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Festival Review: Midwest Punk Fest X (Sincere Engineer, Off With Their Heads, Dopamines, etc)

Midwest Punk Fest.  Have you ever heard of it?  I thought not.  It’s an annual Punk Rawk event in Bloomington/Normal Illinois, and it celebrated its 10 anniversary this year.  Over that decade, the fest has had some ebbs and flows.  I attended the seventh edition and although they pulled in some decent acts, it was sparsely attended.  Dan Vapid and the Cheats headlined and they were basically giving a private performance to me and my wife.  They killed it being the consummate professionals they are, but I expected more from my local scene.  The venue that hosted MWPF ceased hosting shows soon thereafter.  Somehow MWPF soldiered on.  They put together a MWPF9, which was hosted by a local dive bar.  That lineup had national acts The Dopamines, Arms Aloft, and The Raging Nathans anchoring the bill.

What would MWPF have in store for Midwestern Punkers in its tenth incarnation?  Would there even be a MWPFX?  Some cohesion was introduced to the MWPF family the day Chris Golwitzer got involved.  Chris has played in MWPF before with his band Werepire Day.  These days, playing music is Chris’s second passion, his first?  A new venue in Bloomington called Nightshop.  When Chris opened the doors at Nightshop, MWPF found a kindred spirit and a new home.  With a stellar venue, and a seasoned booking agent in the fold, MWPF sought to crush it with this year’s lineup.  Which they did.  They managed to pull in The Smoking Popes to headline.  Old faves The Dopamines and the Raging Nathans followed suit.  Red City Radio was brought in as was Off With Their Heads.  Normally, those bands would have been more than enough to satisfy the punk contingent in central Illinois, but the new MWPF team did not stop there.  They rounded out the lineup with Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy, Sincere Engineer, Typesetter, La Armada, Flatfoot 56 and The Bollweevils.

With a lineup like that, MWPFX was a can’t miss.  I bought my ticket and blacked out the dates.  When the week of the fest finally came, I counted the minutes to Thursday.  As the day approached, The Smoking Popes had to cancel due to a death in the family, then Off With Their Heads almost cancelled due to Ryan’s slicing his finger to the bone by grabbing a glass with his hulk-like strengh.  It sounded like OWTH would be a gametime decision, and the loss of both of those acts might be tough for MWPFX to overcome.

Well Thursday came and I arrived to the dulcet tones of Better Days out of St. Louis.  Next came a sight to behold, Livin’ Thing out of Springfield, IL.  From the moment they took the stage, I could tell that these guys got it.  I just don’t know what “it” is.  The five-piece included instrumentalists in matching track suits with the shout-chanting lead singer looking like a cross between meatloaf and Gibby Haynes.  Check them out.  I missed the next two bands as I was imbibing at the watering hole down the street.  Blood People out of Chicago kindly stepped in for The Smoking Popes on short notice.  We caught their whole set.  Their upbeat pop punk is perfectly punctuated by frontwoman Aly Jados’ shakes and shouts.  Wanna play a fun game, try to figure out what famous frontwoman she reminds you of… is it Courtney Love, or Brody Dalle (The Distillers), or Joan Jett (it can go on and on); but that’s some amazing company.  Off With Their Heads acoustic contingent of Ryan Young and John Polydoros popped up next, much to the relief of the MWPFX organizers.  I spoke with Ryan before the show and inquired about the condition of his finger.  He then put forth the digit in question and demonstrated his home surgical skills, which looked to involve a generous portion of Gorilla Glue.  We all shrugged and hoped for the best.  I guess the glue held up for a few songs and from there on out, he was going on adrenaline.  Which came in spades as they dropped some choice cuts off of their recent acoustic record Won’t be Missed including Jackie Lee, Start Walking, and Clear The Air.  Red City Radio came out next and I was amped for these guys.  They brought the house down and closed a great first day.

