Narcoleptic Youth was shredding Hot Topic riffs while I made my way outside to have a cigarette. The patio was half covered by the same stained wooden boards that constituted the fence. It felt like a corral. “I dunno, I’ve got student loans and shit” an indignant feminine voice creaked from atop an Operation Ivy t-shirt. I sighed and accidentally extinguished my white Bic.
Earlier that Tuesday I saw The Briefs were playing at the Echoplex and I’m not exactly sure why, but I bought three tickets immediately. I convinced my friends to join me, and met them for a beer at the brewery around the corner from my office. They were with their colleagues, stationed at a long picnic table winning the bar’s trivia night. I took a seat on the bench and made polite conversation with their CPA, who was anchoring the team.
Talk to me for six minutes and some punk song is bound to come up. Matt didn’t miss a beat. Quickly calculating the amount of unique pieces of a disassembled Rubik’s Cube, he turned to me and continued to talk about old punk records. When Mac let him know we were going to see The Briefs his eyes lit up. I offered him a ticket, and he stood at once to call and ask his wife. He returned several minutes later holding two thumbs up.
Getting into Mac’s Subaru we rolled a spliff and headed toward Sunset. Moments later we parked. Matt bought us a round and we sat on the couches in the dark as the opening band failed to get our attention. I’d never seen these bands, but I’d been to this show before. I had spent the better part of my late teens and 20’s pretty actively involved in the punk scene. There was something about the merch table across the room in specific causing acid flashbacks.
Some leather made its way into the room and huddled formations began to generate throughout the crowd. Mac looked unenthused. “It’s better than another night just watching TV” I offered, attempting to address his indifference. Maniac finished their set and Mac bought us a round in subtle competition with Matt’s generosity earlier. Matt and I talked about gigs we’d seen or who we’d had the opportunity to schmooze and Mac patiently listened. It wasn’t long before Narcoleptic Youth took to the stage.
Bored, I went out for a smoke. Frustrated, thinking to myself how difficult it is to tell what has changed more significantly: punk rock or myself. There’s a circular dependency in that equation that is hard to balance. Like the woman encumbered by her loans, all I could muster to myself was “I dunno.” Mac joined me as the California night air gained a sudden chill. We sat and waited out Narcoleptic Youth.
The population of the room had increased when we returned. It was my turn to buy the drinks so I waited at the bar. I recognized the guy to my left from the coffee shop I habitually attend at 8:15 every morning. I added his drinks to my tab after saying a quick hello. He seemed appreciative and befuddled. I was pretty deep by that point and didn’t really care. I figured he gives me a drink every morning, least I could do is get him one at night sometime.
The Briefs assumed the stage and there was a palpable shift in the room. Seattle isn’t known for its punk and shouldn’t be, but that The Briefs’ particular brand of party punk isn’t considered classic is nearly inexcusable. Tight, efficient, snarlingly tongue-in-cheek, The Briefs contributed one of the brattiest sets I have ever had the pleasure to witness. A good punk rock set is marked by the effective balance of those adjectives. A great one has to be fast, exact, and fun. Without missing a beat The Briefs delivered. Without pausing between songs, the gleeful assault of glibness was relentless.
I stood watching, a sentinel on the side of the pit, extending my arms defensively around the crowd who had formed behind me. Deflecting slam-dancers who had begun to spin out of orbit into the bodies that surrounded them. Keeping an eye out for the human debris that can come hurtling from any angle my attention was split between the band and the potential acts of jiu-jitsu I would have to do.
Using their own momentum, I politely pushed a body back toward the crowd before realizing it was Matt. Sweaty, smiling, hands in the air, a look of exaltation emanated from him. He fell backwards and landed on his ass. More than enough people stopped to help him up, and when he was on his feet I reached over and took his glasses then disappeared to my post. A brunette and I made eye-contact and smiled. She made her way over and we danced while The Briefs tore through their catalogue like it was perforated. Two encores later we all still wanted more but when the lights came in I got out.
Mac, Matt, and myself headed back to the car and rolled another spliff. It was nearly midnight and Mac and I were discussing how to burn the rest of the night. “I’ve got get home to the wife and baby,” Matt said. He had a 3 month old waiting at home. Mac and I echoed each other’s laments of an earlier start the next day for work and suddenly the night made sense. I was trying to escape just another night. Mac wanted to keep me company. Matt wanted something that resonated with us whether we knew it or not. Matt wanted to reconnect with his youth. And for an hour The Briefs gave it back to us. They were bratty Peter Pan and we were their snobby lost boys.