Cock Sparrer Brings Punk to the Bay

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Old school punk rockers Cock Sparrer get fans moshing at the Great American Music Hall for two sold out shows on their American Tour.  Photo by Heather Spellacy/Foghorn
Old school punk rockers Cock Sparrer get fans moshing at the Great American Music Hall for two sold out shows on their American Tour. Photo by Heather Spellacy/Foghorn

There are some shows you’d like to see, and others you’d travel hundreds of miles to witness. Luckily for me, I only had to walk to the Geary bus stop and share a few awkward conversations on my trip to the Great American Music Hall just past Van Ness. My horrible habit of listening in on others’ conversations, however, proved that many had indeed come from all over the country to throw up their fists with oi’s* finest, Cock Sparrer.

I had been gushing with excitement the minute my press pass was confirmed months before the show was even scheduled to occur, telling anyone who would listen that in a few months time I’d be screaming some of my favorite lyrics with one of the best bands oi has to offer. While most I told had neither heard of the genre or the band, both one-day and two-day passes sold out quickly, making it obvious the band could easily pack a show.

It was the 5th Anniversary of Pirates Press, a local record manufacturing company, that brought all these bands together for two nights of great music. “All the bands who played are on our label, they’re part of the Pirates Press family,” Chunk Kelly, a company employee, told The Foghorn.

It had been nine years since Cock Sparrer had graced our city of San Francisco, and they were playing the same venue as on their last trip across the pond. The place was packed with more Fred Perrys and shaved heads than my little heart could handle. I had dressed in my oi finest, meaning I could wear my Doc Martens and still be attractive to the opposite sex. Score.

While most of the first night’s festivities remain a bit hazy in my mind, I do clearly remember throwing up my fists and singing along to each word with Colin McFaull, the band’s frontman. Being shoved up against the metal barrier meant to keep the crowd off the stage didn’t faze me once. Nothing could ruin my night, not the fights that broke out or even the fat, middle-aged guy that kept elbowing me in the ribs. I was witnessing history, singing along with a band that changed the face of music as we know it today.

With the ecstasy of Friday’s show still buzzing in my head (not to be confused with the ringing in my ears), four hours of sleep and way too many Red Bulls, I geared up for Saturday’s show.  I switched out my skirt and suspenders for a shift dress, put on a fresh Fred Perry polo and my faithful Docs. Once again I trekked to the bus stop, though this time alone.

The show was just as packed and full of lovely boys for my personal viewing pleasure. I vowed to spend more time making note of my surroundings this time around. The crowd was definitely varied, and played host to music lovers from across the board. Gutter punks shared beers with greasers and metal heads raised fists with skinheads.

The music started and I decided to stay back and watch the crowd rather than pushing my way to the front. This lasted about five minutes, ending with me, once again, shoved up against my dear friend, the metal barrier.

The band played all the classics, with the exception of my personal favorite “Platinum Blonde.” However, the rest of the set list quickly quelled my disappointment, especially when the beginnings of “Where Are They Now?” started playing through the speakers. The band, motioning to the crowd to belt out the lyrics, took a seat on the stage, letting the mob of fans sing to them. After applauding our efforts, the band took the stage again and finished the song.

A new addition to the evening came during “Sunday Stripper,” when McFaull asked if anyone wanted to get naked. A bra was hurled through the air at Daryl Smith, the band’s guitarist, and soon thereafter a young girl took the stage. She stood in front of the crowd, both excited and horrified. No clothing came off, and it was clear she didn’t know any lyrics of the song except for the most heavily repeated line. This unsatisfactory showing was quickly forgotten when Smith quickly put on the abandoned bra and strutted across the stage.

The show went on and with it came “Take ‘Em All” one of Cock Sparrer’s rowdiest and most popular songs. Apparently one of the biggest fans of this song was the fat, middle-aged man from the previous night. For some reason, I just couldn’t write off his elbowing this time around, and after repeatedly telling his to calm down (though in not such nice words) I decided an elbow to the face was warranted, or many. While I am not advocating violence, or maybe I am, this approach worked quite well.

The band finished the show with “We’re Coming Back” vowing that they’re “never going away again.” Here’s hoping their lyrics are backed by truth. Regardless, those two days will be stored in my memory banks for years to come. Thanks Pirates Press and Cock Sparrer for putting on one of the most unforgettable shows to date. Oi!

*The genre “Oi”, if you are unaware, is a subgenre of punk rock that originated in the UK in the late 70s. Lyrics are generally related to the daily lives of the working class. Think early Dropkick Murphys.

7 COMMENTS

  1. actually, take ’em all was part of the regular set list, not the encore..i’mma take a wild guess here and say that this chick is NOT in the scene..at least not the skinhead scene…

  2. hey sara,

    when did i say take em all was part of the encore? i guess i’m as confused as you are.

    and you’re right, i’m not part of the scene. i just really enjoy the music and the culture
    (the thought of shaving my head makes me want to cry)… i share that same enjoyment with many other genres.

    cheers!

  3. Thanks for the write up Heather! It was a lot of fun and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    Sara – I’m not part of the skinhead scene either, I’m a gangsta, but I’m pretty sure that’s o.k. with Cocksparrer. 😉

  4. Chunk A Roo, you know I love you and your non skinhead ass. And I’ll bet even money that Cock SParrer does too.

    Heather, I’m splitting hairs about the timeline of your article. I’m just a huge nerd and caught that as I was reading. I’m not gonna try to start shit on your page here, so all I’m gonna say is that if you know anything about this culture, you would know that people who dress up like skins who don’t claim – that’s a HUGE bone of contention with those who do. I’ll leave it at that out of respect to the awesomeness that is Chunk and Pirates Press.

  5. oh i hear ya sara… i used to think the same exact way. and i’ll be the first to say i’m a poser of every type of genre cause i’d never commit to just one. so i guess i realized you only live once so you may as well do, and dress, whatever and however the fuck ya want… and fred perrys are just what i want.

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