Search Results for "Folk"

The Vansaders (Folk-Punk) Stream New EP, “This Time Around”

Asbury Park, NJ folk-punk band The Vansaders, have just released a stream of their brand new EP “This Time Around”. The album collects five fast and fun tracks that mix together elements of rock, folk-punk, and country. Check it out below.

This Time Around is The Vansaders’ first major release since their EP “Jumping At Shadows”, released in August, 2015. The EP is available to stream or purchase through Bandcamp.



Album Review: AJJ – “The Bible 2″

There’s a certain level of goodness that makes things hard to talk about, and maybe even harder to fully digest. There’s the very good, where perfection is attained and you’re left with the rather dull prospect of pounding out what sounds like hyperbole for four to six paragraphs. There’s very bad, that while more fun to write, is often a dedication of time and energy to describe something you most likely never cared about in the first place. And then, there is the pretty good– the okay– which leaves you sorting through tracks looking for the exact moment a listenable album just didn’t do enough to make you love it.

It’s never fun to write the latter. Because, for me, it oftentimes becomes a chronicle of when one of your favorite bands ceases to be your favorite. You all know the Frost line, “This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” That’s how it always goes. A great band doesn’t just turn in an album that wrecks your appreciation of them in one mighty display of incompetence, usually it’s a simpler and subtle deviation from the roots that made you love them in the first place. Against Me! was one of those bands for me. Where I loved the first three, really liked the fourth, uncomfortably liked the fifth, and then Transgender Dysphoria Blues came out and finally solidified my alienation: this band isn’t mine anymore. And it wasn’t. But it wasn’t a bad record either, it just wasn’t for me. That was my whimper– no satisfying bang of hatred and confusion, just a whine and a “move along, folks, nothing to see here.”

AJJ (formerly Andrew Jackson Jihad) was my band for awhile. I remember watching videos of them with buddies, cringing and laughing aloud at some of their more cutting lyrics. They were an introduction into a punk I didn’t know existed. Watching them play on trains, on sidewalks, and wherever else they could was watching someone make good on all the promises punk made. People Who Can Eat People…, Can’t Maintain, and my favorite, Knife Man became veritable classics for me and my close group of friends. It just clicked.

And then Christmas Island came out and I liked most of it. It came burdened with production choices I couldn’t quite jump on board with, along with an increasing diminishing of their folk punk early days. But still, this was my band, damnit! I loved them still, and I met them halfway and ended up finding a bunch of songs I really dug.

And now, we have The Bible 2– a continuation of latter-day AJJ as much as it is a rebranding– packaged with the same codifying authority as a self-titled record. It calls in a deep booming voice: “Behold ye mighty and despair, we were Andrew Jackson Jihad, but now we are AJJ.” The new name comes with a new identity and it wouldn’t even be unfair to call this a first album by a new band. And while, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the band would welcome this consideration, the similarities and love of what once was might be too hard to shake for some listeners.

This problem rears its head immediately, as a lot of The Bible 2’s faults are holdovers from Christmas Island. The vocal distortion effects are present, and they once again open the album with a fast punk track covered in them. “Cody’s Theme” (name checking the “kid who is most-likely named Cody” from “Angel of Death”– further solidifies the kinship between Christmas Island and The Bible 2) throws some synth melodies in too, but isn’t catchy or specific enough (save for the chorus, which I like decently enough) to form an attachment to.

And the thing is, everything is still there. Nothing has quite changed enough to say that they have turned their backs to their roots or have decided to go soft to get love from the kids. I believe the decisions they made were made in earnest. AJJ has a different focus than Andrew Jackson Jihad, and it maintains elements of the latter, but diminishes others. The greatest example is The Bible 2’s mission statement, detailed in the song title: “No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread.” They’ve switched gears into something vaguely positive and inspirational, like Christian rock for misfits. Of course, it is most likely agnostic and probably irreligious, but it carries the same sense of affirmation. No More Shame, No More Fear, No More Dread is the YOLO for teenagers who feel like they don’t belong.

If I’m being fair though, I have to admit that Sean Bonnette’s lyricism has grown on this album (while the more cynical part of me would say it has simply changed, politely excluding for better or for worse). Christmas Island was mostly decent, but it showed a trend of Bonnette giving into some of his worst tendencies as a songwriter, leaning hard on non-sequitur lists and free association surrealism. The Bible 2 feels more personal and focused overall, even adhering pretty well to its own themes, where Christmas Island felt a little scattered and less cohesive than the epic concept album that was Knife Man.

