Butthole Surfers, 400 Blows keep it weird/bloody at Regency Ballroom

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I had some pretty significant nightmares last night thanks to Butthole Surfers. Don't get me wrong, the legendary avant-garde punk band, born in San Antonio, Tex. in 1981, was aces during its show at Regency Ballroom – just as weird and earsplitting as it ever was. The three enormous screens behind shaggy-haired lead vocalist-saxophonist-noise box manipulator Gibby Haynes and the rest of the band projected the images that stalked my dreams.

Slowed-down, reversed, and replayed horror flick scenes of gruesome bloody deaths, chopped up bodies, and viscous blood trickling down porcelain skin. But what else would one expect from hardcore's longest-running freaks. Speaking of freaks, there's a scene in the Flaming Lips documentary Fearless Freaks in which a chip-toothed Haynes claims Wayne Coyne stole his act. After seeing both live, and knowing their origins, I'm siding with Haynes. While there are obviously similiar elements (megaphones, blood, vintage footage, burning drums) The Flaming Lips' stage show is like the top layer of Earth, all growing and green with frolicking animals and balloons filled with glitter. Butthole Surfers, however, occupy the dark and wormy space below the crust, with blood-soaked demons, creepy smiling dolls and eerie '70s cheerleaders, pulsating shots of psychedelic color, and suped-up, high-speed vocal effects. It makes for a great live show.

But before Haynes and Co. set up shop, a far smaller crowd was gathered for openers 400 Blows, a longtime GSL act that mixes metal drop d guitar riffs with punk drum beats and hardcore talk-singing vocals. The L.A. band, currently on tour with the Butthole Surfers, has been around for more than a decade, and it shows. They seemed comfortable on stage, and with each other, despite the noticeably diminutive audience – it was only 8 p.m. Singer Skot Alexander kept trying, in vain, to incite the crowd, leaping on speakers and throwing a fist like Danzig, but for the most part the audience just stood there polite, yet cheerful – at one point someone thoughtfully offered Alexander a stack of napkins to wipe his brow. He likely could have cooled off if he had removed his signature black leather gloves, but that seemed unlikely.

There was a significant break between the bands, conceivably to wait for the space to fill up, which it eventually did. Then the projected footage began pumping, and the crowd of mostly 30-something men in black t-shirts and jeans began moshing. And yes, for those only aware of the band via its strangely radio-friendly 1996 hit, Butthole Surfers did play “Pepper” – though a noisier, quick and dirty version of it.

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