Punk rockers MDC and The Elected Officials played two shows in Bangkok last month as part of their Escape from America Tour.
The first gig took place at the Mezzanine Pub on January 26. MDC frontman David Dictor started the night off with a mellowed down set of funky, bluesy versions of his hits before hardcore local favorites LowFat played what could only be described as a mix of the hardcore edge of Minor Threat and the playfulness of the Dickies. With hard hitting drum beats, pulsating rhythm guitar, and lead singer Sano’s jumping and ripping through the band’s Japanese lyrical content, it was as if we had been spectators of a circus, only the music was taken to the extreme.
Dictor’s fellow Texans The Elected Officials wrapped up the show. Their name says it all. Political punk rock at its hardest. The band’s setlist includes “Hooked”, which depicts the struggles against corporate dominance, and “Big Box”, about which frontwoman Sophie Rousmaniere noted, “Basically these poor people work for low wages in these stores like Walmart where other poor people in this region make the products they sell for low pay.”
Heavy stuff. But Rousmaniere kept the atmosphere lighthearted as she spoke in between songs in the Thai Isan dialect she’d picked up while living in Thailand for five years. This isn’t the first time a foreigner has showcased the near imitable dialect but obviously it doesn’t happen often enough for us to stop talking about it or feeling amused.
The Soy Sauce Bar the bands took over the second night (Jan 27) is a small little venue tucked off the road. It was way plusher than most of the do-it-yourself venues around town. On top of a bigger lineup that featured License to Kill, Lord Liar Boots, and Cold Black Vines, MDC’s punk was in full swing with the band’s current lineup, top percussionist Al Schvitz, Bill Collins’s power chords, Mike Smith’s plucking out the bass riffs fronted by the sturdy vocals of Dave Dictor.
Over the years MDC have been known by numerous controversial backronyms. But whether it’s the original Millions of Dead Cops, Millions of Dead Children or one of the more playful ones like Metal Devil Cokes, it’s the music and the message that have stood the test of time. Their themes range from personal stories to a stance against authority, sexism, racism and political issues.
Dictor frolicked around on stage as we sang along to “I Remember”, “I Hate Work” and “John Wayne Was a Nazi” and screamed out against corporate atrocity on eponymous track “Multi Death Corporations.” The show turned into a rally during “Born to Die”, with everyone belting “No Trump, No KKK, No fascist USA,” a chorus written over 30 years ago that become a topical battle cry for today’s protestors. The band developed the theme further with a simple note of unity. “We’re all one colour. One people. There is no difference,” said Dictor as a segue to “Shades of Brown”.
Again, the show that centered on the political wasn’t without a playful side. While singing a pro vegetarianism (“pro chicken”) song called “Chicken Squawk”, huge animal rights advocate Dictor boasted his Foghorn Leghorn tattoo as we made rooster combs and clucked along to the beat.
MDC closed the night with a punk version of country oldie “Deep in the Heart of Texas”, bringing a little home town spirit to the other side of the world.