The Trash Brats hardly ever play live anymore, so each show feels like an event. Wandering around Small’s in Hamtramck late Saturday night, there’s a near-carnival atmosphere in the air. The Brats were never supposed to be taken seriously, but years on-and-off the radar have given the band the gift of respect born out of longevity. We’re not being dismissive at all. In fact, no amount of kooky faces from guitarist Ricky Rat and bassist Toni Romeo can hide the fact that these boys can play and the band writes killer bubblegum sleaze-rock tunes. The fact that the venue was packed compared to, say, a recent show by internationally known punk icons Sylvain Sylvain and Glen Matlock (which you would think would attract a similar audience) is testament to the fact that, in Detroit, the Trash Brats command a certain reverence.
Before the Trash Brats took to the stage, local punks The Dives kicked off the night with a set of sincere, energetic and well-performed, if standard, punk rock. No frills (besides frontman Ron McPherson’s dapper suit), the band features members of the Junk Monkeys, the Black Mollies and the Joint Chiefs, and it drives through a set of catchy, ‘toody punk ditties on Saturday, providing the perfect wake-me-up.
The Dewtons were the middle band, a popish-punk band that has been around for a good while now. Frantic, hard and fast, a Vans Warped crowd would lap up the Dewtons’ tunes. For now, the guys will have to be content with a Hamtramck crowd delighted to be carried along with the punk energy and warmed by frontman Jeff Dewtons’ beard. The fact that they have a song about Tony Danza (“Who’s the boss?”) only piles on the points for them.
And then it was time for the Trash Brats. We could list songs but there’s no point. The band played everything you would want to hear from them, and the boys were on killer form. As you would hope, they looked like a hot mess. Brian McCarty doesn’t slap on the makeup anymore, which is probably a smart move. Back in the day, he looked like a choirboy gone bad. Age doesn’t allow for that now, so a bright shirt is as glammy as he gets. The guy wailed those tunes though, and looked like he was having more fun than he has had in years. Romeo and Rat still glitz it up, and God bless them, they look like well-worn hookers. Just like they did on those old CD sleeves. Frankly, the Trash Brats 2014 is perfect – tighter and more proficient than they used to be, and looking like girls that you can’t drink pretty.
The big, black dildo that an attendee was waving in McCarty’s face half the night didn’t make the singer flinch. You have to get up pretty early in the morning to shock the Trash Brats, kids.