One could make the argument that The Clash’s "London Calling" is one of the riskiest moves in rock history. After two well-received and straightforward punk albums, the quartet from London threw fans, critics and the entire rock world a curveball in 1979.
Spanning at least three genres in 65 minutes, the double LP was not only twice as long as anything the band had recorded prior, but also about the last thing anybody expected from one of the founders of the British punk movement.
It could be considered just as risky, then, that a concert promoter would find it feasible to actually put together a bill of bands of equally varying styles to cover the classic album in its entirety. However, Jerry Perry, concert promoter extraordinaire, took a huge gamble anyway and collected 11 of the area’s finest bands to cover all 19 tracks in sequence. Judging by the sardines-in-a-can feel of Old Ironsides on Saturday night, the payoff was huge for both Perry and every pint-swinging rock fan in the venue.
The Secretions opened things on an appropriately raucous scale with the title track and "Brand New Cadillac," with guitarist/vocalist Paul Filth hoisting his axe in the air, striking the now classic pose on the cover of the album at the end of their two-song set.
Such conciseness and organization was a welcome and unexpected trend throughout an evening stuffed with more bands than the bar’s backstage can likely hold. Changeovers were quick and painless, aided by the wise decision to leave the drums and amps onstage, so each act only had to bring their stringed (and, in some cases, brass and key) instruments for each set.
Both Bastards of Young and Stars and Garters brought their own individual sounds to the more offbeat tracks. The former nailed the meandering halftime shuffle of "Jimmy Jazz" while the latter’s glittery silver guitar and all-American looks brought out the rockabilly undertones in "Rudie Can’t Fail" and "Spanish Bombs."
Underage emo act The Kelps brought the punk back to the crowd, with everyone singing along to the chorus of "The Right Profile" — "And everybody say, ‘Is he alright?’" The young band was entrusted with one of the toughest and most loved songs of the night in "Lost in the Supermarket." They bravely added an explosion of punk energy at the end that brought their set to a satisfying close.
"Funny story about The Kelps: None of them are 21 so they have to get the hell out now," said Perry before The No Goodnicks took the stage to finish off the first disc with the call and response of "Clampdown" and "The Guns of Brixton."
Armed Forces Radio started the second half of the record with "Wrong ‘Em Boyo" and "Death or Glory," while The Broken Poet brought an analog Moog keyboard to the urgent "Koka Kola" and the piano driven "The Card Cheat."
To finish off the last side, The Various Artists took "Lover’s Rock" and "Four Horseman," and Tom H and Jessi played a rendition of "I’m Not Down" with only guitar and vocals.
Local ska quintet Storytellers squeezed onto the stage for the appropriately laid back "Revolutionary Rock." Trombonist Marcus Faccini throttled his instrument as he leaned into the crowd while the rest of the band maintained the reggae vibe of the track.
Final Summation ended the main show by playing "the song that wasn’t supposed to be on the album," "Train in Vain." It was a sufficiently energetic finale that led into a string of miscellaneous songs from the Clash discography. Armed Forces Radio and Bastards of Young both came back to run through a few more songs, while Broken Poets closed the medley with "I Fought the Law," itself a punk-infused cover of a song originally recorded by The Crickets.
Perry took the stage as the band took down the set behind him, not only thanking everyone for coming, but also acknowledging the night’s success by adding there may be another similar show in the near future at an all-ages venue so kids like The Kelps could play and stay. The crowd’s cries for "one more!" after the last song are certainly an indication of a much larger audience for this musical chairs of local bands.