On Jan. 14, a crowd of 60 to 70 people came out to hear a night of music that culminated in an energetic performance by a band called Socialism. Walking down a nondescript staircase that leads under an art supply store, one does not expect to find the Miyerang Theatre. The dark two-room venue with five tiers of bleacher-style seats that overlook the ample stage space is more outfitted for one act plays than rock concerts. However, this did not deter the enthusiastic crowd from enjoying the show.
Leading off the acts for the night was Universal Boyscout. They began their set by saying, “We believe there are two kinds of music: black and white. We are black music.” This served as a preamble to a gloomy song that erupted in screams and distorted guitars. The five-piece group seemed somewhat confused in their influences – for one song playing doom metal and the next lapsing into power pop. However, their energy was undeniable as the lead singer ran into the crowd and screamed into his microphone before triumphantly sticking out his tongue.
Also on the bill for the evening was power-trio PumpkinHead. They cruised through a quick set of straightforward rock songs full of fast power chords and quick drum fills. The young band’s repertoire was simple but earnest – the songs quick and to the point.
Local band Socialism headlined the evening and played two sets. The nine-piece group had a palpable stage presence; their members donned formal ware, filling the performance space completely with an alto saxophone player, a trombone/tuba player, a keyboardist, a guitarist, a drum kit, a hand drummer, a bass player, and another percussionist whose collection of instruments included shakers, woodblocks, and a cowbell.
This circus of players was overseen by a ringleader dressed for the part with a black frock coat of many buttons, a top hat, black high-tops, and a black pom-pom pinned to his chest. The scrappy front man’s rusty croon was almost as captivating as his dance moves as he furiously skanked around the small space with excited eyes throwing elbows, fists, and feet in all directions. He often leapt up the steps into the crowd encouraging them to move their arms and participate.
When he was not dancing, the front man was cracking jokes or feigning melodrama to charm the audience. He served as ambassador to a set comprised mostly of ska songs with a few samba numbers thrown in. A cover of Dandy Livingstone’s “A Message to You Rudy” led the first set, and set the tone for a fun romp through similar tunes.
What individuals in the group may have lacked in skill, they made up for in energy. All members danced and jested – the guitar player often moving to the other side of the stage to visit the hand drummer, the tuba player flipping his instrument down and singing backup vocals into his instrument microphone, and the backup percussionist moving to the front of the stage to dance. There were times in the set when all members were operating at full throttle, furiously blowing, pounding, and strumming to create moments that vibrated with energy. This was the band at its best.
Although the show would have been better served by a venue with more room to move, Socialism’s effort to get the crowd dancing was not a complete failure. At one point the entire audience participated in the skanking, moving clenched fists up and down to the beat. One can only hope that Socialism’s next show has a dance floor.