Out And About: Kevin Devine And The Basic Intimacies Of Punk
    • WEDNESDAY, APRIL 01, 2015

    • Posted by: Don Saas

    Don't drink screwdrivers on a stomach that's only had a plate of pizza rolls to satisfy it for the day. Don't do this even if you only have one drink, and this advice is especially useful if you're getting a singular screwdriver before a couple hours of classic post-hardcore and (the good kind of) pop-punk at Le Poisson Rouge because their drinks are STRONG. They're $7 so they should be. I say this because you don't want to be the dumbass (I'm referring to myself here in case you haven't caught on yet) waking up with a vodka hangover on a Sunday morning because you forgot how to drink like an adult.

    Acoustic rock/folk punk icon Kevin Devine works in genres steeped in youthful expression and rebellion. But, like fellow alternative punk stalwarts Ghost Mice, Kevin Devine is a masterclass in maturing in rock & roll without getting old. Devine released his first record, Circle Gets the Square, thirteen years ago, and although the zealous loyalty and passion of the fans in attendance Saturday speak to that longevity in his career, Kevin Devine brings a wide-eyed freshness and intimacy to his live performances that belies his veteran status in the industry.

    I had a roommate not too long ago that opened for Ghost Mice at some DIY shows in Maryland, and he and I had a lot of conversations about what "punk" means. Is "punk" an aesthetic? Or is punk a state of mind to your music? If punk is an aesthetic, does that honestly make it as much a bit of commercialized bullsh*t as the genres it claims to rail against? Does a lot of street punk culture contribute to the cisheteronormative patriarchy that defines American society? Punk is something I've always wanted to love in theory -- late 80s to early 2000s Bad Religion is god-tier as far as I'm concerned -- but punk comes with so much baggage and meaningless posturing (and subpar musicianship) that I can never really commit, but if my forthcoming interview with Kevin Devine and Saturday's show are any indication, Kevin Devine is everything right about punk music.

    Kevin Devine and the God Damn Band let their music and their energy speak for itself. Kevin is a 35 year old man in jeans and a flannel shirt with a beard that isn't quite Daniel Bryan status but it's still impressive in its own right. He doesn't need a patched up jacket or liberty spikes or a bullet belt to establish his cred. He lets songs like "Fiscal Cliff" which attack the co-opted, watered down circle jerkery of the "1%/99%" conversation do his speaking for him. Punk is the anguish in his voice during "Ballgame" when he laments "A good man doesn't drink/ And I've been drinking alone/ So what does that make me." His fury is the howl on "I Can't Believe You," and at all points, Kevin Devine feels more authentic and sincere than an entire generation of his more popular peers.

    Kevin Devine's last album, Bubblegum, leaned heavier on the Brand New-esque post-hardcore sound (which makes sense due to Jesse Lacey producing the album) as well as Pixies/Nirvana-esque style pop-punk, and the propulsive energy of these tracks compared to some of his mellower, more acoustic early records translated live spectacularly although the slower, acoustic numbers which closed the set resulted in deafening sing-alongs. But even when Kevin was bouncing around the stage like he was 22 all over again -- because loving your own music should be a timeless quality -- he had a huge grin stamped across his face. When the audience returned his words line for line, you could see Kevin Devine's grin get wider and wider. It's hard to maintain that sort of gratitude a decade into your career, but Kevin has never stopped loving his audience, and his audience has never stopped loving him.

    Devine's openers were a lot of fun although they also reminded me why I need to start wearing earplugs to these shows if I'm going to be close to the stage. They sounded great -- minus vocal mixing issues that plagued every set but Kevin's -- but I'm not entirely unconvinced that I didn't suffer permanent hearing damage during the sets from Dads and Field Mouse. Kevin brought Dads out during his set, and it was nearly more punk rock energy than Le Poisson Rouge could handle. Both of these young bands have a lot of potential, and I can't wait to see where they go from here.

    We're going to be running our interview with Kevin in the days ahead, but Kevin is one of the most articulate and genuine artists I've ever had the chance to sit down and talk with. It's clear the second that you meet him or hear him play live that not only does he care about his music, he cares that his fans take something meaningful away from it. There were girls behind me during the set who were slightly intoxicated but loved Kevin's music. They came out from Long Island to see Kevin every time he was in town. And the entire crowd was full of stories like this. Not only has Kevin matured as an artist, his fans have matured with him, and it's hard to ask for a soundtrack to mature to that's better than that.

    If you like Kevin Devine, you should check out our exclusive session from Kevin's side project, Bad Books. Kevin's talents are many and varied.

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