From the mid nineties to the early aughts, Seattle’s Murder City Devils lived up to their name. They issued slabs of vicious, loud and lurching garage-punk. They piled into a van, traveled the land, and drank enough booze to float an aircraft carrier. Their shows were the stuff of legend—erratic, hostile affairs where members of the band often ended up in the crowd, fighting with audience members. Toward the end, they were fighting each other—onstage punch-ups led to the sextet’s acrimonious implosion in 2001.
Its members spread out across the country and into other bands, but in 2006—a little older and a tad less antagonistic—the Devils semi-reunited, and have played a smattering of shows every year since as their schedules have allowed. This week, they return to play Philly for the first time in nearly a decade—and their old reputation still precedes them.
“That’s our own fault,” admits frontman Spencer Moody. “We created that as much as anyone did. And also, that’s the kind of stuff people in the music press tend not to question because that’s what they want a rock band to be.
“What you don’t realize when you’re young or when you start doing that stuff, once people latch on to that, you’re kinda stuck with it,” the singer continues, chuckling. “So now it’s like, if some 20-year-old kid is like, ‘Heyyyyy, Spencer, let’s get a case of beer and hang out in the alley,’ I have to take a certain amount of responsibility for that.”
Based on accounts from recent gigs, the Devils’ musical thrust remains fiery and pugnacious, even if its members aren’t quite the angry young men (and women) of yore. Moody knows some long-time fans will question whether the Devils’ second go-around can be as potent and dangerous as the first, but he’s not worried. “The only people going into it without any baggage are the kids that are just excited that they’re not sitting next to their mom on the couch watching TV. They’re excited to be at a show and being around other people who are excited. But basically, if you go and you think it’s going to be fun, then it’s probably going to be.” ■
Fri, Feb 12th, 9pm and midnight. Sold out. With Feral Children. Theater of the Living Arts, 334 South St. livenation.com
Time for a big Bang breakthrough?