By: Sam Boyer, Staff Writer | '90s Blogger
My first venture to The Smiling Skull was marked by some apprehension. As a socially awkward sophomore, the thought of wandering beyond Court Street filled me with a ridiculous sense of dread. Translation: I’m really weird and I don’t like hanging out with people. But I’m a big girl now, and I have the ability to traipse around Athens like I own the damn place. Kind of.
Now that we’ve established the proverbial “popping” of my local venue cherry, I can get into the super rad experience that ensued.
The Smiling Skull looks slightly menacing upon first glance, but inside lies the coziest little hole-in-the-wall you ever did see. And by cozy I mean littered with (sometimes X-rated) graffiti and various vintage beer signs. Home sweet home.
The first band up was Pigeonholes, a pop-punk outfit from Parkersburg, W. Va. As I am partial to bands of the punk persuasion, I dug these guys. They were playful and had the three-chord progression thing down pat. The lead singer had a permanent smile plastered on his face, which translated to my face. If you’re happy, I’m happy, dude. And if you name one of your songs “This Coke Tastes Like Pepsi,” you automatically get my seal of approval.
The Skull started to fill up pretty quickly after the first set, but it wasn’t claustrophobia-inducing. One reason why I prefer The Skull over The Union: Atmosphere. There isn’t a ton of space, but the close quarters make for the dank bar equivalent of a group hug. “You smell like PBR and sweat. Let’s be friends!”
But I digress. Nurser was up next, and since I am ignorant to the local scene, I kept an open mind. Unfortunately, Nurser didn’t quite woo me the way Pigeonholes did. The former is a noise-rock band, so comparing the two is absurd. But after a few songs, I came to the conclusion that Nurser is just not my cup of tea. Too much noise, not enough rock. But that’s just my humble opinion. I am not the master of local music.
Due to the fact that I hadn’t eaten much all day, I only caught a few songs during High Castle’s set. What I did hear was fantastic. West Coast punks always rub me the right way. They kind of had an early Green Day thing going on, and considering my GD obsession, that is a very good thing.
I regret not seeing Hippie Grinder, but hopefully they come back around. My expectations for a “hardcore punk” band are very high.