So, here are are again, almost a month with no updates at HEP. I would love to say that we’ve been far too busy with shows and raucous evenings to get around to posting, but that would be a lie. Instead, you get excuses about the self-imposed exile of NaNoWriMo (we didn’t win, by the way, but making it to 30,000 words was a small victory) and being poor.
In fact, the last show we attending was the Upstanding Youth 10 year anniversary on November 19th. We were only there for a few hours, however, as words were to be written on our novels. Even still, we caught all of Black Square‘s and Hell Camino‘s sets and half of the headliner’s.
Hell Camino played slower and more honky tonk than I would have thought possible, obviously trying to play to the ska sound of the night. It was still great, however, and was really cool to see them work outside of the norm. They did still throw down a couple of psychobilly songs, however, which got our blood flowing.
Black Square were awesome as always. I’m not sure how many times I’ve listened to their latest CD, but I literally cannot stay seated when they play their golden songs (which are all of them, of course). My friends and I made our way through the fifty or so people who has amassed during the band’s first song (“In The Day,” if memory serves) and found that there was a lot of skanking going on in the front. Like, more than I had ever seen for this band, even at their own monthly headliner “Black Saturday.” We, of course, quickly joined in. The best moment of this set (and probably the whole show) was when they had steamrolled into a high energy song (“Slow Down” or “Black Square” stand out in my hazy memory) and all of us up front managed to look up at T. R. at the same moment. From the stage, he looked down at us very seriously and held up one hand, his index finger making a small circle. Instantly, the dancing devolved into a roaring mosh of twelve or so people jumping, tumbling, and smashing our way around the stage. I caught a glimpse of T. R.’s face wearing a smirk as he went back to playing.
The last bit of the show we caught was Upstanding Youth, the now 10 year old band. Before they went on, someone introduced them as the “best ska band of all time,” an extremely tall order that I don’t really agree with. To me, they were a pretty decent ska band, but, honestly, fairly vanilla. I am by no means an authority of the genre, however.
Really, after more than a year kicking around China Town and seeing many talented bands barely scraping twenty people out for a show, I was somewhat upset to see a hundred people flood into Anna’s for this set only. I recognized no one in this new crowd and it seems most of them had eschewed the previous two performances, despite their quality. As far as I can tell, Upstanding Youth had pulled a huge crowd from another scene (I guessed Waikiki, but that was a hunch) into the bar that I have only gone to see “Chi-To bands” perform at. Perhaps I am being too scene-insular.
NOTE: In this next breakdown paragraph, I’m going to only talk about what I heard at the UY show. I’ve since listened to their recorded stuff and found it to be quite different.
To give a fair shake to the band, they were good. Whereas I generally like punk with my ska, Upstanding Youth were straight ska with a side of pop. I can see how the band has become quite popular on Oahu as they have incorporated many of what I would consider to be ‘traditional Hawaiian’ sounds into their slow to mid-tempo songs. It was more music to groove than dance to. Except for a few brave souls, the farthest anyone in the crowd got to moving was a small sway or head bob. There isn’t anything wrong with that, of course, but it was hard for me to chill out after Black Square had shocked me into action.
That was really my issue with Upstanding Youth, the proclaimed “best ska band of all time”: Black Square was just generally more enjoyable. My quick and unscientific poll of the people I knew at the show confirmed my thoughts; You have to be a great band to follow Black Square. And Upstanding Youth, to me, was not great, but good at best.
P.S.: Tomorrow night (9pm) there is a sweet show going on at Mercury. $5 for 5 bands, including the HEP favs Gnarwal, Coral Stabz, and The Substitoots. Not sure if we’ll make it, but totes buy us a beer if we do. We could use the booze.