Photo by Melissa Welliver

Lagwagon, Cobra Skulls, Nothington

Harlow’s, Sacramento – Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012

Catering to the working people of the city, Harlow’s hosted an early evening show, promptly starting at 6:30 p.m. with San Francisco’s Nothington. With only a couple dozen early birds in attendance to start, Nothington held little back, providing a solid performance. Bandleader Jay Northington forcefully belted out the mid-tempo “Stop Screaming,” which drew obvious comparison to the gruff vocal styling of Chuck Ragan’s early work in Hot Water Music.

The slightly quicker paced “This Conversation Ends” harked back to familiar pop-punk sounds of the mid-‘90s with straightforward rhythms, but catchy anthemic vocal hooks a la Face to Face or Social Distortion. “A Mistake” was perhaps their best song of the night, which included moments of all three guitarists singing at the same time; a formula that the band thrived on and shined the brightest when doing. At one point in between songs, Northington saluted the crowd with a can of beer, appropriate for the midway point of the third annual Beer Week in Sacramento.

Second on the bill was Cobra Skulls, originally from Reno, Nev., but now calling the Bay Area home. Right out of the gates, Cobra Skulls were ready to roll and brought the rock with them. Drummer Luke Swarm led the way on “The Streets of Cairo” with grooving, danceable beats that grabbed the attention of the ever-increasing crowd. “Cobra Skullifornia” incited several in attendance to dance and mosh in the middle of the room. Adam Beck’s clever single-note guitar leads transitioned well into the chorus of the song, and bassist Devin Peralta legibly shouted disapproving lyrics into the microphone, “You planted seeds in the desert/you stole your water from afar/Southern California stay where you are.”

Other notable songs from the set were the upbeat and driving “Solastalgia” and hip-shaking infectious “Honorary Discharge Under the Influence,” which sparked similarities to AFI and Rancid’s first few albums respectively. Cobra Skulls put forth a ton of energy and charisma with each individual member showcasing their talents as the supporting act.

The legendary Lagwagon graced the stage with much anticipation and adoration from bunches of eager fans in attendance. Though some might argue Lagwagon’s heyday has come and gone, the group still performs with the energy, pizzazz and goofiness of teenagers. Lagwagon quickly riled up diehard fans, old and young, into a moshing frenzy with classics like the stop-and-go “Black Eyes.” Showing their playful side, towering guitarist Chris Flippin took time in the middle of the set to inform the crowd that they were missing American Idol on television. Vocalist Joey Cape also told an entertaining story about a warehouse show the band attended after a Cattle Club performance early in their career, in which Cape recalled seeing an awesome metal band, Crank Lab, whose name he mistook for years as the name of the venue. Prior to playing the catchy “Razorburn,” Cape and Flippin gave praise to an audience member with an impressive mustache. Songs like “Sleep” and “Weak” showed the talent of the band to be simultaneously melodic and aggressive, serving as a reminder as to why Lagwagon reeled us in to begin with and why they remain a relevant punk rock band today.