By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa
Venue: The Orpheum, Ybor City, Tampa, Florida-November 5, 2019-Stiff Little Fingers 40th Anniversary of INFLAMMABLE MATERIAL Tour with The Avengers
Rock At Night has covered a lot of punk rock gigs over the years, but one that I personally anticipated seeing was Belfast punk rock band Stiff Little Fingers. The last Stiff Little Fingers gig we covered was in March 2016 in London so I was thrilled to see the band was coming down to Florida, prior to setting sail on the 5th Flogging Molly Salty Dog Cruise out of Fort Lauderdale. Not only do I remember Stiff Little Fingers as a teen but I was touched after the Paris-Bataclan terrorist attack when Jake Burns vowed to continue playing their set engagement in Paris to help bring normalcy back to the city. He was quoted saying, “Having grown up in Northern Ireland in the 70s, I remember bands not coming to play because of the conflict.”
On a quiet Tuesday night in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida, Stiff Little Fingers performed at The Orpheum to a packed crowd of 50-something people, many with grey hair, and sporting leather jackets. For this show, there was a metal barrier in front of the stage and a sign saying “No crowd surfing”—although this crowd might have been a little arthritic to pull that off. Just sayin’.
Starting off the evening at 8 p.m., was classic San Francisco punk rockers The Avengers, fronted by the charismatic Penelope Houston. The Avengers were hugely popular in California, playing the West Coast, between 1977 and 1979, and even opened for The Sex Pistol’s. The band broke up before releasing the now classic self-titled album “Avengers” aka “The Pink Album” in 1983, which is a chock full of classic, timeless punk gems. Their 19-song set covered most of the songs from the album, including their cover of Rolling Stone’s “Paint It Black”. Popular songs included “Car Crash”, “Thin White Line”, and “The American in Me”. Houston’s voice was ever-so-strong, as she pranced the stage, and traded glances with original guitarist Greg Ingraham. The band has been performing frequently since re-forming in 2006—and was the perfect way to begin the evening. Their set was solid, energetic, and impressive.
Stiff Little Fingers came out on stage around 9:30 p.m. and played their debut album “Inflammable Material” song-by-song, to a very appreciative crowd, who stood bobbing their heads, shaking their fists, and mouthing the lyrics. Jake Burn’s voice is still spot on and his presence is grand, as he stood at the microphone, singing “State of Emergency” and “Waste Life”, songs which still ring true today. Bassist Ali McMordie moved around the left side of the stage, leaping every once in awhile, as guitarist Ian McCallum stood at the right side of the stage, singing harmony, tilting his head back and grimacing. Drummer Steve Grantley pounded the snare and cymbals, with rapid fire punk energy. I was honestly very impressed with the band and kept time-traveling back to my teens, wondering how they might have appeared on stage during the day. At one point, a few people near the stage began slam dancing and pogoing in the air, making me think, “Hell, yeah! Show ‘em! We aren’t dead yet!”
Jake Burns chatted with the crowd between songs, discussing the topic of depression, and urging those affected to seek help. Burns, who now lives in Chicago, introduced a new song “16 Shots”, about police brutality and the killing of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald by a Chicago police officer. He also paid homage to Joe Strummer in the song “Strummerville.”
Burns also noted that 42 years later, the band—and punk music—are going strong. No longer the protest music of fringe groups, punk music is a solid genre, with various derivatives, although my personal favorite are the politically-tinged and defiant songs. After all, that really is the heart and soul of the music. I walked away from seeing Stiff Little Fingers ever so satisfied after waiting years to see them. Forty-two years later, the music stands the test of time and is still relevant, which are qualities that makes their songwriting truly classic.
Stiff Little Fingers– Jake Burns (vocals/guitar), Ali McMordie (bass), Steve Grantley (drums), Ian McCallum (guitar/vocals)
The Avengers-Dave Bach (drums), Hector Penalosa (bass), Penelope Houston (vocals), and Greg Ingraham (guitar). FACEBOOK
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