Misery at Punk Rock Mardi Gras

By: Seth Mattei


The early Mardi Gras punk rock show at Siberia, billed as “Punk Rock Mardi Gras” and featuring headliners Off With Their Heads, matched the dreary mood of the cold, wet, bleak atmosphere outside.



“I hate it, and I don’t want to hate it anymore,” said Off With Their Heads’ frontman, and only remaining original member, Ryan Young, when asked about rumors circulating about this being the band’s last tour before going on hiatus. “I don’t think we really know what’s going to happen,” says bassist Robbie Swartwood, “but we definitely need a break.”



The show was well-promoted, but the turn-out was average, and the semi-deserted streets seemed to have the traveling bands wondering what this Mardi Gras thing was really about. “We were warned that parking would be difficult, but we just pulled right in,” said Young.

Off With Their Heads' frontman, Ryan Young, is ready for a break after spending the better part of a decade on the road. He is the band's only remaining original member.

Off With Their Heads’ frontman, Ryan Young, is ready for a break after spending the better part of a decade on the road. He is the band’s only remaining original member.



The show kicked off at five o’clock with local bands I’m Fine and Pears, along with the Slow Death who, like Off With Their Heads, are from Minneapolis. All three opening bands played slightly-varying brands of hard-edged melodic punk rock. I’m Fine were the most emotionally-driven, while Pears’ set was short and full of angst. “We only have nine songs, but I think we’re only playing eight of them,” said the band’s bass player, Alex Talbot. It was the band’s first show, but being made up of seasoned veterans from local favorites the Lollies and Fatter Than Albert, they were well-prepared. The Slow Death played a slower, more mature version of gruff pop/punk that gave the crowd some time to breathe and get ready for the headliners.



Much of Off With Their Heads’ set consisted of songs from their latest release, 2013’s “Home,” their most polished effort to date; however, no one hearing those songs for the first time at this show would have come to that conclusion. The band barreled through the set with a slightly fractured sense of urgency while Young, who had throat surgery in 2012, possibly as the result of his desperately bellowed vocals, shrieked his lyrics about pain, addiction and depression intensely enough to be worrisome.



Their set started with the slow-burning “Jackie Lee,” off of the fan favorite “Hospitals” EP, released in 2006. Normally a song reserved for the end of the set, starting the show with it gave the performance an immediate dark twist, delaying the obligatory mosh pit for longer than usual. Peppier numbers ensued, however, the pit rolled, beers were swilled and spilled, then things got weird. “That’s all we have,” said Young. “Shout it if you wanna hear it.” The crowd then began shouting requests and, though cries of “Die Today” and “Theme Song” were heard over the din, the band chose to play the more obscure, dark songs, “Heroin in New York City” and “Call the Cops.” After the latter song, Young berated rhythm guitarist John Polydoros, criticizing his performance and sternly telling him to “play it at the right speed,” in reference to the next song, “Shirts.”



Off With Their Heads ended their set with “Clear the Air,” the last song of their 2010 breakthrough, “In Desolation.” The songs were enjoyable, but the band seemed tired, four guys who have worked hard and traveled so much that they have basically been living in vans for eight years. Their record label’s website, www.epitaph.com, quoted Young as saying, “’Home’ is about the struggles of constantly being on the move, trying to maintain relationships while being away, and not feeling like there is really anywhere to go home to anymore,” about their latest album. Perhaps a break from touring will change that feeling.


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