Thanks to years of double-booked shows, general scuzziness and a tendency to be a sanctuary for wretched bands of all stripes, longstanding campus bar Bernie’s gets a bad rap in certain corners of the Columbus music scene. Though it’s played host to any number of legendary performances over the decades, with each passing year its glory days seem further in the rearview.
But my trip to the punk-rock hub Sunday was immensely satisfying, and not just because the music was good. (More on that in a moment.)
I could hear the bands clearly, for one thing; whatever woes they’ve had with the sound system over the years didn’t seem to be a factor anymore. Also, I don’t know if it was cleaner than it used to be, but it felt cleaner, spruced up with Christmas lights behind the stage and whatnot. And there were no skinheads playing pool, so there’s that.
In fact, I’d venture that if Bernie’s was brand new, bands would be lining up to play there. And if good bands keep booking shows there, I certainly wouldn’t mind coming back. With that in mind, the ones that played Sunday were solid, including Cleveland visitors Dead Sweaters and Village Bicycle and this city’s own The Kyle Sowashes. But I came to see Sega Genocide.
The name is one of those eye-rolling puns that I love dearly, but which are usually attached to some terrible hardcore band. In fact, if search “Sega Genocide” on YouTube to find videos of a terrible hardcore band by that name.
Fortunately, this Sega Genocide was in a different lane entirely, matching breathless immediacy with instantly memorable melodies from the vocals and guitars. In their version of the familiar pop-punk/indie rock cocktail, the sweet stuff never crowded out the heartburn-inducing edge. It was aggressive, but not antagonistic, despite the occasional dissonance to break the major-key comfort zone.
A whole cornucopia of classic guitar pop came to mind — fallen garage greats The Exploding Hearts, lo-fi legends Guided By Voices, old-school Weezer — but crammed through a punk-rock filter that suggests a basement show pedigree. They were firing on all cylinders Sunday, and it was an awesome thing to see.