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Subhumans Concert Review

May 31st, 2016
The Riot Room - Kansas City, MO

Dick Lucas and Phil Bryant of Subhumans
Subhumans became a band in 1980. Most of the British quartet's material is considered to be classic within anarcho-punk and even punk in general. Their political anthems contained scathing commentary on everything from religion to government surveillance to animal rights. When the group's singer Dick Lucas wrote all of those songs he was mad and from what one could collect from a Subhumans show in 2016, he is still mad.

The band called it quits back in 1985, only reuniting for one or two short periods, before making a real return in the mid-2000's. If you knew nothing about the band and were only told they were an awesome '80's punk band before seeing this show, you might've felt a little let down. None of the band really moves around that much as they play and they aren't the greatest at their instruments. The awesome part is that it's always been that way. They wrote some of the meanest and most meaningful punk songs of their decade and are performing them just as they did back then.

As things began, Lucas bantered cordially with the audience, injecting just the right amount of his always-sharp sarcasm into the mix. The songs at the beginning of the set weren't received incredibly well, initially drawing only the enthusiasm of superfans and shirtless, moshing drunk guys. Those were the deep cuts and newer tracks though. After about half of the set went by and Lucas and the audience got their obligatory Donald Trump jabs in, things really got moving. "Evolution" and "Mickey Mouse Is Dead" were the first songs to really to grab the crowd.

Brian Pretus of Pears
What came at the end is what prompted some of the craziest response I've seen at The Riot Room so far. The band decided to go all in and pile on the hits at the back end of the set and the encore. "No," "Subvert City," and "Religious War" all sent studded and spiked rockers diving off the two foot stage,  tumbling across the floor, and pumping their fists in unison. Did the band miss a couple notes? Sure. Did it matter to anyone there? Nope. Lucas and the band - all members since the '80's - did not fail to deliver an exciting and impassioned set of classic punk rock. If you've ever been a fan of the band and haven't seen them before, now certainly isn't a bad time.

The touring support, on the other hand, was another story. Pears is a New Orleans, Louisiana band signed to Fat Wreck Chords. The (horrifically named) four-piece plays several different styles of punk, but not even spread out across different songs or albums. Several of the songs that Pears played shifted from '90's skate punk choruses to chugging hardcore breakdowns to the band playing as fast as they could while singer Zach Quinn let loose cringe-inducing screams and yelps. Some might call it versatility, but it plays more like an identity crisis.

David Kupsch of M.A.D.
Many other Fat Wreck and Epitaph bands don't feature non-guitar-playing frontmen and grow boring due to that fact. Seeing Quinn's strange and forced onstage antics made me thankful for many of those boring bands that play The Fest in Gainesville every year. They're skilled at their instruments and their last song, "Green Star," was solid, but that's about it. Friend of the blog Cary Thrasher remarked to me after their set that Pears sounded like "if powerviolence happened after Good Charlotte" or "if 96.5 The Buzz started a punk band." Make of that what you will.

Local support M.A.D. delivered a blistering 15 minute set of raw d-beat punk to open the show. Drummer David Kupsch and guitarist/vocalist David Schlosser are veterans of the sub-genre and performed at their usual astounding level. Trae Brown (of Beta Boys, The Deacons, etc.) recently became the group's bassist and made an excellent debut, despite dropping his pick multiple times from sweating and pounding out those grooves (and possibly due to using up his beer tickets before the set). Look out for a re-recorded version of their demo coming later this summer before they all move to the state of Washington.

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