Material: On a bill that also included beloved California punk stalwarts The Avengers, Alice Bag and The Alley Cats, it would be easy for Long Beach-via-Oakland band the Neighborhood Brats to get a little lost. After all, this is the only group on a four-band bill that wasn’t around for the birth of the genre. They might not be kids, but they were the babies on this Sunday matinee show at Alex’s Bar in their hometown. But here’s the thing––not only did the Neighborhood Brats hold their own, but there’s a strong case to be made that they provided the strongest set of the day. And that’s largely on the strength of their material. The songs (which fly by in a blur such is the intensity of the set) are simply superb. Unfamiliar prior to the gig, we went home and checked out the Clawmarks album. Sure enough, songs such as “Late Stage Capitalism” are fiery slabs of snotty, smart street-punk.
Musicianship: While, yeah, this is punk rock and doesn’t require prog levels of virtuosity, the three musicians in the band are way more than gnarly three-chord rippers. Guitarist George Rager, intense stare and snarky sneer throughout, seemed to effortlessly pull out one melodic chainsaw riff after another, allowing Jenny Angelillo to do her crazy front-person thing. The rhythm section is tight; drummer Aguilar initially looks way too well-put-together to be in this band, button-up shirt and all, but the guy is a dervish.
Performance: It’s all about Angelillo. The vocalist pulled so many zombie walks, high kicks and manic head shakes, it’s a wonder that she remembered to sing at all. But damn, her voice is superb too. With wide, intense eyes that probably intimidated the first three rows, Angelillo sounds like a wonderful blend of Poly Styrene and Alice Bag. It all comes together perfectly.
Summary: “I stand before you tonight because of Alice [Bag] and Penelope [Houston, of the Avengers],” Angelillo said from the stage. That’s a glowing tribute to two women who blazed a trail. That said, while there are elements of old punk bands in the Neighborhood Brats’ sound, they’re so energized and furious that it seems fresh. The old punks in the crowd at this gig might not have been there to see this band, but they likely went home remembering the name.