Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pep Love and New Found Glory: Together at Last

I don't know enough about New Found Glory to figure if they are a serious punk rock band. Just bringing up the question seems kind of hokey to me.

I do know enough about Pep Love from Heiroglyphics to determine that the Oakland MC is not a serious punk rock band. No question marks there.

So why did I get a sense that watching Pep Love play to a small but dedicated crowd in the Atrium was decidedly more punk rock than watching New Found Glory launch a fragmented pop-punk assault before a packed main room at the Catalyst? Spread the hokieness around, why don't I?

NFG's lead singer looks like Henry Rollins's dorky kid brother, a tall, lanky punk rock frontman who imposes his will on the audience rather than pull them in. He seemed to have all the stock punk moves down, pacing the stage, singing full-throttle with his legs stretched out like a catcher waiting for throw to home plate. Kids ate it up.

Their sound is a bit of paint by the numbers pop-punk, heavy on melody. It's some of the least threatening rock I've heard in a while, perfect for say, the Vans Warped Tour, of which they've performed several times.

All of this isn't to say they performed bad. On the contrary, the band had total command of their sound, working the crowd into frenzied fits. The music was edgey enough to get the sweaty, shirtless moshers to do that one weird dance thing where they kick up their feet like a Rockette line, only a million miles a minute.

The median age of the crowd was probably 17 and three-quarters. And before the show, they threw on "Crank Dat (Soldier Boy)" and I saw more than a few people doing the dance. And it wasn't even the Travis Barker rock remix!

I left NFG's show after about five songs to check out Pep Love's side-stage show. The crowd was small, but they huddled around the stage to give it a nice, cozy feel (I'd say intimate, but I hate it when people use that word to mask the fact that only 5 people showed up for their show).

Pep came on stage looking exactly like you'd expect an aging rapper to look: sensible jeans, cell-phone cliped to his side and sticking out like a six-shooter, loose-fitting, black Heiroglyphics T-Shirt. Once upon a time, Pep was the hidden gem in the Heiro emporium, an underrated wordsmith with loads of talent and potential. He was to Heiro what Inspectah Deck was to The Wu-Tang Clan.

A cool thing is that any Heiro crew member would seem to have a large catalogue to pull from, given the crew's longevity in the game (hard to believe this year marks 15 years since "Burrnt," the crew's first true song, was released). Pep played songs from "Third Eye Vision" and his solo stuff. I didn't write down his set list, unfortunately.

As he got into the thick of his set, the crowd cramped together and smoke started filtering the air. I watched and recalled some of the few real punk-rock shows I've been to, and it reminded me of that: the back room at La Perla in Salinas, the Galeria Bolazo in San Francisco, my old spot The Grassy Knoll in Salas.

Pep's set was punk rock, minus the swinging limbs and 13-year-old miscreants. Ain't nothing hokey about that.

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