Sound on Sound: The Dead Milkmen honor Prince, before delivering their hits

Dead Milkmen perform at the Dragon Lair's stage at Sound On Sound Festival on November, 5 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Dead Milkmen perform at the Dragon Lair’s stage at Sound On Sound Festival on November, 5 2016. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

By Andy O’Connor, special to the American-Statesman

There had to be a Prince tribute some time during Sound on Sound, but who thought it would be the Dead Milkmen to usher it in? The Philly comedic punks played a version of “Little Red Corvette” that was fairly straight-ahead in sound, but still oozed with their brand of silliness. Guitarist and vocalist Joe Genaro sang with the apprehension of a confused kid, not the sex god that Prince was, spoofing the rather thin vehicular metaphors in the process. Still, it was endearing in a year of profound musical loss. Prince was as much about letting your freak free as much as any hardcore band, maybe more so.

Of course, they then transitioned into “Bitchin’ Camero,” one of their most popular songs. The Milkmen delivered a faithful set that was yet another example of how fest producers Margin Walker Presents puts a premium on college punk nostalgia. They delivered the hits, and with their pop core, that’s a smart plan. “Tacoland” extolled the virtues of the San Antonio club, and as Sound of Sound is a fest born of exile, it almost felt like a jab at Austin, too. Let’s just hope they had time to go Veracruz All Natural, and not just Torchy’s.

Weirdly enough, the greatest hint of vitality was when lead singer and keyboardist Rodney Linderman stumped heavily for punk-industrial duo Youth Code, even sporting their shirt as a sign of commitment. (Youth Code play The Keep stage at 4 p.m. Sunday, and, for those who can make it, at 2 a.m Saturday at the Mohawk.) Maybe it’s not the greatest look to have more passion for someone else’s band than your own. Give them some credit, though — they knew to pass the torch. A lot of punks still have trouble with that, much as they had trouble back in the day accepting that “Dirty Mind” was also a like-minded celebration of erasing norms and celebrating unity.

Update: This post has been updated to clarify what the song “Tacoland” is about.

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