Bar-rock, blues, ska blend perfectly at Leo’s Music Club

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Cloaked in the drizzly crevices of Rockridge, Leo’s Music Club, with its spare, dimly lit barroom, was home to a night of local, mainstream-averse, punk-rock shredding Thursday. This was spearheaded by SoCal veteran youngsters the Bots, who were interviewed last week by The Daily Californian.

Opening act War Clog, if nothing else, is as prototypical of a bar-rock establishment as its vaguely political name would suggest. Barring a few mumbled “thanks” and a couple of barely intelligible platitudes, War Clog played a set that was overwrought with a staid sensibility, as if their songs were B-sides cribbed from their vinyl collections. Yet you’ve got to hand it to War Clog; having the asinine confidence to merely amp up with a “fuck it, let’s rock” aesthetic was intrinsically hardcore, encapsulating the night’s spirit in one meandering half-hour set.

The bluesy-rock trio Dyno was effortlessly assured, their carnal strut evidently resonating with the enraptured crowd. Equal parts the Black Keys and Black Sabbath, their sultry, whiskey-imbibed set was perhaps the evening’s most efficiently executed. While portions of their set consisted of chugging, blown-out thrashers, Dyno fared best when they portrayed the softly primal seducer, like pillow-talk paean “Here’s to Letting Go,” in which frontman Jesse Rosenthal implored the members of the crowd to “grab someone you love” — dually endearing and alluring in its seedy charms.

Midway through their set, feminist-punks Little Sister dedicated their deliriously haunting urbanite femme ode, “Hola Chola,” to the “queers and freaks” in the audience. Their Facebook self-descriptor, “cute with a vengeance,” manifested in their eerily gothic performance. Vacillating between throaty incantations and mumbled semichoruses, Little Sister was confounding — their ska-inflected, narcotized jangle pop was hypnotizing in its nonconformist, anti-establishment stylings.

The night’s headliners, budding LA brothers the Bots, were a prime case study in the growing pains of industry maturation. Marred by a string of technical mishaps, disgruntled hecklers and a subdued crowd, lead singer-cum-guitarist Mikaiah appeared to overcompensate, giddily riffing on Pink Palms single “All I Really Want.” The Bots’ penultimate gig on their West Coast tour was proof that they’re shedding their rudimentary garage-punk cocoon into melodious territory.

Would-be highlight “Blinded” was inevitably hampered by the venue’s domineering dissonance; a larger venue would have afforded them the prospect of showing off their evolution into harmonious balladry.

With each act of the night purveying their riff on the punk-rock scene, two facts were made sufficiently clear. One:Everything can be, and is, punk — from the wildly eccentric flailing of front-row local George to Little Sister co-frontwoman Erica eagerly shouting-out her middle-aged coworkers. Two: The Bay’s punk milieu is not merely thriving; it’s ever-expanding beyond the scene’s self-imposed boundaries.

Contact Joshua Bote at [email protected].