The Bouncing Souls | 11.29.06

Halfway into the first song of the set on the campus of Washington University, someone behind me asked "What are we supposed to do at a show where we can't drink?" My answer was simple: Enjoy a well-played performance by an irresistible force in the punk-rock scene.

 

The Gargoyle, St Louis

A lot of bands are throwing around the claim of being punk rock these days, and many of the newer ones invariably spark seemingly unsolvable arguments over the criteria of labeling an outfit as such. Over nearly two decades, since their humble 1987 New Jersey beginnings, the Bouncing Souls have earned a reputation of undisputable cred in a notoriously fickle punk scene-an achievement apparent in the confidence with which they took the stage at the Gargoyle. Following a smorgasbord of punk rock offered up by the three great opening acts, they presided over the crowd. Frontman Greg Attonito arrived clad in a buttoned-up shirt and tie, joined by guitarist Pete "The Pete" Steinkopf, bassist Bryan "Papillion" Kienlen, and drummer Michael "Madman" McDermott.

The Souls opened with "The Gold Song," the first track from 2006's The Gold Record, and was promptly punctuated with Attonito's token "Howya doin', St. Louis?" The band's rapport was thus established for the performance, with Attonito and Kienlen delivering short but witty remarks in between songs. They poked fun at their audience, primarily consisting of college students, about being in school (read: cutting school) but remained equitable by poking fun at themselves as well, mentioning needing longer breaks in the set due to their advancing age. Largely, though, the banter was kept short in order to better showcase the music.

The show continued with a handful of choice tracks from The Gold Record sandwiched in between material from their six previous releases—albums which have become standards in punk-rock collections. The first few bars of "Lean on Sheena" garnered approval from all over the room. As the song built to the chorus, Attonito held the microphone out for the crowd to join in, which they did, giving solid evidence that the track has real potential to become one of the great hits in the Bouncing Souls' catalog.

At the behest of Kienlen, fan favorite "East Coast Fuck You" was replaced mid-set with "No Security" and "No Rules," two songs which he claimed "rock just as hard and have the word ‘no' in them." In a skillful and impromptu move, the band played through both titles without pausing in between. The deliciously modernized cover of the Kinks' hit "Better Things" was well received, as was the anthemic "True Believers" and the incredibly tight rhythm section of "Punks in Vegas."

After 19 years, it's encouraging to know that the Bouncing Souls are still releasing their own brand of music and aren't too cool for school (pun intended). They still arrive onstage like an open flame in a fireworks stand, all eyes are instantly on them, and it's a fair guess that they aren't going to be quitting any time soon. Those who have seen them can appreciate the raw energy that is still very much a part of their music and the stage presence that can only be acquired through an extensive and formidable career. | Jason Neubauer  

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