Matt Korvette has got to be the absolute worst person to have in your band.
As I watched him jaunt around the Mohawk Place stage on May 15th, whipping rubber-chicken limbs in every direction with an injured, faux-diva sexuality, I got the vague feeling that this is what it would look like if Jim Carrey were cast for the role of Henry Rollins in a Black Flag biopic.
And not regular Jim Carrey. Early, maniacal, Ace Ventura-era Carrey, where his shenanigans were silly, but only because you didn’t actually have to deal with him in person. And you only laugh at it now because you thought it was the greatest thing ever when you were eleven.
Korvette is the front-man for Pissed Jeans, an Allentown, Pennsylvania-based hardcore band that redefines the word “suck.” They’ve cancelled their last two Buffalo shows, so the performance was highly anticipated. At least by the thirty kids in attendance, who were, to judge by appearance, all members in the opening bands.
Now, I don’t care for hardcore. I spent a year or two in and out of basements, got my fill and came upstairs. So I had specific disinterest in checking out the openers. I was outside with the chain-smokers through most of their sets. The few waves of sound that I caught through the opening and closing of doors didn’t strike me as particularly interesting.
I stepped inside to get a drink when Sonorous Gale took the stage. The doomy, bass-drum duo weren’t bad, but they weren’t not-bad. One thing is for certain, though: Nobody needs 22 intro riffs before the lyrics come in. Nobody.
Multiply Om times Lightning Bolt times Rush, then divide by eighteen or nineteen. And inject tranquilizers into Geddy’s left hand, to make sure he doesn’t pull off anything sweet. Maybe they sound better in a basement (question mark), but I’ll never find out.
In general, the openers were cookie-cutter. Maybe they were good. But who gives a fuck. Go to any all-ages space across the country and it’s the same thing over and over again. This could be cool, but only for as long as you’re into it.
Pissed Jeans are an exception. They are raunchy, debauched, immature, and their ‘I-can’t-tell-if-it-sucks-or-rules’ playing style puts them in a para-serious class all their own. Maybe imagine a mixture of Jesus Lizard and The Birthday Party. The band rolls out one brutal sludge-core riff after another, only to have Korvette wince and groan like the Heath Ledger’s Joker about secretly wanting to join the military, and the effect is equally gratifying and incomprehensible.
The band finally set up at midnight-thirty and had problems from the get-go. The bass amp, which clearly had too much shit plugged into it, was busted. So the house soundman provided backup, and they got rolling with “Secret Admirer,” “Closet Marine,” and some new material.
When, a couple songs in, Korvette finally removed his apparently burdensome t-shirt and began touting his flabby guns, an unimpressed friend of mine leaned in and commented, “My God, he’s got the physique of Hank Hill.”
But that didn’t stop the cavalier vocalist from getting real sexy about it. He pumped the mic stand like a free weight, kissed his “muscles,” dry-humped the speaker stands, and finger-banged the monitor, before dropping and breaking it.
He even chided the audience with comments like, and I’m paraphrasing, “I’m gonna stare all of you down ‘cause no one wants to make eye contact with me.” And it was true.
It wasn’t simply Korvette’s limp sexuality that seemed to drive his band mates absolutely nuts. It was his incessant old-school ‘tude and his irrepressible energy.
After about five songs, the backup bass rig blew out. Bassist Randy Huth looked like his kid just tracked dog shit through the house, and the band appeared to be down for the count. As the rest of the group left the stage frustrated, Korvette kept strutting the stage.
He called out his own bassist, saying, “Show’s over. This guy doesn’t want to play. Look at his face.” Then he parked behind the drums and started pounding away, while smacking the guitar amp to create thundering reverb. This lasted a good ten minutes before guitarist Bradley Fry lent the bassist his backup speaker box, and the band picked it back up with “I Don’t Need Smoke to Make Myself Disappear.”
It was during the second half of the show that it occurred to me: Pissed Jeans aren’t a gimmick, or just a shock concept band. Korvette is legitimately out of his mind. And he’s certainly acting out, but it’s not an attempt to make the audience uncomfortable; he’s merely trying to make himself comfortable. He’s acting out some guttural childhood fantasy, and it feels good for the audience to bask in because it reflects our own societally-deaded adolescence.
I don’t mean to get all grade-school counselor about it; after all, it’s just a punk band whose singer humps things and annoys his band mates.
Ace Ventura ruled your life when you were eleven. You still laugh now; there’s a gag or two that have stood the test of time. But mostly it’s nostalgic laughter, and you keep it up because there’s still a little bit of that eleven year old left in you.
If you don’t find it entertaining, then that eleven-year-old is dead. And you’ve killed a child.
You sick fuck.