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Nice Squad

Homosexuals in Exile, Ottobar, July 25

Jefferson Jackson Steele
Exile on Howard Street: Girardi (left) backs O.G. Homosexual Wizard.

By Bret McCabe | Posted 7/28/2004

Let nobody ever say Baltimore’s rock crowd isn’t polite. Before taking the stage, Bruno Aleph Wizard, the lone original member of the late-’70s/early-’80s British art-punk outfit the Homosexuals playing in this incarnation, went around the Ottobar practically thanking each and every one of the attendees for coming out. He then climbed onstage backed by the Homosexuals in Exile band—fleshed out by Baltimore musicians: guitarists Rob Girardi and Christian Sturgis, bassist Pete Ross, and drummer David Andler—and proceeded to sing songs unheard for some 20 years. And during the expectedly wavering performance—it was only this configuration’s third performance, after the musicians quickly learned a handful of songs and played in New York July 23 and 24—everybody cheered and clapped as if they had been waiting for the show all summer.

The Homosexuals’ recorded output was pretty much nonexistent until earlier this year when Chuck Warner’s Messthetics and Baltimore’s Morphius released the three-CD Homosexuals anthology Astral Glamour, 81 songs that run from Red Krayola damaged noise to classic-sounding late-’70s pop-tinted Britpunk. The Ottobar set stuck to the more straight-ahead side of the Homosexuals catalog—the single “Hearts in Exile,” “Astral Glamour,” “Neutron Lover”—with a workmanlike skill, Girardi the lone hired gun onstage who looked comfortable enough with the material from the get-go to play with the carefree insouciance that makes punk from this era such a blithe pleasure.

And really, they were only there to frame Wizard, since it was his party, and he looked like he was having a blast. At the show’s start, he confessed that since this American jaunt was only three days and not a 50-date tour, he was going to have to go through his entire costume changes this evening, and he may have done just that. Shirts came on and off, and he pulled off jeans to reveal black-leather pants underneath; he’s still late-’70s punk skinny, though the youthful tightness has been softened by age. Similarly, vocally he lacked that snappy, declamatory spark that cuts through the Homosexuals’ recorded material like a runaway train, but he delivered the punchy politics with a sincere conviction (although it’s a tad distressing that with age punks and hippies start to sound the same), bounded around the stage, leapt (actually, climbed down gently) into the crowd, and didn’t care that right then may have been the first (and only) time some audience members ever heard those songs. By the time the makeshift group hit its final song, the spiky rocker “You’re Not Moving the Way You’re Supposed To,” the group had gelled into something damn near propulsive. And then the 30-minute set was up, the song-well dry.

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