The moment we heard the banjo from behind the curtain at The Saint on Saturday, we knew we should expect something different.
We already knew anything was possible at The Saint, especially with so many bands scheduled.
At it turned out, the night was particularly diverse from hardcore punk and something I perhaps misnamed Cow punk to a mingling of genres.
Casino Sundae opened the night with a very serviceable rock and roll, mostly original pieces that had just enough variety that you could easily spend a night with it as the solo band and not get bored – with lead vocals by the guitarist and backup by the bass play that provided a surprising amount of comfortable harmony.
For me, hardcore punk (as opposed to Heavy Metal which I struggle sometimes to tell a difference) is a dead art form. It sole purpose as far as I’m concern was to rescue rock from the soppy doldrums of the early 1970s the way the Beatles rescue Elvis a decade earlier from sappy characters like Pat Boone. But listening to punk rock today is like being forced to listen to The Ventures after having been exposed to Pink Floyd.
Music has just come too far since the 1970s for Punk to seem anything more than a novelty – even though no one would question the musicianship of the Game Day Regulars – they are fabulous musicians – far exceeding their primitive, almost indigestible ancestors, even making the genre listenable for me, if only for a few songs. But if you have a taste for that sort of thing, they’re your cup of tea.
The Amboys, on the other hand, was clearly a diverse, sometimes hardcore pop/rock/country band that delved into punk just enough for me to think of them as cow punk – although the term clearly falls short of defining just how good they are. They had a country flavor and a distinct respect for melody that separated them from anything really punk, drawing from a number of genres that includes rock, rock-a-billy, punk, and mainstream pop. Their sound was surprisingly fresh, and you could easily start out envisioning yourself walking along a country road only to find yourself falling off a cliff as the very competent musicians rocked the house down with their set at The Saint.
Had they been the last band, I would have gone home ecstatic.
They, however, were followed by The Vansaders, a stunning, powerful and charismatic band that literally stopped my breathing at points in their set, changing the rhythm with a wide variety of songs, none of which failed to impress, from power pop to power ballads, or just straight out knock-you-over rock and roll, playing with emotions as they switched from slow to fast and back again, weaving complex melody lines only to perform starkly simple yet remarkably moving songs as a counter balance.
And it is clear that this is a band destined for something great, filling the stage and the club with the kind of presence I could only image the great bands of
historic past had. I could have listened to them all night, and though it was
way after when they finished
their set, I still wanted more.