It has been a solid while since Zack and I went to a show and covered it. Life, and its various roadblocks, have been compounding on us (mainly Zack’s broken leg at FEST last year and my debilitating mood disorder). So it was with our tail between our legs a bit that we headed to The Sanctuary in Hamtramck on September 15th to see Masked Intruder, Direct Hit!, and The Young Rochelles.
It turns out this lineup was oddly fitting for our re-entry into show coverage. The very first show we ever covered was Masked Intruder, Direct Hit!, and Brendan Kelly in Chicago way back in 2013. For the rest of 2013 and 2014, we probably saw and covered Masked Intruder ten more times. Also fittingly, Zack broke his leg last year during the very first song of Masked Intruder’s set at FEST. It seemed like a bad omen for us not to be there.
The night didn’t have a local opener, so it was directly into New York’s The Young Rochelles, setting a snotty Ramonescore vibe for the evening. Crisp, fast, and to the point this leather donned three-piece was the perfect high-energy opening act for a set that usually ends in a scantily clad cop.
The Young Rochelles blazed through what seemed like 20 two-minute bangers like “I Never Saw the Ramones,” “I Need Mommy to Do My Laundry,” and the song that I’ve had trapped in my head since, “Stay At-Home Man.” They stopped playing maybe twice – once to perform a certified gross magic trick, making gum appear in a crowd member’s mouth.
2019 has been a transitional year for Direct Hit. The band saw the departure of drummer Danny Walkowiak and bassist Steve Maury last spring and had to embark on this tour run with Masked Intruder without guitarist Devon Kay, who’s corporate overlords wouldn’t release him. It’s probably due to the band’s start as singer and guitarist Nick Wood’s nearly solo project, with a rotating cast of bandmates that’s allowed the band to weather the lineup storm. Rust Ring‘s Joram Zbichorski joined Nick on bass, Mixtape’s Maura Weaver jumped in on guitar, and drummer Logan Stang has been playing with the band since Danny’s departure.
For a band that, as Nick explained, hadn’t played together once prior to this set, they plowed through Direct Hit favorites like “Werewolf Shame” and “They Came for Me” and newer songs like “Artificial Confidence” with little trouble, minus some broken guitar strings. Transitions are hard, but luckily it looks like Direct Hit is bouncing back.
After spending most of 2013-2015 covering Masked Intruder, we ended up on a bit of an MI burnout. It seemed like there wasn’t a tour put together in those first few years that the four-piece didn’t jump on when their self-titled full-length exploded into the world. We’d found ourselves skipping their shows as they dialed down their touring after that big pop, and beyond Zack breaking his leg two minutes into their FEST set, we haven’t seen them play live in at least two years. So heading into the show I was excited to see how they’ve developed their sound and stage presence in my time away.
I usually tell people about Masked Intruder, and then follow it up with “you have to see them live – it makes so much more sense when it’s live.” Officer Bradford, the crowd participation, the corny jokes – they all make most sense in this little time and space around a Masked Intruder set. That energy and sense of fun – and if you’ve seen them live you know it – is all still there in full force.
One prominent change came in their lineup. Intruder Purple (second cheer for more femme / gender queer / non-white guys on stage!) has been filling in for Intruder Yellow for most of this year. Yellow is apparently locked up and rumors abound about what he has done to get thrown in the clink. It’s obvious that the foursome has completely gelled together, despite the lineup change. Intruder Purple jumps right in to the cheesy banter, for a pretty seamless transition.
Another interesting change from my perspective came from the makeup of the crowd. It was a Sunday night, and Masked Intruder always brought out a huge variety of ages and backgrounds but that gap seemed to grow even more. Where it was normal to see one kid at their shows before there were now at least four or five. That age gap increased, too – I saw a lot more people over 50 than most non-legacy (ie Bad Religion, Pennywise, NOFX, etc) shows tend to bring out. And more than that, I think just about everyone was on an actual date! Lots of hand-holding and canoodling to classic Masked Intruder tracks like “Heart Shaped Guitar” and newer music like “No Case” and “I’ll Be Back Again Someday” from this year’s full length, III, made for great people watching.
All in all the set was the high-energy, back-to-basics fun we’ve come to expect from Masked Intruder. If you haven’t seen them in awhile, get to a show and fill up your corny heart. All of the best parts are still there: heavy crowd participation, corn-ball jokes, everything that is Officer Bradford and genuine fun. If you still haven’t seen them, move out from under that rock already.