“Dillinger Four is 21, huh?”
Craig Finn was grinning ear to ear, surveying a giddy parking lot of black t-shirts and plastic pint glasses. He’d only made it two songs into his band Lifter Puller’s first performance in 12 years, and he’d stopped to take a few minutes to address the crowd while a stage tech swaps out a blown-out amp that had almost derailed the show.
“This would not have happened unless they asked,” he continued. “Meaning: Only they can ask.”
There’s a simple joy that comes from doing friends a favor, and that feeling of camaraderie and mutual admiration coursed through the parking lot behind the Triple Rock all afternoon as the Cities’ longest-running punk band celebrated their 21st anniversary behind guitarist Erik Funk’s club. This particular “D4th of July” event was the Triple Rock’s first foray into outdoor events, and all signs point to it being a smash success. A whopping 10 acts performed throughout the afternoon, starting with locals like Pink Mink and Off With Their Heads and ramping up to touring bands like Toys That Kill and Scared of Chaka. And Surly even debuted a limited-edition beer for the event, #Merica, which conspired with the blazing heat to get people sopping drunk by the time D4 took the stage.
But back to Lifter Puller for a moment: As a fan who never had the chance to see them live back in the day, watching them on Saturday was a revelation. Not only did it fill in a few blanks between Lifter Puller’s catalog and the artier first couple of Hold Steady records, but hearing Steve Barone’s synth riffs mix with Tad Kubler’s pogoing bass lines and Dan Monick’s syncopated drumming made me realize that while Finn is obviously a devout and vocal Replacements fan, Lifter Puller is a more direct descendent of the new wave bands of the ’80s like the Wallets and the Suburbs.
Lifter Puller fans had traveled from out of state to see this historic moment, and between each song a couple of especially awestruck men screamed “Oh my f***ing God!” Meanwhile, Erik Funk’s wife Gretchen, who co-owns the Triple Rock, stood on the roof of the venue and proudly watched her handiwork play out below.
(Lifter Puller set list: Half Dead and Dynamite / To Live and Die in LBI / Lonely in a Limousine / Space Humping $19.99 / Secret Santa Cruz / Manpark / Nassau Coliseum / Let’s Get Incredible)
Dillinger Four followed up the excitement with an exceptionally tight performance, skimping on banter and staying fully clothed for a change to pummel the audience with a set of crowd favorites. The band has been performing so sporadically in recent years that it was clearly an event to watch them play this anniversary show, and it only took a couple of songs before a circle pit grew and people started crowd-surfing their way toward the stage.
And for the first time in D4th of July history the guests of honor cleared the stage to make way for a special out-of-town headliner, Against Me!, who finished off the outdoor portion of the evening with precision, emotion, and energy. Dressed in a John and Yoko-inspired “GENDER IS OVER (If You Want It)” jersey, frontwoman Laura Jane Grace commanded the stage and professed her love for D4. What better way to cap a nostalgic day spent celebrating a two-decade-plus punk band than with the on-point lyrics of her song “Teenage Anarchist”: “Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?”