In 2012, Bomb the Music Industry! Announced that they might be breaking up and then announce a long tour, including three last California dates. Punknews features editor John Gentile, who is a huge fan of the band, traveled to all three of those gigs and interviewed people surrounding them to gain some perspective on the end of the band.
Unfortunately, the piece was delayed internally for several months. Just when it was about to go up, BTMI! announced more dates after “final tour,” making the piece somewhat irrelevant. Because the band continued afterward, the piece has some inaccuracies about when the band actually ended the fact that the tour described was not actually the last tour, but we feel the sentiment remains the same.
But now, the group have indeed announced 2 last shows. Therefore, we present to you, for archive purposes, this extended piece about the end of BTMI! written by Gentile during their California leg of their 2012 tour in ten parts.
This is part five of ten.
It’s almost time for BTMI to begin their set-up, so we agree to continue the conversation at the show the next day, in Santa Cruz, and I head back into the venue. Although the venue is small, it’s still not at max capacity, but the band doesn’t seem to care.
Tellingly, their largest amplifier has a phrase spray-painted across its face: “Everything was terrible and nothing was not on fire.” As with their easy going attitude, the band takes what seems like hours to sound check and tune up. Their tuning is interspersed with inside jokes and casual conversation, which makes it clear that the band is in no rush to, really, do anything. Indeed, somewhat winking at their own lax attitude, Rosenstock and Keegan riff off each other with “Mom, why are you asking me to do things, I just wanna chill” and “Quit hassling me, I’m just trying to chill.”
But, once the band does start up their set, the whole place changes from a three quarters full bowling alley filled with curfew imposed kids to a 1950’s drunken frat party. Although the opening song is almost post-punk in texture, tempo, and volume, the crowd immediately busts into a party connecting with the band in a way few groups can achieve.
BTMI is the best kind of live band. They’re loud and sloppy, but it’s on purpose. While the band might sound loose, they snap together at just the right moment to give the bottom WHOMP even more WHOMP. When they sloppily fall apart, it’s at the perfect moment for chaos and when it seems chaos will rule, the full strength of the band again brings order to the song.
Were you to call them a sort of punk rock E-Street band, then you wouldn’t be incorrect. Bombast from many, many instruments rumbles over the crowd, all supported by a thick, singular melody, only to shift back down to a quiet, restrained moan, only to once again erupt into a big blues finish. Consciously or subconsciously, Rosenstock, John DeDomenici, Mike Costa, Matt Keegan and crew are just as influenced by the soul and raw emotion of Jackie Wilson, Otis Redding, and Gary US Bonds as Springsteen and Jagger are.
But, where the E-Street band is separated from the crowd by a fifteen foot stage and two barricades, the only thing separating BTMI from the kids is maybe six inches. And, in fact, there really is no separation. The kids are as close to the band as they are to each other, and there is no division of space between instrument and chorus shouting mouth. So, where Bruce creates a show, a spectacle, a thing to be observed, BTMI creates an experience that is as shared with the audience as anything else they would do that day. That is to say, through the lack of division and energy catapulted from fan to stage, the audience is as much as the band as the band is.
This singularity leads to some unexpected… occurrences. During the middle of the set, an attendee jumps on stage and in a quite relaxed fashioned, proceeds to rub Rosenstock’s hair with one of Kepi’s stray balloons almost as if it is a normal thing to do and not creepy at all. Rosenstock pauses, somewhat unsettled, and then laughs, “That is one of the five weirdest things to happen on tour.”
The show’s momentum builds steam like a freight train. As Rosenstock whips his body around center stage, bassist John DeDomenici provides an interesting contrast. Similar to Paul Simonon’s style on stage, while eyes are fixated on Rosenstock, DeDomenici hangs back, looking cool, leaning back and allowing his bass to do the talking. But, when Rosenstock needs are-enforcements, or when the show requires a certain variety, suddenly, DeDomenici steps forward to stoke the flames. Because he’s not always in the limelight, when DeDomenici steps to center stage, he, and the band, seem to be saying “Now we REALLY mean business.”
As the band continues through their set, building in both energy and volume, Classics of Love’s Mike Huguenor, wearing a shirt of the band Pulp, jumps on stage, takes the mic, and handles vocals until he throws his body into the crowd. Rosenstock asks if Mike Park is still in attendance, but seems somewhat disappointed to learn that Park, a father of two, has left the show early.
The concept of the band itself as a vacation itself manifests throughout the concert where Rosenstock, Keegan and DeDomenici banter similar to a late night talk show. At one point, Rosenstock announces, “I wish we could be like 311. 311 only sings about how great it is to be in 311.”
Interestingly, in contrast to the rapt attendance of the audience, DJ Coco and a fellow Japanese compatriot sit in the corner of the bar, staring at the floor, looking bored. They’re not looking at the phones, not chit chatting, not getting drinks, they are just bored. I wonder then, why is it that BTMI connects so intensely with some suburban youth, but is almost static to other people. Perhaps, like an advanced math equation, one must know the fundamental idea and details behind it, in order to appreciate it.
For example, near the end of the show, the band tears into an extended, wild, flailing version of “Can I Pay My Rent in Fun?”. Were it a first listen, the song might sound like noise. But, if one knows the studio version, the live version is its more berserk, more passionate, more insane older brother. It’s scary by itself, but with context, becomes a thing of wonderment. Further then, with the song’s various parts tearing apart, and re-affixing in various new patterns, one wonders if the “sloppiness” of the band is actual extreme precision.
Clearly, Rosenstock is a genius or a workhorse… but not both.
The show ends in a massive jam that does what all the previous songs threatened to do, but never quite did- it shatters. Due to the late hour (relative to the audience’s age) the bar goes from almost filled to almost empty in a matter of moments.
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