The flavor of punk

Grog Shop sees SKATERS and The Orwells in one night


Anne Nickoloff/Observer

The Orwells put on a strange and slightly uncomfortable show at the Grog Shop last week, but the crowd still loved it.

Anne Nickoloff, Arts & Entertainment Editor

After seeing The Orwells and SKATERS, two bands identified as punk rock, perform at the Grog Shop on Sept. 9, the genre of “punk” will never again feel decisive.

SKATERS, who belted out powerful songs with tons of excitement to a crowd that was four times bigger than their last Grog Shop experience, was solid. People danced to “I Wanna Dance (But I Don’t Know How),” and they actually knew how. A cover of Violent Femmes’ “Kiss Off” was met with a sing-along crowd. In short: SKATERS’ show was a success.

But I’m less comfortable saying the same about The Orwells.

More specifically, I’m less comfortable saying the same about Mario Cuomo, the lead singer of The Orwells.

To be clear, the band itself rocked it. They engaged the crowd, played their music and clawed back to the good ol’ youth-revolt nature of punk rock. It was fresh and exciting…until Cuomo started yelping, growling, chuckling and making barf noises into the microphone, when he was supposed to be singing lyrics.

Cuomo took the whole “stick it to the man” thing to the next level—after whipping a bag of bread at various members of the audience and yelling out “There you go, you Midwest pieces of trash,” he just stared blankly into the corner of the room, seeming to be caught in some drugged-out trance state. This was, of course, after several slugs of beer.

There were some high points; during “Who Needs You,” one of The Orwells’ most recognizable songs, the moshing audience in front of the stage yanked on Cuomo’s hair while he sang away. The Orwell’s cover of FIDLAR’s “Cheap Beer” was met with over 20 pumping fists. And, admittedly, it was impressive when Cuomo climbed across the room, scaling across a ceiling rafter like monkey bars while the crowd lifted the lower half of his body.

But there were low points. This includes the moment they walked onstage, throwing handfuls of ice at the crowd (which the crowd felt very comfortable throwing right back). Or when Cuomo flat-out stopped singing and the guitarist had to take over vocal duties towards the end of a couple songs.

While some of the crowd loved The Orwells’ performance and unruly nature, I felt like it was over the top. I get the idea of skuzzy snot rock or flipping off the bourgeoisie (their name is, after all, “The Orwells”), but why does that mean being drunk the moment you take the stage? Why does that mean sacrificing the performance for the sake of being a punk?

The Orwells have been scrutinized in the past for acting in similarly childish ways onstage. No one wants to be the un-cool, old-sounding guy who tells them to shape up, but at the same time, their music suffers at the cost of a super-punk performance.

Even so, the new-age punks in the front row (and most of the crowd, for that matter) had a ball. So, who’s to say what’s more important?

I’ll stick with more musical shows. Still, at the end of the day, I could say that The Orwells were definitely something I’d never seen before… and probably won’t see again.

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