Still Snotty: Dead Boys Live in Concert

2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the Dead Boys’ debut album Young, Loud, and Snotty. In its honor, Johnny Blitz and Cheetah Chrome resurrected the group with vocalist Jake Hoult and Ricky Rat on bass for a re-recording titled Still Snotty: Young, Loud and Snotty at 40 with an accompanying international tour. In early November, the group performed at the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, a seedy venue with one tight floor space and bathrooms as narrow and disgusting as CBGB’s were said to be. My friend Sal and I drove over after a pleasant dinner in New Brunswick, listening to their music on full volume on the way there. The air smelled like cheap cigarettes and nickels, and the speakers blasted classic punk. There were countless opening acts with minute long songs and an abundance of shredding. My favorite band was one named Shut Up, whose lyrics were incoherent and chords sounded like chainsaws. Since we arrived early and the club was filling with characters who looked like Sons of Anarchy extras, we took a detour to Asbury Park and milled around the abandoned boardwalk. When we returned, a few more bands played, but the atmosphere was different- the headliners had arrived. They milled around the back near the bathrooms, and around 11:00 I became frustrated. For the millionth time, I shouted in Sal’s ear over the music: “When are they going to come on?”

Around 11:15, the band finally began to unpack their equipment, with amps marked DEAD BOYS in dark marker.

Jake Hoult took the stage, yelling into the mic about the legacy of the Dead Boys for an introduction. At once, the band’s “Sonic Reducer” filled the air, and all the people who had just been casually drinking and nodding semi-enthusiastically were at once on their feet, as if they had just come to life. Sal and I were pretty much at the feet of the stage, but we stood back, if anything anxious from the sudden movements. The audience yelled along to the lyrics, and Jake Hoult leaned into the crowd, holding his microphone out and emoting with rhythm. The guitar could only be described as sublime. In chords that resembled the Ramones’, Cheetah Chrome and Jason Kottwitz summoned electricity that sounded fresher than anything that’s come out in the last 40 years. Johnny Blitz moved with unbelievable vitality, his arms practically invisible as they thrashed at the drums.

The crowd moved like a hive of bees, gravitating towards the stage and colliding against each other to the rhythm.

At once, I felt compelled to ford through the front row to stand at Hoult’s feet at the start of “What Love Is.” I began to record the band, feeling the opening chord tear open the floor, and I hollered up at the stage, following the singer’s lead. He pushed the microphone towards me for the line “I want you to know what love is,” and I yelled encouragement towards Cheetah Chrome, who began to play the solo. He smiled at my enthusiasm and turned towards me, leaning into my camera as he continued to play. I turned to Sal, breathless and in awe that one of punk’s most iconic guitarists gestured towards me! We stayed and bounced along with the crowd for a few more songs, dodging people falling into the mosh pit and others who were just pushy. Finally, we had to escape the bar’s iron lung. The second we stepped into the cool autumn air I felt my temples throb and my ears ringing. We jogged towards our ride, laughing about the mosh pit and marveling at my interaction with the band. Muffled music drifted from the venue into the silent evening, and we drove off. It still didn’t feel like it happened, but in that moment I was more alive than I can remember.

by Esra Abdulrahman