July 29, 2017
All photos by Jeff Spirer.
Celebrating their 40th anniversary as the “clown princes of punk,” The Dickies unleashed their melodic brand of cartoon, bubble-gum punk on Slim’s last Saturday. Despite being “86 years old,” as original singer Leonard Graves Phillips joked, the band rocked it hard and hilarious, jumping frequently and bringing the infectious high energy their shows are known for.
The Dickies, whose very existence is a glorification of humor and silliness, hold the title of being the first California punk band ever to be signed to a major label. Unlike the more bleak punk rock that came out of England’s recession around that time, Dickies songs reflect the fun and the frivolous. Their carefree SoCal lifestyle was more about warm weather and pool parties than gloomy weather and political parties; their frame of reference was playing on water slides, going to Pep Boys, and watching television, hence songs like “Bowling With Bedrock Barney” and “Where Did His Eye Go?” inspired by watching Sammy Davis, Jr., host a telethon.
The Dickies played just under an hour and a half of their best-loved songs, including, “I Got It at the Store,” “Give It Back,” and “Fan Mail,” and did not disappoint with speed-punk covers of “Paranoid” and “Nights in White Satin.” Every tune was infectiously energetic – two were cartoon theme songs – and sounded almost identical to, if not even better than, the album versions. Aside from some personnel changes and a little wear and tear, there’s really not much that separates the Dickies of today from the Dickies of the ’70s. Remarkably, they sound better and tighter than ever, and Leonard calls the current line-up “hands down the strongest band (original guitarist) Stan Lee and I ever had.”
Proving just how little the Dickies have changed in 40 years, Leonard recited the same one-liners he’s used on stage since the beginning. “It is so fucking great to be back here!” he exclaimed, to which several in the crowd responded in unison, knowing what line was next: “Wherever the fuck this is!”
Not even their onstage antics, which are as adolescent as their name, have changed. Using the same props as they did in the ’70s, “Waterslide” saw Leonard wearing snorkel gear while dancing with – and pretending to perform lewd acts on – a blow-up doll that he eventually tossed into the air, punched in the face, and watched sail into the waiting arms of their tour manager just off-stage. He donned an ape mask for “You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla),” and for “If Stewart Could Talk,” he wore an arm-length penis puppet that looked like it had seen better days. A few in the front row reached up to either pet or punch its testicles. With obvious rips in the fabric, one could only wonder if the penis puppet was also celebrating its 40th anniversary with the Dickies.
Although part of their shtick is that Leonard does almost the exact same routine show after show, this night’s performance took one noticeable departure. In clear reference to the latest controversy to plague the band, Leonard nixed the line that sparked a heated exchange with a female audience member whom he infamously berated on the Vans Warped Tour weeks earlier. Instead of, “You’re a great-looking crowd. We’d love to snort Viagra off your asses and fuck your daughters,” this time he went with the more tame, if not patronizing, “You’re a great-looking crowd. We’d love to… take each and every one of you out to Starbucks for a chai latte and get to know you – in a non-gender-specific sort of way.”
The show ended with “Gigantor” and a crowd of people yelling, “Uno mas, por favor, uno mas, por favor!” (“One more, please!”) For the encore, the band played three songs, finishing with with their punk-pop version of the children’s show theme, “Banana Splits.”
With what Leonard says is the band’s “final album” in the works, the Dickies have somehow managed to be one of the longest-running punk bands in the world. Fittingly, the final show of their 40th anniversary tour is slated to take place at the Whisky-A-Go-Go in West Hollywood – the same club where they played their first show in 1977. May the Dickies rock and rollick on for another 40 more.
Briefly hitting the stage before The Dickies was Agnostic Blunt, a band dedicated to, yes, no surprise, weed. A more or less local foursome, Agnostic Blunt arrived on stage along with a healthy looking pot plant that the singer occasionally jumped over or carried up with him when he climbed the rafters. And, as the audience soon found out, the singer brought bags of roaches (the end-of-the-joint kind) to toss into the audience during their version of Minor Threat’s “I Don’t Wanna Hear It (Know You’re Full of Shit),” which they called, “I Don’t Wanna Smoke It (None ‘Ya Roaches).” The fairly small number of songs they played were all modified versions of well-known (for this audience) tracks, such as “Born to Blunt” and “Too Blunt to Fuck.” While the band entertained the crowd, the chops in evidence pointed out they could do more songs and less weed and make the audience just as happy. The stage was bathed in – yes, you guessed it – green during their set and they took a moment to soak the audience with water.
The Raskins arrived on stage looking as much like a New York band as it’s possible to look, with leather jackets and long mop tops. The resemblance to The Ramones was obvious, and one expected that all band members would use the same last name, but only two, who happen to be brothers, are actually Raskins. And while the band might look like The Ramones, their sound was more related to the hard rock bands of the punk era like The Dead Boys and The Dictators.
Maybe it’s the brothers thing, or maybe just the musicianship, but the band sounded about as tight as frantic rock has ever sounded. The visuals played into the punk/hard rock aesthetic, with lots of dynamics and jumps. The Slim’s crowd quickly warmed up to the band, with dancing and occasional moshing. Given the comments on the floor while they played, The Raskins can depend on a welcoming audience the next time they play in San Francisco.
The show was opened by Toxic Energy, a SoCal hardcore band with a performance to match their name. The band brings the 80s Orange County sound back with a vengeance, fast and furious. Another band that should have a wider audience in the Bay Area, Toxic Energy put everything into their show despite going on stage early on a Saturday night. Just as with The Raskins, let’s hope for an early return.
Here’s a slideshow with more photos of the bands by Jeff Spirer:
Set List: Where Did His Eye Go? | Fan Mail | I’m Ok, You’re Ok | I’m Stuck in a Pagoda with Tricia Toyota | Free Willy | I Got It at the Store | Give It Back | Nights in White Satin | Welcome to the Diamond Mine | Golden Boys | Toxic Avenger | Waterslide | Manny, Moe and Jack | Pretty Ballerina | Paranoid | Poodle Party | You Drive Me Ape (You Big Gorilla) | Curb Job | If Stewart Could Talk | Gigantor || encore 1: Rondo (The Midgets Revenge) | Shake and Bake | Banana Splits
For more information about The Dickies, check out their website.
Check out Agnostic Blunt on their Facebook page.
Setlist: Save Me Now | Wasted Time | Break Up Song | What About Us | On the Radio | Second Chance | One More Try | Search and destroy
Find out more about The Raskins here.
Learn all about Toxic Energy here.