Subhumans (photo: SarahJayn Kemp)
“Want some?” I turned around to see a young woman holding up a can of frothy Colt 45 a few inches from my face. Her bullet-casing earrings dangled back and forth as she shook her head in a beckoning manner, the smile on her face sparkling in the harsh lighting.
“I just thought I’d ask,” she said in response to my head shake, “I’m so amped up. I can’t wait. I fucking love the Subhumans.” Her enthusiasm was mirrored in nearly every person in attendance. Two boys with matching red and green mohawks were showing each other complicated steps in anticipation of a mosh pit as she continued, “I haven’t seen them in 10 years, when that banner was new!”
She pointed up at a banner hanging above the stage announcing the 2017 B O B Fest, the 2017 fashioned from cleverly painting over the 0 to form a 1. B O B Fest is a punk festival that alternates every two years between the cities of Bath, Oakland, and Bremen. The four-day music festival was in its third night, with the Pathogens, Party Force, Kicker, and Subhumans lined up to play at the Oakland Metro.
Apparently, punks are more punctual than they used to be, because the Pathogens set had come and gone by the time I got to the club. Party Force is a fun group of punks. I completely enjoyed seeing them trip over each other during their back-and-forth on stage, topping each other with who likes drinking more or who hates cops more. There is a cleanness to the zip of their songs — nothing sounds too singalong (or scream-along). They still have a bit too much business to them for my taste. There’s a definite barrier between band and audience that punk rock usually manages to dissolve, but, then again, I like my punk rock to be completely visceral.
Thinking back on it, this barrier between band and audience may have only been apparent when compared next to Kicker and Subhumans. Kicker was incredible. Charging guitars, wagging fingers shoved in the face of the audience, and short missives about the downfalls of society between songs. Pete the Roadie, lead vocals for Kicker, charges the stage with gravel-for-breakfast sound. He stomped around on the stage with the type of drama that tear-it-down-to-build-it-up songs require. He called on the audience, and they listened.
What can I say about Subhumans? This band was formed the year I was born, so, in a way, they’ve been with me my entire life. When I was a preteen, I felt like a complete badass for listening to them (a record store manager gave me a cassette of From the Cradle to the Grave to get me out of his store during one of my marathon browsing sessions). I can’t say that that feeling has subsided much. Subhumans ironically produce music that makes you feel like you have some worth. Front man Dick Lucas has an uncanny ability to push out any unsavory characteristics — racism, classism, sexism — with his battering-ram vocals. Eardrum-peeling guitars and head-splitting drums round out this outfit of relish-worthy chaos.
If you’re the type of person who has ever said, “I don’t pay good money to be screamed at,” skip the next Subhumans show that comes your way. However, if you’re in the mood to see a friendly fuck-you, delivered to oppressors everywhere, Subhumans are happy to oblige.