The past week has been musically great, with reformed acts playing sold out shows around town. Texas-based punk rockers The Marked Men bashed their way through back-to-back gigs, first Thursday at St. Vitus (1120 Manhattan Ave.) then onto their initially announced Brooklyn Bazaar (150 Greenpoint Ave.) show on Friday. The band’s old-school punk riffing and ear for hooks has endeared them a strong following even if they haven’t released an album since 09’s Ghosts. The venue was packed with a sea of black leather and safety pinned battle jackets, with the crowd singing or shouting in response to the band throughout their set.
The supporting acts all brought their own brands of hard driving, melodic rock as well. Openers Dark Thoughts of Philly were the perfect kind of meat-and-potatoes-Ramones-worship to start the night. Following Dark Thoughts, NYC’s five piece sleaze-glam progenitors, Vanity, took the stage and along with them came a more hedonistic take on the formula. Their frontman, hiding behind a mop of hair, led the band through a pounding yet catchy set, replete with fuzzed out guitar solos and powerful choruses. Recalling the cocksure New York City Dolls by way of Creation Records circa ‘94, the band seems to have done their homework—and while not at the level of Oasis just yet, they still managed to produce something unique. Of course none of this would be interesting if the songs weren’t any good and the band’s energy weren’t so infectious. Vanity obviously have had a blast playing these songs from the garage and were clearly aiming for the cheap seats.
Hank Wood and the Hammerheads had other things in mind. Another New York native band, the nominal “Hank,” scrawny and shirtless, was disinterested in making many friends, at least in the conventional way as he leered and stomped around the stage. Hank’s (real name Henry) singing style comes closer to speaking in tongues, assuming said tongue is fixed firmly to a car battery. The hardcore four piece spent their twenty minutes on stage toggling between Jesus Lizard-style noise rock churn and electrified piss ‘n vinegar spazz outs. Revved up intros to every song featuring skronky, acidic keyboard fanfare helped keep things interesting musically, even if Hank’s spark plug theatrics are unlikely to wear thin in the meantime. The paint thinner high antics served as a great palate cleanser for the headliner’s more straightforward and reliable set.
The Marked Men tour infrequently so it’s important to catch them whenever possible. The crowd in attendance seemed aware of this edict as they packed the venue for the second night in a row. It’s good to see a band touringto a faithful sold out crowd, without backing an album. They’ve been around for more than ten years, and while the members and fans might age, the songs have a timeless quality. And it’s because they put classic pop craftsmanship front and center. The Men are part of a lineage of pop-punk that begins with the Buzzcocks and The Dickies, and probably hasn’t been in the spotlight since the Exploding Hearts released their first album. Every song features two or three earworm hooks and actually some sugary harmonies as well. These guys know how to go for the heart with big rousing choruses that you find yourself humming when you least expect it. The set they played drew from all four of their albums fairly equally and left everyone in attendance pumping their fists even after they had left the stage. Hopefully it won’t be too long until they return and give New York an excuse to do it all over again.