In September 1977 the Dickies played their first ever live show at the world-famous Whisky a Go Go. Nearly a half century later they returned Friday night to play again, this time bringing along fellow punk legends, the Queers.
The set times for all bands were posted at the box office window. I saw the Queers were scheduled for 45 minutes, which if you’re not familiar with the New Hampshire band seemed like a lot of time allotted for them. Even when they headline, they usually finish in under an hour. Now this isn’t to say that they don’t play a lot of songs or give the crowd a great show.
The band is heavily influenced by the Ramones, not only in sound and image, but even song length. It’s not unusual for their songs to clock in under a minute. I once heard Tommy Ramone tell a story that a promoter refused to pay the Ramones because he had paid them to pay for an hour, but they ended well short of that. Tommy smiled and remarked, “We played an hour’s worth of songs…we just did it in 35 minutes.” The Queers definitely adhere to this ethos.
Sure enough, they started ten minutes late but still ended right on time. But fret not, they still managed to squeeze in nearly twenty songs at a breakneck speed, including “Tamara is a Punk” and I Met Her at the Rat.” Much like the Ramones, despite their short set times, you’ll never see someone walking away after a Queers show feeling like they didn’t get their money’s worth. Friday was no different as Joe Queer and Company proceeded to play song after song, with little break, banter, or even time to breathe at a thunderous pace.
The band played nearly an identical set list as they did for Punk Rock Bowling last month, however with an added surprise. Richie Ramone, drummer for the legendary punk band from 1983-1987, stepped in on drums and closed out their set with the Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away” and “Sheena is a Punk Rocker” to the loudest ovation all night.
Next up was the Dickies, the night’s headliners. The five piece band originally hails from the San Fernando Valley. Since their beginnings in the late ’70s, lead vocalist Leonard Phillips and lead guitarist, Stan Lee, are the lone members who have been there since its formation. If you’ve never seen the Dickies play live in the past decade or so, the price of admission is worth it just to watch drummer, Adam Gomez. Truly one of the best punk rock drummers today, clad in his signature suspenders and bowtie, Gomez also occasionally moonlights as drummer for D.I. Including their encore, the Dickies got through about 22 songs playing longer songs than the Queers, but at nearly as fast a pace.
The majority of their set list drew from the band’s 1979 debut album, “ The Incredible Shrinking Dickies.” The Dickies played fan favorites such as, “I’m OK, You’re OK,” “Give It Back,” and “Manny, Moe & Jack.” You never want to pass up the chance to witness the iconic Stan Lee shred on guitar, as the man who created this sound that has become synonymous with the Dickies brings these songs to life in a live setting.
The band is rounded out by longtime member Eddie Tatar on bass who provides a perfect backup vocal to Phillips, creating a two-tone harmony, and Ben David Seelig on guitar. Seeling, a talented musician in his own right can more than keep up with Lee, which is no easy task and can be evidenced on “Waterslide,” where he nails lead guitar duties.
Midway through the set, Leonard Phillips announced that he recently turned 65, just last month. “That’s what happens when you don’t die,” quipped the sarcastic lead singer. For his part, he still sounds great and doesn’t appear to be showing any signs of slowing down or stopping soon. His vocals hold up nearly as well as they did when they were originally recorded 40 years ago. Highlight of their set was when Greg Hetson, of the newly reunited Circle Jerks, hopped on stage and filled in for Seelig, strapping on his guitar.
Friends Hetson and Lee also moonlight in the popular Punk Rock Karaoke band, so they are no stranger to playing together. Hetson and the Dickies soared through a powerful rendition of “Gigantor” before leaving the stage. The band, with Seeling back on guitar, returned and closed the night with their playful cover of the Banana Splits theme song.