Day 2: When we got to Nightshop for day 2, Jared Grabb Among Thieves was playing.  We cruised right to the patio to hang out.  While my wife mingled, I rifled through the offerings from Waiting Room records.  $1 CDs curated to Rock, Metal, Punk and Emo, aka my favorite music.  We popped back inside for a beer at a very opportune moment, The Dry Look from Champaign-Urbana IL were coming on.  I guess these guys are in a bunch of different bands, playing different genres of music.  But the singer has an affinity for the late 70s-early 80s power pop sound.  These guys nail it.  If you like 80s Iggy Pop, Bowie, Blondie, Suicide, Cheap Trick, The Strokes, check these guys out.  A standout set of the fest for me.  Sincere Engineer hit the stage next, having missed them (her) last year at the fest, we made sure to find a spot right up front for this set.  Deanna Belos, the brains and brawn behind SC, rocked the acoustic for this set.  You just can’t help but root for her, such clever lyrics and catchy tunes.  The way Deanna can cut the shit and get right to the heart of the matter, bare her soul for all to see, and still rock the house bears a striking resemblance to some folks that graced the stage the previous night (OWTH).  SC slammed through some tunes from her new record Rhombithian, closing with my personal fave Corndog Sonnet No. 7.  I guarantee everyone in attendance left a fan.  Would you think that Pontiac IL could birth a classic 80s style hardcore punk band?  If you know anything about rhetorical questions, the answer would be yes.  The Subservients promised crushing hardcore punk and they delivered.  They also promised a stage dive, but as the crowd did not appear ready, willing, or able, to support a human in flight, I think it was a good idea to save that move for another time.  The Raging Nathans had the prime slot on this bill as they caught the crowd at their ideal inebriation level.  RNs classic punk delivery and sing-along style got the punks moving.  Mostly swaying to the staccato rhythms, not much moshing to be had at MWPFX, for better or worse.  Dirty Rotten Revenge are something of a local legend in Bloomington IL and I had them circled as a band to catch.  What do they say about the best laid plans?  My wife and I missed the set.  We were hanging out with Josh Goldman of The Raging Nathans.  We exchanged thoughts on last year’s fest.  I also got a look at his clutch of CDs from the $1 bin.  He grabbed some classics including Goddamnit from Alkaline Trio and Read Music Speak Spanish from Desaparecidos.  He found a good opportunity to upgrade the CD library in the van.  I bored him with the recounting of my new DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) and how CDs are sounding much better than vinyl on my system since its addition.  We did make it out for Friday Night’s closer, another local favorite Dripping Slits.  I have to admit I was a bit toasty for their set.  I do remember that they bore a sonic resemblance to Butthole Surfers.  I have to catch these guys the next time they’re in town.

Day 3: We rolled into Nightshop as Turnspit sauntered up to the stage.  I had hoped to catch Bike Tuff, but other obligations prevented an early arrival.  I’ve been looking forward to seeing Turnspit, as I’m also working on a review of their album.  So I’ve been listening to it a bunch, and it’s a standout record of 2018 IMHO.  I enjoyed Turnspit’s set quite a bit, although it didn’t have the back and forth that I noticed on the record.  Both Jason Swearengen and  Gillian McGhee share vocal duties in TS, many times on the same song.  This dichotomy represents itself wonderfully on the record, but live the scale tipped towards Gillian for the most part, which took out some of that interesting dynamic for me.  They still rocked hard and played a great set.  Skin stood out, it’s an important statement and I recommend you give its raw honesty a listen.  I guess I spent more time socializing on Saturday than actually watching the bands.  I don’t remember catching Still Alive.  I did see Funrod and they surprised me with their classic punk sound and irreverent lead singer.  La Armada hit the stage next.  I had listened to some of their stuff and their brand of metal is a vicious assault on the senses.  They did not disappoint.  After that musical beatdown, we were on the ropes.  I wanted to catch Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy, so we hung in there.  Caught a couple songs by CN.  I dug their vibe, it was just too late and we needed to rest up for Sunday.

