Authenticity is a strange quality to praise in a punk band. Is there a more or less genuine way for vocalists to debase themselves on stage? Not really. Still, some seek to assess the earnestness of live antics, as if singers who split open their foreheads with microphones could be more or less "real" than one whose guitarist drags them through broken glass mid-breakdown. Of course, live shows can be symbolic critiques of the world outside. All-ages shows seek inclusion; "pay what you can" shows accommodate the underprivileged or underemployed; playing on the ground rather than a stage defies idolatry; and so forth. Maybe listeners' desire for authenticity springs from a wish for such thoughtful considerations behind the music, rather than some rare purity in the performance itself. Either way, outright theatrics shouldn't necessarily make a band's "authenticity" suspect.
Now that that's settled, let's plug Nomad and Pig DNA, two unflinching proponents of punk theatricality, who share a bill with Permanent Ruin and Apriori on Saturday, March 1, at the Knockout. In the individualistic world of punk, imitation is actually highly regarded. Entire sub-genres spring from the recording quality or drum technique of long-disbanded groups. In that vein of flattering mimicry, Nomad studiously bases its visual aesthetic and sound on blown-out Japanese hardcore from the 1980s — that is its primary purpose. Local opener Pig DNA has a different mission: to play fast and powerfully even at the expense of most other musical qualities. To achieve this live, Pig DNA uses an arsenal of props. At a recent show, the band guzzled Red Bull and vigorously clenched hand-strengtheners between each shambolic screed. Eyeglasses were comically affixed to the guitarist's skull by rubber-band to maximize his capacity for flailing.
As the rubber-band solution illustrates, punks are resourceful. The quality helps for establishing underground venues, since punks have historically repurposed otherwise condemned, disgusting, or dangerous buildings (or caves, beaches, and dirt lots) as performance spaces. And yet, San Francisco is conspicuously lacking DIY venues. Nomad's show was initially booked at an underground SOMA space, practically the city's only one of its kind, but the now-familiar opportunistic landlord shut it down. With no other comparable replacement, the show moved to an afternoon slot at the Knockout. The venue switch makes inclusion in this column possible, but it highlights punks' ongoing struggle to carve out autonomous space in San Francisco.
North Bay punk outfit Creative Adult is launching its full-length debut Psychic Mess with two release shows. One finds the lean and menacing act opening for No Age at a Noise Pop showcase, but the less costly (and less likely to sell out) alternative takes place at the Hemlock on Saturday, March 1, with Buffalo Tooth. Hailing from Santa Rosa, Creative Adult's desirable Noise Pop billing and anticipated debut recalls the swift ascension of Ceremony, another North Bay act — and suggests the area's riotous sounds shouldn't be underestimated.