Thrash veterans Suicidal Tendencies played an early show at 9:30 Club on Friday night to a small but dedicated crowd of punks, skins, skaters, and scene survivors. This So-Cal outfit that carved out the Punk-Metal hybrid sound known as Thrash nearly 30 years ago, has been hyper-active in recent years with several recordings and tours designed to remind the world of the sound that they originated and their place in music history as its trailblazer. Suicidal Tendencies made a strong case with their performance on Friday night that they deserve to be remembered as the godfathers of the skater Thrash sound.
The show was billed as Suicidal Tendencies playing material from their critically-ignored second album “Join The Army” and also from lead-singer Mike Muir’s little-known metal band No Mercy. ST recently released “No Mercy Fool!/The Suicidal Family” on which they re-recorded several tracks by No Mercy and from ST’s “Join The Army”. Was it necessary to re-record this music and tour on it? No, it probably was not. Critically, Suicidal Tendencies’ first and third album are their best and their sophomore release has always been regarded as a misstep. Critical reception is not everything though, especially for hardcore punk bands who often look to the blood and sweat of their fans as the more genuine stamp of approval. Am I glad that ST decided to re-record this material and tour on it? Hell, yes. While not necessarily the defining moment of punk-metal crossover Thrash, this material definitely represents the genre well. The new album of old tunes sounds remarkably fresh in 2010 and the show on Friday night demonstrated just how awesome Thrash can be when played well live.
The set list Suicidal Tendencies played on Friday did indeed feature the No Mercy/”Join The Army” era heavily, but it also saw the band rip through some of their most well-known more punk-oriented songs like ‘I Saw Your Mommy’, ‘I Want More’, and the immortal ‘Institutionalized’. The show was good enough that I would have enjoyed it just fine had they not chose to play these classics, but the fact that they did made this show all the more enjoyable. The current line-up of ST was in top form laying down super-tight renditions of their punk and thrash tunes. Some of the Slayer-like guitar solos were truly awe-inspiring and their rhythm section’s hyper-tribal rhythm was hard to resist.
‘Cyco’ Mike Muir, the founder and frontman of the Suicidal Tendenices, is not a young man. He has to be pushing 50-years old. So it was very impressive to see him running around the stage like a true maniac. Muir’s ‘Cyco’ dance-style was like watching someone having a spastic fit on-stage. His vocal style varied from shouting, to screaming, to sort of rapping, to actual singing. Whatever vocals a song demanded, he met the occasion with vein-bulging intensity every time. If one thing was obvious on Friday night, it was that Mike Muir lives to perform.
Muir took several opportunities during the show to punk pontificate about many things old school, do it yourself, and true to self. While this kind of thing can often detract from a show, Muir’s monologues seemed genuine and his observations and reflections about the old days were actually pretty poignant introductions to songs that on the surface can seem pretty sophomoric. He used the example of ST back in the 80’s getting slammed for not being punk enough by the punks, and not being metal enough by the Metal scene to deliver a rather inspiring speech about staying true to your dreams and resisting the urge to let others tell you how to run your life.
For those who lived through their original period, Suicidal Tendencies’ music cannot be separated from the rise of skate-boarding. So it was also pretty cool to hear Muir relate the early days of skating to the crowd as his introduction to ‘Possessed to Skate’. Again the theme was being true to yourself, as he hailed the Z-Boys of Dogtown as defiant rebel originators of a sport that has evolved into a massive industry that he barely recognizes. “None of that Tony Hawk shit.”
The audience was an great mix of older people who had ‘been there’ and fresh-faced young punks and skins. Everyone there seemed to be having a great time listening to ST burn the house down. The crowd generated a decent sized pit and the band sustained its energy through the whole show. For the finale, Muir shouted “I need a little help!” and invited the crowd onto the stage for a chaotic sing-along of ‘Pledge Your Allegiance’. To which the crowd enthusiastically responded by flooding the stage and surrounding (sometimes obscuring) the band.
I had a blast at this show. In fact, I had a better time than I expected I would and the band proved to be much tighter and more serious about putting a great show than I thought they might be. Thrash may not be the most vital of genres in today’s musical landscape but it certainly provided for a damn fine time on Friday night. In fact, all weekend long I have been dusting off old albums revisiting music from the Thrasher days. To quote ST: “Cause me – I want more.”