Sitting through Lagwagons’ 90-minute set at Pop’s nightclub was a bit like sitting through a bad date. It was one of those concerts that just got increasingly worse as the night went on. Though Lagwagon was actually splitting the headliner bill with MXPX, a large percentage of the people there were clearly Lagwagon fans. The turnout was good and the young crowd seemed glad to be there. There was a real feeling of true excitement in the club; a mood the band managed to kill before the evening was over.
It shouldn’t come as too much of surprise that this many people were there. Lagwagon is a 5-member group whose history goes all the way back to 1990, when they formed in Goleta, California, a small town just outside of Santa Barbara. The band has an appealing punk-pop feel to their music, and singer Joey Cape has a tremendous amount of talent, with a distinct voice that always manages to carry a good melody.
Fans were ready for the band to kick right into the much loved music. But the band had other ideas, deciding to talk to the audience before even playing a note. Talking too much was Problem Number One. It destroyed any momentum they otherwise would’ve had.
Both guitarists, Chris Flippin and Chris Rest, were literally excruciating on stage. They had their moments where they intentionally sang badly into the microphone in order to get some laughs. The numerous jokes they made were downright dreadful, with so many involving their horoscopes and the name of the town they were playing in, that it become unbearable. The somewhat, distorted rhythm guitar work they did wasn’t bad, but the lead guitar parts were absolutely painful.
Cape sang well throughout the night and had a strong presence, but wasn’t able to save a concert that truly just did not flow well. By the time the last song, “May 16th,” was announced, some audience members had already left.
One band whose set did flow well that night was MXPX, who delivered a great set to their fans. The pop-punk trio from Bremerton, Washington played material dating all the way back from 1995 to the present, and even took requests from audience members. Lead vocalist/bassist Mike Herrera showed a tremendous amount of confidence on stage that he didn’t have twelve years ago. Not only was he animated on stage, but he interacted with the crowd well when he took the mic, and songs like “Punk Rock Show” and “Chic Magnet” sounded better than ever live.
Also on the bill were Tat, a three-piece punk band from London, England, and Only Crime, who were easily the most original-sounding band of the evening. This five-piece group from California has a unique approach to punk music; they manage to keep all the roughed-up guitar sounds and roaring vocals one might expect from a band like this, but their lead guitar parts and advanced drum rhythms make them well worth seeing. Only Crimes’ set at Pop’s was just under 30 minutes long, but made more of a positive impression than Lagwagon could do in 90.
Perhaps Lagwagon will learn their lesson, and return to town with a tighter set that doesn’t drag. Too much talk can ruin a concert, and, with a $20 admission charge at the door, talk is not cheap.