I have been following NoMeansNo like a starved puppy ever since I first saw them some five years before at the UC Santa Cruz campus. I leapt at the opportunity to review the show, despite my obvious bias, promising to keep my gushing in control. In a conversation with NoMeansNo front-man Rob Wright (aka Mr. Wrong) prior to the show, he commented on the hit and miss nature of live performances. "Sometimes lightning strikes, and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up," he had said, and grinning like the slack-jawed fanboy I am, I slipped into the club and was assaulted by friends' questions about my divine encounter with Mr. Wrong. Oh, right. No gushing. Okay. That's cool. I'm cool. Everything's cool.
Local bands "It" and "Spaceboy" did their part in warming up the crowd, like tossing chum into shark-infested waters. Strangely enough, one member of "Spaceboy" looked like Cousin It from the Addams Family, though his hands were clearly visible and pounded out a frenzied assault of bar-chords.
Once D.O.A. took the stage, it was clear that thunder clouds were gathering -- "high probability of lightning storms forecasted" indeed. Guitarist Ford Pier's wild leaps and bounds (even playing on his head with only his kicking legs visible at one point) seemed to be a barometer of the fun they were having. Singer/guitarist Joe Keithley spiced up "I'm Right" with a somewhat revised version of his trademark priest routine wherein he takes fire to a cross, also adding contemporary significance with a well-placed slam of Pat Buchanan, the 700 club, and all pay-to-pray organizations. As if the burning cross wasn't enough, Keithley demonstrated his skill as a chainsaw technician/musician when he donned a hockey mask and traded in his guitar for a microphone and the whirring-gnashing-growling of gas-powered steel.
Joe often dons a hockey mask and wields a chainsaw (left).
D.O.A. seemlessly navigated their way through their hour-long set. They did not fail to offer up such old hits as "Slave To My Dick," "W.W.3," and "Fuck You," while also integrating a number of tunes from their new album, The Black Spot, including "Marijuana Motherfucker," "Order," "Worries," and "Big Guys Like D.O.A." The crowd surged and spun and a few well-intentioned souls hopped onto stage and flopped into the fist-shakers in the front. The eddy of the traditional mosh pit filled up slightly as late-comers streamed into the hall and D.O.A. finished up their set with "Prisoners."
As NoMeansNo meandered on stage, tuning up and checking mics, the listless, unaware, or just plain tired bodies in the audience were brushed aside as the dedicated NoMeansNo disciples claimed their territory. Zero hour was at hand, and it became clear that something had happened since soundcheck. The tension only increased as final adjustments were made and the band cracked jokes for the crowd and played "who's in control" with the folks running the lights.
I took up my spot, front row center. There's really no better spot at a NoMeansNo show. Any other spot and you risk not having your internal organs massaged by the throbbing bass of Mr. Wrong himself, Rob Wright. Some weak individuals might complain that bruised ribs from being pressed against the stage during their opening triad of songs ("The Day Everything Became Nothing," "Joy," and "He Learned How To Bleed") makes for a horrific experience. Others might add that an occasional boot in the face ("Rags and Bones") from crowd surfers and stage divers ("Angel," "Dark Ages") is too much to bear, or that being the band's drop cloth, soaking up their collective spit, sweat, and other sundry fluids ("I've Gotta Gun") would detract from the overall concert-going experience. The path to righteousness is not one easily followed, I say. The faith of would-be followers is tested in the trenches to the song "Dead Souls" from 1988's The Day Everything Became Isolated and Destroyed. Get in there and live it or get the fuck out! It's a 90 minute game of King of the Mountain and I love every pain-filled, sweat-soaked second of it.
Quite simply, these guys rock. Hard.
I've attended every concert they've had in the Bay Area since I first took up the Faith in 1991 and the show changes every time. Case in point: ten of the 17 songs they played at Palookaville were not be heard the previous night when they performed at the Cactus Club in San Jose (yes, of course I was there). A NoMeansNo set list mutates from show to show so you can (and should!) hit as many shows as possible in order to witness an ever-increasing selection of their work. Their art. THE FAITH. Do as I do and see as I see; check them out several times over the course of a tour. You can not and will not be disappointed.
Midway through the set found them bouncing through their sizeable body of music. Their new guitarist, the glasses-wearing hometown friend of the brothers Wright, was splendidly decked out in a glittery blue lounge coat, hiding small red sores covering his body as a result of an allergic reaction he said was due to "something he drank." Rob Wright, sporting his black "NOTHING" t-shirt, spent much of his time away from the mic roaming and jumping about the stage, flanked by guitar on stage left and drums stage right. Brother John (on the drums) was set up sideways as usual so that fans could easily see his tongue hanging out of his mouth (as well as his handsome Hanson Brothers shirt and obnoxiously loud and wiggly patterned shorts). The second portion of the set was highlighted by "Now," "It's Catching Up," "Happy Bridge," and the closing track "Humans," from the new The Worldhood Of The World (as such).
Not surprisingly, a three song encore followed, including the classic "Small Parts Isolated and Destroyed" and a Hanson Brothers mainstay, "We're Bad." The former really had Rob jetting around stage, as if lightning-supercharged. They were remarkably spry for three older gentlemen from Victoria, Canada, and if you didn't catch them during the past dozen years, you certainly will have a chance in the next dozen.
I am not alone in my religious devotion to NoMeansNo. I can see The Truth in the faces of those around me, many of whom I recognize from previous concerts. We walk the Path. We have heard the Word and that Word is WRONG!
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