w/ Desert Storm / Flack Blag
The Cellar, Oxford
It’s been nearly four years since Oxford’s favourite power-punk-rock-and-fuckng-roll duo Winnebago Deal last blasted us senseless with their oppressively loud high-voltage noise. They’ve been missed. This is the band who when they first crashed onto the scene in the late 90s had everyone cupping their hands over their ears screaming “how the hell do two people make such an oppressively loud noise!?” This is the band who played as Mondo Generator with Nick Oliveri and just about survived. They toured relentlessly, supported Fugazi, released a batch of great records, then came to an eventual halt after a good long run with the album ‘Career Suicide’ in 2010.
Since then, guitarist Ben Perrier amped up the speed for the mighty Blasted, as well as cranking up the garage rock n’roll with Los Pepes. Drummer Ben Thomas hasn’t picked up his sticks in two years and tonight, with less rehearsals than you can count on one hand, both Bens will not only be roaring through a 45 minute set of prime Winnebago Deal rockers, they are also opening the night with their Black Flag covers band, Flack Blag – the Deal plus friends stampeding through prime-Flag material from the early days (‘Fix Me’, ‘Wasted’) to later songs like ‘Annihilate This Week’ and ‘My War’. They are infinitely more preferable to the Greg Ginn version of Black Flag that I was unlucky enough to witness at Ieperfest in Belgium last year. Unlike Black Flag, Flack Blag play with energy, passion and conviction, hurling themselves into these American punk rock classics with aplomb. And despite the small amount of rehearsal time, they are tight and on it. The stop-start parts of ‘Slip It In’ are razor-sharp. The deceptively weird timings in ‘Depression’, ‘Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie’ and everyone’s favourite ‘Nervous Breakdown’ are spot on. We screamed our throats raw to every word. That’s how you do it Ginn.
Next up, Oxford locals Desert Storm warmed the crowd up nicely with a set of crushing Clutch style classic rock grooves that got heads nodding and hips shaking. The venue is packed and the receptive crowd give it all they got. But it’s the arrival of Winnebago Deal that really kicks things up a gear. They quite literally detonate across the stage, still fired up from the Flack Blag set earlier. You could never tell Ben Thomas hasn’t played drums for a couple of years as he powers through his second set of the night. Anyone who had forgotten quite how loud, menacing and hard rocking Winnebago Deal are and were is very quickly reminded as the likes of ‘Did It, Done It, Doing It Again’, ‘Just Cruising’, ‘Manhunt’ and ‘Whiskey Business’ slap us senseless about the cranium. The crowd goes nuts. Both Bens are a blur of riffs, sticks, sweat screams and hair. This is what rock n’roll thrills are all about.
With a bit of luck Winnebago Deal will stick with us for a bit. We need a band that rocks this hard in the UK. There aren’t many. They play London at the Black Heart on the 31st of January. Don’t miss it.
Words/pics/video by James Sherry