OTP Brings the Country-Punk Thunder

Punk has become such an odd and fractured and multifaceted genre, so much so that – for me at least – it can be hard to catch on to something worth appreciating within its noisy maelstrom. But that is exactly what I found in Cambridge on a cold, beer-fueled Saturday night when I caught OTP (out of nearby Somerville) at the Middle East Upstairs on Nov. 2.

Despite listening to and liking the band’s Full Mouthful EP, I had little to no idea of what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by the exuberance, energy and freshness of these guys, and found myself dancing like a fool throughout the tight 40/45-minute set. (I can safely say that the dancing had much more to do with the band than with the drinks I consumed before and during the show, which isn’t always the case with local shows that I’ve attended.)

OTP opened with “I Like Drinking With My Friends,” off the aforementioned EP, and that instantly set the tone for the night. The foundation of their music is punk through and through, but with an equally present and resonant country twang that’s reminiscent – in a good way – of Uncle Tupelo and The Replacements. (When I briefly spoke to frontman/guitarist Colin Garrity and told him they reminded me of The Replacements, he chuckled and said, “Yeah, we get that a lot.” Not a bad thing to be compared to, in my humble mind.)

They continued on with equally anthemic, rousing tunes like “I Don’t Care What You Think” and “The Story of Whoah-Oh,” while also treating the crowd to a healthy dose of new material. For me, the standouts of the new stuff came with “Forget It,” “I Don’t Mind” and “Worth the Weight,” which brought the show to a highly energized close, with all involved in the audience – myself included – joyfully begging for more.

But that wasn’t all. The theme of the show was “Halloween Hangover,” and as such Colin was dressed partially in a Venom costume, with the drummer JakeĀ  in a Where’s Waldo getup. (Natan Keys, the bassist, wasn’t costumed, but what of it?) The point being, in between two chunks of original songs, OTP took the time to cover five songs by the Misfits, and they did one hell of a job with them.

Now, covering the Misfits isn’t easy. Technically it is – theĀ  compositions of Glenn Danzig’s first and most famous band are all decidedly three-chord anthems that can be easily learned if you put your mind to it. But capturing the spirit and energy of that band’s excellent early work – we won’t talk about the rest, okay – is a whole other thing, and not one that’s simple to do.

And somehow, OTP pulled it off. They started with my favorite Misfits track, “Halloween,” so suffice to say I was in a pretty good mood hearing that. Continuing on a rage, OTP went knockouts like through “Teenagers From Mars” and “We Bite” before ending on the guaranteed sing-along note of “Last Caress.”

When it was all over, I can only restate that I wanted more. And as a person who’s often skeptical of local bands (mostly because there are so goddamn many of them in this city that it’s hard to keep up), that’s high praise. I will be looking forward to catching these dudes’ next gig, and if you give their shit a try on Bandcamp or find your way to a show, I think you’ll understand why.

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