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Butthole Surfers Treat Seattle to Spectacle, Classics

Posted by November 14th, 2009 No Comments »

ALive & Kicking
The
Butthole Surfers, Psychic Ills
Oct. 13th, 2009 @ Showbox at the Market  

Last month, legendary experimental punk rockers, the Butthole Surfers, played a killer hour and a half set at Showbox at the Market that consisted of classic songs and fan favorites from most of their pre-Electriclarryland records. No “Pepper” (the band’s crossover alt-rock radio hit from the 90s) here, which was fine by me.

The band’s reunion tour features the classic lineup of King Coffey, Jeff Pinkus, Teresa Nervosa, Paul Leary, and Gibby Haynes. Prior to 2008, this lineup had not played together since 1989 and the Surfers’ last show in Seattle was at the EMP in 2001.

The Surfers instead took the stage as a foursome and started the night with a bang playing “Something” from 1991’s Piouhgd, featuring Paul Leary’s screaming vocals and Gibby Haynes on saxophone. After that, it was all Haynes on the mic, allowing Leary to play to the crowd with his quirky facial expressions and fuzzed out punk guitar work. Noticeably missing was the aforementioned Nervosa, who, according to all reports, had issues with Canadian border patrol getting into Canada for the band’s Vancouver show and headed back to Texas instead of making the trip to Seattle.

Buttholes 2This was my first BHS show and I was surprised by how many songs I was familiar with. I have always been a fan of 1987’s Locust Abortion Technician, which to my delight they covered with “Pittsburgh to Lebanon,” “Graveyard,” and the sample heavy “22 Going on 23.” The packed bridge and tunnel 21+ crowd was primed and ready for this one as there were many noticeably drunk and obnoxious people in attendance. There was a raucous pit with plenty of crowd surfing, and the stench of marijuana was constant, especially during the “Bong Song” from their 1989 EP Widowmaker.

The ‘Holes had a pretty sweet stage setup, with three giant video screens that simultaneously played looped images of horror movie violence and sexual imagery. The band was all business though, taking very few moments to interact with the audience.

Gibby spent most of his time hiding behind his sampler– tweaking knobs, messing with odd vocal effects, and once and awhile picking up a guitar. Leary, on the other hand, was a ball of energy and looked to be having quite a bit of fun. The rhythm section of Pinkus and Coffey laid a solid foundation, but were definitely over shadowed by the band’s founders.  Haynes did speak up at one point, ranting about how he appreciated the crowd’s lack of camera use and how he hated cameras. Unfortunately for me, I was in the middle of taking a picture of Hayne’s ugly mug when he said it– but for the record there were a ton of cameras and phones hovering above the audience.

The band, whose members are now in their fifties, looked all grown up and a little bit haggard. From what I’ve read and watched, they have definitely tamed their image and onstage antics from a time when they were known for setting stages on fire. It’s also probably safe to say that they have backed off the recreational psychedelics at this point in their careers as well, though Gibby certainly sported a “what planet am I on?” facial expression a few times. 

The show, overall, was a pretty awesome spectacle, especially when they launched into an amazing version of “Who Was in My Room”, from arguably their best record, Independent Worm Saloon. That song kicks so much ass and probably ignited the biggest crowd reaction of the night. The Surfers went out on a true high note and ended the show by unleashing a huge plume of fog that engulfed the stage, while simultaneously treating their fans to the acid freak-out to end all freak-outs. It was an epic ending and a sure highlight of my 2009 concert escapades.

Buttholes 4In the opening slot was Brooklyn’s Psychic Ills, who might possibly be my greatest discovery of 2009. The foursome created some killer experimental heavy psych drones that put me into a trancelike state.  

Setlist: 

  • Something
  • 100 Million
  • Fast
  • Suicide
  • Roky
  • BBQ Pope
  • Pittsburg to Lebanon
  • Cowboy Bob
  • Cherub
  • Negro Observer
  • Bong Song
  • Hey
  • Creep in the Cellar
  • X-Ray
  • Goofy’s Concern
  • To Parter
  • Tornadoes
  • GJK
  • Gary Floyd
  • Graveyard
  • Who Was in My Room Last Night

Encore:

  • 22 Going On 23
  • Jimi
  • Cartoon Song
  • The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave
  • Comb

Nik Christofferson is the Seattle Rock Guy.


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