Double Down Saloon 20th Anniversary party with the Vermin et Al.

Double Down Saloon, Nov. 24

“Twenty motherfucking years, and we’re still here!” announced the Vermin’s guitarist Dirk Vermin from the tiny corner stage—the same corner where scores of punk and garage bands, from the Demolition Doll Rods to Man Or Astro-man?, have played without a cover charge since November 1992. And this being a Double Down show, someone—I think it was drummer Gerry “Turbo” Proctor—immediately dismissed the milestone: “Yeah? Check back next week.”

Granted, a few things happened during the Double Down Saloon’s three-day 20th anniversary celebration that don’t happen just every week. One was a visit from the Heiz (pronounced “the Haze,” or as I prefer to think of them, “the Heys”), the terrifically fun garage band from Japan that I would see at DD every goddamn week if it were an option. From their opening salvo—a careening take on Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues”—the Heiz pretty much earned my lifetime devotion, even if—as the Vermin’s bassist Rob Ruckus pointed out—the band members are atheists because “they don’t believe in Godzilla.”

The other four bands on the bill also delivered a mean monster stomp. I’m happy to have finally seen The Objex, a loud and aggressive outfit whose sexy, mohawked singer, punk rock pinup Felony Melony, is one of the most engaging ever to front a Las Vegas band. Whether rocking out with the band or singing from atop someone’s shoulders out in the crowd, Melony keeps your attention as if she holds the mortgage on it.

I saw Boss Martians a while back on the band’s home turf in Seattle, and I’m happy to say that they were just as I remembered them: Men in nice clothes making the dirtiest garage noise you ever heard. If you haven’t got their “Hey Hey Yeah Yeah” in your collection, go to wherever you buy music and get this fucking killer anthem, because you can’t live without it.

Ditto for everything by the Bloodcocks UK, the band that includes Double Down’s P Moss among its members. They didn’t play the anniversary show because the Las Vegas band refuses to play gigs in this country. (They just toured England, fittingly enough.) Officially sanctioned cover Bloodcocks R Us did a great job evoking the Bloodcocks UK experience—though I did miss Annie, the blow-up sex doll that appears at all the real Bloodcocks shows and is soon starting up her own book club.

All that being said, the Vermin’s set was the true heart of the evening. Dirk Vermin said that they were the first band ever to play the Double Down, and even though bassist Ruckus had been in a car accident two days before (“I got run over by a limo, again”), they ripped through their set like hungry-first timers, only slowing down to talk smack to the audience, to the other bands (“Your set sounded just as good as the last time I missed it,” said Vermin to the Objex), and to invite Moss onstage to congratulate him.

It was at that moment that these crusty old punks tipped their hand. They could just as easily have busted Moss’ balls, as they have at many past Double Down shows. Instead, Ruckus gave Moss a friendly, look-how-far-we’ve-been hug. And Moss fucking deserved it. ★★★★☆

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