St. Joseph, Missouri is not a punk town. I wish it were, but its not. There is a lack of punk rock bands in St. Joe and also a lack of people wanting to go watch them. In a town that is dominated by cover bands and Nickelback sound-a-likes maybe this shouldn’t have been surprising to me. I also was thinking that I’d never seen a really good punk band in this town and it could be a wrong place/wrong time situation or maybe punk is dead in this desolate midwest town.
The pairing of thrash metal/traditional punk rockers Radkey and 1990’s throwback punk rockers Benkirkland showed promise. The two bands teamed up at The Rendezvous for a Friday night show on October 26th. As far a venues go, I think the Rendezvous would be the best place for a punk show. It is small and has graffiti tagged walls and on occasion can be a crazy place to see a good show. The band backdrop contains records on the wall along with guitars and a ton of posters from past shows at the venue.
Maybe one of St. Joe’s many cover bands were playing on this night, I don’t know; but the crowd was lackluster. Radkey tends to not get the crowds they deserve in St. Joe from my experience. They may very well be St. Joseph’s best band and they get very little hometown love for how good they are.
Benkirkland was celebrating the release of their self-titled CD on this night and despite this fact they would take the stage first. I’m sure the band that originally formed back in the 1990’s knew what to expect with the crowd but they still took the stage and gave their best to win over the crowd of friends and fans. The band not only formed in the 90’s but retained the sound of that era to this day. The show would even contain a “When I Come Around” guitar tease, it doesn’t get much more 90’s punk than that.
This was the grown-up version of Benkirkland but you could still see the young sillyness and angst in their songs and performance. They would explore all realms of punk on this night too. They would bounce from sounding Sex Pistols-ish vintage punk all the way to a more rap-rock version of the sound. They would hit all check points in-between as well throwing in metal, ska and reggae sounding parts of songs as well.
The band wouldn’t be able to crank up the intensity enough to send the crowd into a frenzy. Their sound was scattered between genres keeping the show interesting but also really keeping it from dropping into a groove as well. They busted out their best numbers along with a couple covers. The guitar playing of Ben Constable was very good along with his vocals on the majority of the songs. He would handle the leads while the rest of the band, including a second guitar, would pound out the rest of the songs. They would climax with a fitting number for the night in “Fuck This Town” which in title alone makes it a punk anthem of sorts. Other highlights would include the vintage punk sounding “Gun Related” and a cover penned by the drummer in “One Shot” that was a very good song although it did break into a brief rap-rock session.
Radkey would headline and do their thing. They would kick ass and get a mundane reception. The band gets kudos and praise by everybody that knows them but it is just sad more people don’t go see them. Their available setlist continues to grow to the amount that they can pick and choose what songs they play each night. This night would feature many of the same suspects as usual on the setlist for the young band. Included in the list were a couple Ramones songs highlighted by a scorching cover of the classic “Teenage Lobotomy.”
The three brothers would don their usual apparel; a cut-off jean jacket for bass player Isaiah Radkey, flannel for lead singer / guitarist Dee Radkey,and a mohawk for young drummer Solomon Radkey. The setlist would contain many of the groups best songs like the newer song “Cat & Mouse” for which they have recorded a video and have it posted on their website (http://www.radkey.net/)
The middle brother Isaiah would take his turn on lead vocals for the excellent “Mind Ride” before suffering a nose bleed toward the end of the band’s set. Isaiah moonlights as the spokesman for the band on stage as well instead of the quieter singer Dee, Isaiah often introduces the songs in similar ways like: “This song is called “Is He Alright” its about asking someone if they are alright.” The highlight of the night was (as always for me) the excellent song “Out Here In My Head” with his extreme catchiness and short soaring guitar solo by Dee Radkey.
Radkey has many thrash metal tendencies as well as a lot of funk and of course punk. The mixture makes them unique and one of the more interesting acts to see in town. Of all the bands in the solid St. Joe music landscape they probably have the most potential to bust out and and be “career musicians.” Maybe the fact that they embrace punk makes them less popular in town. As I said, St. Joe is simply not a punk town in my opinion. Sometimes I think Benkirkland said it best… “Fuck this town, this town fucking blows.”