The Crystal Ballroom got all kinds of old school on Wednesday as SKATERS and Palma Violets rolled into the City of Roses for 94/7's latest installment in their "I Saw Them When" concert series. Although the city’s concert-going contingent was forced to choose between Palma Violets and Metric’s show at The Roseland, the folks who made it to the Crystal were treated to a show that was worth far more than the 94 cents it cost them to get in the door.
New York rockers SKATERS kicked things off with a LOUD, raucous set and a wardrobe that looked like it was borrowed from the set of Clerks (apparently none of these guys actually shred in real life, but they certainly dress the part). While their recorded work is evocative of both classic punk/New Wave bands (The Clash/The Cars) and more modern influences (The Strokes), the first thing I noticed about SKATERS was how loud they were. Definitely check these guys out online or on your MP3 player, but if you ever go see them in person, make sure you bring ear protection.
It wasn’t until Palma Violets came onstage that things really got interesting, however. A lot of awesome bands have come through Portland this year, and while I wouldn’t say Palma Violets was the best act I’ve seen, they were definitely one of the more intriguing ones. If you’ve heard Palma’s single “Best of Friends” on 94/7, you might have noticed a certain punk undertone to their music (along with a bunch of other classic influences), but those undertones become pretty explicit when you see the band live. They started off their set with the classic Rivieras / Ramones song “California Sun,” before moving into their original material – an energetic set full of Ramones-style riffs and vocals that were obviously influenced by Joe Strummer and The Clash, replete with band members jumping on their equipment, crowd-surfing and even tossing their guitars on the floor at the end of their three-song encore.
Palma Violets’ sound is, quite simply, epic – especially live. It’s derivative, sure, but it’s raw and earnest, and looking at the fairly youthful crowd that turned out Wednesday night, you realize that bands like Palma are probably the closest that the Millennial Generation will get to experiencing those halcyon days when bands like the Ramones and Talking Heads ruled the airwaves and rocked out at places like CBGB’s – and that’s not a bad thing.
As the show was wrapping up, I heard a guy ask his date, “Is this too much rock n’ roll for you?” No, sir, it’s just right.