Off With Their Heads, Humanoids at Firebird, Thursday, July 8

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On the heels of their Epitaph Records debut, In Desolation, Minneapolis' Off With Their Heads have clearly hit their stride. After churning out several albums and split seven-inches on Florida punk-core institution No Idea Records and gaining more and more punk-rock cred with each release, the quartet has managed to mature and grow without having to branch out much, if at all, an accomplishment that's foreign to many modern-day punk acts.

While nearly every song in OWTH's catalog is an ode to despair, self-deprecation, and self-destruction, Thursday night's show proved that singer-guitarist Ryan Young isn't the only person in the building feeling a little down on his luck -- roughly 100 keyed-up punks were feeling his pain, and once the band hit the stage a raucous celebration of anguish and gloom quickly ensued. Misery loves company, I guess.

Although Young is probably rarely accused of being soft-spoken, he was slightly reserved last night. He wasted very little time on between-song banter, with the exception of a few shout-outs to local punk darlings the Humanoids and the other opening bands, In Defence and Maximum Effort. Because of this strictly-business approach, Off With Their Heads' set was rather short, a baker's dozen of two- to three-minute punk-rock bangers.

But in the punk world there's certainly virtue in brevity. Mixing mostly songs from their last two albums, In Desolation and 2008's From the Bottom, OWTH sounded as tight as ever. Bassist Robbie Swartwood's distorted, chugging bass lines anchored the band's sound, while Young and Zack Gontard's wall of guitars blew the crowd's hair back.

With each song OWTH gained more and more momentum. By the time they ripped into the crowd favorites "Fuck You, I'm Out" and "Die Today," fans were reminded that even though OWTH serve up pure punk anthems, it's the simple pop-oriented melodies underneath all the distortion that truly distinguish the band's sound. As a reference point, picture Dillinger Four, another Minneapolis punk band, playing old Turtles songs with Cookie Monster on lead vocals.

The last time Off With Their Heads came to the Firebird, in 2009, I kicked myself on the way out for not bringing earplugs. This go-round I came prepared, but I kept pulling them out further and further as the band's set progressed -- their guttural howls and heavy guitars can pummel your eardrums, but there's something about OWTH that keeps you begging for more.

Kudos to the always reliable Humanoids for priming the crowd. In typical 'Noids fashion they broke out some choice covers of Soul Asylum ("Somebody to Shove") and Archers of Loaf ("Lowest Part Is Free!"), executing each with their signature flair. Off With Their Heads brought fellow Minneapolis band In Defence along for the ride, who did a fine job revving up the troops with their hilariously titled old-school, bro-core punk songs ("All Hail the Taco Avenger," "Bromophobia").

Setlist:

S.O.S. Drive ZZYZX For the Four Hard to Admit Trying to Breathe I Am You Until the Day All I Can Do Fuck This, I'm Out Die Today

Encore:

Self Checkout Clear the Air

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