Denton, Texas' Riverboat Gamblers performed a half-hour of songs that meet at the intersection of late-'70s British punk and early-to-mid-'80s American hardcore before an impressively crowded room--especially considering it was the Sunday following the spring Club Crawl. The Gamblers are first-rate showmen: Only a couple songs into the set, Mike Weibe, the band's dervish of a singer, was already snaking his way through the crowd, mic in hand, and one got the feeling that the other members would have followed suit if they hadn't been tethered to their instruments. With songs simple enough that if you can chant "Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!" you can basically sing along, the Gamblers did the job that any punk party band aspires to: making you want to fuck shit up.
Middle slotters The Knockout Pills also did nothing to sully their reputation as one of Tucson's best live bands--hell, one of our best bands, period. Though they didn't play as many new songs as we'd hoped they would (most came from the band's stellar debut album), they ran through 40 minutes of punk-energized, good-time rock and roll with hooks so obvious they smack you in the face. The only glitch came when the Pills botched the beginning of one song--twice. But with abundant humor, the band took it in stride. Enough humor that we hereby nominate singer/bassist Travis Spillers--whose between-song banter included, "Please hold your applause 'til the end. This is serious!"--as Tucson's Clown Prince of Rock.
But perhaps the story of the night for followers of local music was openers Left for Dead's graduation from mere side project status (the band shares members with Chango Malo and scratchingthesurface) to legit band. The group is arguably Tucson's only psychobilly band, playing rockabilly tunes with punk mania. How punk were they? So punk that bassist Mike O'Brien broke a string--on a stand-up bass, no less--during the band's very first song. But they had their shit together to the extent that the string was replaced by song's end, and each tricky stop-start for the rest of their set was firmly nailed. Bonus points: One song featured more cowbell than Christopher Walken producing Blue Oyster Cult. Burritos all around!