The cold and rain didn’t keep hundreds of punk rock fans from waiting more than an hour to get into the Rail Club (3101 Joyce Dr, 817-560-7245) on Saturday night. Though the venue is known more as a bastion for metal heads, the Westside all-ages club snagged legendary San Francisco punk pioneers The Dead Kennedys, who haven’t toured since 2001. Because of some band drama that was settled in a courtroom, the iconic quartet is on the road without its notorious frontman Jello Biafra.
Before DK played its more than hour-long set of now-classics from its vast catalogue, the near-sell-out crowd was treated to a few North Texas’ stalwarts plucked from the scandalously under-reported local punk scene: Fort Worth’s The Ellen Degenerates, Denton’s Noogy, and Dallas’ Casual Relapse –– San Antonio’s Avenue Rockers are touring with DK for all of its Texas dates.
Decked in spiked cuffs and over-the-top punk regalia, the excitable throng appeared to be a mix of old-school punks who mostly hung out in the back of the room and new-wave punks who circled the pit with equal parts menace and glee. The bouncers were on high alert thanks to the yo-yoing of youth jumping on and off the stage –– and flipping off anyone who spited their rights to do so.
The show’s welcoming party was The Ellen Degenerates, a four-piece that purveys a hardcore-style of punk, punctuated by palpably angry growled vocals, massive guitar fuzz bombast, and an anti-nazi message. The band used the occasion to release its debut album, Mouth Breather, and eventually sold out of merch by the end of the night.
After their set, Drummer Will Colley said he still couldn’t believe he and his friends opened for a band they’ve grown up admiring.
“Standing in front of the giant Dead Kennedys banner and getting to play, I don’t think any of us will forget that night,” he said.
By the time third band, Casual Relapse, hit the stage, the outside line was dwindling and the crowd inside was growing ever-more rowdy. The Dallas five-piece played tunes from its October release, Shoot To Kill. The group’s 45-minutes set of politically charged, fist-pumping, anarchistic songs were frenetic, with grinding guitars and snarled vocals.
When the Dead Kennedys walked onstage, the kinetic energy inside could have lit up a city. The band fed off the chaos of the crowd, and the pit became a semi-choreographed cage match. The audience even carried around a guy in a wheelchair for a good five minutes to the front of the stage.
DK played all of the hits, including “Holiday In Cambodia” and “Too Drunk to Fuck.” After an encore, the crowd emptied out of the Rail Club still energized from the nightlong music immersion.
The Vatican Press frontman Edward Hennessy was in the crowd, and said he was blown away by DK.
“They sounded amazing live, almost identical to listening to the records,” he said. “They never missed a beat.”