The Muffs, Emo's, July 23
Emo's, July 23 After opening sets by local punkers Ritchie Whites and Nashville-based three-chorders Teen Idols, the almighty Muffs took Emo's almost-outdoor dampened stage. After a thunderstorm topped yet another 100-degree-plus day, the oppressive humidity felt like a hair-dryer-heated cave. Over a soft bed of feedback, Muffs frontwoman Kim Shattuck started with what everyone knew: "It's hot tonight!" But instead of cooling things off, drummer Jim Laspesa, backing voice and bassist Ronnie Barnett, and guitarist/vocalist Shattuck stoked up the temperature with their loudly emotive and concise garage-grunge/punk-pop. If the Kinks and the Ramones conceived a love child while listening to Nirvana, it would be the Muffs. Part of the band's fuel came from this being the last gig of the tour, an outing that also included dates on the Warped Tour with Anti-Flag, Good Riddance, Papa Roach, and the Long Beach Dub All-Stars. The trio immediately launched headlong into an under-two-minute firecracker that melted into another, and another. Three songs in the first five minutes, pleasing the mostly full, mostly 20s, expectant crowd. Later came "Lucky Guy," opener of their potent 1993 eponymous debut. Like most Muffified songs, this one was more about gut feelings than mental computations. That's where the screaming comes in. Creating a gorgeous gestalt with her reddish hair and a floral dress that could have walked off one of Roman Polanski's colored-themed films, Shattuck is one of the best screamers around. Her guttural evocations make Courtney Love sound like Shirley Temple. And along with apropos howling, the night featured many of their best: "Sad Tomorrow," "I'm a Dick," and "Another Day." Even new songs got a warm response: When Shattuck asked "Want us to do a new one?" a small mass at the front of the stage -- who trekked up from San Antonio -- yelled "We love you!" After said unannounced new song, the fuse was lit on the screamfest "Oh Nina," eliciting more stage diving and nodding heads. All told, however, this Muffs show didn't reach the insane intensity of their infamous show at the Electric Lounge a few years back. Which was a good thing, because that's when Barnett broke the club's signature neon sign, unleashing all sorts of chaos. And while it was good that their punchy songs were concise, the same can't be said about their under-an-hour set (probably the result of a long tour). Still, some was much, much better than none, and after a few encores, the Muffs left the feedback-drenched stage, having provided a perfect tonic for this rainy Sunday night.
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