With Seis Pistos, the Assassins, and Hello Lover
Three Links, Dallas
Saturday, August 15, 2015
There were four bands on the bill at Three Links on Saturday night, but the night was all about the third act, .45. For 80 minutes, the sold-out venue celebrated the music of Spector 45 with an atmosphere that, more anything else, felt like a family reunion. Beer was spilled, spit and sweat went flying, ice was thrown and many moshed in front of the stage. It was a joyous ruckus — just as it should have been.
Seis Pistos and the Assassins primed the crowd with engaging sets of punk blasts. Assassins frontman Matt "Spleen" Bigham (the father of Cody, who played with .45) had a very memorable moment when a small cut on his head squirted blood all over his face and onto everyone in front. It wasn't G.G. Allin shock; it was part of the unpredictable nature of seeing punk rock live.
The bloodletting only raised the anticipation for what was coming next, once drummer Anthony Delabano had assembled his kit of beaten-up drums and cymbals in preparation for the .45 set. Not many bands get cheers while doing a line check, but that's what happened here. This was not the first tribute show to the great Spector 45, but it was their first tribute show since bassist Adam Carter died, and the first in over four years. After the show on Saturday, one should hope there will be another appearance of .45. They were that incredible.
Comprising many former members of Spector 45, there were eight musicians who joined Delabano onstage, including lead guitarist Robin Carrington, singer and guitarist Cody Bigham and a revolving cast of bassists. Easily spotted were 45 tattoos and stickers on longtime fans and family members. Frankie Campagna's sister Amber and father Frank were there too, along with Adam Carter's parents and Delabano's father. This was a tribute show, but not a solemn memorial service or tacky recreation.
There was, though, a sad undercurrent in realizing how special and exceptional Spector 45's music was. Not totally country, rockabilly, hardcore or pop-punk, the music was its own beast. The well-rehearsed band justly served that legacy, making for a beautiful post-script instead of an embarrassing footnote. Filling in the large shoes of Campagna, Bigham did an excellent job as frontman. He owned the stage with charisma and flair, but didn't play some kind of caricature of the man he had to fill in for. Carrington played his leads with confidence, and Delabano had a high level of enthusiasm with a very focused look on his face under his tattered cowboy hat (even if he did take his shirt off).
A total of 19 songs were played, spanning the entire Spector 45 catalog. The first handful of songs felt like a tornado ripping through the venue. Songs like "El Rey" and "The Gauntlet" sounded angry, urgent and particularly vital. As if the performances weren't enough, there was even a sideshow attraction of firebreathers onstage during "Fire and Dice." Things calmed down for a while as a semi-acoustic set appeared in the middle. That stretch focused on rare and unreleased material from an offshoot project that Campagna and Ben Martin did, but it provided a calming change of pace.
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Once things picked back up in volume, the crowd went nuts again and the band brought on an unrelenting assault. Love and appreciation remained high and there was no empty space between the end of the main set and the encore. The crowd chanted "45" until they started playing "Emulate" and "I Love You." For "I Love You," the band invited the crowd up onstage and many in the room crammed in alongside them to sing the simple yet infectious chorus.
Afterwards, friends and family passed out sealed compilation CDs of 45's music. Just as Delabano hoped, no one walked out empty-handed. Clearing out the venue before Hello Lover (who finished the night off) came on, there was a buzz in the air. Even though there were plenty of other things happening on Elm Street that night, the ones who got to witness this were treated to something truly one of a kind.
"Playing with the Devil"
"Fire and Dice"
"Folsom Prison Blues"
"I Shot Santa"
"Brighter Than the Sun"
"Dreaming is Not Enough"
"They All Say"
"I Love You"