Last Night: Paul Collins' Beat, Bad Sports and Occult Detective Club at Rubber Gloves

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Paul Collins' Beat, Bad Sports, Occult Detective Club
Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, Denton
June 9, 2011

Better than: a night filled with powerless pop.

Power-pop, generally, is a young man's game. It takes a certain vigor, a certain snottiness and a certain youthful energy to pull off chugging, three-minute takes on young love.

It should be noted at this point that Paul Collins is not young. By any account.

Still, at 57 years old, and with some 35 years off power-pop proffering in his back pocket, he's certainly got the genre down pat. And, last night at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios in Denton, over the course of an 80-minute, rather non-stop performance, he proved as much, looking Father Time squarely in the eye and snarling at him with the brashness of an 18-year-old punk.

Headlining a bill that also featured two of the region's top power-pop acts -- Bad Sports and Occult Detective Club -- Collins set out, seemingly, to show himself off as worthy of the title of the "King of Power Pop!" (as his 2010 full-length release suggests).

And he'd succeed.

Backed by three hired guns from Wisconsin (his "Milwaukee band," he called them) at this, Collins' first show in this weekend's four-date Texas jaunt, the New York City-based performer bounced, bopped and swaggered his way through a set that touched on material from throughout his career -- everything from his early days in his first band of note (The Nerves) and up past The Beat and onto his latest batch of songs.

The songs came with a slightly raspier vocal offering, sure --- the guy's not ageless. But his music might as well be. With their three-chord progressions and melodies that nod equally at American R&B and British rock, Collins' songs still felt fresh and even vital. From his own "Rock N Roll Girl" and "I Still Want You" to his cover of The Box Tops' "The Letter" and The Nerves' "Hanging On The Telephone" (which would later go on to become a hit for Blondie), and everything in between, there really wasn't a bad apple in the bunch -- an even more impressive feat when you figure that he performed for about half an hour longer than anyone would've rightfully expected.

But it wasn't a drag. Not at all. It was rather inspiring, actually; the 30 or so people watching, transfixed, surely got their money's worth at this $6 show.

It truly was a treat: Occult Detective Club's opening set and Bad Sports' main support role were as fitting a pairing for Collins as feasible. Occult Detective Club, as tight and crisp a live band as seen in the region for some time, performed a fiery set that leaned heavily on material coming from their upcoming full-length, which, like Collins' King of Power Pop!, will be released on Alive Naturalsound Records. Bad Sports meanwhile, played an expectedly brash set, with bassist Daniel Fried's performance particularly shining, and especially so on "Days of Denton," the song he calls a "Born to Run" for North Texas, off his band's upcoming Kings of the Weekend LP.

But Collins, whose influence could be heard in the earlier bands' sets, was truly the king of this night. At the end of his set, he invited some girls in the crowd onto the stage to dance along with his band as they played their goodbye to the audience. Six or so joined him, skipping along to the beat (or: The Beat). And, when it finally ended, one of them walked right up to Collins, who was waving out at the rest of the audience, and planted a wet one right on the side of his head.

Hey, the guy deserved it.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Much as I dig me some chillwave and electronica, I really feel like I missed out big time by not being around in the '70s. Thanks for waiting to have me, Mom and Dad. Thanks a ton.

Random Note: Collins joked at one point that he had "like, a million different albums" for sale at the merch booth. It was hyperbole, of course. Still: He had nine.

By The Way: There's a three-panel cartoon in the men's room at RGRS, up by the ceiling and above the toilet, that features two girls deciding on where to go out in Denton that night and how they settle on Rubber Gloves. Classic stuff. Highly recommended reading.

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