Going to see an old friend's band is a lot like watching him marry that girl you both used to hang out with, a sweet dose of nostalgia chased by a sour shot of watching someone else live a dream that's not your life anymore. Thursday night at Slim's, Jesse Malin and Richard Bacchus—known in the mid-'90s for spicing up punk with a glam-metal snear in New York's D Generation—watched one another's bands.
Malin and Bacchus took turns tapping feet for each other from the front row. D Generation had a major label run with some shout-along singles, but, since then, Malin has capitalized the most on that fame by putting a Ryan Adams twang on his alternative rock (Adams produced his first LP). He tells stories about girls and societal cast-offs and uses a Petty and Springsteen narrative template. The Boss even appeared on Malin's last LP. These days, though, Malin can make even New York City sound suburban, and Thursday—playing with a single backing pianist—he forced his songs deeper into lullaby territory. His lengthy set drew from his solo releases and "You Can Make Him Like You," a Hold Steady track from his forthcoming covers album.
Whereas Malin espoused the values of what he calls a "P.M.A." (positive mental attitude) between songs, it was clear from Bacchus' first note that, unlike his old bandmate, he's remained a rusty Mustang on the road of hard rock, even if he hangs his hat and straps on his guitar in Raleigh these days. Bacchus complimented Malin's set and then riffed through a handful of his own songs with his Luckiest Girls band, letting his solos do the slurred talking. Bacchus' structures and scales lack any real sense of adventure, but his good time uniformly becomes the crowd's good time. It's appropriate then that he invited Malin onstage to do what everyone was anticipating. Together, they treated the late-night crowd to some old D Gen hits and Reagan Youth's "Degenerated." Malin barked the anthems, dragging his mic stand into the dancing audience. Bacchus added his high-end punch.
Show over, the ex-bandmates pulled up adjacent barstools: Though they use divergent musical approaches these days, they still share the drive to keep rocking, to keep creating new memories about which they can reminisce in another 10 years.
Richard Bacchus plays Slim's Thursday, March 13.