“He seems to genuinely dislike every single member of his audience,” my buddy told me as we walked past purple-haired punks wearing skinny leather jackets as a North Star Bar show let out in 2007. He was talking about the legendary Joe Queer, the lead singer and only permanent member of the punk band the Queers. And he was right. For about 12 years, I’d seen Queer push audience members off stage, call them “faggots” and, most prominently, tell them via song that they suck.
The Queers are playing the Barbary on Thursday night, and if my own history can play expert witness—I’ve seen the band at least once a year since 1999, have consistently listened to and bought all their albums since I was 14, and even had the nerve to take my picture with Joe Queer at a concert five years ago—this year’s sold-out show (and whatever their next album is) shouldn’t be too different.
The original Queers formed in New Hampshire in 1981, then reformed in 1986 and 1990, producing 11 studio albums, numerous splits, EPs and live albums. Taking a huge influence from the Ramones and the Beach Boys while mixing in elements of the Dead Kennedys and Black Flag, the Queers have managed to create and hang onto die-hard fans like me over the years due to their stubborn refusal to evolve musically. And their mocking lyrical nature has come to represent a corner of meta teenage angst rarely explored in punk: angst, that is, at teenagers who have teenage angst.
My taste for the Queers was solidified through the late-90s, after bassist B-Face left to play with the Groovie Ghoulies and drummer Hugh O’Neill died. At that point, the Queers pushed less of the surf punk style most had assumed they were evolving toward—especially after 1996’s Don’t Back Down—and more of the cynical, scene-loathing, asshole-core they are today.
Take “Motherfucker,” a speedy track off 1998’s Punk Rock Confidential, where Queer fantasizes about sexing someone’s mom: “She keeps a box of rubbers on the shelf/You were tucked in bed, you little elf/She told me that your dad can’t get it up/That ashtray that you made her really sucked,” he deadpans. On 2000’s Beyond the Valley of the Assfuckers, Queer rips apart members of the punk scene, like the “Little Rich Working Class Oi-Boy,” or political or anarchist punk rockers, the latter roasted in “Journey to the Center of Your Empty Fucking Skull,” where he sings, “They wanna run the country/Now that would be a hoot/’Cause these morons couldn’t handle/A fucking paper route.” If the Queers are anything, it’s definitely not subtle.
Or age-appropriate. Take “Tit Fuck,” off 2010’s 22-minute, 12-song LP Back to the Basement (Chorus: “I wanna tit fuck”) or “Hi Mom, It’s Me,” on the twice-reissused 1993 Love Songs for the Retarded. (“Hi mom, it’s me/That fucking little shit/The ugly little monkey/That used to suck your tit.”) But there’s also “Stupid Fucking Vegan,” “No Tit” (Chorus: “She’s got no tit”), “Granolahead” and plenty of others. And if history tells us anything, the Barbary’s sure to be packed with self-loathing fans young, old and really old, many of whom, like me, save their single, yearly mosh-pit occupation for this very event.
I can’t wait.
Thurs., Feb. 28, 7pm. Sold out. With Teenage Bottlerocket + Masked Intruder. The Barbary, 951 Frankford Ave. 215.634.7400. r5productions.com
Top 10 shows around Philly this week