Monday, April 18, 2011

Koffin Kats in Spanaway

A few weeks ago, I became aware that the Koffin Kats were playing in Washington state. When I examined the poster of the event, I began to notice a few irregularities. Firstly, while the band on Sunday played in Seattle, the Saturday show was being held in the small town of Spanaway, not Tacoma, Puyallup or even Auburn. Secondly, it was set to take place at the "Y Sports Bar and Grill", which is the first time I've heard of live music and sports bar going together in any way. Thirdly, a large banner across the front of the poster proclaimed "No Cover Charge!". That's when I knew we were in for something special. So, my girlfriend and I loaded up her 1963 Mercury and headed out on the open road.

After a fairly decent drive, we finally reached the town of Spanaway. After cruising the main drag for a while, we ended up on the south side of the town, just past the edge. Right there, next to a mobile home park, was our destination, "The Y". A lone building sitting in front of a dirt parking lot, nothing else around it but a highway. The windows were fiercely tinted and filled with neon beer signs, allowing no sort of a view into the bar, and the door was a heavy wood device that might have withstood a battering ram in medieval times for at least a day or so. All in all, as we made our first approach to the saloon, I almost half-expected Patrick Swayze and Sam Eliot to drag some guy through the door and roundhouse kick him in the head right there in the parking lot.

After swinging on into the bar, we could feel the tension of the regulars rise as outsiders had invaded their group. There was a noticeable chill in the air. As we were discussing local hospitality arrangements with the bartender, a pair of punk rockers came in and ordered a round of Pabst. The mood then changed from uncomfortable to disappointed, as the regulars realized that their Saturday night plans were about to be interrupted.

After checking into the nicer of the town's two fleabag motels, we got ourselves ready and met up with The Pope of Zorch Radio, a fantastic show out of KGRG in Auburn. We all hopped in the car and headed back down to the bar. Upon our arrival, we were pleasantly surprised to find the bar filled with colourful people of all persuasions, from punks to skins to greasers to psychos to metalheads, the crowd was a complete cross-section of The Koffin Kats' audience.

The night started with local band Angie and the Car Wrecks. This band avoided the usual pit-falls that female-fronted band often fall into, particularly the vocals not flying too high above the music and reach ear-piercing notes. The band was a good opener, getting the crowd into the show and pulling out a number of cover tunes to get folks off their butts. They have a great dynamic on stage and their energy was good. I was given a copy of their album, but I haven't had a chance to listen to it yet. I felt their set went on a bit too long, but I have been finding myself feeling that way about a lot of bands of late. Perhaps I'm just becoming impatient in my old age. Or, perhaps, in this case, I was just anxious to see Koffin Kats for my first time and didn't want to wait any longer.

Finally, about 11, The Koffin Kats were set up and ready to play. Since the poster said doors at 7, I was quite ready to see the band by this point. As soon as the first strains of "How It Starts" rang out, I knew we were in for a treat. Vic Victor is one of the best frontmen it has been my pleasure to watch. He sings well, his bass playing is spot on and he's more lively than most electric bass players. Watching him swing around that standup bass, jam it into the ceiling, and even prop it across his guitarist's back at one point was a reminder of everything that's great about this type of music.
I was slightly apprehensive about the guitars going in, after founding member Tommy Koffin's departure last year. However "EZ" Ian, formerly of Albuquerque, NM's 12 Step Rebels, did a fantastic job of filling his shoes both on the six string and on backing vocals.
Drummer "E-Balls" Walls is the secret weapon that you never hear about in that band. He hits the skins hard with extreme precision and a talent for adaptability on stage that not many musicians possess these days.
The band played a great set with songs from all 5 albums, and even a song that will be on their next full-length (currently being written on the road) and also their upcoming split release with 12 Step Rebels. Bottom line, if you have a chance to go see a Koffin Kats show, do it. They are the hardest working band in rock 'n roll today and it shows. Their constant, relentless touring has created a band that can kick your ass six ways to Sunday, drink you under the table, get up in the morning and drive 10 hours just to do it all again. The fact that they've done everything themselves since the beginning and they refuse to stop, or even slow down likens them to a shark and it's constant thirst for more.

This is what rock and roll is all about.