Charleston's "most polite punk band" Shem Creeps open a June 18 show at Tin Roof featuring punk band Bedlam Tour, which formed in Myrtle Beach in 1983. | Photo by Stephen Bates

Frontman Devin Dukes and his punk band, Shem Creeps, aren’t pretending to be straight-edge or even teenage punks ready to burn down the building. They already did that in the ’80s. 

The band will relive those glory days at two showcases featuring South Carolina punk bands, which begins with Charleston Punk Night at the Music Farm on June 10. Dukes curated the lineup of the 33’s, Anergy, Shem Creeps and Soda City Riot. Shem Creeps reconvenes June 18 at the Tin Roof to open for Bedlam Hour, a now-reunited staple of the Southeast punk scene that disbanded more than 25 years ago. 

“Bedlam Hour was the standard for punk rock and hardcore,” Dukes recalled. Around the time the band dissolved, the mainstream popularity of ska and pop-punk diluted the scene. Once going to a punk show felt safe, the edge was lost. 

Still, Dukes said the goal isn’t to recreate the violent mosh pits of the ’80s. After all, he and Shem Creeps co-leader Stephen Hunt are in their mid 50s. But that doesn’t mean a band with gray hair and hip replacements can’t rage.

 “The kids might scoff at first, but then we start playing,” Dukes said laughing. 

Shem Creeps, rounded out by brothers Zach and Aaron Roetling on bass and drums, calls its sound “funcore.” The lyrics on Let’s See If Anyone Buys This, the band’s six-song EP released earlier this year, fit that bill. 

“Wavestorm” is a cheeky ode to Costco soft-top surfboards, while “Lil’ Baby Mosh” imagines a nursery of toddlers pumping their heads and throwing elbows. It’s another reaction to the commoditization of the punk ethos. 

“Parents would have lost their mind back in the day if a little kid wore a Misfits shirt,” Duke said. “Now you see these tiny kids with faux hawks — it’s considered cool.” 

“BBQ Is Killing America” plays like a true straight-edge song, calling out the meat industry as the leading cause of climate change while name-dropping local BBQ joints as “killing America.” It’s a serious message with truth behind it, but also it’s intended as a joke, the band said. 

“I was plant-based for a while, but it was unsustainable for me,” Dukes said. “I’m a humongous fan of hardcore bands like Youth of Today, Judge and Gorilla Biscuits, but straight-edge is kind of like the Krishna people; they set an example that’s just too hard.” 

Before forming Shem Creeps, Dukes led a punk Grateful Dead cover band called Wake of the Blood. “No guitar solos and no song over three minutes, except ‘Terrapin Station,’ which we got through in four-and-a-half [minutes],” he said. “It was a challenge. Nobody got it.”

He and guitarist Hunt also led Building Fund, a punk take on Southern Baptist hymns. After another tongue-in-cheek cover band endeavor burned out, the two of them founded Shem Creeps, and Dukes shifted to writing original lyrics with a comedic bent. 

“Having fun covers a lot more ground with people,” Dukes said. “They want to hear something clever.” 

That’s also the approach Bedlam Hour is taking with its comeback. After hatching the reunion plans with his bandmates, singer Chuck Walker wrote the five songs on the band’s new EP, Win a Billion Dollars, within a few days. 

Walker, a retired schoolteacher, grandfather and a cancer survivor, said he realized it was time to go back to doing what he loved most — which most likely won’t require the cops and the fire department to show up at the Music Farm like they did at the King Street Palace in 1990 at Bedlam Hour’s last appearance in Charleston when the opening act Johnny Puke almost burned the building down. 

The band also won’t be recreating its legendary stunt at George Street’s long-lost Club Dog Alley, when Walker doused the audience with a “ritualistic bathing” of a decade’s worth of Chaps Ralph Lauren cologne received from his mom each year at Christmas. 

“We’re not going to stink up the Tin Roof,” Walker said. “We’re using this as an opportunity to tell the South Carolina punk rock community how much we love them and appreciate them and give them the amazing punk rock show they’re used to from us. We’re still going to blow their minds, no doubt.”

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