Live Review: The World Series of Oi!

Cock Sparrer at Thee Parkside Oct. 24.


Pirates Press 10 Year Anniversary Show
Thee Parkside, San Francisco
Oct. 25, 2014

Cock Sparrer
The Bouncing Souls
Street Dogs
Bishops Green
Suede Razors
Bum City Saints
Smalltown
Lenny Lashley’s Gang Of One

Better than: Watching a Halloween cover set of Cock Sparrer songs

Just about any punk off the street can sing you a Cock Sparrer song, but Saturday roughly 1,000 fans of the seminal English punk band shut down a San Francisco street to sing them in unison. Just a few miles away at AT&T Park, the San Francisco Giants were busy clobbering the Kansas City Royals in the World Series (Yes! Yes! Yes!), but for most kids raised on the melodic street-punk of Cock Sparrer, the big event happening in the city that night was the bloody Cock Sparrer gig, mate!

[jump] Pirates Press’s 10 year anniversary show had taken over Thee Parkside, and seemingly every scally-cap-wearing skinhead within 300 miles had come to celebrate. With them, they brought some spikey haired punks and Chelsea-rocking skinbyrds, but I think roughly 20 percent of the crowd was wearing a scally cap, with another 30 percent definitely owning one, but leaving it at home.

Formed in 1972 in the East End of London, England, Cock Sparrer has played San Francisco just four times – one resulting in a phenomenal live record — so every time they make it out here has a special vibe around it. Many concert-goers could be seen wearing T-shirts from the band’s last SF gig a few years ago with Rancid, or heard discussing the Pirate Press five-year anniversary show that featured Cock Sparrer. It’s created a sort of long-form story playing out over the years; which one of your friends was at the last gig but isn’t here tonight?

“We’ll be back in five years for the 15th year anniversary – if we’re still alive!” Colin McFaull, the group's singer, joked to the crowd.

The band was goofing off and having fun all night. Even as the band’s intro music hit the PA and the crowd roared in anticipation, a time most band members usually keep to themselves, Cock Sparrer could be seen joking around with Lars Frederiksen on the steps leading up the outdoor stage. Once onstage they spent a decent bit of time kicking each other, pretending to mess with each other’s equipment, and sharing laughs (Oi! is about havin’ a laugh, right?).

At one point McFaull pretended to mess with one of the guitar player's pedals. The guitar player saw this from a distance and rushed over with a disgruntled look on his face only to find out (after a bit of his own fiddling) that the singer hadn’t actually changed anything.

Jokes aside, the band played a perfect set, featuring many of the hits off their expansive discography that span the decades. Most bands (including the others on the bill) tend to alienate at least part of their original fan base over time – but that isn’t the case with Cock Sparrer. They found a sound that worked for them early on and have mostly stuck with it, much to their fans approval. Here’s a set list I put together with the year the track was originally released to give you an idea of how amazing of a discography this group has.

Riot Squad (1983)
Watch Your Back (1983)
Working (1983)
Again and Again (1978)
Teenage Heart (1978)
What’s It Like To Be Old? (2001)
A Price Too High To Pay (1984)
Get a Rope (1994)
Tough Guys (1994)
Too Late (2007)
Argy Bargy (1982)
AU (1997)
Runnin’ Riot (1977)
I’ve Got Your Number (1983)
Because You’re Young (1994)
Take ‘Em All (1983)
Where Are They Now? (1983)
-Encore-
Secret Army (1983)
England Belongs To Me (1982)
We’re Coming Back (1983)

Bishops Green’s set stuck out as a highlight of the opening acts. Frontman Greg Huff’s head tat of a crucified skin makes the bands inspirations clear, but as a group they’ve somehow managed to escape the generic pitfalls most modern day Oi! bands fall into, making them one of the most exciting prospects on the scene. Their most recent EP is terrific, and “Alone” and “Tumbling Down” sounded great live. There were some free flexis at their merch booth. Cool.

Suede Razors, comprised of members of many prominent Bay Area Oi! bands, had most scally caps in the crowd bobbing with their take on the classic styling’s of the Oi! genre. The members were decked out head to toe in traditional skinhead gear, and were more interested in needling each other about which European football teams they followed then talking about the World Series.

The Bouncing Souls started to cover The Ramones' “Do You Wanna Dance?” just as a flash of intense rain fell over the show. Stage hands scrambled desperately to cover equipment with tarps, but the crowd absolutely loved downpour. It whipped them into a frenzy, and a big, sopping wet circle pit broke out filled with punks smiling ear to ear. Does the rain ruin scally caps? I don’t know. But it doesn't ruin Bouncing Souls sets. 

The boys in Cock Sparrer, who had just arrived with their gear when the rain hit, huddled under a nearby tree and laughed about their luck as fans near the back of the show raided the band’s merch table for Cock Sparrer umbrellas.

The Street Dogs set/union rally was the first of the night to get the crowd really moving. The guitar player was the sharpest dressed guy at the show. All white with some red accents. After watching them play I felt bad for not belonging to the Freelancers Guild unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Please don’t tell the singer.

Local punks Bum City Saints brought a different, more thrashy, d-beaty style of punk to the lineup. They’re one of those bands that you've probably tearing it up at Burnt Ramen or Gilman one time. They stopped mid-song and their bass player said something like “Dude, we need to fix the monitors, you’re a whole measure behind. Can you even hear me?” But then they went right back into the song and the whole thing only took a second. It was hilarious, and awesome.

Cock Sparrer also played a surprise set at the after-party down the street at the Bottom of The Hill with Downtown Struts and The Working Stiffs.

 

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