News Section: Arts and Entertainment
Loco Live Edition:
A Gentlemen Army Acoustic at McCabe's Irish Pub
Come sweet death,
one last caress
By 9:30 on Friday night, McCabe’s Irish Pub was packed and smoky. A Gentlemen Army had just taken stage, and I was on my second cup of bourbon sitting at the bar with a friend who’d come home from London for Christmas. She spoke a million words and I didn’t hear a single one of them, but I knew what she was saying the whole time—it was that type of conversation.
Suddenly my cup was all ice, and I decided to switch to beer. It was a good decision. A man should always mind his boundaries, and for me it’s a matter of calories—Bourbon is good, but too many with no beer and I come all to pieces.
I said, “I’m gonna get a beer, do you want one?” And my friend looked at what was left of her Moscow Mule and slushed the cubes around. She glanced at the row of taps in front of us and answered, “Actually, a Yuengling sounds good.”
I ordered the beers and we both lit cigarettes. We turned and watched the band, as well as the people, and I asked her, “Can you believe this is still happening?”
She said nothing, but smiled a smile that said No, I can’t, but I’m glad it is, and I was too, because I was there and so was she, and so was everyone else in the bar, for that matter; we were all there, and by “there” I mean Bradenton 10-years ago, when underground rock-and-roll was not such an irrelevant thing, and the air was filled with tangible energy that was there for the taking.
The beers arrived and we said cheers, as the band went into a song we both remembered. She smiled again, and I took a drag. It was good to be among the favorable forms of past and present and to feel ourselves moving forward without restraint.
* * * * * *
When I walked up to McCabe’s an hour earlier, Mike Leroy and Ben Beck were out front smoking cigarettes, joking loudly and laughing hard. Leroy plays guitar for A Gentlemen Army (AGA), and Beck does other things. Rob Radacoy, who led the seminal Florida hardcore band Wisenheimer from 1997 – 2005, came out of nowhere and brushed his lit cigarette against my arm. He’s been doing that for years, and I know I’m a better man for it.
Rubbing my arm, I looked away from Rob’s devil grin, and through the glass window I could see AGA drummer Ryan Massey inside playing an acoustic guitar, which was the theme of the night. The show, actually, was billed as A Gentlemen Army Acoustic.
Starting at 8:15 p.m., the five band members took turns with the guitar, and each gave a short solo performance before taking the stage together for a set of songs they’d re-worked to suit the occasion. Instead of blowing the walls of the cozy bar down like a gang of big, bad wolves armed with double bass and sub-atomic tube amplification, A Gentlemen Army evolved to their surroundings: Massey’s 10-piece drum kit was stripped down to bass, snare, high-hat and ride; Leroy’s Marshall powered half-stack replaced by vintage 1950’s Gibson amp played through with no distortion; Justin Danner’s Fender Strotocaster became an acoustic; and Erik Livingston and Sean McInerney—lead vocals and bass guitar, respectively—were the only two behind microphones. The others sang at the tops of their lungs and not a single note went mute.
The overall effect of this deviation from the group’s usual ferocious high-octane punk rock audio assault was good. In fact, it was better; because the traditional punk rock sound, at least for now, is dead. Which isn’t surprising—punk rock was a product of boredom, and people aren’t bored anymore. On the contrary, with all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips we are overstimulated; and unlike generations past, we don’t go out Friday nights to blow off steam, but to decompress. We don’t want a mosh pit, we want personal space, because at this point, that’s all we have.
I admit this sounds like a bummer. After typing the above paragraph I leaned back in my chair and stared at the words, and the notion as it glowed from the screen of my MacBook Air made me want to chop my long hair into a mohawk, and dye it green. But such would be useless. Because the Death of Punk Rock isn’t anyone’s fault—there isn’t any more we could’ve done. We took it full throttle to the edge and never pulled back, and stumbled from the wreckage dazed & confused, wondering where we could ever possibly go.
Many didn’t make it out alive, and there are even more who never found a place in this strange future. They are still wandering aimlessly, looking for a home they’ll never find.
Those of us who did go with the great big American flow were home at McCabe’s Friday night—a gang of old school rockers swilling ale and smiling, laughing and enjoying the songs filled with the same old raspy attitude and singing along, proud among friends. Because a Misfits song played on an acoustic guitar is still a Misfits song, and these days, I like the way it sounds.
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