TVD Live: Giuda and
The Shirks at the Quarry House Tavern, 8/29

PHOTOS: STEPHEN BROWN | There are exactly 7, 243 kinds of rock’n’roll—I sat down last night and counted them—that is if you include, which I don’t (1) Albanian Stägmetäl, which is pretty much like regular metal except the lead singer has four legs, antlers, and crushes fans to death when he stage dives and (2) rockabilly, which is not music but a mental disorder characterized by the delusion that you’re an extra in West Side Story.

But a speedfreak-fast band of scuzzrockers with song titles like “DC Is Doomed” and “9:30 Dicks?” That’s what I call rock’n’roll. And an Italian glam band with a black lead singer that wants to bring back the heyday of Slade and The Bay City Rollers? Count my tartan-patterned ass in!

The bands in question are DC’s The Shirks and Rome, Italy’s Giuda (pronounced “Judah”), who played the Quarry House Tavern in Silver Spring on Thursday, August 29.

Talk about your odd pairings: The Shirks are a band of screaming diz-busters, teengenerates who would just as soon set the garage on fire and watch it burn as practice in it, whereas Giuda play the kind of super-catchy, hand-clap-heavy bubble-gum glam that made The Sweet, The Bay City Rollers, and the boot-stomping, poor-spelling superyobs in Slade so great. Would they mesh? I intended to find out, even if it meant a trip to the suburbs, with their lawns upon which actual children play, while dad sits inside in his favorite chair, dead from the stress of worrying about how to pay their way through college.

The punk primitivists in The Shirks produce brutish and short (the three-minute “I Don’t Want to Work It” is a veritable Yes opus by Shirks’ standards) songs that have a higher fuzz content than dryer lint and come screaming your way like one of Hitler’s vengeance weapons–say the V1, or the V2, or the delicious, vegetable-flavored V8, which would have won the Nazis the war had it hit the supermarket aisles soon enough. The Shirks—they’re Alec Budd on guitars and vocals, Andy Gale on drums, Kevin Longendyke on bass, and Ned Moffitt on guitar—have released one full length (2013’s The Shirks) and five EPs (the latest of which was released at the show), and every one of them is an ear-drum-pummeling, middle-finger salute to the triumph of fuzz over finesse. If the Stooges threw up hairballs, they would sound like The Shirks.

No tension-breaking ballads or slow slogs for these guys: they manufacture nothing but high-grade crystal meth for your ears–they’re the Heisenbergs of rock. Take LP opener “Motherhood of the Wolf.” It blows by you in a bludgeoning, blown-amp blur, yet is still catchy enough to trap flies. Other great Shirks’ songs include the wonderfully titled “9:30 Dicks,” which sounds like “Blitzkrieg Bop,” only murkier; the surprisingly melodic “Nakitomi Liz,” and the shell-shock-inducing “Don’t Tell Me,” as in don’t tell me The Shirks aren’t one of coolest bands to come out of our nation’s capitol since No Trend.

As for Giuda, while its five members may not dude themselves up in thigh-high silver boots with 10-inch heels or open-to-the-waist glitter jumpsuits, their sound—which is documented on their fabulous 2010 debut, Racey Roller—is every bit as glam as Gary “Glamperv” Glitter. Giuda eschews glitter rock’s more avant-garde edge (no Bowie, Roxy Music, or Sparks for these guys) for the more populist and youth-oriented sound of the legendary Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn (aka “Chinnichap”) songwriting team, whose tunes dominated English radio throughout the seventies and had UK kids from Sandy Balls to Tickle Cock Bridge singing The Sweet’s “Wig Wam Bam” and Mud’s “Dyna-Mite.”

Even Giuda’s album title is a tribute to glam’s starter-bra bands; Weston-super-Mare’s (great name for a town!) Racey scored big with “Some Girls,” a Chinnichap number originally written for Blondie, while Rollers is an obvious nod to the Bay City Rollers, whose fans were definitely of the starry-eyed 8- to 14-year-old shrieking girl variety. And while Giuda has a harder edge than most Chinnichap bands—their sound is closer to Slade’s than The Bay City Rollers’—it goes without saying that Giuda would sooner listen to Suzi Quatro’s “Can the Can” than Sparks’ “This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us” any day.

Racey Roller features 10 infectious, high-octane rock’n’roll sing-alongs like the Slade/Bay City Rollers salute “Tartan Pants” (personally I think they should have dropped the pants and written a tribute to Slade guitarist Dave Hill’s unspeakably awful Oik mullet instead), the addictive hooks, hand claps, and “Heys!” of “Number 10”; the almost-instrumental title cut, which is introduced by a children’s countdown and beats Gary Glitter any day; and the T-Rex-like “Get It Over,” in which the title is repeated like a thousand times and a very Sweet-like voice comes out of nowhere to lisp, “Ok, boys/Clap your hands and stomp your feet/Here comes Giuda/Let’s go!”

And then there’s “Here Comes Saturday Night”—an homage to The Bay City Rollers’ great “S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y… Night!”—that’s every bit as contagious as Lassa Fever and comes complete with some whistling and even a kazoo. My youngest brother used to crank up the BC Rollers’ “Saturday Night,” stand on the sofa, leap high into the air while playing an imaginary guitar, and land on his knees on a very hard linoleum-over-concrete floor. Repeatedly. That he can still walk is a miracle.

