Saturday, July 25, 2015

Screeching Weasel at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom

Ben Weasel
Originally called All Night Garage Sale, Screeching Weasel formed as a punk rock band in 1986 in the Chicago suburb of Prospect Heights, Illinois. Since its formation, Screeching Weasel has broken up and reformed at least four times and has had dozens of line-up changes. Vocalist Ben Weasel has been the sole constant member of Screeching Weasel. The band presently consists of Weasel, guitarists Zac Damon and Mike Hunchback, bassist Zach "Poutine" Brandner and drummer Pierre Marche. Screeching Weasel recorded 13 studio albums; Baby Fat (Act 1), the first act of a two-act rock opera, was released on May 26, 2015, and Baby Fat (Act 2) is projected for a 2017 release.

Headlining tonight at Webster Hall's Grand Ballroom, Screeching Weasel played a fast and primitive form of punk rock. Like the Ramones, most of the hyper-speed songs were under three minutes long and packed a tidal wave of barraging sound. Weasel, ever the showman in a colorfully beaded sports jacket, maintained a sneer and sarcasm throughout the set, with barely a pause between songs. Both the beauty and the problem with Screeching Weasel's performances was that despite all the personnel changes, the band's musical vision has changed little in concert over the past 30 years. Snotty attitude, pop melodies, double–time rhythms, hard chops and stinging buzz saw guitar licks were all proficiently impressive, but seemed trapped in 1986. "My Brain Hurts", "What We Hate" and "Cool Kids" and other signature songs spun on different riffs but registered similar listening experiences. Perhaps it was all a bit too familiar and could have been boosted by a freer presentation.

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