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Reno punks rock against racism (photos)

By Tony Contini

Punk three-piece Cobra Skulls and a slew of dynamic openers performed in Reno last Saturday for Rock Against Racism: A Mutual Aid Benefit Show. Their goal was to raise awareness of the rise of racist and xenophobic rhetoric and to raise funds to support mutual aid groups.

“A lot of anti-racist groups research bigoted events and groups and try to stop them,” Abner Hauge, editor of Left Coast Right Watch said in a quick interview on-site at The BlueBird Nightclub. “You can fight racism all you want, but [we need to] help lift people up also.” 

The Bluebird was hot as hell. Not quite Elephant Rifle concert levels of heat, but reaching for the sun. 

Action Bastard started the show with a lot of fun energy. They’re a six-piece experimental jazzy punk group with a message I can get behind.

Their Facebook page states: “ARBYS IS AN EXCELLENT FAST FOOD JOINT, LONG JOHN SILVERS MAKES DECENT FISH, I DRINK” Hear, hear!

I picked up some Mr. Bungle vibes during the set with many saxophone-highlighted switch-ups. Their lead singer often writhed on the floor, a common thread uniting most of the openers. 

Pussy Velour’s lead singer took a flying leap into the crowd from a second floor balcony at The Bluebird during Rock Against Racism on Aug. 20, 2022 in Reno, Nev. Image: Tony Contini / This Is Reno

Music often brings out the best in people. The moment the soundcheck started for Pussy Velour the crowd immediately got rowdy. Whether in jest or not, it doesn’t matter.

Pussy Velour’s set was something between a punk show and striptease. Their lead singer progressively lost clothes, shoved the mic in his mouth as far as it’d go, then removed his belt and started chastising himself, his bandmates and the crowd.

After a good ole writhe on the ground, they ended with an awesome cover of “Surfin’ Bird” (the “bird is the word” song I’m sure you sadly know from Family Guy) before climbing up to the second floor balcony and jumping into the crowd.

Cobra Skulls’ lead singer Devin Peralta stood toward the front of the stage throughout the entire set, smiling ear to ear. Once they took the stage, their guitarist dubbed Pussy Velour his new favorite band.

Thee Saturday Knights came out swinging and kept the room’s energy high. They’re a four-piece band from Reno with a new release, “Already Dead.” I’ve had the pleasure of renting an office building where their drummer Dan Steinmetz practiced, and the dude kicks ass, even through a couple walls.

Fleshies are another high-energy punk band. They hail from Oakland, California, and for a good song-and-a-half I thought they were fronted by the great k.d. lang. 

I was incorrect. Their singer John Mink was a consummate badass and another writher. I suppose the upside is no one at the venue needs to clean up the floors after the show.

Their guitarist had the quote of the night during a raffle: “You’re all a bunch of losers, but at least you’re not racist.”

Cobra Skulls headlined Rock Against Racism at The Bluebird Aug. 20, 2022 in Reno, Nev.
Cobra Skulls headlined Rock Against Racism at The Bluebird Aug. 20, 2022 in Reno, Nev. Image: Tony Contini / This Is Reno

Cobra Skulls started in 2005, five years in, they signed to Fat Wreck Chords. They took a five-year break, and are back and clearly having fun. 

I got into them when Against Me! was my favorite band in the world. Hopefully playing shows means more albums are on the way. 

They started with “Cobra Skullifornia” off “Sitting Army” and never missed a beat throughout the evening. 

They have a dancy sweetness that’s unique while still badass and aggressive. Peralta’s voice is bellicose, his spiny bass lines are entrancing, and their messages are clear and concise.

Though they’ve moved to the bay area of California, they’re still Reno’s pinnacle punk band in my heart.

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