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XXX-Mas Party With Plague Vendor At The Echo, Thursday December 16th 2021

Plague Vendor
Plague Vendor

As we approach Christmas and the end of the year, shows become rarer – the 5 days between Xmas and NYE are usually a big void for show-goers. That’s why the XXX-Mas party, organized by Basic Cable Programming at the Echo on Thursday night, was tempting. The lineup was very indie punk rock and even though I had just seen Plague Vendor at Substance festival a few weeks ago, I decided to go and the night was a lot of fun.

Rocket 9 was a synth band, with two singers screaming some pretty emotive and angry lyrics over electronic swirls and distortion. During their set, I had the impression to witness some kind of familial quarrel, as the two had plenty of raw energy. Other songs were more melody-oriented while the beats became danceable before returning to electronica Nintendo-game weirdness and banshees yelling. The last number, a bouncy melodic song sung with the help of a third person, had even some anthemic vibes.

With Drac & The Swamp Rats, it was impossible to decide if we were attending a Christmas or a Halloween show. Dressed as famous Hollywood monsters (Christmas-ized for the occasion), the quartet gave an over-the-top performance with a lot of outrageous moves, some fake blood, and a few acrobatics. The frontman was as theatrical as you would imagine for such accoutrements, he was screaming “bloodsuckers” while their fast garage rock was fueling the crowd with drunken energy. Restless frontman Drac went into the crowd a few times, screaming the lyrics with his wide-open bloody mouth, and their wild set was a raucous exercise, a blend of rockabilly, surf punk guitars wrapped under fat layers of fun; plus some clowning acts that involved a human pyramid and a big jump. This was Halloween about 2 months too late, but nobody cared.

DMTina & The Bumps, fronted by a Christmas-y drag queen, had also dressed up for the night, and this obviously didn’t stop them from giving another raucous performance. The songs were quite catchy with anthemic sing-along choruses that made the crowd mosh very hard. It was another high-energy performance mixing androgyny, sexually-charged lyrics, and punk assaults while DMTina soon removed her red Christmas dress to perform in nylon stockings. It was a bit more provocatory than the goofy Hollywood monsters of the previous act, although nobody took themselves seriously. They did a few covers – the Strokes and the Ramones (“California Sun”) – while white-clown-face DMTina, who looked like a cross between Divine and Ozzy Osborne, didn’t care much about singing in tune, but it was much more important to give a good time to everyone.

Plague vendor is undoubtedly one of my favorite bands to watch perform live: they have formidable energy and catchy aggressive songs, while their frontman Brandon Blaine has the charisma and the authentic rock & roll moves of a punk star. Before Iggy Pop called Plague Vendor “A damn good American band” – he plays them during his show on BBC Radio 1 – plenty of people had Iggy in mind when the band performed at Punk Rock Bowling a few years ago. It was difficult to ignore them, a raw, bold, and sexy spectacle, delivered with swagger, urgency, and blood-thirsty screams. The names of the Stooges, the Cramps, Jesus Lizard, and the Breakfast Party have shown up in reviews, and I would agree with all of the above (also the title of a Plague Vendor songs) while the description of their music goes from “voodoo punk” to “graveyard groove.” Since that Las Vegas show, I have seen them several times and they never disappoint. Even though I am familiar with many of Blaine’s stage antics, he reinvents himself each time and gives himself 200% while willing to take some risks for our entertainment: there are not two similar Plague Vendor performances.

Last night’s show was bass-heavy with killer guitar riffs while Brandon Blaine had the crowd at his fingertips. He never stopped twisting and contorting himself like a possessed preacher-turned-rockstar, he frenetically half-removed his clothes a dozen times, before putting them back on and even jumped on the shoulders of someone in the crowd at one point. They mostly played songs from their 2019 album, “By Night,” and 2016  album, “Bloodsweat,” as well as the very popular and propelling single “Locomotive” and a new song, “Run.” However, no record spinning can give justice to the power of their music when experienced live. Their music becomes a completely new beast, and this is especially true when you are standing in the middle of an enthusiastic crowd jumping on their two feet and stretching their arms toward Blaine while making the devil horn sign: it’s infectious and ecstatic while the aggressive delivery becomes hypnotic.

If the band’s moniker sounds perfect for these pandemic times, Brandon Blaine seemed to constantly walk on the edge of a cliff with fearless energy: not everyone is ready to follow him, but Plague Vendor knows how to keep music exciting and dangerous.

Setlist
New Comedown
Prism
I Only Speak in Friction
Nothing’s Wrong
All of the Above
Jezebel
Run
Tough Fucker
Chopper
White Wall
Snakeskin Boots
Black Sap Scriptures
Credentials
Locomotive

 

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