I've been to plenty of good shows. I've even been to several
really good shows. Maybe once or twice I have been completely moved, and I
think one time I was incredibly impressed. But aside from my favorites,
Radiohead, I had never seen a live act that made me want to jump up and down
and just break out into fits of reckless abandon.
Until the past Monday
Ash, the three-member pop outfit from Ireland, brought their brand
of rock 'n punk to San Francisco's Bottom of the Hill club Monday night (August
5) and left the sold-out crowd gasping and screaming for more. Singer Tim
Wheeler, looking a little older than his 19 years thanks to a slight-Liam-esque
beard, was the model punkster as he yanked and abused his silver guitar while
managing to sing every note on key. Bassist Mark Hamilton was just as
impressive. This guy is (excuse my language) fucking unbelievable. Hamilton
plays bass as if it were his second penis. The boy is so in touch with his
instrument that he can swoop all over the stage as if in a drunken haze, nearly
head-butt his bandmates and still crank it out with skilled
Wheeler and his mates literally ripped through 13 songs in just
over one hour. A bit overproduced on the album, songs like "Goldfinger" and
"Angel Interceptor" sounded incredibly raw and gut-wrenchingly powerful live.
These lads just know how to do it: every song was played with a complete
youthful energy that so many bands just can't convey to an audience. Their
style is going with the feel of the music, and letting their instruments take
over with no concern for image or presentation.
Now the crowd was pretty
outrageous as well. They had the gusto of a European football audience,
shouting, "Ireland! Ireland!" between every song. The infamous Euro "hop" was
favored over the traditional moshing (thanks be to fuck!) and beers were being
guzzled at an incredibly fast pace. Ash returned the gesture by dedicating
songs to Ireland's football team and hometown fans. The demand for an encore
was supplied by Wheeler's announcement that, "Last time we played here we
didn't get cheers for an encore...we were deeply hurt, so this is great." Then
the band played three more songs, including "Kung Fu," possibly the best song
on their current album, 1977.
So what else can I say except that Ash
kicks ass live. Spell-binding, sweat-inducing, heart-pumping and all of the
above. Quite a remarkable experience, and one that I will not soon forget.