Punk Minus Apathy and Incompetence

July 6th, 2009

Jay Reatard – Music Hall of Williamsburg – July 2, 2009

(Photo: Morgan Harris)

(Photo: Morgan Harris)

Leave it to someone self-deprecatingly named Jay Reatard to take power-pop punk to a new level—to find relevance in this genre, to reinvent three chords, harmonies and all. He’s proving rock can be dangerous again. If you venture in front of center stage, where crowd surfing is still a viable form of expression, it’ll leave you battered and with one less shoe.

The frantic feel of Reatard recorded is unleashed live. He has a compelling energy as a performer, a classic lead singer who is the complete package. The nonstop set mainly consisted of songs from his acclaimed conceptual album, Blood Visions, which draws from the punk staples of teenage alienation and violence. Armed with his characteristic Gibson Flying V, Reatard is a head of curly, head-banging hair climbing atop amps to solo, spitting beer into the crowd and encouraging a cascade of beer cups (sometimes full) in return. Stage left, Stephen Pope played bass and sang along with Reatard’s every word. They are flawless performers—punk minus apathy and incompetence.

For the encore, TV Smith, the opener, sang “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes,” “Bored Teenagers” and “We Who Wait” (which Reatard had covered on Blood Visions) from his influential ’70s British punk band, the Adverts, while Reatard, Pope and drummer Billy Hayes added their own style to the songs. Not content to be part of up to four other projects at any given time, Reatard continues to release an avalanche of 7″ singles as they are recorded. (Even his latest album, Watch Me Fall, was at the merch table a month before its official release.) He’s always considered himself an outsider, pushing the limits, making music his own way. It just happens to be exactly what everyone’s been looking for. —Jason Dean