Day 4: We hit Nightshop while Winder was in the middle of their set.  Good stuff, atmospheric post-punk.  They really wringed every last note out of their instruments.  Witchfeet hit the stage next and they seemed to attract quite a following.  They kept the post-punk theme going with their sound that they compare to The Cure, Guided by Voices and Built to Spill.  I’m going to have to give these guys a second listen.  Ok.  Next MWPFX did a major tone shift.  The Fantastic Plastics brought their theatrical brand of synth pop.  The band led by Tyson Plastic on guitar and Miranda Plastic on keys looks like they dropped right out of a Power Rangers episode.  Their cheesy neo-futuristic garb and regurgitated DEVO sound really make a statement.  They come complete with video show.  Just as I was getting into these guys, I thought to myself, I don’t know where the sequencers leave off and where the band picks up.  Still worth catching if you get the chance.  Ok.  Let’s get back to the good old-fashioned punk rock.  No one better to do that than City Mouse, who I’ve seen before at Nightshop.  This three-piece gives just what the doctor order from frontwoman Miski Dee Rodriguez.  Classic stripped-down punk in the vein of The Ramones!  We had to cut out of this set early to grab a smoke.  While we were out on the patio we caught up with Sarah from Typesetter.  We got the lowdown on their tour and on the new record.  We are totally amped for that release!  While hobnobbing we bumped into Jon Lewis from The Dopamines.  We talked a little bit about their set at FEST last year which he informed us that the band had no recollection of.  It’s tough being punk rock’s reigning party band!  These guys live up to the hype though. As Typesetter started making their way to the stage, we grabbed a front row spot.  As always they crushed it.  They played some new tunes and some old, and for grins, they broke out a cover of Blondie’s “Hangin on the Telephone.”  Bollweevils came out next.  These guys were in rare form.  I think they had been prepartying with The Dopamines.  Love these guys.  They came up out of the old school Chicago Scene with bands like Naked Raygun and Articles of Faith.  Bollweevils bring a ton of energy and they haven’t lost a beat in all these years.  Fun fact about Bollweevils frontman Daryl Wilson, when he’s not diving off stages at punk fests he works as an ER Doctor in the suburbs of Chicago.  Finally, after 30 hours and 4 nights, we came to the end of MWPFX.  And who better to take us home than The Dopamines.  We caught these guys at the FEST as previously mentioned, and I thought they embodied everything punk rock stands for.  Loud catchy tunes, a down to earth attitude (when they’re not talking shit onstage), and a party til you die lifestyle.  They crushed it.  Going through some of their new album Tales of Interest.  They broke out King of Swilling Powers and Business Papers.  What got me singing was their classic Soap and Lampshades.  I have to say when they sauntered off the stage, I started making my way to the door, it being almost 1am and me having to work the next day.  I looked around for my wife and she was embroiled in a blood game of flip cap with members of the Bollweevils and The Dopamines.  I went over to get her out when Jon Lewis threw a Vodka Redbull in my hand and told me to flip the cap.  A stack of bills sat on the table for whoever could get the cap to pop up and catch it.  I failed miserably and threw in my buck.  Jon Weiner of The Dopamines was next and with cat like dexterity he got the cap airborne and snatched it.  By this time the barkeep was pushing us toward the door.  As everyone discussed where to reconvene the party, I grabbed my wife and ducked out of there.  It was 130 and I had get home to bed.  I probably missed out on a night of debauchery and hilarity, but at least for a minute I got to party with the infamous Dopamines.



Live From the Rock Room: The Dopamines!

The Dopamines stopped by Mike Felumlee’s place to record a live version of “Business Papers,” one of their best songs off their latest album, “Tales of Interest.”

You can see the video below, and be sure to check out other great bands that have recorded for the show.



FEST 16 Gainsesville Day 2

Read my review of Day 1 here.

Woke up on Day 2 of the FEST feeling pretty good.  Got fueled up on coffee and complimentary pastries and was ready to hit it.  My T-shirt game was on point.  I had my Broadways T set aside and didn’t have any reservations about it.  Without much fanfare, we bailed the hotel.  The weather was perfect, 80 and sunny, which worked out nicely as many of the acts on our list were playing outside at Bo Diddley Plaza.

We arrived at Bo Diddley just in time to grab a couple of drinks and see The Dirty Nil.  I’m a fan of TDN, I know their music tends more to the pop side of punk and they’ve had issues with people calling them punk.  Call it what you will, I like it.  They brought it in their set.  Maybe they lacked a little energy and that could be due to playing at 2pm.  After Dirty Nil, we caught the second Teenage Bottlerocket set, this time conveniently at Bo Diddley.  Catching them outside didn’t compare to the High Dive show, but it was still amazing.  These guys are pros and they lay it down no matter the time or place.

