The menacing spirit of punk rock has been enveloped by a kinder, gentler pop sensibility these days, but Friday's concert at the Palace featuring San Diego's Unwritten Law, Chicago's Mest and Santa Barbara's Sugarcult showed that the current wave of punk doesn't lack power.
Serving up infectious, Cheap Trick-meets-Elvis Costello sounds from its recent album, "Start Static," Sugarcult was an energetic whirlwind of hooks and harmonies. The band's songs are about frustration and love lost, but the band's tight instrumentation and mischievous demeanor made for an ebullient, fast-paced set.
The group's cover of the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated"--during which the band was joined by a member of fellow Warped Tour alums Good Charlotte--demonstrated the camaraderie between this network of bands, and started a "guest player" trend that continued throughout the evening.
Spiky-haired and tattooed, Mest didn't fare as well, even when it was joined by Unwritten Law's Scott Russo (Mest singer Tony Lovato later returned the favor). The group's formula of caustic ditties and bratty banter offered nothing to set it apart from other bands.
The most seasoned on the bill, Unwritten Law was also the most diverse sonically. It's been around for nearly a decade, and experience has obviously given the band the confidence to experiment. Cuts off the current album, "Elva," meshed punk, metal, ska and even balladry into an aggressive yet atmospheric assortment of anthems.
Russo is a strong and charismatic frontman, but the band's biggest strength is its forceful rhythm section, which kept things driving and persistent even when it went the emo/melodic route.