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Avoided @ Quarters Rock 'n' Roll Palace

Feb. 2, 2013

Feb. 4, 2013
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Avoided in Madison, Nov. 28, 2008
Picture a small, dingy barroom with crushed cans of Hamm’s and Pabst Blue Ribbon strewn everywhere, like offerings to the dark gods of punk rock. The room is packed wall-to-wall with people; everyone reeks of cigarettes and body order. There’s a tiny stage shoved into the corner, and a band on that stage, illuminated only by an eerie blue light. Listen: The music blares through the muddy sound system, with violent guitars and bass, drums that are whacked so hard you flinch at each beat, and a voice that comes from such a pit of despair you’d swear the singer was vomiting up demons during an exorcism.

That was the scene when Avoided took the stage Saturday night at Quarters. Before the show, I wasn’t sure how Avoided would sound without its founding frontman, Reed Thieme, who passed away in 2009 (the show was, in fact, a tribute to him). I was afraid they wouldn’t be at all interesting to watch or hear without Reed’s savage stage presence, without his bluesy growl. My fears proved unfounded, though. Avoided still have their trademark heavy, brutal ’80s hardcore sound, the kind that breaks your bones and jolts you awake. Justin and Ben still shred their guitars, Bryan still plays bass so furiously you think his hands might fall off, and DB is a vicious drummer.

Like so much essential music, Avoided’s songs are about pain—the pain of being a drunk junkie screw up, the pain of dwelling in a cold Midwest, the pains of being alive in this world. To deal with that pain in a punk rock way means that rather than whining about it, you scream about it, you take other people into it with you. Avoided still does that; they brought it all to the stage on Saturday night, all that pain, along with the pain of being there without Reed and all the other friends and loved ones we’ve lost. But they brought joy, too—the joy of being a little (or a lot) buzzed on a Saturday night in Milwaukee, the joy of sharing a primal moment with a crowd of people who get it. As Avoided blasted into “Whiskey Me” (which is one of the best drinking songs ever written), and the crowd drunkenly swayed or violently slammed into one another, I thought: If Reed could see his band tonight, he’d be proud.


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