BROOKLYN, NY—Two dazzlingly uncompromising acts took over Music Hall of Williamsburg this muggy July evening in Brooklyn. Fifty-three-year-old anti-authoritarian Brit-punk, TV Smith, initially led the Adverts, whose magnificent late ‘70s album, Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts, gave the teenaged Londoners instant underground cred competing against the Sex Pistols, the Clash, and the Damned. Meanwhile, headliner Jay Reatard built his cult audience with sundry singles spread over a decade (check out his ’08 Matador compilation for a few nuggets).
TV Smith’s gruff moans occasionally recalled Barry Mc Guire’s snarled rancor on doomsday premonition, “Eve Of Destruction.” But more often, his rallying cries were reminiscent of fellow Englishmen such as original punk, Joe Strummer, and ‘80s socialist folkie, Billy Bragg. Though a full band helped Smith record ‘08’s rewarding In The Arms Of My Enemy, he was completely riveting as a solo acoustic troubadour strumming fleet-fingered guitar like a pale-skinned Ritchie Havens. He crammed in as many succinctly sardonic serenades as possible before saying goodnight to a very appreciative audience with satirical hyper-inflation depressant, “Expensive Being Poor.” As a spiffy turnabout, he then closed with the wryly optimistic “Good Times Are Back.”
Alongside lo-fi blues-punk wranglers, the Oblivians, Jay Reatard has become a legit Memphis indie legend. As he entered the stage, Reatard turned up the amplified distortion to throbbing ear-rattling levels, using the whirred vibrato to underscore his visceral trio’s aggro-minded assault.
The shaggy-haired threesome (rounded out by bassist Stephen Pope and drummer Billy Hayes) let their manes flail wildly while tearing up and spewing out a half-dozen metallic hardcore commencement’s with a tumultuous fury that never faded. Even after toning down the distortion for another bunch of tunes, Jay’s eyes were still covered completely by his sweaty blonde locks as he continually mixed in cuts from ‘09’s much-anticipated Watch Me Fall beside oodles of ripe catalogue ephemera stretching back over a decade.
Reatard’s expedient shotgun riffs (emanating from a V-shaped axe) poured over the ramshackle “Not A Substitute” and slamming lovelorn anthem, “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me.” When he wasn’t barking out commanding baritone rants, his theatrical high-pitched whines and shrieking helium-inflated shrills inundated the harrowing non-stop flurry. Reatard’s menacing roar filled the Hall’s dank space and kept animated fans at the foot of the stage excitedly entertained throughout.
Playing back-up for TV Smith, Reatard’s combo came back for a provocatively rollicking encore that reinforced punk’s cultural relevance and reaffirmed its daring blue-collar de riguer. They revisited Adverts staples such as “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” (a roughed-up ode to a spree killer) and righteously frustrated lamentation “Bored Teenagers.” Though my ears were ringing afterwards, I knew I’d witnessed one of ‘09’s best concerts.