Off With Their Heads came out next.  Once again at Bo Diddley.  Ryan was in rare form.  He paid some guy in the crowd $20 to dress up as Sully from Avatar.  The guy skulked around the stage for a few songs and then Ryan assisted him into the crowd.  For the rest of the show, the wig was flying through the air like a hairy hawk.  Wish we could have seen more of OWTH as they were in rare form, but we had to cut out because I really wanted to catch Grade.  When I saw that Grade was playing FEST, I had it circled and underlined.  I loved these guys back in 2000, and they pretty much fell completely off my radar.  I gained a new appreciation for their catalog during my fest preparation.  The downside, they were playing at 8 Seconds.  There’s just something about that place that’s a little depressing.  I don’t know if it’s just the way it looks like a typical college campus meat market, whether it’s too dark, whether it’s the shitty sound, or all of the above.  Throw in the fact that not as many other FESTers were as amped as I was for the Grade reunion, and you have the makings of a downer set.  From what I could tell, Grade sounded good, but everything sounds like mud at 8 Seconds, so for these guys, it was just a big mushpile.  We hung out upstairs where a roof blocks the sound even further, making for a quieter muddied mess.

Getting out into the open air really raised our spirits.  We basked in the sun as we headed back to Bo Diddley for Beach Slang.  Whenever BS comes on the ipod, I’m like “Who is this” (good thing) and I had hoped seeing them live would drive that home.  They brought it, the singer has a cool 1980s ruffled tuxedo happening, they busted out a Replacements cover, but it just didn’t make me want to buy all their records.  The next band on the list, Extinction AD, would hopefully get us to the next level with their brand of Pantera-esque metal.  Kudos to E AD, they did their best in a tough venue (8 secs).  They had only about 20 people watching.  They still blew the place away.  The face-melting shredding that usually emits from the lead guitar unfortunately got lost in the muddied 8 Secs reverb that completely drowns out higher registers.

We decided to head over to High Dive to catch the Flatliners.  On the way, we bumped into Mike Felumlee.  We had a quick chat about what bands we were going to see.  I had City of Caterpillar circled and underlined.  Their post-punk, screamo concoction really resonated with me and I had the album on heavy rotation prior to the fest.  Mike said that we should try to catch the Penske File.  He was adamant that it would be one of the best sets of the fest.  Interest piqued.  We waited for like 20 minutes to get in to see the Flatliners.  Caught about 20 minutes of the set.  They were playing The Great Awake front to back.  I don’t have the album.  I have it on my list now though.

One set that stood out as a can’t miss for FEST 16, Against Me doing Reinventing Axl Rose.  After Flatliners, we cruised over to Bo Diddley, grabbed a PBR and staked out a spot.  AM really had great energy, they definitely drew the biggest crowd of the FEST, Bo Diddley was packed.  Instead of opening with Axl, they opened with a retrospective greatest hits set.  They started with “Haunting, Haunted, Haunts” then followed with “333,” “True Trans Soul Rebel,” “Black Me Out,” “I was a teenage anarchist,” and “Thrash Unreal.”  Tough conflicts, but I really wanted to see City of Caterpillar, so we cut out of Bo Diddley.

City of Caterpillar was playing at 8 Seconds.  They had a decent crowd considering they shared the same slot as Against Me.  These guys bring the post punk noise and sludge.  The perfect marriage with 8 Secs reverberating sound system.  The cacophony these guys brought almost blew the roof off of the place.  We were digging CofC, but Mike F’s recommendation was gnawing at us.  So we cut out to see Penske File.

