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The Brick Works started letting people in just as my cab pulled up. It was about 8:15 PM. By 8:30, I had found my spot for the night, and, much to my disbelief and delight, the opening band, The Cliftons, took the stage almost immediately thereafter - at least they were prompt.

Hailing from the Bay Area, The Cliftons played beer-soaked punk rock 'n' roll - loud, fast, hard and sloppy. At times, there was hardly a breath taken in between songs, which often made it difficult to tell where one ended and another one began. Doughy frontman Billy Bob Clifton shouted abrasive, defiant vocals like a stubborn toddler while reaching into his blue jeans to fondle his package - not a pleasant sight - and the band behind him blasted through their set with reckless abandon. What The Cliftons lacked in talent, they made up for with attitude, thanks to songs like "Snuff Films," and self-destructive antics. Billy Bob threw himself into the still-forming crowd at one point and literally got trampled, and the band ended their set by crashing into one another and then into the drum kit. While I thought The Cliftons' performance was little more than a cacophonous mess, it did, at least, demand attention.
As The Frisk took the stage and struck their first chords, I could tell that they carried a much crisper, more polished sound. Guitarist Zac Hunter pushed a full, driving tone out of his rig, and the vocals of frontman Jesse Luscious were much more discernible than those of the previous act. However, after the first couple of songs, I began to lose interest. Luscious flailed around the stage like a coked-up Muppet and babbled incoherently between songs, and though their brand of punk was catchy and anthemic, with numbers like "We Are the Frisk" and "Scream My Name," their performance seemed a little flat. Though their level of musicianship seemed a lot higher, The Frisk lacked The Cliftons' visceral appeal.
Without much of a wait, The Distillers took the stage, and I wasn't sure what to expect - apparently I've been living under a rock or something, because this would be my first exposure to the band. I was pleasantly surprised. Without a word, The Distillers kicked off their set - brutally loud and without many pauses - and while the crowd wasn't the biggest I've ever seen at The Brick Works, it was one of the more enthralled. Frontwoman Brody Armstrong commanded a strong stage presence, assuming a too-punk-for-the-room posture and swaying her hips as she roared her blistering vocals and pounded out chunky riffs on her guitar at extreme volumes. Bass player Ryan complemented Armstrong's growl with fierce vocals of his own, thrashing about as he thumped out the low end. I have to admit, The Distillers tore it up, leaving their mark on the audience who had gathered, and on my eardrums which were still ringing for a few hours after I left the show.
- James Barone
- Photo by Matt Beier