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Grand finale: Neon Reverb, Sept. 16, The Bunkhouse

Hunx and his Punx (photo by Max Plenke)
Hunx and his Punx (photo by Max Plenke)

We were a little bummed to see Bonaventures at The Bunkhouse last night. Not because they’re bad. In fact their debut EP, El Gato Fuego, is a nice little chunk of local lo-fi surf pop with a tablespoon of Social Distortion mixed in — ultimately fun, carefree beach music we’d love to hear in a crowded dive bar. At least, that’s what it’s like on record. But during their set at Neon Reverb — running an hour late after Shannon and the Clams took a soundcheck right when Bonaventures were supposed to go on — they were tired, sluggish and overall uninspiring in front of a sparse crowd. They blamed the venue's monitors, as other bands also did Friday night, but that was no excuse for playing like they were at rehearsal. Maybe next time.

And we were worried American Males from Long Beach were going to be equally uninspired when they started with what sounded like terrible tone-deafness, making the additional handfuls of newcomers grimace from something other than the hot garbage stink wafting from the alley. But that tonality evened out, getting slowly overtaken by massive battle-rallying floor-tom patterns and haunting “ooo”s during “Buffalo Stance,” what would’ve been the namesake track if the trio hadn’t renamed itself American Males. They sampled off an upcoming album, singer Warren Woodward’s crunchy loudspeaker microphone screeching and bellowing over the top, until closing out with what we’ve decided is awesome, the “American Males Theme Song.”

Admittedly, we had a little prejudice going into Shannon and the Clams’ set, given their aforementioned soundcheck faux pas. But it took almost no time for that to be forgiven. Despite bassist Shannon Shaw having lost her voice, guitarist Cody Blanchard took the reigns with a raspy cry of a voice, often adopting a meatier interpretation of an oldies’ girl-pop crooner, not at all a far cry from Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard. Shaw tried to push through “The Cult Song,” but most of the work fell on Blanchard for “The Warlock in the Woods” and the hits beyond. We’re excited for them to return with Shaw at her full-pipe capacity.

And now we have to admit something we didn’t think, after listening to its music online, we’d enjoy: Hunx and His Punx were really, really fun. Seth Bogart’s role as Hunx was more flamboyant than a fire-bombed H&M store, hip-popping and flitty-wristing around the stage topless, bumping up against bassist Shannon Shaw (one and the same), and singing what would usually be the girl’s part in an oldies-style lonely girl pop band, whining through “Private Room,” “Too Young to be in Love” and “Bad Boy.” And while the music itself wasn’t the most impressive (though drummer Erin Emslie was a total animal), Hunx’s one-liners were enough to keep the crowd engaged. Here are a few of the most ridiculous ones:

“We need to see more weiner or else we’re not gonna play another song.”

“Let me see your body ... I wanna judge it.”

“I wonder who has the biggest dick here.”

Unfortunately they seemed a little disinterested by the end. The crowd wasn’t massive, though still a great turnout considering it was an hour later than intended on the Sunday after a few long days of festival. And when almost the entire crowd shouted for one more song, they declined. Still, it was an awesome night, and might’ve been an even better fit for one of the bigger evenings. A great end for an improved Neon Reverb.