What: Here’s Johnnie/Haf-Sac
Where: Plan B, Bellingham
When: Friday, August 13th
The real star of Plan B’s Friday the 13th show was Billy Dee Williams. Lurking in the shadows of the bar’s stage, the cardboard cutout of the Colt 45 spokesman managed to make its presence felt throughout the night. While the show’s two bands tore through pop-punk (with a twist) and acoustic rock (again, with a twist), Ol’ Lando presided over the festivities, benevolently giving the night his blessing.
After years of plying their grownup breed of pop-punk around the bars and basements of the Midwest, Here’s Johnnie has brought their game to Washington. Their first show in their new home took place at the Plan B Bar, playing to a full crowd. Whether singing about the living dead or breaking out drinking songs, Here’s Johnnie kept their intensity bright, yet throughout their set, the band mixed party chords with clever parts, with at least one member of the group left-fielding their role at any given time. They weren’t afraid to leap into solos, play with time signatures or key shifts, or let songs go beyond standard single length, all of which snared those lured in by their catchy hooks. “Get Right” was the night’s best example of how much the band could both honor and subvert genre conventions, its complex bassline leading the wails, speed, and smashing.
The set was much more than your average teen-baiting pop-punk. Instead, Here’s Johnnie offered music set to appeal to those who at the very least can buy a beer. Avoiding the expected route served the band well, and Here’s Johnnie made an excellent first impression.
The beatboxer who serves as Haf-Sac’s drum section was amazing, and without a doubt he is the group’s main attraction. Still, as the show went on, the remaining members of the trio – the band’s bassist and its singer/acoustic guitarist – balanced out the act. Though the beatboxer certainly lent the band a sense of the unusual, Haf-Sac boils down to an acoustic rock bar band that carried its performance with covers and irreverence.
If inserting the chorus of Cutting Crew’s “Died in Your Arms Tonight” wasn’t enough evidence of this, Haf-Sac offered up the Violent Femmes’ “Blister in the Sun” to excite the crowd. It was pulled off well, though the beatboxing became unhinged in the fills. Their original material included “The Beer Trilogy” (its conclusion being the wonderfully-named “Beer Shits”), and their final song was a moody audience participation number titled “Pussy Whipped,” where angry young men beat their belts against the ground. And, bowing to Lando’s presence, Haf-Sac played “The Imperial March.”
The band put on a fun show, and its premise is both interesting and well executed, but some points in the set – especially toward the end – seemed to float by and didn’t stand out. As a whole, the band didn’t really kick in until “The Beer Trilogy.” After that, they kicked back and enjoyed the show, and that worked well enough.