently put out two wonderfully remastered versions of these records, and I highly recommend picking those up.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

will young June 7, 2010 at 2:21 am

the singer is called Pete Shelley!

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Dakin Hardwick June 7, 2010 at 5:09 am

Sorry, had a moment of music nerd alzheimer’s… Kept telling myself not to call him Sonic Youth’s drummer, but I did anyways. Thanks for the catch!

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