Friday night at Red 7 was the place to be for fun, punk rock tunes and supporting a righteous cause. Four classic punk bands – The Butthole Surfers, The Clash, The Dead Kennedys and No Use For a Name – got the tribute treatment from four separate Texas groups, while the whole shebang was in honor of No Use For a Name’s lead singer Tony Sly.
Sly died in 2012, at the age of 41. In 1987, when he was just 17, Sly joined No Use for a Name, a melodic hardcore band operating in California. They were signed to Fat Mike’s (NOFX) record label, Fat Wreck Chords, in the early ’90s and gained a popular following. After Sly’s untimely demise, his family created the Tony Sly Music Foundation for Kids, a nonprofit organization that helps support music education. Proceeds from Friday night’s show went to the organization.
Up first were Dallas’ Sweatloaf, thee premier Butthole Surfers tribute act. And wouldn’t you know it, perfect timing struck as soon as they plowed into their namesake song, “Sweatloaf” off the Surfer’s 1987 album Locust Abortion Technician. A cockroach came crawling up to my Lonestar tall boy before scurrying off into a dark corner. This was a good sign – you see, the Surfers used to throw out tiny pieces of paper into the crowd – little Xeroxed images of cockroaches.
Sweatloaf threw them out too. The five-piece band played up the Surfer’s classic gonzo live-show staples – two drummers, strobe lights, rear-projected films and images behind the band. Musically, they ripped through the Surfer’s prime catalog, mostly sticking to their unbeatable late ’80s/early ’90s tunes. Lead singer “Brad” was a dead-on Gibby Haynes, and employed Hayne’s “Gibbytronix” vocals remarkably. While there were a few guitar issues early on, they were fixed in no time and the band played a near hour-long set. BEST SURPRISE OF THE SET: A kazoo replacing the saxophone on a few tracks.
Up next were Ghetto Defendant, a Clash tribute band made up of members from local bands Broken Gold and Riverboat Gamblers. The crowd, thin at first, soon filled up to hear a little Clash City Rockin’. And by golly, that’s just what Ghetto Defendant delivered. I had high hopes but low expectations. The Clash are without a doubt my absolute favorite band.
I didn’t have to worry. As soon as I heard the opening chords of “Safe European Home,” I knew I was in good hands. While they didn’t go as far as mimicking the look and personas of the band members, they more than made up for it in sheer performance. They played a wide variety of Clash tunes, from the punk classics of the first couple of albums, the rankin ’n’ skankin of London Calling, and, in what was the show-stopper of the night, the somber and brooding “Straight to Hell” from the Clash’s most commercial album, Combat Rock. They finished their 45-minute set with my absolute favorite Clash cut, “Complete Control.” Bravo, boys. BEST SURPRISE OF THE SET: The tears in my eyes.
Sometimes tribute bands cross a line. It’s that hazy line between what’s real, and what’s not. Is it live, or is it Memorex? Sometime’s they’re so good, they’re even better than the real thing.
Such is the case with Dallas Uber Alles, a Dead Kennedys tribute band from Dallas. I wanted to demand a DNA test on the spot, due to the lead singer’s SPOT ON Jello Biafra impersonation. He had it all. The outfit (slicked back hair, aviator shades, lone-star belt buckle, plastic gloves), the in-between-song banter, and most importantly, Biafra’s maniacal vibrato. Forget whatever version of the “real” Dead Kennedys is going around these days, these guys are it. Dallas Uber Alles slammed through a ferocious set of hardcore tunes like it was 1984. “Bleed For Me,” “Riot,” “MTV Get Off The Air” were crowd favorites, along with the 30 second scorcher “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” The lead singer never strayed from character once. BEST SURPRISE OF THE SET: The entire set.
Faux Use For a Name headlined the show. No Use For a Name were the one band I was the least familiar with, but I enjoyed the tribute band’s set. Tight, Bad Religion-esque melodic hardcore that the kids go crazy for these days. BEST SURPRISE OF THE SET: The few songs I recognized, then remembered I bought one of their albums in 1993, then I realized I was old and had to leave.