Cock Sparrer, Off With Their Heads, The Bodies & more @ The UC Theatre, Berkeley [21 April]

Cock Sparrer, Off With Their Heads, The Bodies & more


407
21
April
20:00 - 23:00

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The UC Theatre
2036 University Ave, Berkeley, California 94704
Cock Sparrer, Off With Their Heads, The Bodies, and Western Addiction at The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall

Cock Sparrer Official are widely considered to be one of the most influential Street Punk bands in history.

The thing about Sparrer is that they're not just a band. They are childhood friends and have been making a noise since they got together way back in 1972. They were playing, drinking, going to football and generally making a nuisance of themselves when the late 1970s punk scene started in London. Finally it seemed that there were hundreds of likeminded people with the same attitude.
However, the boys were from the wrong side of town and didn’t quite fit in with the ‘art school’ scene — they were more at home on the terraces wearing jeans and Dr Martins boots than being fashion victims in bondage trousers. They’ve always done things the way they wanted to. As Punk ended up with its own set of rules they were always on the outside as they just didn’t buy into it.

Despite being courted by Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren (who they turned away for not buying a round of drinks), early tours with the Small Faces, Thin Lizzy, Motorhead, Slade amongst others and a record deal with Decca, the ‘music industry’ just wasn’t ready for Cock Sparrer.

British music paper SOUNDS sums it up perfectly in a live review from April 1978:

“Musically and visually, the Cock Sparrer crew are just about as motley and uncouth as its possible for a band to project. Imagine five collectively imageless Cockneys with hair length varying from skinhead to Woody Roller, wearing clothes that looked they pool from the jumble sales, and singing about how East End life is tough but fun…(they)…create a good time sound that occasionally approximates to the original spirit of Slade.”

When the Oi! Scene started in 1980 the band found themselves on a number of compilation albums and a new breed of fans discovered them. This was Punk from the streets and Sparrer and their fans just seemed to fit in. 1983 saw the release of the bands first official album, the seminal SHOCK TROOPS which today is a certified classic and regularly features in the ‘most influential punk album ever’ polls.

Never having got (or needed) the critical acclaim they deserved from the music press the band went largely unnoticed by the masses. However, this brought them cult status amongst those that mattered; the real punk fans and the band have kept that spirit alive for the past 40 years.

1992 saw the resurgence of the band to a level that they never expected. Many new bands had come along and all cited Cock Sparrer as an influence or “the Godfathers of Street Punk”. What followed was the ability to go anywhere in the world, any night of the week and play to packed venues all singing their hearts out.
Rarely do a band get the reaction that these guys do. A Cock Sparrer show is an event. It’s like cup final day. A family singalong. Theirs is a career in reverse, they’re bigger now than they ever were. Regularly headlining all the major punk festivals in Europe and occasionally hitting the US to headline events such as Punk Rock Bowling and Riot Fest.

This year is a year of celebration – with friends. And to start it off the band are hooking up with RANCID, who themselves are celebrating 20 years together, for a joint show on 23rd March at the Warfield in San Francisco.

Cock Sparrer – 40 years on, still five blokes in a pub, five mates having a laugh, more than just a band.

....

The phrase «punk» gets thrown around a lot these days but for over a decade Off With Their Heads has eschewed trends and embodied that ethic with every ounce of their being. Having put out numerous releases and toured the country dozens of times the band are about to release Home, their best-sounding album to date which takes the group's sound to the next level without sacrificing the palpable passion that's made them underground favorites.

Off With Their Heads is the project of Minneapolis native Ryan Young and on Home he's joined by drummer Justin Francis and bassist Robbie Swartwood, the latter of whom has been playing with the group for nearly five years. «It's hard to bring people into a full-time touring punk band because you have to be a musician not someone who is doing this for a hobby,» Young admits. «An actual musician is the type of person who does this because it's what they do. Money is always nice but you have to expect nothing and still play like you care.»

For their second release on Epitaph the band teamed up with one of Young's heroes, Descendents' drummer Bill Stevenson who produced the album at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, Colorado—and the result is an album that captures the raw passion of Off With Their Heads' live shows without obscuring any of the instrumentation with a slick, studio sheen. «It was really important that this record didn't sound too polished so once we agreed on a general sound of the record it was great,» Young explains. «It's definitely the best-sounding record that we've done.»

Home is also the strongest collection of Off With Their Heads' songs to date and certainly the most diverse. From the instantly catchy sing-alongs of «Shirts» to straight-ahead, Ramones-influenced ragers like «Seek Advise Elsewhere» and stripped-down ballads like «Don't' Make Me Go,» Home shows how much the band have grown sonically since their last release, a development that is no doubt due to the fact that the band have spent so much time on the road touring with everyone from Municipal Waste to Kind Of Like Spitting in everything from massive theaters to basements.

If there's a lyrical theme on Home, it's personal experiences whether that ranges from struggles with identity («I don't feel like me, whatever that's supposed to be» from «Shirts») to tales from the road. However as you might expect it all comes back to the fact that for a full-time touring punk rocker the word «home» has a very unique connotation. «I think I used to take for granted the simple notion of having an apartment in Minneapolis,» Young explains. «The album is about the bad feelings associated with being at home, why people leave home, and how important it is to have a good one.»

Over the course of these twelve songs Young expresses that sentiment in different ways and the content on the disc explores everything from being oppressed because of one's sexuality («Focus on Your Own Family») in addition to more personal writing that exposes Young's own misgivings about the Catholic church and the impact it's had on his family life («Altar Boy»). Then there's a song like «Don't Make Me Go» which guest vocalist Tony Kovacs from Shot Baker summarized telling the band, «OWTH has a story and this explains a lot.» Listening to the impassioned track, it's evident why this is true.

Having toured with everyone from Bad Religion to the Dropkick Murphys, Young has learned that in order for him to maintain his ethics he tells his bandmates that «playing a show in front of 6,000 people is no different than playing a house show» and you can tell by the group's countless live performances that this isn't just lip service. «I'm proud that I have pretty much maintained my core beliefs over the years,» he explains. «Opening for my heroes is cool but that's their crowd and I have always been about carving my own part through all of this.»

Despite the fact that Off With Their Heads have performed everywhere from Jacksonville to Japan over the past decade, it's clear that even if OWTH never left Minneapolis they would be doing the exact same thing just as passionately. «Everything involved with this band has become larger and more successful than I could have hoped for,» Young admits, citing signing to Epitaph as one of these milestones. «The only goals I have for myself and OWTH is to continue to make music that I care about, try to push myself physically and musically and continue to be able to do what I love for a living.»
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