With a punk lineage stretching from New Jersey cousins, Titus Andronicus to The Replacements, across the pond to The Clash and right back to the garage rock of The Stooges are bristling Brooklyn quartet, The So So Glos.
On tour to promote their latest album “Blowout”, they stormed San Francisco’s Bricks & Mortar Music Hall on Thursday night with their punk anthems. Bringing the house down quite literally when they got the audience of pogo-happy punksters to their knees like it was the limbo.
No preppy posers appropriating the punk ethic here, The So So Glos have a true malcontent in frontman, Alex Levine who plays the bass while making scathing social commentary in song. Rapid-fire melodies and harmonies abound with brother, Ryan on guitar and stepbrother, Zach Staggers pounding it on drums. Driving the Strokes-like guitar riffs and back-up vocals is Matt Elkin who the band of brothers, claim to have adopted in 2007 to complete their line-up.
Straight into it with “Diss Town” filled with big guitar sounds, Alex's shredding vocals and Kinks-like oh-oh-oh-oh choruses that end just as you get started wanting some. Alex who appeared briefly preoccupied on stage asks: “Is it too early for technical difficulties?” Then adds, “It’s good to be here in the West Coast, everyone likes their space here,” pointing at the evenly spread crowd standing back from the stage.
That does not last long. After “House of Glass” and “Wrecking Ball” with Alex’s Johnny Rotten shrieks rubbing up against impossibly sweet harmonies, followed by “Lost Weekend” a Strokes-like doozy of a tune. Alex sings, "You and I/riding high/on a land field building castles", hinting at urban depravity in a city they love, resplendent with a killer bassline and surf guitar riffs so giddy and addictive the crowd closed the space in tighter than property South of Market. And then the pogo-ing began.
In an interview when told that it was good to see punk was alive with them, Alex stressed: “Punk is alive and well. It’s always there, its embers glowing, waiting to be ignited. It never went out, just waiting for someone to blow on it and it comes back hard again.”
Their moniker which Alex explained refers to the glow of a monitor or phone screen, is also a slang term to describe a ‘post-modern narcissist whose devotion to their ego surpasses any social, political or moral cause.’ Basically, also describing the cooler-than-thou scene that greeted them when they were getting started in early 2000.
Fuelled by their punk DIY aesthetic, it just pushed them to make their own scene. Even creating their own venues to perform and practicing what they preach with all kinds of community outreach for neighborhood kids. And now self-releasing their second album, “Blowout” on their own recently-formed label, Shea Stadium.
"My generation, we are so narcissistic. And can be so jaded and cynical but that doesn't add anything new. With our music we just wanted to give those jaded, cynical people out there something to get excited about, the way children get excited about things."
And there's no mistaking the crowd here are clearly excited and won over by the band after "Xanax", "Blow Out" and "My Block". The musical references are plentiful but the So So Glos are their own refreshing beast. “We made it to second half, are you guys having fun?“ he asks the by now, crowd surf-happy floor.
“I see one guy with a cellphone, I wish I could get to him. F--k the mobile phones, f--k the internet” he pulls out his police hat, blows on his whistle and gets the crowd to sing along ‘woa– oh, woa-oh’ while he plays the bassline to perhaps my favourite SSG's tune, “Speakeasy”. It evokes the fun, mischief and tomfoolery of those other New York heroes, the Beastie Boys.
It is no doubt they also have a Strokesy-sound but less affected that Julian Casablancas ever was, Alex is present and earnest in his delivery. All sweaty in a Wu Tang t-shirt he responds to crowd calls for Wu Tang with “Wow you guys love Wu Tang here. I wore a Tupac t-shirt here yesterday and got no love,” before belting “Black & Blue”.
On “We Got The Days” the second last song of their 45minute rambunctious tumble of a set, all Shaman-like, Alex manages to quiet down the pogo-happy crowd, getting them to get down on their knees, following his lead as he crotched down, then lay down with his bass on the stagefloor whispering and strumming it softly.
Then they take the temperature through the roof again with their parting song, “Son Of An American” and its ironic nod to The Sex Pistols. Alex dives onto the pulsating crowd that moments later spits him back onto the stage. Just like each addictive song they banged out, the So So Glos leave you wanting more, and now wondering when they'll be back again.
As much as they love the Mets, Shea Stadium, Seinfeld and all things New York, let's hope they arrive home and get a a case of the wanderlust. In the meantime, “Blowout” the album will just have to do.
To buy album, click here.
House of Glass
Black & Blue
We Got The Days
Son of an American.