It turns out punk rock isn’t dead in St. Joseph; it just needed someone to stir the pot a little bit. Maybe it was The Megajoos, maybe it was Jerkface or Third Wounded Man or maybe it could have been the Sex Pistols style poster for the show that got the punk vibe going. The most likely cause? A couple of people relatively new to town that have the balls to stand up front when everybody else is sitting and get into a live performance. This leads to singing along, dancing, others standing up and giving the band props and yes… oh yes… it happened; a St. Joe mosh pit.
This bill was put together around the only out of town band, Megajoos, but Third Wounded Man would lead it off. I wouldn’t call the Todd Cooper led project a punk group but they would do a pretty good job of fitting that mold on this night. They would slip in covers of legendary bands The Ramones, The Misfits and most incredibly Operation Ivy. The group at several shows has embraced the punk-pop perfection of The Ramones’ “I Believe In Miracles” but The Misfits’ “Skulls” was likely a one time performance. In tribute to one fan who stood up front the whole show wearing an Operation Ivy shirt, Cooper would belt out about the first half of the classic Ivy song “Knowledge” and would be joined by that same fan and Wade Williamson on stage to sing the addicting chorus of “Skulls.”
Cooper would belt out lyrics to his hard rock original songs while Tyson Bottorff would hammer away on bass and Bill Blizzard would prove to the crowd that he is the hardest hitting drummer in town. Songs with very heavy early Metallica influence like “I, Escapist” and “The March of the True” are common in the group’s set and are always well received. Bottorff would even take the brunt of the singing on the thunderous “Murder Car.” The crowd got so into the show in fact that Third Wounded Man, the first of three bands on the night, would play an encore to appease the cheering crowd playing “I, Escapist” for a second time because they had already played their entire catalog.
Complete with a smoke machine, Megajoos would take their spot under the newly installed lights at The First Ward next for a very surreal set. In what seemed like a few very short minutes the band was on stage with drummer Wesley Mitchell donning a Lone Ranger style mask and lead singer/bassist Joosy J. would have on a gorilla mask with a blonde wig on it. The heavily distorted bass made their songs sound as if they had full band despite not having a guitar on stage. The lush sound brings to mind the bass tone that Nick Oliveri had on the Queens of the Stone masterpiece Rated R.
The bass and pounding drums would never be fuzzier than on “Master Blaster” and the screeching guest vocals on “Paris Hilton” halfway through the set gave a needed break to the sound. Tongue in cheek songs like “Dominos” and “Paris Hilton” are common for the band. The highlights of their set though were likely the start-stop bounce of “Always Turn It Up Way Too Loud” and an interesting interpretation of T. Rex’s “Children of the Revolution.”
The audience would dwindle a bit in middle of the night, likely to take a break on the deck, but fill back in for a great set by the surf-rock band Jerkface. The stage area would be loaded down with band members led by lead singer / guitarist Jesse James who has likely one of the best looking guitars in town, its teal color and shape reminds me of an old Studebaker car and the tone he gets out of it fits that image as well. Trombone player Pete Bailey would spearhead the sound, texturing each song, making them sound like a ska band. Ryan Early would smoke a solo on his guitar every once in a while and Brean Reilly would strum on her ukulele and more prominently play some keyboards. The band was rounded out by the shirtless drummer Brian Shank who had “DANCE FUCKERS” sprawled across his chest and Tommy Swarz who would play bass while he looked for things to climb on during the show.
They would start off, as they often do, with the great instrumental “Baseball Bat” led by a driving trombone and it would get some feet moving right away. As they pounded through about a dozen or so songs they would entice more and more people toward the stage and a couple times a mosh pit was even started, the first that I have seen at the many, many St. Joseph shows I have attended. Glasses would be smashed, the monitors kicked around and beers would be spilled but it was all in good fun. The throwback surf-ska of “As They Roll In” and the cowbilly-punk of “Dirty Worn Out Road” and the Johnny Cash cover “Folsom Prison Blues” may have failed to incite a mosh pit but showed the band’s range. The set would be highlighted by what is clearly the band’s best song “Alien Girl.” It is not difficult to see “Alien Girl” becoming not only a staple in the group’s sets but being blasted out of iPod’s and car stereos everywhere.
The formula added up to undoubtedly one of the best shows of the year so far. At one time interest in punk was seriously waning in this town but hopefully that is turning around. Punk is all about attitude and perspective and the newcomers, Brian and Marc, embody it and are helping spread it throughout town. If it continues it could add exponentially to the excitement level of shows. We can only hope the Megajoos return and this is the first of many shows like this.