Nervous Gender, The Dead Beats and Human Hands at the Bluestar

What was once the avant-garde is now the old garde but this doesn’t diminish the heat that Nervous Gender can generate as they proved last Saturday night when capping the night off with a line  up of bands that included: The Deadbeats and Human Hands. While Kraftwerk may have started the synthesizer movement , it must be said, Nervous Gender gave synthesizer music teeth. The bite Nervous Gender brought to the music arena defined what is now considered Synthpunk, Queercore and is foundational to what would be considered Industrial/Industrial Dance music today. I caught Nervous Gender for the first time at the Part TIme Punks Music Festival in 2008. I had wanted to see them for years and I was joyous to finally lock them in that night. I was impressed by their performance and gratified to finally hear such a legendary LA Punk play live.

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I’ve seen many shows at the Blue Star downtown. It’s a diner with tasty beers on tap and caters to the alternative/Punk crowd. After all it is a perfect fit. A bar on the inside with table seating to keep it on the DL and then there’s the outside patio with seating, a grill and a stage. A bit like the Echo patio but it’s a diner with big glass widows so you don’t miss any of the action. In other words you can view the band from the bar! For this night and for this line up brought out the nucellus, the core of the core, of the late 70’s and 80’s Los Angeles Punk Rock scene. Some in attendance was were Henry Peck, Lisa Riley, Lisa Murry, Bert Ferguson, Josie Roth, Debora Ballantine Ballabio, Ronald Schnier, Duchess De Sade and of course all the band member and a host of others churning in the midst of the Blue Star patio.

I had made it in time to catch Human Hands’ performance. A band that Bruce Licher of Savage Republic had release through his IPR Label (Independent Project Records) during the 80’s. I had produced and promoted a concert featuring Savage Republic at Backdoor at SDSU and this connection with Bruce Licher of Savage Republic and IPR introduce me to both Human Hands and Camper Van Beethoven. Human Hands was another band that I hadn’t caught traction on the first time around and I was eager to see them.  Thankfully, they were up first. Human Hands are a Punk band of guitars and rhythm section, that is more of a product of late 70’s sensibilities that don’t closely relate to Southern California’s early 80’s Hardcore scene. Thinking of Human Hands’ they are closer to Richard Hell and the Voidoids’ Blank Generation, than to Black Flag’s Rise Above. The crowd had gone from laid back to pumped as Human Hands mounted the stage. They delivered a beefy set that kept everyone on their toes engaged and dancing. They closed out the their set with “Sensible Guy” though there were calls for more of what was rocking the crowd.

The Deadbeats followed and the crowd became even more excited with this seminal Los Angeles Punk Rock band. As I fell back and listened I realized, they were more closely associated with the likes of Wall of Voodoo or Oingo Boingo. Quirky riffs, odd time signatures with stilted vocalizations and phrasing. The Deadbeats were a good fit for Nervous Gender. They blended well as a style bridge between them and Human Hands. They were somewhere in the middle of both bands styles.

Nervous Gender was on last, under the dark canopy of a midnight sky wrapped in stage lighting on Bluestar’s patio. After a steady stream of seminal LA Punk Rock we were now to be treated to a band as bedrock in importance as that of say, Tomato Du Plenty’s Screamers. Edward Stapleton dressed in black and with a more filled out band than any previous incarnation of Nervous Gender, I have seen, hit the stage like a prowling caged tiger. That is no surprise since they are a seminal Punk Rock ensemble. The set was tight as Edward and crew launched in to song after song of an eight song set. Starting off with “Monster”. Delivering the coup de grâce with “Fat Cow” that would put in Kraut Industrial Rocker to a test for authenticity and pedigree. Edward delivered till the very end, utilizing all the musical energy of Nervous Gender had in its reserve with inspired angst killed it by leveling the audience with “Gestalt”. The aftermath was a crowd that got what they came for and left happily after passing through the turbine like nexus of Nervous Gender’s raw delivery of angst driven Proto-Synthpunk.

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