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Reunion of the Murder City Devils

Joe Gross
jgross@statesman.com

Murder City Devils play on the Black stage at 7:20 p.m.

You know who don't mess around? Fans of the Murder City Devils.

People who love them REALLY LOVE THEM A LOT.

It's not hard to understand why. The Seattle outfit first appeared in 1996 at the end of one era and the beginning of a rather grim one for independent rock - that which had flourished with Nirvana's explosion had all but flamed out as Pavement got pelted with mud on Lollapalooza stages. Murder City Devils was a good band during a terrible era, burning up stages with a frantic, explosive take on garage punk that they didn't quite know how to play.

"There was kind of a vacuum," singer Spencer Moody says. "I don't know, there's always good music, but where we lived at the time it seemed like that type of whatever, indie music, punk music, was going through an awkward stage."

Detractors saw their pastiche of '50s greaser images, all switchblades and skulls, goth-abilly gals and pirate booty, as a little too derivative for its own good. (As one pal put it, "I thought they were music for people who wear creepers.")

But their fans adored them, saw them as a fun, swaggering outfit that updated the fraught punk of the Dead Boys and Misfits for the Clinton era. The band left behind four increasingly strong records before calling it quits in 2001; a live album memorialized them nicely. Everyone went on to different projects from Pretty Girls Make Graves and the Melvins to Big Business and Dead Low Tide.

They played their first reunion gigs in 2006, drew absurdly large crowds at two Fun Fun Fun gigs in 2007 and have played occasional shows since. But it's more of a project than anything else these days.

"We operate not at all like a regular band anymore," singer Moody says. "Part of it is logistical. We're all real spread out, people have other bands and other stuff in their lives. It's nobody's primary project and that's for the best."

Moody adds that treating MCD as a "sometimes food," as Cookie Monster would put it, is wise.

"This is the only way we can do it and still have it be pleasant for everyone," he says. "It's nobody's primary project and that's for the best."

The band has put together a 7-inch record of new songs (that will not be ready in time for Fun Fun Fun) and is releasing it themselves. "Songwriting for that record was really easy and fun," Moody says. "We totally started from scratch but it definitely sounds like us. People who liked the last couple of records will enjoy it."

Without ever using the word "grunge," and God bless him for it, Moody notes that MCD was as much as reaction as an action. "We were trying to distance ourselves from a lot of what was going on," Moody says. "We were doing something that was really obvious, being a straight-forward rock `n' roll band, but we weren't really that good at it, so we came across as this weird, aggressive punk band."

These days, Moody spends time working on solo material, plays in the vaguely bluesy Mongrel Blood and the awesomely named Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death and works as a coffee roaster for Stumptown Coffee. "The irony is I spend way more time making music now than I did when I was in Murder City Devils full-time. Now, I just do it to do it and that's kind of nice."

jgross@statesman.com; 912-5925

Also on the Black Stage

FRIDAY

Defeater, 12:20 p.m. Rather screamy punk metal.

Total Control, 12:55 p.m. Stellar Australian punk that isn't afraid of either obscure New Wave albums or prog rock.

Mind Spiders, 1:30 p.m. Nakedly enjoyable garage pop from one of the Marked Men.

Doomriders, 2:05 p.m. Biker rock from members of Converge, Bane and more.

From Ashes Rise, 2:45 p.m. Grimly anthemic, galloping hardcore from this reunited Portland, Ore., band.

Bane, 3:25 p.m. Contemporary Bahstan (read: rather angry) hardcore. Arrgggh!

D Generation, 4:10 p.m. Glammy thud that grew up listening to (and playing) much faster, crankier music.

Ty Segall, 5 p.m. San Francisco rock has an open relationship with various subgenres.

Thee Oh Sees, 5:45 p.m. Excessively prolific garage rockers, I am sure a new record will be out tomorrow.

Russian Circles, 6:30 p.m. Instrumental rock that manages to avoid being too soundtracky.

Murder City Devils, 7:20 p.m. Frantic garage punk, soaked in beer, tattoos and organ.

Danzig Legacy, 8:15 p.m. Glenn Danzig playing Misfits songs. Nuff said.

SATURDAY

Thieves, 12:15 p.m. Austin band who grew up with entirely too many pop-punk records.

Shapes Have Fangs, 12:45 p.m. Austin garage rock sports stellar mix of hooks, twang and grit.

Touche Amore, 1:20 p.m. Big feeling heavy indie rock, singer Jeremy Bolm sounds like his throat is going to hemorrhage any second now.

Deathgrips, 1:55 p.m. Skittering electronic music like a roach crawling across the floor at 4 a.m.

World/Inferno Friendship Society, 2:30 p.m. Brooklyn mob looks a bit like a German carnival from 1929.

Trash Talk, 3:15 p.m. The punk soundtrack to throwing garbage cans into the street, seems to inspire ridiculously violent mosh pits.

Dead Horse, 3:50 p.m. Veteran Houston thrash metal band playing a few reunion gigs.

Youth Brigade, 4:35 p.m. O.H. (original hardcore), right out of 1980 Southern California.

Paint It Black, 5:20 p.m. Bombastic punk with melodies to which one should pump one's fist.

Negative Approach, 6:05 p.m. Contemporary iteration of one of the greatest hardcore bands of all time.

Cave In, 6:55 p.m. Complicated Boston metal owing as much to Radiohead as to Slayer.

Hot Snakes, 7:50 p.m. Reunion show from frantic guitar pounders, featuring members of Drive Like Jehu, Rocket from the Crypt, Obits.

The Damned, 8:45 p.m. The first UK punk band to release a single continues in some form.

SUNDAY

Schmillion, 12:30 p.m. Former Austin Girls' Rock Campers make awesome.

OBN III, 1:05 p.m. Austin garage-punk heroes.

Davilla, 666 1:40 p.m. Puerto Rican garage rock that will have you hoisting a beer in now time

Ceremony, 2:20 p.m. Bay Area hardcore that reminds you the form is thrilling and relevant; recently signed to Matador Records.

No Bunny, 2:55 p.m. Bizarro one-man punk pop, clad in bunny mask, the stuff of giddy nightmares

Zero Boys, 3:40 p.m. Old school oddball punk rock, straight out of 1979.

Eyehategod, 4:30 p.m. New Orleans sludge, the sound of no hope.

Kid Dynamite, 5:20 p.m. A reunited (temporarily?) '90s hardcore act equal parts melody and power featuring former members of early '90s emo outfit Lifetime.

Cannibal Corpse, 6:10 p.m. Extremely extreme death metal.

Boris, 7 p.m. Japanese doom metal named after a Melvins song.

Black Lips, 7:50 p.m. Indie rockers who have never quite figured out they play garage or psych or punk or what.

Blonde Redhead, 8:45 p.m. Increasingly keyboard-driven indie rock trio dates back to Clinton administration.