JUNE 7th 2015

Review by: Lana Muirhead
Photos by: Peter Ruttan

Photos: http://www.metaltitans.com/concertpics/teenage-bottlerocket/

Walking into the Venue on June 7 for opening bands the Isotopes Punk Rock Baseball Club (more commonly known as the Isotopes), The Copyrights, and headliners Teenage Bottlerocket, I had literally just heard their music that afternoon.  I am not typically a punk rock fan, though punk has a special (small) space in my heart. It had been a while since I’d gotten on the punk parade and this show was a great re-introduction; I dusted off the ole Doc Martens and cutoff jeans and had ater.

The Isotopes, a six or seven piece ensemble depending on the day, kicked things off with their baseball-themed tunes.  The set is based in Vancouver and though baseball is typically a very American sport, they definitely exhibited enough love for the game to cover the Canadian landscape. Lead vocalist, Evan October, could be penned as a twangy Billy Talent; and if anyone has ever seen the energy exhibited by Billy Talent during a show: Evan and company could match it.  At one point, during “Total Juice Head” Evan even hit the deck and pumped out a few push-ups. These guys were primed. With a drummer, two guitars, a bassist, vocalist and umpire (yep, you read that right) one may even say that they eclipsed the headlining ‘Rockets in brief moments. Let me explain: Picture this…there’s a sudden lull in “Chicks Dig the Longball” and a dude in a baseball cap, sunglasses, t-shirt and jockstrap (aka the Umpire) comes out on stage and starts tossing little baseball-painted chocolates into the crowd from said jockstrap. The band doesn’t miss a beat. And yes, for you more twisted readers, I had to dodge being smoked in the noggin by flying ball-sweat covered chocolates.

All in all, good fun though I do have to say that the drummer was terribly underrated and almost overshadowed by the guitars in the majority of songs; however one could argue this may be my little non-punk-wired brain getting in the way. Ending on a high note, the Isotopes gave the Copyrights a bit to live up to.  But it was clear that this band was much more cohesive than the first (which may be due to the Isotopes’ revolving door of musicians; the bassist told me he was called the afternoon of the show to fill a vacancy).  The drums and guitar sound were more balanced and there was no clear winner or loser in the “let’s be loud” game; everyone was more in competition but all came out on top.

For me, listening was like going back to Green Day’s earlier stuff before they got too pop-y. The four-piece, led by vocalist/guitarist Brett Hunter, was reminiscent of Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day both in stance and mannerisms. The catalogue of songs played really demonstrated the formulaic punk recipe which is littered with time changes, and great use of silences and pauses. A favourite of mine was the closing “Worn Out Passport” off their 2011 album North Sentinel Island. It oozed Ramones and Misfits influences but the Copyrights were still able to make it their own with intensity and spot on instrumentals.

Finally came time for the headlining Teenage Bottlerocket. Hailing from Laramie, Wyoming, this was the band the crowd came to see; despite the obvious lack of Wyoming-bred punk bands. Heading out to the stage, the Bottlerockets had a modified Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” playing while a local kid waved the ‘rockets’ flag while in a full-faced skeleton mask. Setting the tone, Ray Carlisle on guitar and vocals, Miguel Chen on bass, Brandon Carlisle on drums, and vocalist/guitarist Kody Templeton hit hard with their opener, despite having some mic malfunction, which was quickly corrected. The guys were jumping and strumming like a punk band should.

It was clear by the crowd that the guys familiar with the Bottlerocket tunes were shot right back to their heydays; and Ray was literally shooting them down with his riffs, aiming his guitar neck at the front-rowers and pegging them off like in a carnival game. There was a lag in energy partway in and the skeleton “kill face” came out to try to rile up the crowd with no real success.  As I was not privy to a set list, I cannot say whether the band decided here to mix things up a little more and go retro or if they stuck to whatever plan they had to punk up The Venue. Regardless, launching into “Bloodbath At Burger King”, one of the first big hits released by the band back in 2005, was one of the best performed and best received songs of the night.  Despite not being teenagers anymore, the Bottlerockets could still rock like they were barely into their 20s.  In fact, Ray made specific reference to how the years drift away, pointing out that their merch kid was only 19 years old and he could conceivably be his father…though denies any such possibility.

When Kody got on with “I Wanna Die” taking over lead vocals, he really shone. This was a typical punk song, but he owned it with finger licking riffs and precise angst-y verse.  Similarly drummer Brandon was consistently rigorous, working like a dog in a tiny space.  I did have to feel for all the drummers: they looked like they were playing with t-rex arms.  Is that to say they need more space or they’re perfect just as they are?  Who knows, Brandon was super, moving on.

Another off the new album just released was “They Call Me Steve”, one of the best. Otherwise compared with the old tunes they were playing, the newest album, Tales from Wyoming, is more of a diet punk than full typical caffeine/sugar infusion.  This sentiment was clearly shared by the crowd as when they got back to their roots, playing older tunes like “Freak Out” and “In the Basement”, the bodies got to moving again. Teenage Bottlerocket closed with “So Far Away”, and killed it.  Ray and Miguel finished up by twiddling each other’s strings, picking off the last notes to great calls for more music and to keep the night going (point of fact Ray actually was the bassist for the band for a period of time at the birthing). So, I reiterate: a younger version of myself was a punk lover and these days I am more of a hard rock/metalhead, so it took some soul searching to get back to that shadow of me. Having said that, I am SO glad I did. Watching the energy, remembering that songs were fun and light and lasted under 2 minutes at times, and jumping as opposed to headbanging, reminded me that punk is fun. Can I say that it has survived the times and bands like the Misfits and Teenage Bottlerocket will fade away to newer bands who will carry the punk torch into the future? Doubtful; but there is always hope with the right leadership.  In the meantime we have the oldies, the goodies, the Bottlerocket.