Beer-Soaked Zeke Rattle Windows At Tour Opener

The Seattle punk rockers are on the road supporting their album Dirty Sanchez.

SAN FRANCISCO — Speed-demon punk-rockers Zeke blasted their way through the Covered Wagon Saloon on Friday, kicking off a national tour behind their second Epitaph Records release, Dirty Sanchez (Feb. 22).

The Seattle quartet gave the capacity crowd a good sampling of its massive punk-rock (with emphasis on the rock) sound and did its best to indoctrinate any nonbelievers who may have somehow wandered in.

"Sure are a lot of pu--ies come out to see us tonight!" hollered lead singer Blind Marky Felchtone, obviously delighted by the wave of middle fingers and beer that greeted him in response.

The mood for the evening had already been established by the house tunes blasted between sets. Favorites by Kiss, Judas Priest, Cheap Trick and the Ramones had the well-lubricated crowd whooping in anticipation.

The pressure broke like a storm when Zeke took the stage, and the crowded hall became a sweaty mass of stomping feet and upraised beer cups. The band threw itself into the spectacle immediately, with belches of stage smoke and what appeared to be flame-pots igniting (or did something merely blow up?) only two songs into its set. "Twisted" (RealAudio excerpt), off 1997's Kicked in the Teeth, was a crowd favorite that brought screams of recognition, with a shower of beer.

Fast, Heavy And Hard

Felchtone, Zeke's scrawny and bespectacled frontman, has a guttural roar that might be fearful if it wasn't coming from such an unlikely source. His riffs were fast and scorching, and songs such as "Let's Get Drugs" and "Rip and Destroy," from Dirty Sanchez, rolled into each other with barely a break.

Zeke's sound is fast, heavy and hard, with screeched and howled lyrics extolling the simpler things in life, as evidenced in songs such as "Drunk," "Rip and Destroy" and "Fuck All Night" (RealAudio excerpt). Bringing to mind everything from old- school guitar rock to small-club hardcore (think Ted Nugent meets Black Flag), they've changed little about their sound since their inception in 1993.

The small club was thick with stage smoke and sweat, made even thicker by a fine mist of beer in the air. More churning guitar by Sonny Riggs III, pounding bass by Mark Pierce and the brutal, high-octane drumming of Donny "Paycheck" Hales had even the toughest-looking concert-goers stuffing in earplugs, even as they crowded closer to the tiny stage.

Brief, sarcastic comments between songs made up the stage banter, surely intended to provoke the pseudo-antagonistic response they received.

"This is off our great new album. ... I bet none of you f---ers have bought it. But you'd better," Felchtone sneered, before barking out the obligatory "one-two-three-four!" that opened many songs, in this case "Razorblade."

Daring To Make Noise

"These guys sound like everyone else wishes they did," said an elated and sweaty Derek James, 27, of Oakland. James had jumped to the back of the tiny hall in an attempt to locate his jacket, which had been torn from his body amid the thrashing up front. He recovered his jacket and solemnly continued, "These men dare to make the noise that others merely try for."

The noise that night was muddy and less sharp than at shows in the past, but the sound still pounded the crowd like a sonic tsunami. The bandmembers faded in and out of smoke, appearing at times only as thrashing silhouettes in the yellow haze.

"The club's too small for this much sound," said Joe Carmichael, 33, of San Francisco. "They don't have a PA to handle this. ... I'm surprised that front window didn't blow out."

Opening sets by the Hellbenders and Tacoma, Wash., screamers Portrait of Poverty helped prime the crowd with all-American bombastic rock. The predominantly male crowd stood in close clusters, cheering receptively, practicing its moshing and fueling up for the show to come.

The ever-touring Zeke spent the weekend in Southern California, and are now speeding toward Texas before heading to New Orleans, Atlanta and Spartanburg, S.C. They'll then head northeast to Baltimore, Boston and New York at the beginning of April before turning east again. Heading back home they'll hit clubs across the Midwest before winding up in Colorado next month, with more dates to be announced.