Worst Party Ever/Dollar Signs/Late Bloomer/Community Couch/Planet Loser
Sunday, January 27th 2019
Lucky You Tattoo, St. Petersburg FL
About a decade. When asked how long I’ve lived over here, I’ve now reached the point where I can comfortably round up to that answer. Despite my gradual transformation into a hybrid accepted in full by neither culture, it doesn’t take much prompting for the old country to come screaming back into the focus of my mind. Take for example tonight’s first orbiters of the Lucky You nebula, Tampa’s Planet Loser. This dream pop duo is here backed by a full band, but my attention is still drawn to the Branglophile stylings of the permanent members. Guitarist Ethan is wearing a full-on sandwich board advertisement for Scottish soft drink Irn-Bru, while vocalist Amber is dressed like she just arrived from a chilly council estate, all hooped earrings and baggy tops (much of the rest of the U.S. may have become freezingly unliveable but it’s still winter down here nevertheless). Amusingly, it fits. Planet Loser’s rhythmic indie pop is music suited to the dark northern climes, the delicate lifting strength of three guitars and a calming female voice. Despite clothing choices, there’s much more that indicates a heartland 80s influence rather than of the decade’s tail end baggy scene; the intro to Feel You Breathe sounds like it’s going to be a cover of Close To Me by The Cure. It’s no less enjoyable to realise that it’s not.
My writing relationship with local favourites Community Couch has until now been series of near misses: arriving late to a gig they did with Piss Ghost (RIP) and Madison Turner; noting their cancellation of a September show in Richmond to push my anti-hurricane agenda; hearing an acoustic set at the first Planet Retro Punk Rock Flea Market while I sat barely out of sight attempting to flog paper manifestations of stuff like this. I knew enough to know they’d be fun to finally witness properly though. This earworm queercore outfit channels self-doubt into community catharsis, as promised in their title. There’s a lot of physicality for an act named after a piece of furniture you sit your arse down on; frontfolks Stove and Glen perform sustained coordinated kicks towards drummer Eli’s face during one tune, and Stove’s vicious hugging towards the end of the set encapsulates some of the emotional mixing on display in the music. My pal Oliver jumps in at one point with a kazoo purchased from the WORST COMPANY EVER, one perfectly worthy of the Liquid Sunshine lyrics “I can’t pay my bills, I don’t know how we’ll eat / I’d pick up another job, but then when would I sleep?”
Late Bloomer from Charlotte, North Carolina, begin their set by thanking not just our St. Petersburg, but St. Petersburg of Russia. Careful now. The way things are going with this ever-widening conspiracy (Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are now apparently Kremlin assets too), it won’t be long until every resident of this city is stripped of their rights under the charge of trying to build a covert Russian enclave in the middle of Florida. As their name might suggest, Late Bloomer — like their 6131 Records labelmates Planet Loser — are pretty deep in the nostalgia game, but at least it’s of a high quality. As they perform their respectable post-grunge college rock I can see the washed-out MTV2 video playing inside my head. You can see it too, because it apparently exists for the track Life Is Weird, which itself harkens backwards with clips from 1950s television. If only we could recycle our physical resources as thoroughly as we recycle our culture. Strangely, both Scott on drums and Neil on guitar remind me of various underappreciated Culkin siblings. I would avoid making mention of the recently disbanded McCauley comedy vehicle The Pizza Underground, if not for the fact that the producer/engineer on Late Bloomer’s recent record Waiting was Justin Pizzoferreto (known for his work with Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.).
It goes from Life is Weird to Life Is Ruff with tonight’s other Charlotte touring band, Dollar Signs. Life Is Ruff is a dog-friendly EP I would pick up (not to be confused with new one I Need Some Space) both because I was excited to finally see this lot and because at the time of the gig I thought I had a job on the hook and was prematurely seeing my own dollar signs. Turns out I didn’t exactly, but other funding has thankfully since come my way. This is a party that sucks you in. Dollar Signs live are like The Front Bottoms plus Against Me! plus the trumpet bounce of Less Than Jake, fronted by Erik Button’s jovial inviting vocal style. Bassist Dylan Wachman tells of a strange incident that took place 30 minutes earlier at a nearby sports bar involving a man in a peacoat and his pee, only for the stranger in question to show up and defend himself by proclaiming that “I washed my dick before I left the house.” Inconsiderate bastard almost crashed the vocal of The Devil Wears Flannel, a great song (from last year’s This Will Haunt Me) that namechecks Orson Welles and Mozart, among others. It’s in the same vein of lambasting popular music as I’m Better Than You by Kanye West, an old track that brought Dollar Signs to my attention years before West started donning his MAGA hat and talking a lot of foolishness.
Being that it’s an all-ages, booze-free, essjaydubbleyoo sort of hang out, youthful vigour is often present here at Lucky You Tattoo. But in the case of Sarasota’s emo-ists Worst Party Ever a significant subset of the crowd are constantly pogoing around the singer with an otherworldly level of enthusiasm. I was waiting for him and his mic stand to hit the floor amidst all the excited attention and the music to come to an abrupt pause. Worst Party Ever may or may not be styled after the dialect of Comic Book Guy, a nerd so insignificant that Matt Groening didn’t even give him a name, but their apparent popularity and riled-up base would probably net them more votes than some of the other 3rd parties out there. The music inspiring such a reaction is much more energetic than their Dashboardy bandcamp offerings might prepare you for. Cries of “four more years!” are met with the response “what the fuck is that?,” suggesting maybe that the political wing of the Worst Party Ever empire hasn’t yet been discussed. A word of advice: make a few well placed calls to the Russian embassy and Ye and you’ll apparently be unstoppable.