I was alone in San Francisco on my way to see the US Bombs for the first time. Confused by the transit system, I walked through the sketchiest streets my triscuit feet have ever stepped upon. The neighbourhood was called the Tenderloin, a “high crime neighbourhood” according to wikipedia. I think Rancid wrote a song about it. I kept my head down and made it to the door.
The Bombs were on stage prepping their gear, a female cocksparrer cover band had already opened up for them. The band begun their set with some of their heavier numbers, and the typical ritual of drunken mohawked bros running in a circle in front of the stage had begun.
Duane Peters (singer) engaged in some of the strangest stage behaviour I have yet seen. He was covered in cowboy toys (badge, toy gun, etc.) from the dollar store doing a robot dance. He went into a rant about how you live your life in a box, drive to work in a box, sit at a desk all day in a box, then go home to your box. Some guy in the crowd yelled “what’s it to you?”, to which he replied, “Nothing to me. I’ve done my time and will be out of here soon. But the kids…” pointing to the crowd of youth in front of him, “2,3,4” his guitarist cuts him off.
The band went into Rubber Room. The still and quiet members of the crowd broke into spontaneous dance, like statues coming to life. They danced in boy-girl pairing in some mish mash of slow dance at the prom and salsa at a sped up tempo. It was beautiful. They gracefully passed through and between the slam dancers, often bashing in and up against them fearlessly. This probably marks the first time I actually wish I knew how to dance. A punk show could be a place for everyone, an alternative to the decadence of the modern dance club.
I always liked Rubber Room, but I have never seen music affect change in a immediate and physical manner. It really brought me to examine how often are applause comes out of habit, how our patterns can bring about expected behaviours, how much of rock and roll is ritualized. I have nothing against mosh pits or fist pumping at a sausage fest, but this felt like the first time someone slammed into me at a show, or the first time I watched Mel Gibson die in Braveheart. I cried for both. It feels good to experience new things, it feels good to break the formula. That’s where this song brings me.