Dead Milkmen at Walters, 12/5/2013
Nothing is more frustrating than falling in love with a band only to discover that you'll almost certainly never get to experience its music live and in person. For years now, that's been the niggling blemish on my relationship with the Dead Milkmen, Philadelphia's sardonic cowpunk satirists.
By the time I was introduced to their sometimes shocking, frequently hilarious tunes in the mid-'90s, the group was already breaking up. Even after they reformed in 2008, the Milkmen seemed determined to avoid Houston, and five years into their reformation, I'd all but given up on taking in their jangling, spastic songs straight from the electrified source.
After witnessing their first H-Town show in more than 20 years last night, it feels good to have patience reaffirmed as a virtue. Plenty of classic, reassembled punk bands have come through the downtown venue in the last couple of years; to be kind, some have held up noticeably better than others. It's a pleasure to report, then, that the Dead Milkmen are alive, energized and still sharp as a tack.
It was immediately clear on Thursday night that I was hardly alone in my anticipation for the gig. Rarely has Walters been as crammed full as it was for the Milkmen's first visit in decades. Most of the folks who braved the rapidly falling temperatures to catch them last night were, like me, a tad too young to have fully participated in the group's college-rock heyday. But boy, there sure were a lot of us who wished we hadn't been.
Familiar local acts Skeleton Dick and Muhammadali did a nice job of trying to warm up the shivering folks that showed up early to get a good spot for the Milkmen, and their fellow Texas punks Radioactivity proved to be a particularly good fit for the Philadelphians' tight and energetic style. For many of us, though, the undercard felt interminably long as we waited to hear the headliners at very long last.
Pleasantly, the Dead Milkmen rewarded our wait with a light and lengthy set once they finally appeared. Front man Rodney Linderman, attired in a natty black bowler, brought all of the energy and enthusiasm of a much younger dude to the proceedings, bouncing all around the stage as the tightly packed audience wiggled and shook to the beat.
All of the "hits" were trotted out, from the opening salvo of "Tacoland" and "Tiny Town" through "Punk Rock Girl," "Bitchin' Camaro" and "Big Lizard in My Backyard." From front to back, there were smiles of ecstatic recognition everywhere as the band whipped from one tune to the next. For the most part, Linderman eschewed the stage banter in favor of the rapid-fire quips, one-liners and non-sequiturs built right into the songs.
Review continues on the next page.