If there was any overall theme to this Wednesday-night performance at Club Congress, it seemed to be this: Garage rock is dead. At least for the time being. While this might seem unnecessarily dire, the faltering energy and lackluster reception for The Fall-Outs spoke volumes: The Old Pueblo has lost its passion for scrawny boys in skinny jeans.
Which isn't to fault the bands who performed. It's just that Thee Makeout Party's tongue-in-cheek nostalgia and The Okmoniks' neo-mod call to arms lacked the requisite joyousness and enthused reception to really sparkle. The bands gave it their all, but somehow, their performances illustrated more flat competence than dynamic showmanship.
It might all boil down to the weird energy of a Wednesday-night show packed to the gills with bands. The original two-band roster swelled to five bands, which explains why attendance peaked around 11:30 during The Okmoniks' performance and died down to a mere 15 or so bodies by the time The Fall-Outs took the stage closer to 1 a.m. It's hard to imagine this happening back in the days of garage-rock shows at the Airport Lounge (starring the likes of The Fells and The Weird Lovemakers).
The Fall-Outs deserved a better reception than they got. The band sounded remarkably tight and crisp, though they seemed to be rushing through their set, perhaps due to the light attendance. Old classics like "Ambition," "Zombie" and "They Never Come" were mixed with relatively newer stuff like "Staring at the Sun," off 2004's Summertime.
The evening's unexpected treat was actually second-billed band Unnatural Helpers, whose skronky, hard-edged sound was a refreshing change from by-the-numbers garage-pop. Their cover of Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog" was an energetic high point, and their infusion of wall-of-noise dynamics to the traditional three-minute garage tune rang truer than the more faithful sound of the other bands.
Overall, the evening flew in the face of the spirit of garage, with its short-and-sweet simplicity and earnest good humor. With its interminable pacing, the night left us drunker than we wanted to be and missing the good old days, when the bands played loud and fast, and before you knew it, you were stumbling down Pennington Street humming the chorus to that cover of the Sonics' "Don't You Just Know It."