Henchmen, the Limit Club, Battle Scarred Saints
Certain things have to be present for a punk show to work. There is the music, of course, and there is the venue, preferably a sticky concrete cave. But there also has to be an instigator.
Wednesday night (Aug. 3) at the Mill, that instigator was Joel Candelaria, lead vocalist for Battle Scarred Saints. Opening for two out-of-town bands, the Saints won the crowd's hearts with working-class hardcore tunes that hearkened back to a time when punk was scary and anything but commercially viable. Playing no instrument save for a sandpaper throat, Candelaria was at once a feral and charismatic presence, flexing like a tough guy and accepting hugs from tipsy patrons during interludes. And when bandmate J.R. Tindal had finished his last furious bass run, and the room had ceased to echo with the band's crass anthems, Candelaria stuck around to stir things up.
Phoenix-based outfit the Limit Club took to the floor next, playing a young 'n' hungry take on psychobilly, complete with upright bass and greased-back hairdos. And while the music could stand on its own merits, the crowd might not have danced so hard if not for the skanking, wrecking whirlwind that was Candelaria, whipping the moshers into a frenzy like some punk rock cheerleader.
The band ate it all up and played with mounting ferocity. Drummer Juan Carlos Larios bounced on his feet for the entire set as guitarist Nick Feratu and bassist NickDave cranked out vocals that shifted from goth-rock baritone to screamo screech at the drop of a hat. The scrappy-looking NickDave (who would not give his last name) straddled the bass and thrummed it like a maniac when Feratu took to the microphone to spit out a Gatling-gun lyrical burst.
The crowd started to thin around midnight, partway into the final act, Los Angeles-based trio Henchmen. Their muscular, left-coast punk sound was rounded out by upright bassist Steve Rejon's rumbling fretboard runs and vocalist-guitarist Eric Razo's precise, needling solos. The group's strongest moments were their extended instrumental onslaughts, including a warp-speed interpretation of classic surf-rock riffs that earned grinning nods of approval. Unfortunately, the crowd had lost its critical mass by that point, and the band showed signs of road fatigue for the first half of its set. The mood was salvaged, though, with a faithful unearthing of Motörhead's "Ace of Spades" that brought Razo to a fighting stance and rewarded the barflies who'd stuck around with a flashback to the glory days.