Just one and a half hours from coastal Orange County lies the thriving “ghost town” of Pioneertown. This unassuming Metropolis was constructed in 1946 by Hollywood financiers, including actors Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. Their aim was to establish a place near Los Angeles suitable for filming, and intriguing enough for the public to experience the Wild West.
Pioneertown also hosts the now-famous Pappy and Harriet’s, a Western-themed restaurant that has, in recent years, hosted numerous prominent musical acts, including some guy named Paul McCartney.
So, we have a western town hosting well-known musical acts. Seems perfect for a punk rock show, right? Right! Die Spitz and Amyl and the Sniffers. Yes, perfect. Seriously it was perfect.
Opening the show were Die Spitz, a four-piece band of girls, and fittingly for this western theme, they are from Austin, TX. These girls literally look like who you’d want your son (or daughter) to date. The girl-next-door look; soft, pretty, demur. That is until these sweet little “thangs” turn up the volume and melt your face off. Bless yer heart.
They really turned it up! Ripping through an all-too-short set of songs from their newly released album “Teeth;” “Marrow Bone,” “Groping Dogs Gushing Blood,” “Hair of Dog” (definitely a dog theme going on), “Grip,” and “Monkey Song” were a few. As harsh as all that may sound, they were very well-written songs with some really dark lyrics, but for some reason you felt good hearing them. In fact this album has been on repeat for me since the show, but I’m kind of twisted… maybe you are too. Give it a listen.
Amyl and the Sniffers kicked off the show with “Control” from their debut album. While lyrically not a song I would expect, it was a choice that proved to be a good one. It was nice to see them start with a song that dates back to their beginnings.
The punchy guitar riff and front-woman Amy Taylor’s dynamic entrance and infectious smile that just does not go away, along with the consistently thought-provoking lyrics, established the mood for the evening.
The audience got more chaotic with each tune from the 18-song setlist, with crowd surfers, mosh pits, the always present person that passes out in the middle of said pit, beers flying, people singing, people screaming. It built up, louder and faster with each song. That’s exactly what happened with only the second song played, the aptly titled “Freaks to the Front,” people got crazy. Freaks!
Taylor enjoyed the crowd’s enthusiasm, actually grabbing the attention of the crowd surfers as they came over the rail. Once, she stepped off the stage to allow a girl to sing with her while being escorted to the side and another time just grabbing one and showering her with affection before she too was hauled off to the side.
Taylor, realizing the swarm of cameras, ensured that everyone had their moment to capture unique shots. She interacted with dozens of cameras, pointing, flexing, and singing, adding an extra layer of significance to the night.
The Australian band exceeded all expectations, delivering a show that would be unforgettable. Their unfiltered and raw sound, and relatable yet forceful lyrics left no doubt that everyone left the venue with a sense of contentment, having witnessed a truly remarkable performance by this explosive band.
They didn’t slow down, not even for a second as the show continued with the energy getting even higher with songs like “Maggot,” which is a song about acceptance and love with lyrics like:
“Because you are who you are, I like who you are To me you’re incredibly hot, To the music you’re moving Your movements consume mе And I said what I felt and I said it with intention”
She sang to the audience; we were her “maggots” and she loved all of us for who we were. Seriously, it felt real!
Bands these days seem compelled to project a hardcore, enigmatic, and edgy facade, which has grown into a tiresome cliché, often resulting in a disingenuous portrayal of their music. However, bands like Amyl and the Sniffers, who perform with genuine enthusiasm and joy, inevitably radiate that infectious energy to the audience.
Although their lyrics may touch on topics that trouble them, the band’s primary goal is to purge negativity and revel in the moment just as the lyrics for “Guided By Angels” would indicate.
The spirit of Amyl and the Sniffers revolves around empowerment, reminding us to not take ourselves too seriously in the pursuit of coolness, both at concerts and in life.
In their live performances, you are welcomed into their world, a world where punk is presented with a grin and an almost metaphorical punch to the senses.
I know I missed discussing many specific songs but I really wanted to express what an Amyl and the Sniffers show is all about. They don’t make the show just about them; it’s every bit as much about you as anything. They know without you they wouldn’t be there and they want to show you love for making it happen.