After taking a circuitous route and bumping our way through a restaurant full of people enjoying a late meal, we went through a back alley and finally found the venue.  They played the Boca Fiesta/Palomino, which appeared to be a Mexican Restaurant by day, I guess they push the taco and salad bars out of the way to host shows.  Safe to say that making our way to the Penske File paid off.  These guys reminded us of why we got into this music in the first place.  They brought pure raw energy to the stage.  The singer told a story of how one of their original members passed away, and they almost called it quits.  They carried on, and redoubled their efforts.  They thanked the crowd and then broke into “Damned.”  The place lost it.  People stormed the stage and sang along.  Others dove out into the crowd.  These guys had a loyal and rabid group of supporters.  Definitely one of the top 5 sets of FEST.

At this point our schedule had gotten jumbled around.  The Civic Media Center was close by and Typesetter was doing an acoustic set there, so we checked it out.  We only caught the tail end, but they did play a cover of The Replacements “Can’t Hardly Wait.”  I know I wasn’t abducted by aliens during this time frame, but I do have some lost time in here.  We caught The Copyrights at High Dive.  I remember thinking they sounded better than the last time I saw them and that I need to check out their new stuff.  I remember Iron Reagan vividly as they ripped the roof off of 8 Seconds with their inspired brand of Thrash Metal.  The image of IR forever seared into my brain involves the lead singer and the two guitarists swinging their hair in circles to the chugga chugga guitars.

We next found ourselves at High Dive.  Our anticipation of the FEST favorites, The Dopamines, had caused us to arrive early and catch some of Clown Sounds.  Once again, no recollection other than the fact we were there.  One of the toughest conflicts of FEST involved HUM and The Dopamines.  I had HUM firmly on my radar, my wife wanted to see the Dopamines.  We had never seen the Dopamines, so what the heck!  Glad we went.   For one, High Dive is a great place to see a show.  Great sound.  Perfect setting.  They get it.  I have to say after seeing The Dopamines, hearing their stage banter, including their bravado in the fact that “The Copyrights opened for us.  Thanks Copyrights, for opening for us.”  They’re just awesome.  Everything that punk rock should be, a non-stop party.  At one point the crowd pelted them with ice, cups, cans; they didn’t miss a beat.

We did make it over to 8 Secs to see the end of the HUM set.  They played Stars and something I didn’t know.  When you find a good routine that works for you, you stick with it.  So after Hum, we bailed town and hit Taco Bell on the way to our hotel.  Once again, it hit the spot.  I got some sleep, even though a fairly raucous group serenaded us outside doing a singalong at around 3am.  I was too tired to figure out what was going on.  Maybe Laura Jane Grace dropped in for an impromptu set.



Alex Johnson (Wonk Unit) starts own label Plasterer Records

Alex Johnson of London punks Wonk Unit has started his own label, Plasterer Records. The debut releases come from Aerial Salad and The Dopamines, along with a repress of Wonk Unit’s “Nervous Racehorse”.

All releases are up for order now.



Watch The Dopamines perform “Ire” Live From the Rock Room

Another video has been released of The Dopamines performing Live From The Rock Room. The track is called “Ire” and is taken from their latest album release “Tales Of Interest”. Check the video out below. Earlier this year we saw the band performing “Kalte Ente” and “The King of Swilling Powers, Pt I,II,III” from the same album.

“Tales Of Interest” was released on June 2nd via Rad Girlfriend Records and was the follow up to 2012’s “Vices”.



Watch The Dopamines perform “Kalte Ente, The King of Swilling Powers, Pt I,II,III” in session

Cincinnati punks The Dopamines recently performed the first two tracks their their album “Tales of Interest” for Live from the Rock Room sessions. 

You can give “Kalte Ente” and “The King of Swilling Powers, Pt I,II,III” a listen below.



Album Review: The Dopamines – ‘Tales of Interest’

Quit your job, shred your bills, and toss out all that Perrier in your fridge. The Dopamines are back with a brand new full length album to remind you that maybe life isn’t all that great but at least alcohol exists. After a five year wait between albums, Tales of Interest carries a lot of weight on its shoulders, but in true Dopamines fashion the band doesn’t really seem to care for the expectations that others have set for them.

