Cuthbert Amphitheater in Eugene hosted a show Sunday night that spanned the ranks of music from Feminist punk to Cover Band punk to Folk punk to Celtic punk.
The Cuthbert has duck ponds and trees lining the path to the parking lot, leaving the concertgoers happily surrounded by nature as they walked to the entrance in attire ranging from flip-flops and loafers to platform heels and sneakers. The open air venue went well with the cooling weather, and no one seemed to mind the coming winter, as tank tops and shorts abounded. The crowd defied age parameters, ranging from 6 to 60, and every one of them was ready to be out for a fun night.
COVID was acknowledged through mandatory vaccines or negative tests at the entrance, followed minutely by the acts mentioning how they missed seeing fans live. It didn’t cause any concern beyond that.
Brooklyn-based Thick opened the show. This all-girl, feminist punk band rocked the stage with songs from their debut album — 5 Years Behind. The title track speaks for the vibe of being free to gather again as they belted out “I feel so overwhelmed.” Perhaps the song “Mansplain” best captured the band’s tone, as the trio bounced across the stage to the words “Thank you for explaining how to play guitar.” Closing with a lyric of “I’ll always be a loser” was ironic, as these young women seem to have a bright future.
And the crowd prepped themselves for the next act, the cover band of all cover bands.
Me First And The Gimme Gimmes
Me First And the Gimme Gimmes arrived in all-white suits, shiny pink shirts, and sunglasses. This punk rock supergroup cover band that began in 1995 still rocks it out on stage, beginning their set with a fabulous version of On The Road Again followed by a tribute to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. They went on to bring punk sensibilities to the songs of Billy Joel, Paula Abdul, and Lonnie Donegan of “I Wanna Go Home” fame. Getting the crowd to scream “Have you never been mellow” was a triumph one can imagine this group regularly pulls off as they describe themselves as “ruthlessly plagiarizing” from John Denver and the rest.
The clouds above threatened rain, the crowd below danced away, and folk punk in the form of the Violent Femmes took over.
The first, long note of Day After Day proved that Gordon Gano’s voice has held up over the years. The crowd joined in with a long crooning of the lyrics, and the Violent Femmes were ready to wow. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin punk quartet (growing to six on stage as more instruments were needed) with a mini drum kit at the front of the stage had people rushing forward to join the standing-room “pit.” When drummer John Sparrow tapped his sticks along the metal and handle of the Weber grill at the front of his kit, the crowd kicked it into higher levels of happy dancing and singing along.
One problematic song choice came up with the song Black Girls. Not being a huge fan, I was surprised by the lines to this song, including a homophobic slur and the implications about Black girls being fast and Black boys being dumb. The song is controversial for many fans, but it does fit into both the sexually explicit and God-fearing lyrical themes of the band’s other songs.
Breath made smoke in the air, enough to fill the “pit” and make its way to the stage — although not all of the smoke was coming from the cooling weather, and the first drops of water came down from the cloud cover, although nothing a real Oregonian would consider rain.
Violent Femmes were the perfect breath needed after the pounding beats of the first bands to prepare the crowd for Flogging Molly.
Feminist punk reigned here as well, as the one woman in the band, Bridget Regan, was astonishingly brilliant on Irish tin whistle and fiddle, setting a strong Celtic tone for the boys to sing and play to. Dave King, Flogging Molly’s Irish lead — a man so full of energy he must bounce off walls — strutted his guitars and vocals across the front of the stage with his “good traditional Celtic music with electric guitar.”
As the band lulled the crowd into a returned sense of normalcy with their Drunken Lullabies, the mob in front of the stage bounced in rhyme, hands clapping above their heads, and the occasional crowdsurfer chaotically tumbling over their hands. Flogging Molly played a great set including a song they haven’t yet recorded through to the first song they ever recorded, never letting up on the energy and fun.
In the crowd, many an Irish jig was attempted — not all of them in accompanying kilt, but many. And after the final song was played live, the bands sent the fans on their way with a good old recording of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life by the boys from Monty Python, while the band members said hello to the folks up front and handed out set lists.
A Great Show
Overall, this was a great show with memorably long sets that kept people on their feet. The Cuthbert provides excellent sound in their amphitheater flanked by cozy trees. Their staff was helpful and kind. Everyone left with excited conversations and smiles.
Adrianna Flores of Lebanon, a fan of Flogging Molly who was happy to hear everyone, said of this first show she’s seen in a long time that it was great to both leave her house for some fun after the last two years and to have them play as well as they did.
So the bands said goodbye with plans to hit Salt Lake City and then Denver as their tour leaves Oregon behind. Some plan to head back to the studio when it ends, and some look forward to continuing to build their nascent careers.