The week between Christmas and New Year's is usually a pretty dull one, but it holds what has become one of my favorite holiday traditions: My now annual trip to the House of Blues to see the Mighty Mighty Bosstones for their Hometown Throwdown.
This year they lessened the usual holiday theme and instead dedicated their entire three show run to The Rat, the legendary Boston punk club that used to be located across the Mass Pike from the House of Blue in Kenmore Square. For their openers, they chose bands they knew from their days of playing The Rat. For Sunday night, their openers were The Real Kids and The Queers.
As I walked in, I noticed a list of set times posted at the door. The Real Kids had to drop out at the last minute due to John Felice being hospitalized. It was a huge disappointment, especially because I had never heard of their replacement, Unnatural Axe. Turns out Unnatural Axe are the Boston punk originators, and started playing shows at The Rat in 1978. As they took the stage, they just looked like regular guys in their 50s, and not punk at all. That made their playing all the better, as they were the most hardcore band of the night. They tore through songs like "3 Chord Rock" and "They Stole Hitler's Brain" with more ferocity than bands half their age. Unfortunately, most of the crowd seemed to be there for hits and they didn't get much of a reaction until Dicky Barrett of the Bosstones joined them for a song. It's always sad when the originators of a scene get virtually ignored.
Next up were The Queers. Or, at least, Joe Queer with two guys much younger than him. But, hey... it's still Joe Queer and I finally got to see a band I've been listening to for 20 years live. Opening with "No Tit," they didn't make any attempt to clean up their offensive for the sake of being offensive act, which made me thrilled. Finally seeing The Queers playing "Born to Do Dishes" and "Murder in the Brady House" was worth it. They also brought out special guests, including original Dropkick Murphys guitarist Rick Barton and the drummer for The Real Kids. They also covered The Real Kids' classic "All Kindsa Girls," for obvious reasons. In what seemed to be a recurring theme, the crowd was pretty much dead for The Queers. I thought maybe a band called The Queers and doing a song called "No Tit" might not mesh well with the kids these days. Instead, after their set, one of these whippersnappers complained that the set was "... about 40 minutes too long." His big complaint wasn't the subject matter or the band's name, but that they supposedly insulted the sound guy. The insult seemed to be one comment after the opening song where Joe Queer basically said "Hey, sound guy. I have no idea where you are, but I could use some more vocals and guitar in the front monitors." That seems to me to be more of a comment about the size of the venue and asking the sound guy to make an adjustment, which happens at literally every club show. Kids these days...
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones have always been, and will always be, one of the best live acts out there. They started the show off perfectly with "Dr. D," "They Came to Boston," and "Dogs & Chaplains." In an unexpected (but also pretty fantastic) twist, guitarist Lawrence Katz was sidelined to just vocal duties due to a broken arm. I hate saying that turned out fantastic, but he was replaced with original Bosstones guitarist Nate Albert. I'm not saying I want Katz to always be out, but it's always fun when original members pop in for a few shows. Other highlights of the set included "Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah" (by far the most fun of the post-reunion songs live), "Hell of a Hat," "1-2-8," and a cover of "At the Rat," of course.
This might have been the first Bosstones show that made me feel old. I can't really put my finger on it. It might have been the indifference to the Boston punk rock royalty that opened the show, the fact that a decent chunk of the crowd seemed to just be there for the songs they knew off their breakout album Let's Face It (one guy against the barricade didn't even clap between songs until the band played "Noise Brigade" from that album), overprotective and aggressive dads in the audience, or what. Usually Bosstones shows, especially Hometown Throwdown shows, usually attract die hards that are thrilled for every song, particularly the older, more obscure ones. This seemed to be filled with people looking for "The Impression That I Get." It was still a fantastic show, and of course I'll be lined up to go next year.