The evolution of music is as beautiful as the evolution of life. New things come from old things as all things have their time and place in the spotlight. As new interests are discovered, old passions are forgotten and become just a part of the fabric in a life story. Every few years the popularity of underground music genres shifts and change sound, inspiring thousands of listeners and creating legions of new bands.
As of late there has been a resurgence of interest in Oi! and street punk music brewing in the underground, though neither genre ever truly went away. For those unaware of what exactly Oi! music is, it is a subgenre of punk rock that originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. The music and its associated subculture had the goal of bringing together punks, non-racist skinheads and other working-class youth.  Sacramento has long been a proud breeding ground for both styles and has produced an array of well known, punk and Oi! bands of all time.
A few weeks back on Friday January 17th, The Hideaway Bar and Grill was packed wall to wall with people. The excitement could be felt immediately upon walking through the door. Starting off the evening perfectly was a very tame yet alluring sound of traditional ska, rocksteady, and reggae played by The Proper Steady Originals from Modesto, followed by Sacramento’s own Scratch Outs. In direct support to the show’s headliner was the newly re-formed Suburban Threat; whom has been either broken up or on hiatus for the last decade depending on the source. An immediate shift in vibe and mood took place the moment they started playing and the crowd quickly got hot. The music of these bands had gone from easing the audience in with a slow tempo to grabbing them by the throat with heavy and aggressive chords and drums.
Then came West Lords. There has been a lot of hype about the band, rightfully so. They have already made a name for themselves both locally and online, aside from the fact the band features members of longtime Sacramento bands, Cutthroat and U.S. Roughnecks. Any skepticism that they would be just another new Oi! or street punk band wrapped in an old package were likely dissuaded by the end of the first song.
The roots of their music are well intact and yes, they are an Oi band, but that is just the surface layer. Peeling back and diving deeper into their sound will reveal edgier and darker themes and note choices in the vein of hardcore music. Blend that brick tough style with a raspy, low octave vocalist and one has a sound not easily compared. One noticeable difference in the West Lords songs was length. Typically three minutes is the finish line standard but therein sets West Lords apart from many others. They are not afraid to have songs close to and even over four minutes long; and those songs hold the listener’s attention from start to finish. The set did not include many fast paced songs, nor was there a need. With AC/DC mid-tempo beats complimented by slower Thin Lizzy-like riffs at the forefront of their sound, it harks back to the early days of early Oi! music such as English band The Last Resort; when music played second fiddle to the message within the song. Just about every head in the bar swayed forward and backward to each equally powerful and heavy tune. The music is not light or warm but rather cold and unforgiving and is a perfect breath of fresh air for Sacramento’s underground. The band was even commanded to play two more songs after they had concluded their set list, an obvious clamoring acceptance to a great new band with a true old school sound, all their own.
The band have already released a self-titled debut album on Geordieboy Records and recently traveled to San Francisco to open for legendary New York hardcore band Madball; so it looks as though there are only good things ahead. Be sure not to miss their next Sacramento performance on Wednesday February 11th with a powerhouse bill of all locals featuring Setting Sons, Celestions and Bastards of Young at The Press Club, located at 2030 P Street. The show is 21 and over, 8pm, $6 cover charge.
Listen to Old Guard.
Words by Jordan Wolfe.