April 8, Fillmore
LOCAL LIVE "Typical Flipper," Flipper frontperson Bruce Loose quipped at one point during the band’s set at the recent "Fab Mab Reunion." Not to suggest that Flipper don’t know what they’re doing — they do. But dotting is never were top priorities for them. Their improbable, ragged, and yet ultimately triumphant return to the Fillmore April 8 was a case in point, featuring its share of false starts, wrong notes, and out-of-sync vocals, along with a bass amp on the verge of crapping out throughout their approximately 40-minute set. "Know your history," Loose added at another point in the show.
Speaking of history, fellow showgoers who had actually experienced the legendary Mabuhay Gardens back in its late-’70s/early-’80s heyday remarked that the most authentic part of the show was MC Dirk Dirksen. His rambling, semicoherent monologues, which included a roll call of the dead that made reference to deceased Flipper member "Will Shatner [sic]," drew groans and heckles, as well as a bona fide noogie from Loose at one point.
On the other side of the coin, in terms of historical accuracy, were the Avengers and the Jeff Penalty–fronted Dead Kennedys. The Avengers’ set had a decidedly mall-punk feel to it, sounding more like third-generation MTV punks than a class of old-school ’77 graduates. As for the controversial DKs, at least Penalty brought a touch of surreal ridiculousness as he bounded onstage, manically hopped around, and even went so far as to slyly beckon applause with a "come on, come on" hand gesture. One might have expected him to be dodging beer bottles instead.
But with all due respect to the Mutants — we walked in with just a couple of songs left in their set of solid-sounding, if somewhat quaint, set of Sex Pistols–ish punk — Flipper were the highlight of the evening. Just over a year ago, the remaining members from the band’s classic early-’80s lineup — Loose, drummer Steve DePace, and guitarist Ted Falconi — were barely on speaking terms, so to see them onstage together and clearly enjoying themselves was great in itself; the fact that they sounded like themselves, not like a slick facsimile, was even better. Filling in for Shatter was unofficial fifth member and longtime utility player Steve DeMartis, who turned in an intense vocal performance on "Shine." Elsewhere, Loose — who dyed his hair bright blond for the occasion — handled the mic with his trademark sarcasm and lovable obnoxiousness, tossing off trademark lines like "Forget it, you wouldn’t understand anyway."
They opened with unlikely sing-along "Ha Ha Ha," stumbled through the Shatter anthem "Life," and played zero songs from their Shatter-less 1993 Warner Bros. album, American Grafishy. The set closed with a barely recognizable rendition of "Flipper Blues" and a sped-up, runaway-train version of "Sex Bomb" with original session-player Ward Abronski of Polkacide on tenor sax.
Yes, there were rough edges, but as far as their sense of humor, focused sloppiness, and don’t-give-a-damn attitude went, it was indeed typical Flipper. And that’s a good thing. SFBG