Needless to say, I was as excited as Job after God gave him all his shit back to see this show. Unfortunately I missed the opening act due to an honest mistake that anyone, really, could have made. Several days before I’d purchased a toy for my 5-year-old nephew and a big purple dildo for an ex-girlfriend (I knew she’d find it funny). Unfortunately I must have reversed the addresses on the packages, for just as I was walking out the door I received a very irate phone call from my brother, who screamed, “A dildo! For a 5-year old? You’re sick! You belong in a psych ward! He’s running around the house with it right now! He thinks it’s a rocketship! And wants to take it to kindergarten for show and tell!” By the time I finally got him off the phone, hit the Metro, and made it to the Quarry House Tavern, The Shirks were just beginning their set.

And they were great. The tavern’s back room was packed and narrow and hotter than Scarlett Johansson, but the heat didn’t seem to bother The Shirks as they raced through a too-brief eight-song barrage of speed and sleaze that included such great trash treasures as the pounding and totally fuzzed-out “Sex Gear,” the anthemic, very fetching, but unfortunately unintelligible “DC Is Doomed,” and “Disease,” which was faster than a flesh-eating virus and featured a very Ramones-like chorus (“Gimme gimme gimme/Your disease”).

The Shirks also played their murk-and-din masterpiece “Don’t Tell Me” and the great “I Don’t Want to Work It,” which was about 3 mph slower than your average Shirks’ tune and what’s more you could actually make out the words (“Too late I saw your true face/Another touch, another taste”), which leads me to believe that a terrible mistake was made during the mixing process. Oh, and they played a really cool song off the new EP that Budd introduced by saying, “This song’s about the bathrooms and the people we’ve met in them.” I can only imagine.

Then Giuda came on, and man, what a great show! They rocked! It was Rollermania redux! And I even got to punch a guy in the face! Talk about your gonzo journalism! But I’ll get to that later.

Giuda opened with the night’s only off-note, “Wild Tiger Woman,” which as you can probably infer from its title was dumb, dumb, dumb. Fortunately they followed up with a new one called “Rave On,” which turned out to be a great boogie rocker with a big glam beat and lots of swell Mott the Hoople guitar riffs. “Bad Boy Boogie” (at least I think that was the title; it was yet another newbie) was primo as well, what with the singer and guitarist swapping vocals while the drummer pounded away like Slade’s great boot-stomping skins basher, Don Powell. They then proceeded to play “Tartan Pants,” “Back Home,” and “Coming Back to You” in quick succession and the crowd went wild, shouting along with the choruses and providing the hand claps from the LP, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel just like 1973.

Giuda also played “Get It Over” with its barbaric power chords, the cool-as-Quatro title track, and “Here Comes Saturday Night,” which the crowd liked so much the band played it again towards the end of the show. They also threw in the frantic “Louder Than Me” and “Don’t Stop Rockin’,” another great sing-along that had the crowd clapping their hands and stomping their feet.

Unfortunately that’s where my note taking ends. All night long a gaggle of hyperactive lunkheads had been pushing and shoving, managing in the process to knock down the woman who was kind enough to book the show. Call me old school, but such hardcore shenanigans have no place at a glam show. At a Belle and Sebastian show, where twee violence is endemic and often ends in mildly hurt feelings, sure, but at a glam show, no way. Anyway, one dickwad in particular kept bouncing into me, making it impossible for me to do my job, which involves carefully observing events and then lying about them. I finally informed him that he was beginning to piss me off, which only caused him to hurl himself at me with renewed zeal.

So I sucker-punched him. Right in the old gob, as the Brits would say. Which is not something they teach you in journalism school, but then again I’ve never been to journalism school, because the only thing they teach you there is how to turn the impossible into the merely implausible, a skill I had down flat by the third grade. In the meantime Mr. Punched Face went whimpering back to his pals, in the hope they’d return to gang stomp me. But they just laughed at him—hey, what are friends for?—and he stayed well away from me after that. I’ve always thought of myself as a pacifist, and I am, just a very violent one. Which is to say I’m vehemently opposed to war, except the ones where people get shot.

But if I can’t tell you about a good part of the show, in conclusion I can tell you this: several years ago I had the dubious good fortune of flying with The Sweet, twice, on third-class hops from Munich to Berlin. On both occasions the band was destined for festivals in Denmark, that glam-famished land where Suzi Quatro is still revered as the Goddess of Glitter. I wanted to ask for autographs, but they looked so fat, hungover, and generally downtrodden I didn’t have the heart. “It’s a long long way down rock’n’roll,” sang Ian Hunter, and The Sweet looked like they’d missed the elevator and fallen down all 685 steps.

Still, with bands like Giuda around, you can be sure that glam, which his given us some of the greatest songs ever, will never die. Because it’s fun, catchy as tarpaper, and has a beat you just can’t defeat. I can’t think of another type of rock music so good at bringing out the child in you. And as David Bowie once sang, “Let all the children boogie!”

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  • Martijn

    Fingerlicking, knuckle cracking good review! The ‘Why I Missed the First Song’ thing is getting better & better. (I’m the biggest fan of running gags this side of the Berlin Wall.) And what energy in writing… Arse over elbow in love with these reviews.

  • Martijn

    Oh, and… as your lawyer I should advise: don’t admit on paper about hitting a man. As an eye witness I can say that it was the other way around. No, he hit himself… yes, that’s it. And he bit himself on his own arse. You should sue him! It’s lascivious, salacious, outrageous!

  • Michael Little

    Martijn: Thank you very much for your kind words. You’re the best. And I will definitely heed your advice as my attorney. He did hit himself. And he did bite himself in the ass. And I am thinking of suing… Sic him!

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