Lagwagon concert review, King’s Arms, 13 Nov 2008 by underground

Ringing in the ears and a sore throat are indicative of one of two things. Either you have been screaming for your brother to turn down his stereo pumping techno, or you have been singing along to one of your favourite bands at the top of your voice. Tonight I have done the latter, as I have just got home from watching California punk band Lagwagon rock Auckland’s King’s Arms.

A diverse crowd turned up tonight with one singular intention: to see one of Fat Wreck Chord’s seminal acts, a band whose Auckland performance a few years back was, according to many, one of the best punk shows ever on our fine but distant shores. So when I heard Lagwagon were playing Auckland, I had to see them for myself.

Opening were hardcore act Brick v Face, whose lanky unassuming frontman puts on quite a show, with ill timed scissor kicks and dramatics that set this band out from the other same-old hardcore acts that often open for international touring punk bands. Although I’m not really into this genre, my mate who is was impressed by this band, and I actually did enjoy their set, mostly because they played very tight, had a great sound, and a fantastic performer in their vocalist. To anyone who has seen the eighties (or was it seventies) classic “The Warriors”, their final track tonight would amuse, as it was inspired by the movie’s catchy line “warriors, come out and play”.

Up next were the impressive Full Nelsen, who I have liked since seeing them play a year or so back. Experience has made the solid band even better, who played a great set of hardcore but radio friendly punk. Reminiscent of the old Bleeders sound, think Rise Against meets Pennywise. I’ll be looking to see if this band has an album or EP out, I was that impressed by this local band, whose catchy, highly-charged and well written songs will see this band become one of New Zealand’s most dominant in this genre.

Fortunately the wait in between bands was less drawn out than it often is, and the cheer soon went up for Joey Cape and the boys. The band cracked into Island of Shame, and the packed bar got right into it, surging forward. It was clear that tonight’s crowd constituted a lot of die-hard fans, who knew not only the well known tracks, but songs from samplers and also their new EP. As someone who owns only Hoss and their live album, I was pleased that I knew most of the songs they played. As something of a newbie to this band, I was just stoked they played Violins, Never Stops and Razor Burn, but they also played songs off most of their albums including the early track Mr Coffee.

The band plays tight, often improvising and mixing up the songs without fault. However, similar to bands like Me first and the Gimme gimmes and NOFX, Lagwagon have a lot of banter in between and sometimes during the songs. Some in the crowd clearly wanted the band to cut the talk, but I don’t really mind a few jokes and mucking around. When you reach the tender age of 24 you need the time to catch your breath after you’ve been running around like a madman in the pit. As long as the band doesn’t use the talk to compensate for not playing songs, they can talk as long as they like as far as I’m concerned. And they did play a lot of songs. Not enough for the crowd, however, who left disappointed when the band did not return for an encore. Sure there were a couple of songs I would have really like to have seen them play (namely Sick) the punters certainly got their money’s worth. Encores are bit stupid anyway, simply ego trips for bands that want to hear their name chanted. However when Lagwagon simply walked off the stage without a “this is our last song” or “good bye, see you next time” (not that I heard), it is not surprising the crowd expected more. Instead the house lights went up, and the crowd eventually dissipated into the warm November night.

It would be interesting to know whether tonight’s show is considered as the previous show. It was good, but it wouldn’t be the very best show I’ve seen. But there are no complaints here, as I nurse my wounds and wait for the ringing to stop, I know I’ve had a damned good night.


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