Back in the mid- to late nineties, I wanted to be in a band with John Reis. I knew him as Speedo back then, lead singer and guitarist for the impeccably cool Rocket From The Crypt, a band that was taking their particular brand of rock and roll around the world whilst immaculately dressed like the fifties never ended. I remember wondering if there was another band on the planet that would be more fun to actually be in. It’s been a while since those heady days of youth when being in a rock band still seemed like a viable career option. The thing is, John Reis did make it his career. Now in his early forties, he’s gone on to craft a distinguished career in a host of San Diego rock bands, the latest of which is The Night Marchers.
The Night Marchers have been a little stop/start about their business so far. New album Allez Allez was recorded back in 2010, then apparently shelved until its release this year (considering three quarters of the band members are also in Hot Snakes, it’s not like they’ve been sitting around doing nothing, though). Now The Night Marchers are back and doing what they do best: playing loud shows in small clubs to boisterous crowds. Their brand of rock is the kind that provokes hip and ass shaking as opposed to head banging, and it’s all the better for it.
At the Satellite in Silverlake Friday night, they produced old-school riffs that made all the slicked-back hair in the room seem less like a fashion statement and more like an actual way of life. The songs flowed as freely as the Pabst Blue Ribbon, as the soon-to-be-middle-age members of The Night Marchers made a mockery of that passing time by playing with serious energy.
At the center of it all is Reis himself, an all-smiling rock superhero who has come across as “one of us” throughout his career. At the Satellite he dedicated a song to Henry, a guy at the bar who had bought him an Avery White Rascal only to see it refused due to the fact that Reis though he might have peed in it. He is part raconteur, part front man, and now that he’s approaching his mid-forties disgracefully, he comes across as the coolest uncle imaginable. In a blue shirt covered in band stickers and eventually drenched in sweat, he cranked out the band’s songs with his trademark bark that manages to sound almost unintelligible and utterly distinctive at the same time.
The songs themselves are still impressive, maybe not the best these guys have ever produced, but Allez Allez is still an excellent album, even if it will never be a case of old dogs being taught new tricks. “Loud, Dumb and Mean” sounded as anthemic on stage, and new and old songs blended seamlessly, no doubt partly due to the fact that there wasn’t that much time between the recording of the band’s two albums (despite the five year release gap). “Jump In The Fire” was well-received, while the stomping glory of “All Hits” was driven by the kind of massive riff that AC/DC has spent years making a career out of.
The sound at the Satellite was hardly the most modern and clear, but these guys play so tightly anymore that crappy speakers aren’t going to stand in the way of a good show. So that’s The Night Marchers: not reinventing the wheel, but producing top-notch garage punk that’s refreshingly out of step with any current fashion. And yes, I still really want to be in a band with John Reis.
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