Tales of Interest is a darker album. While The Dopamines’ lyrical themes have always struck a chord with the jaded and jobless, the glossy production and brevity of the music added an air of humor to them before. Here, the guitars are heavier than they’ve ever been before, and though it’s not uncommon to hear tones like this coming from a midwestern punk band, it’s new for The Dopamines and it lends a more sinister feeling to lines like “I’ve got so much more drinking to do, mistakes that I’ll consequently blame on you” (“The King of Swilling Powers I, II, III”) and “Sometimes I just want to pull out a gun and shower you all in my brains” (“Business Papers,” a re-recording of the band’s contribution to The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore).

That’s not to say that Tales of Interest is a completely new version of The Dopamines. The album’s second half contains a handful of songs with the classic Dopamines structure (“Pavlovian Fixtures,” “Open Letter,” “Expect the Worst”). They’re just played by a band with more experience and confidence in their abilities, and willing to experiment. “Kalte Ente” is an instrumental tune, “The King of Swilling Powers (Part I, II, III)” is three and a half minutes long, and “083133” contains a harsh breakdown, all things that the Dopamines haven’t done before. The band even recorded the album as a four piece (although they’ve toured and played shows with a second guitarist in the past, they officially added Rad Girlfriend Records founder / Raging Nathans guitarist Josh Goldman to the lineup a few years ago)- another first for the band.

Change isn’t something we might not have wanted from The Dopamines, but it’s certainly something that they needed. Another Expect the Worst or Vices this is not, and Tales of Interest is all the better for it.

4 / 5 stars

RIYL: The Copyrights, Dillinger Four, Rivethead



The Dopamines stream new album “Tales of Interest”

Cincinnati punks The Dopamines are streaming their new album Tales of Interest in its entirety.

You can give it a listen below.

Tales of Interest is set to release on June 2nd through Rad Girlfriend Records. It will be the band’s fourth full-length album, following 2012’s Vices.



The Dopamines announce “Tales Of Interest” tour dates

The Dopamines release new album “Tales of Interest” on June 2nd via Rad Girlfriend Records – and they have just announced a tour that goes on right through June to back it up.

Check out the full list of dates below. You can pre-order the album now too.



The Dopamines premiere “Common Rue” from upcoming album “Tales of Interest”

Cincinnati punks The Dopamines have premiered another song from their highly-anticipated new album Tales of Interest. Give “Common Rue” a listen below.

Tales of Interest is set to release on June 2nd through Rad Girlfriend Records. It will be the band’s fourth full-length album, following 2012’s Vices.



The Dopamines stream new song “Ire”

Cincinnati punks The Dopamines are streaming a new song from their upcoming album Tales of Interest. The track’s called “Ire,” and you can check it out below.

Tales of Interest is set to release on June 2nd through Rad Girlfriend Records. It will be the band’s fourth full-length album, following 2012’s Vices.



The Dopamines release teaser video for upcoming album “Tales of Interest”

Cincinnati punks The Dopamines have released a teaser video for their upcoming album Tales of Interest, which is set to release this spring through Rad Girlfriend Records. They’ve also revealed the LP’s 14-song tracklist.

You can check out the teaser and tracklist below.

We’ll keep you posted as more details on Tales of Interest are revealed. This will be the band’s fourth full-length album, following 2012’s Vices.



The Dopamines finish recording new album

According to a post on their Facebook page, Cincinnati’s Dopamines have finished recording a new full-length album. All we know right now is the LP will be titled Tales of Interest, but we’ll keep you posted as more details are revealed.

This will be the Dopamines’ fourth studio album. It will serve as the follow-up to Vices, which was released in 2012 through It’s Alive Records.



Dopamines stream new EP “Guided By Vices”

Cincinnati’s Dopamines have released a new EP titled Guided By Vices, and you can give it a listen below.

The 2-song EP was released digitally and as a 7″ flexi disc through It’s Alive Records.

Head over here to grab a copy.



The Dopamines offer free download of new song “Midwesternplayalisticeconolinemuzik”

Breaking a long period of inactivity, The Dopamines are streaming a new song and it’s name is a fucking doozy. Give “Midwesternplayalisticeconolinemuzik” a listen below and download it for free on Bandcamp.

The Dopamines released their third studio album Vices in June, 2012 through It’s Alive Records. There’s no word on a follow-up yet but we’ll be sure to let you know if we hear anything.