SAN FRANCISCO — When Seattle-area rockers Zeke took the stage Saturday night at the Bottom of the Hill, singer/guitarist Blind Marky Felchtone offered a unique introduction.
"I'd just like to say that we're proud to be the worst band on Epitaph [Records]!" he shouted. "I don't know what those guys were thinking when they signed us!"
But from Zeke's first "1-2-3-4!" to the last "Thanks a lot!" from headliners the Murder City Devils, the packed-in crowd at the intimate nightclub was rapt. As each band delivered its unique, powerful version of stripped-down rock, regional stereotypes were cast aside. Despite their Seattle origins, neither of the bands played anything even remotely grungy.
Sure, it was loud. Sure, it was distorted, but the show had little of that slow, sludgy sound many associate with bands hailing from the Pacific Northwest. There was fast, there was furious, there was hard, there was heavy, but there was no plodding.
Openers Zeke covered the faster end of the spectrum with their galloping, straight-ahead punk sound. Offering a checkered-flag logo, motorcycle-themed songs and a blistering delivery, the quartet showcased a louder/faster/shorter philosophy that had many in the crowd jostling for a little more pogoing room.
Between moments of tongue-in-cheek, audience-insulting stage banter, Zeke played scorchers like the 42-second "Lawson" (RealAudio excerpt) and even threw in their cover of the Kiss classic "Shout It Out Loud" (RealAudio excerpt). They also included songs from their upcoming album Dirty Sanchez (produced by the Fastbacks' Kurt Bloch), such as "Rip and Destroy," "Don't Give a Fuck" and "Let's Get Drugs."
Audience member Annette Prinz, 29, of San Jose, Calif., described Zeke's energy: "If they were any harder, [Blind Marky] would have burst a vein in his neck."
Matthew McKenzie, 24, of Cotati, Calif., said he liked Zeke because "there's no gimmicks about 'em. They don't have a bunch of pretty boys up there doing ... jumps and playing NOFX covers."
Describing the Zeke sound, Paul "Pauly" Hatchett, 28, also of San Jose, called it "kinda like the Supersuckers French-kissing the Dwarves." Indeed, Zeke is planning a tour with country punks the Supersuckers, said Zeke guitarist Abe Riggs III, and Blag Dahlia, singer for instrument-smashing punks the Dwarves, was seen in the crowd.
The six-piece Murder City Devils may have played a little slower than Zeke, but they lacked nothing in the power department. Their driving, garage-influenced sound mixed Leslie Hardy's Hammond-organ groove underneath a wall-of-guitars reminiscent of Motor City rockers like the MC5 and Iggy Pop's Stooges.
As vocalist Spencer Moody leaned into "I Want a Lot Now (So Come On)" (RealAudio excerpt), the crowd up front exchanged their earlier frenzied thrashing for a slightly more synchronized bounce. With guitarists Nate Manny and Dann Gallucci leading the way, the music was loud and it was heavy. But it had a swing that lent itself to finger snapping and toe-tapping.
The Devils' danceable punk continued through numbers celebrating past
rock antiheroes Alice Cooper, Johnny Thunders and Iggy. They even have a song unapologetically titled "Dancin' Shoes" (RealAudio excerpt).
Their approach must have worked, because dozens of fans mobbed the merchandise table to snap up CDs, vinyl, T-shirts and even Murder City Devils paper sacks designed for one thing only: brown-bagging a can of beer.