‘Tis the season! Not only do we have Christmas and Hannukah to celebrate this month, but Vegas also got hit with a Punk Rock Holiday at Brooklyn Bowl with some of the biggest legends in the game.
The iconic Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies brought their Vegas-worthy cover act back to the city they’ve graced so many times over Punk Rock Bowling and even Warped Tour back when it existed, but this time they’re (on the) Up To Snow Good (Tour) along with legendary Josie Cotton, the hard hitting Black Tones and DJ Scowl N Howl spinning vinyl in-between the sets.
The Black Tones
I’m not sure if anyone knew what we were walking into for this opening set, but that wholesome holiday feeling was quickly melted away with the radiant heat let off by this groovy three-piece. Starting off with a jam session that had singer Eva Walker’s guitar mastering a wah that would make Jimi Hendrix blush, followed by her brother Cedric’s pounding drums that can only be harmonized this well with that weird sync that twins have, their instruments grab you in a hypnotic way that you just sit there and stare with a grin on your face wondering ‘what the fuck am I seeing right now’.
After that intro you’re hooked. The constant groove these twins let out is somethings special, and Eva’s husband Jake on bass is the glue that keeps the two’s beat in check. There were moments where the beat Jake and Cedric put down left that same stomping feeling you get during “Seven Nation Army” or “Smells Like Tean Spirit”, and Eva’s unique style that’s a mix between Alabama Shakes and a sober Kurt Cobain really gives this group the pizzazz it’ll need to catapult into the atmosphere.
This was the set that threw me for a loop. While Josie Cotton has had her name in the spotlight in the past, I’m not sure if she’s the case of a one-hit-wonder that just didn’t stop riding the coat tales of chart topper “Johnny, Are You Queer?” or if she just had a shitty one hit then found a niche in her later years that people seemed to like.
Besides the pop sound she lets out, there’s a punk element to the garb and instruments on stage. The keyboard was probably the most attractive things from the music, and the part of the crowd born before 1975 really did enjoy the aforementioned hit single, but after a set that went way too long for their own good, we were ready for Me First to come take us home through those ol’ country roads.
Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies
“This next one’s a cover!”
During a holiday season that could be considered the biggest cover of them all, it’s only proper that the world’s greatest cover band come rock the socks off the city that made cover bands famous.
Spike and Me First have been a constantly shining gem in the punk community for decades. Along with true legends CJ Ramone on bass, John The Swami from Rocket From The Crypt on lead guitar, Jake Kiley from Strung Out on rhythm, and Pinch from The Damned on drums, they’re here to show us what the holidays are about.
Starting off with the festive “Feliz Navidad” was able to get the crowd moving, but it didn’t take long for Spike to get into his patented crowd work that will leave you rolling on the floor between each song. After the holiday Beach Boys hit “The Man with All the Toys” he gave us the wise observation that:
“They ought to call him Tantric Clause because he only comes once a year, am I right? What discipline!”
It gets even better as they go on. The depth and passion behind each cover they play is like they wrote it themselves, and even the ones you think are a joke, Spike can make seem like the most serious anthem of our day:
“I know it can seem like a postmodern hellscape at times. The modern world that we live in can seem like a dysfunctional nightmare at times, and it’s hard for me to not succumb to bitterness and cynicism and pessimism. But sometimes there’s a glimmer of light and something happens that never happened before. Something that we never imagined we’d see, and suddenly I have hope for the future and for humanity. Tonight, for example, you’re going to see CJ Ramone play the opening strings to a Paula Abdul song?! What a night to be alive, Las Vegas. Enjoy this next song, which is a cover.”
Straight up though, Me First’s cover of “Straight Up” is one of the most fun songs to sing along to live and will forever be a crowd favorite.
The Christmas jams didn’t stop there. After a few more of the hits like “Jolene”, “Country Roads”, and the crowd pleaser “I Will Survive”, Spike got ahold of a ukulele to seduce us away to the encore with “Santa Baby”. There wasn’t a dry pair of underwear in the place.
The festivities were nowhere near over though. After getting back with a few backups on sax and sleigh bells, we got Wizard’s “I Wish it Could Be Christmas Everyday” and the inevitable “Rocket Man” from Elton John to close things out and send us off.
With so many shows in Las Vegas from The Gimmies, it’s hard to pick a favorite. They’ve been Festival, Club Show, and even Secret Show headliners for Punk Rock Bowling and they can fill a floor for venue like House of Blues and Brooklyn Bowl any day, but what I can’t wait for is the inevitable Me First Lounge Act at the dingiest casino in town. Spike alluded to it and I see no other choice for him and whatever legends he can rotate through this never ending collective.
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos by Stephy Muzio for ZRockR Magazine – All Rights Reserved