Some bands age like a bottle of fine wine, immaculately preserved in a temperature-controlled cellar next to 900 identical bottles of 900 identical flavors. The Gories ages like the bottle of wine that got pilfered from the cellar for a house party during that weekend in 1986 when your parents were off on their second honeymoon. Left half-finished and uncorked for 25 years, it’s grown thick and vinegary, and when consumed, it shoots pangs of mixed pleasure and alarm so sharply through your bloodstream your body can’t help but give into a dance of myoclonic jerks. One taste and you’re wasted.
The bass-less Detroit trio of Mick Collins (guitar/vocals), Dan Kroha (guitar/vocals) and Peggy O’Neill (drums) formed at the forefront of the ’80s garage punk revival that spawned bands like the White Stripes, Detroit Cobras and other pummeling primates of rock, but the Gories maintained its informal, imperfect tone last Friday night on the backroom stage of Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ. Eschewing their signature suits for T-shirts, jeans and ubiquitous indoor sunglasses (possibly masking ubiquitous indoor substance appreciation), the players’ first of two planned reunion shows revved and rumbled the dark 200-capacity room for a painfully short hour, leaving inebriates of all ages thirsty for more.
“Hey, it sounds like the Gories!” Kroha half-joked after punching the final chords on the band’s opening anthem “Hey, Hey We’re The Gories.” Many tracks on the setlist hadn’t been performed live since the band broke up in 1993, giving the show an unpolished edge that recalled the energetic immediacy of garage rock past. Collins periodically asked Kroha which song came next, the band played an extended version of the incendiary encore track “Nitroglycerine” after losing its place, and the two guitarists played all the way through “You Make It Move” in different keys.
“Now that sounded like the Gories,” Kroha laughed. If anyone else in the room noticed the key shift, they didn’t care.
The Gories plowed through its catalog of propulsive Motor City blues anthems including “Goin’ To The River,” the stuttering booze love-letter “Thunderbird ESQ” and the electric fuzz meltdown “Let Your Daddy Ride.” By the time the band reached the encore, the visibly exhausted trio seemed shocked at the venue turnout and energy.
“Man, I find it hilarious that the Gories is an oldies band now,” Kroha told the crowd.
But the Gories’ painfully quick reunion set didn’t look like an oldies show from the front row of the cozy venue. The stage edge was populated by tipsy teens in cutoff tank tops, rooster-haired punks who drank and hollered and caromed off of one another all night as if trying to earn a merit badge for a Hell’s Angels youth club. Before the set a couple of underage ragers got booted for smuggling hooch in a plastic squeeze bottle. One boy, no more than 12 years old, stood transfixed against the stage like an indispensable piece of audio equipment while his mother bobbed along a few rows behind, juggling her camera and plastic beer cup throughout the show.
It didn’t look like an oldies show. It looked like a Gories show, c. 1986—and it sounded like one too, piss, vinegar and all.