Live Review: Absentees

Lager House  Detroit, MI

Contact: [email protected] 

Web: Spotify

Players: Tony Dunn, guitar, bass and vocals; Matt Gawne, guitar, bass and vocals; John Quillen, drums

Material: High energy rock ‘n' roll, with a heaping helping of punk is the order of the day for this affably spirited Detroit-based trio. A mix of yet-to-be-released and previously recorded tunes are what they are serving up. No doubt, songs like “Thrash N’ Burn,” “Fiend Machine” and “Breaking Up” are whetting the appetite for fans anticipating their upcoming third release. It feels fair to deem them, with “classic” status for their clear stylistic references to icons like The Dead Milkmen, Minor Threat and Social Distortion. Yet their sound is tempered by youthful exuberance and an appropriately modern edge.

Musicianship: It is a fairly stripped-down approach that is anchored by Quillen’s brash and powerhouse tempos and beats. The unique framework of Dunn and Gawne is such in that they are each adept at stepping into lead and supportive roles. Dunn frets guitar, with a self-assured hand that blends thick power chords and single note lines into a seamless barrage of sound. Switching over to bass his technique is pretty solid and is locked down. The same can be said for Gawne on both fronts. Collectively, their vocals are evenly matched and explode, with raw emotion and a burst of attitude.

Performance: The crowd gathered and was on their feet from the opening downbeat. The Absentees were anything but, as they were very much engaged and present with their fans. Quillen kicked off a number of tunes that bordered on controlled chaos. But, then, that’s exactly the point! While the front line shared guitar, bass and vocal duties, the lanky and bearded Dunn visually raised the bar by exhibiting crazed leaps and gyrations across the stage. The frenetic energy emanating from the band was palpable. However, it might have been a tad overdone at times, obscuring the execution of the songs themselves. But, as their set progressed, so did their focus and attention to nuance within the material.

Summary: Absentees are a fun ride and a familiar sound to those that follow the punk and local indie scene. But, while the songs are solid and seem to connect with their fan base, there is nothing distinctive in their stage show that sets them apart from many others of the genre. Perhaps, they need to take some time and develop their visual presentation, and the music will surely follow