This last Tuesday, one of the big names in Pop Punk played a show at Slim’s in San Francisco. The Bouncing Souls, who have been playing since they formed in New Jersey in 1989, headlined an evening that brought back an almost perfect vision of my youth and going to poppy, “pogo” influenced punk shows throughout the south bay in the 1990s and early 2000s. Intermixed with overpriced booze, an angry, seemingly bald, glasses wearing bartender, the entire night was beaming with nostalgia.
The opening band Luther, who seemed disappointed that the majority of the audience was there for the headlining band, was reminiscent of the Promise Ring and a little Broken Social Scene, while still trying to be metal. The Mezingers, a really awesome four piece band fronted by a diminutive but loud and passionate individual, who screamed and bounced his head off on the stage, really stole the show for me. Their songs were catchy, well formed, and evena had a Springsteen and Lawrence Arms feel; singing with a visceral element which the rest of the night lacked.
When the Bouncing Souls were set to come on stage, in my usual “I am not that old” mentality, I went to the very front of the stage and Mosh pit area. This being a poppy punk band whose music had made be jump around for at least fifteen years, I was excited for a bouncy-sweaty-crazy-fun time. This was my first time at a Bouncing Souls show and I wanted a high kicking anthem fun time. That is not what I found. Ignoring the actual performance for a minute here, I feel the need to highlight the mosh pit. Keeping in mind that I have seen plenty of bands at Slim’s and have had amazing experiences before, you have to realize that what I found was akin to a mosh pit black hole. The large span in the center was devoid of anything, as if a previous mosh pit had collapsed and sucked in everything around it, leaving only a small swirl of activity on the outer rim. When I finally grew tired of being punched in the back by the same jerk, who didn’t really get the point of mosh pits, I threw him down and walked back to my ever growing bar tab.
This show marked a portion of a tour to highlight the Bouncing Souls’ latest album “Comet” and one would think that they would be excited to be in front of a crowd. Unfortunately, Greg Attonito had the stage presence of a limp noodle and was virtually unintelligible. Maybe it was because they had been touring for a while and had a large road in front of them. Maybe it was because they have been playing for more than two decades. All I can say is that the only ones in the band that were exciting to watch were the drummer and the bassist. I have to say that I was severely disappointed. During “Hopeless Romantic”, one of my favorite songs, he pissed away the energy the audience was throwing at him and let it fizzle. The entire show, with the exception of when he was handed a guitar for a song, and once or twice when it looked like he would almost start bouncing (but didn’t), he looked like a newbie at a karaoke bar.
Maybe this is representative of a punk scene from the “old days” that has fizzled out, maybe the entire band had mono, maybe as a west coaster it was some sort of divide (I REALLY don’t by this argument from the fact that the previous band was from the east coast and owning the show). All I know is that I had way more fun pointing out how crappy the Bouncing Souls were as a live band with fellow attendees - this conversation went to about ten different people who had the same vibe.
I will continue to love their music and I will continue to go to shows, but if I am ever asked if I want to go see them again live, I most definitely will hesitate and check my calendar. Maybe I am busy that night.