Iconic gothic punk rock pioneers The Damned recently embarked on their 40th Anniversary Tour and made a stop at the House of Blues Friday night along with San Diego’s very own The Schizophonics.
Showing no signs of slowing down, The Damned outlive the adage “Live Fast, Die Young” true for most of their contemporaries and fittingly prove they are of the undead variety.
Los Angeles sister-led garage band Bleached were originally slated to play this show, but to the dismay of their San Diego fans broke the bad news of having to drop out due to lead singer Jennifer Clavin losing her voice. Fortunately the void in the bill was filled with local rockers The Schizophonics. And I purposefully use the word “filled” because the band’s brand of jittery psychedelic rock more than provided the unadulterated rock fix those in attendance were expecting to sate with Bleached’s set.
The Schizophonics were obviously honored to be asked to open the show, as lead singer/guitarist Pat Beers was abuzz in his musicianship as if his energy and onstage acrobatics were synchronized with the music’s tempo. He made the most of their platform and used the entirety of the stage to move about and ceaselessly showcase jumps, kicks and even the splits. Drummer and Pat’s wife Lety Beers kept up the same frenetic pace along with a fill-in bassist for the night, as the trio trudged through upbeat numbers blatantly influenced by the ’60s and ’70s. At one point Pat even announced “It’s Ooga Booga time!” before diving into another one of their songs laced with groovy aesthetic and retro flare.
Not long after The Schizophonics ended, the moment everyone awaited finally arrived. The venue’s giant patchwork curtains opened like the best game show prize reveal, and out of the darkness stepped The Damned. Not being familiar with their songs, I watched their set with virgin ears and was treated to a sampler platter of some of their best tunes spanning their forty year career. The band truly was ahead of its time, as lead singer Dave Vanian (taken from Transylvanian) stood before the crowd looking like an older but still astute vampire dressed in his trademark black gothic garb pivotal in inspiring the fashions of the goth and horror rock scenes The Damned had a role in progenating. Their set shifted between musically simplistic punk ditties to grandiose ’80s rock opera, with Monty Oxymoron’s keyboard hauntingly echoing throughout the venue on classics like “Eloise”.
The audience sang along every lyric to every song, which is a testament to the quality of The Damned’s longevity and storied discography. After an anticipated encore, guitarist Captain Sensible walked out to the stage first and quipped about being allowed to sing a song before ripping right into a cover of the vaguely familiar “Jet Boy, Jet Girl” that has in the last decade similarly been given new life in mainstream media a la “Blitzkrieg Bop” by The Ramones.
The Damned seemingly played all their singles, and more than left their legions of San Diego fans satisfied. Realistically I know I can’t well-wish the guys another forty more years of existence. So here’s to hoping the band somewhere along the way made a deal with the devil, and that there is life after death.