Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hillbilly Swing Kings: Concert Review

The local music scene is still buzzing from the jammed packed, incendiary performance of the Hillbilly Swing Kings in Minneapolis last Saturday night. One of the finest young music writers in the Twin Cities, the Nihilist in Golf Pants, sends in this review:


It seemed every other pierced punker standing in line outside Club Underground in the Saturday evening darkness was decked in an Against Me! or Dead Kennedys t-shirt, though neither band was on the bill.

The sun had long set behind the upstairs bar-length window as politi-punk psycho-billy country rockers The Hillbilly Swing Kings took the stage. When lithe front man Todd Owen -- looking like a chunky Joe Strummer -- launched into a crunchy opener, the crowd boiled over into a swirling circle mosh, more than a few fluorescent 18-inch Mohawks waving urgently to-and-fro like sails of Dimetrodons engaged in a feeding frenzy.

In town for an angst packed Valentines Day appearance, the Rochester trio laid thick the machinegun power chord riffage, the high-pitched Whoa-ohhs! and, of course, the heavy-handed jeremiads that have made the band a staple among the vegan/leftist/anarchist set.

"My friends, January 20 was not that long ago," shouted guitarist/vocalist JB Doubtless to the charged capacity crowd. "That was the last day we had to endure Bush! We celebrate the removal of that m**********r from our lives. But now, the struggle begins! Barak Obama is not progressive enough for us and we need to push to bring back every soldier from Iraq!"

Apparently, the Swing kings drummer couldn't make it. His replacement also missed the show so the band went with a true punk spirit, playing without a beat.

The 15-song set, which they chugged through in less than an hour, was heavy on newer stuff including menacing anti-Big Media mantras and folksy f**k-Bush anthems, mostly original material that they hope to ironically record under -- gasp! -- a mega-label records company. But they threw some cover favorites in for good measure, most notably for the encore as the band reemerged to kick out a methodically urgent Clash tune "Brand New Cadillac," whose chorus the audience ferociously belted out with a fiendish mix of anger and pride.

Granted, the group's knee jerk screeds and hyper-P.C. ethos are best taken in small doses. And, yeah, the paradoxical mix of individualism and collectivism they espouse (let's hear it for nonconformist unity!) is hard to logically reconcile. But so what? Certainly there are more malevolent forces out there vying for Valentine's Day revelers political consciousnesses. Like, for instance, those the Swing Kings rail against. What is it when a mob of would-be teenagers flails euphorically in righteous fury, all idealism and no cynicism?

As The Hillbilly Swing Kings themselves sing on occasion: "That's youth. That's all."


CORRECTION: Upon further editorial review, it has become apparent that this review was cribbed largely from a concert review of the band Anti-Flag from City Pages.

Furthermore, The Nihilist has confirmed he was not actually in attendance at the Hillbilly Swing King's performance. He claims he was unable to make it due to :"a full day of Valentine's Day related activities." According to sources close to the situation, this consisted of him driving his wife around to restaurants in the western suburbs all evening, looking for the best two-for-one special.

However, the Nihilist claims that the Atomizer was in attendance at the Hillbilly Swing Kings performance and swears the facts in the review are largely true. As such, Fraters Libertas stands behind the story.

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