Review: Punk beneath a blacklight at the Neptune Lounge
I will be honest: The only reason I drove to Tarpon Springs for a punk concert Tuesday night was that I was 44 concerts into this summer project of mine, and I still hadn't been to a show at the Neptune Lounge and Cyclery, and this was the only convenient date for me to go.
But then when I got there, three things happened that made me glad I went:
1. I found out it was the final concert by Tampa's First Crush Kid. And it's always fun to see the last of something. It makes the night feel historic.
3. Shortly after entering the bar, I saw something on the wall that blew my freaking mind ...
Now, I'm sure this framed poster doesn't mean anything to any of you. But the Verve's Urban Hymns is MY FAVORITE ALBUM OF ALL TIME, HANDS DOWN, BAR NONE, CASE CLOSED. Bitter Sweet Symphony (Track 1) is my all-time favorite song, followed closely by Weeping Willow (Track 8). I've already shared the story of my quest to find a Verve T-shirt. When the Verve broke up in 1999, I played Urban Hymns three straight times. In college, I would have paid $50 for this poster.
"Jay," you are no doubt thinking, "no one gives even the remotest s---." Agreed. But think of how you'd feel if you walked into a bar and saw a poster on the wall for your all-time favorite piece of music. And it's not like Neptune's is some sort of mid-'90s Britrock outpost in the wilds of Tarpon Springs; nor is it a place that has music memorabilia slathering the walls (unless you count the bestickered backdrop to the stage). It's a crappy little dive with a crappy stage for crappy teen Pinellas punk bands, and that's why people love it.
I'd been to Neptune's before, but it isn't exactly located in my neck of the 'hood, so I don't make a habit of hanging out there often. Which is probably why I'd never spotted this Verve poster. But now ... I mean, doesn't Neptune's now automatically have to be my favorite bar in town? I am in awe that this poster exists in Tampa Bay. I think if Neptune's sold Einbecker, I would have to move to Tarpon Springs.
The point, if anyone's still reading, is that this Verve poster blew my mind, and it put me in a better-than-expected frame of mind for live music.
Two of the bands on the bill were from out of town. The first was The Starlight Getaway, from Cocoa Beach. I liked them; they had a good mix of dieselly guitars and discofied synths. They did a cover of the perpetually underrated Coheed and Cambria song A Favor House Atlantic, which was much appreciated.
At one point, they executed one of the finer bandwide headbangs I've seen in quite some time, despite announcing that their keyboardist was playing with a cracked rib. Also, two or three of their members wore jorts*, which you can almost see in the photo below:
Then came Detroit's No, Really!, who, as you can see from the photo at the top, performed beneath a blacklight. Good call by them. When it comes to technology that will impress a 7-year-old, the blacklight ranks behind only the plasma globe and the Van de Graaf generator in terms of sheer scientific uselessness. But that will not stop the world from getting a kick out of how purply-white it turns your jeans and teeth.
Oddly enough, I saw No, Really! earlier this summer when they opened for 1997 at Transitions Art Gallery. They made such an impression on me that, in my review, I called them "No Reply." Er ... my bad.
Anyway, they're a gritty punk collective from Detroit who must coast from city to city on fumes, traveling as far as their gas money will take them, and playing wherever they can get a gig. For this, I give them plenty of credit. They seem as hardscrabble and no-nonsense as the city they call home.
The singer cut off all his hair since the last time I saw them, which I think is an aesthetic improvement. They've got that thing that a lot of pop-punk bands have these days: Crunchy guitars, warbly Patrick Stump-like vocals, lots of handclaps and riffs. They begged for tips, and First Crush Kid begged for tips on their behalf, so I donated a few bucks to the No, Really! cause. They've entertainmed me twice this summer. I owe them.
There were also two local bands there. The first, Call A Getaway, was pretty raw and disjointed. Too much keyboard, too little rhythm. They're a young band, though. I'm sure they'll have better shows in store.
And then there was First Crush Kid, one of those pop-punk bands with a hypercolor MySpace page and plenty of synthesizers. This was their final show, and some of the other bands wore First Crush Kid T-shirts that said "I want to FCK you like an animal."
It wasn't the most mind-blowing performance I've ever seen, but they seemed to be having a really good time. Their singer, who apparently goes by the stage name Showbot XL**, goofed around on the keyboards, and despite some mic problems, some of the band's friends up front were really into the music. By the final song, Sweatin', half the band and four of the audience members had stripped off their shirts and were screaming together onstage. Fun times.
I picked up a First Crush Kid button. Now that the band's broken up, it's sure to be a collector's item. Someday, I'll sell it for millions on eBay. And when I do, I'll go back to the Neptune Lounge and buy that Verve poster.
It'll look great beneath my blacklight.
Next up in The 50-50 Club: Zombie metal, Aug. 27 at the Pegasus Lounge, Tampa.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*
* Someone needs to explain the jorts thing to me. Florida Gators fans have made jorts a bit of a statewide phenomenon, and I've seen kids and bands wearing cutoff jorts at a handful of concerts this summer. I'm now convinced jorts are a legitimate, if tragic, youth fashion trend. Is this only happening in Florida? Are teens in Texas and Indiana also slicing up their Levis and going to punk shows? Someone get Tim Tebow on the phone for his opinion.
** And whose Twitter handle is "bradlikesrobots."