Avengers (Re)Assemble

One of the most excellent of the American “class of ’77” punk bands was San Francisco’s Avengers. Fronted by the charismatic Penelope Houston, the Avengers wrote searing anthems like “We Are the One” and “The American in Me.” Like many American bands of that era though, they never had a chance to record a proper LP and for years the only way to get their material was on a posthumous collection. That record became essential listening for anyone interested 70s American punk rock.

Penelope Houston continued doing music solo, recording many albums with a folk-bent. From interviews it seemed clear that she was done with punk. Then, over 20 years later, something wacky happened. Fanatical tape collectors had traded recordings of old Avengers gigs for years. A Swedish label wanted to release two songs from one of these as a single and sent the recording to Houston. She remembered one of the songs, but had no memory of the other. Intrigued, she proceeded to collect a bunch of these lost tapes and compile them for a proper release. Three unrecorded songs of their old set could only be found on tapes of abysmal quality though, so Houson and original guitarist Greg got together with some younger musicians and re-recorded them in 1999. The resulting LP, Died For Your Sins, was a great document and totally unexpected. The three newly recorded songs were terrific, particularly “I Want In”.

Around the time of the record’s release, the group that had recorded the new material did some gigs in NYC under the name the scAvengers that reportedly smoked. This led to a full scale Avengers reunion in San Fran. They did a couple of other shows this past summer. My friend Amanda told me about one of them, at the end of July, and I very nearly jumped on a plane to go to it. It was right between ComicCon and GenCon though, and I just didn’t have time to get away. Just not my fate to see the Aveners, I figured.

This past Saturday, Nik, Rick and I went to the Rock Against Bush show at the Showbox (see her a blog for more on that). I noticed that the following week they were doing two No Vote Left Behind shows, one with Pearl Jam and one with Mudhoney. Never being a fan of either band, I figured I’d give them a pass despite the good cause. Then I got home and was reading the Stranger and checking out the show listings. It turned out that Mudhoney had a couple of support acts, the Avengers and Pansy Division! I double checked to make sure it was THAT Avengers, not some new band, and indeed it was. I managed to snag two tickets for me and Nik so this Saturday night I’ll be rocking to a great band I never had any reason to expect I’d see live. I rarely get excited about shows anymore but I’m psyched for this one. Pansy Division is also a fun band, pioneers of “QueerCore”, and I saw them several times at ABC No Rio “back in the day.” Also on the bill is comedian David Cross, who is a riot. The only downer is headliners Mudhoney, who peaked with their very first single, “Touch Me I’m Sick.” Hopefully, they’ll at least play that. If they suck too much, I think we’ll just leave though. The other acts make the price of admission well worth it. Living in Seattle has not changed basic opinion on grunge. Namely, that those guys should have kept their fucking Zeppelin records in their basements. Paradoxically though Mudhoney’s Mark Arm has always had great taste in punk (witness their cover of the Dick’s classic “Hate the Police”) and I’m betting that getting the Avengers on this bill was his idea. If so, dude, I owe you one!

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