And, despite my whimpers, there are some great lyrics across The Bible 2, and some of the best songs here are the best AJJ has ever written. “Goodbye, Oh Goodbye” is one of its catchiest, and its bridge has one of my favorite lines across the album. “7th grade was hard enough/ Someone thought that they knew me/ If I stay in bed long enough/ They’ll go to church without me.” It’s packed with honest pathos and relatable imagery, while continuing the album’s themes of childhood, and how childhood experience forms us.

This theme is established early on in “Cody’s Theme,” but is brought to a satisfying conclusion with “Small Red Boy.” On it, Bonnette describes cutting a “small red boy” out of his stomach and uses it as a metaphor for the worst parts of all of us, and how they define, destroy, and ultimately provide us with beauty. Reading through the lyrics, while listening to its rumbling crescendo, it would be hard to believe that AJJ has or will ever write a better song.

And that’s what makes The Bible 2 disappointing in some respects. Where “Small Red Boy” is the AJJ I want, the one that I get is weighed down with forgettable songs and unpalatable effects. The best compliment I ever heard the band get was from one of my friends. He said, “Listening to them makes me uneasy.” That’s the AJJ I want, the band that finds beauty in destitution and depravity, that takes long unbroken gazes into the eyes of families on the verge of breaking, on the emotional collateral damage that’ll splatter brains across floral print wallpaper. This is the band that wrote, “Backpack,” a song that you’d probably choose to skip more times than not– and it might still be your favorite off Knife Man. Horror writer Jack Ketchum wrote this essay on violence in fiction, and it boiled down to the idea that as a writer, you shouldn’t “look away.” Violence is real and it is awful, and doing anything less than presenting it and everything it touches does it a disservice. Looking away makes it too easy, it makes it not real. The Bible 2 doesn’t share the same obsession with with transgression that made me fell in love with the band, it dips its toes every once and awhile, but it doesn’t want to tell us how drowning people’s lungs fill with water– it wants to pull them out of the ocean. I think both are valid. But, its not what I want to hear. Which brings us around to an uncomfortable truth worthy of the band at their most gnarly: maybe I’m not the audience anymore. They switched gears and I’m left wanting something they’re not really that interested in anymore. The album is chock-full of their new perspective and direction and the themes of rebirth and perseverance are enough to say that the move was intentional. Like after years of negativity and bullshit, someone just said, “Enough, enough, enough. This is no way to live.” Then one of them grabbed a self-help book, tried to find religion, and then did their best to reconcile it all with who they are and what they know.  There’s still a lot to like, even if its not what I wanted. But for me, it’s summed up as follows: AJJ was a band that didn’t look away. And on The Bible 2, they sometimes still don’t.

 

3.5/5



Brooklyn Folks Come Out in Force to Say Goodbye to Erik Petersen

The same thing that makes a memorial show for Erik Petersen in Brooklyn more intimate and beautiful than one for someone like David Bowie or Lemmy also makes it far more heartbreaking. Far be it from me to say that all those who went out to dance for the Star Man or have a Jack and Coke for Lemmy were not experiencing a personal tragedy. But most of those people never shared a moment, a conversation, or a drink with their hero.

When it came to Mischief Brew’s poetic front-man, it seemed like every punk who showed up to pay tribute to him on Sunday night had had a more personal encounter with the folk punk icon.

“I absolutely hate the reason we are all here tonight” said Brook Pridemore, the evening’s third performer just before he began his set. Then after he’d broken just about half the strings on his guitar he told a story about a time he had spent at Erik and Denise Petersen’s home in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania when he saw Erik squeeze the poop out of one of the more seasoned of the Petersen’s beloved pugs. He followed that story with a singalong rendition of “Old Tyme Mem’ry.”

Christy Road seemed to be working hard to hold it together during her set at the Erik Petersen tribute show.

Before Pridemore, Early Riser, Cristy Road, and two members of Teenage Halloween had performed short somewhat somber solo acoustic sets. During this time the crowd was rather small and subdued, and when it shouted words at the stage they were encouraging. An audience member called out “But it’s beautiful!” to Road when she pointed out a slight mistake in her rendition of Mischief Brew classic “Every Town Will Celebrate.”

At no point did the show ever feel like anything but a celebration of an inspiring man’s life, but until Pridemore, things felt a bit more like a remembrance. After he flooded the stage with his energy and anger it started to feel like a party. The crowd started forming, the mosh pit opened up, and the evening’s pent-up frustration and rage rose to the surface.

If there was one thing that Brook Pridemore had no problem doing it was showing emotion on stage.

Then Out of System Transfer took the stage, and while the Brooklynites definitely represented the more folk side of folk punk — which toward the latter part of their run Mischief Brew expressly shied away from — the people in attendance didn’t slam dance any more subtly for it. The trombone-toting four-piece played a few covers, and their lead singer waxed poetic about his and Petersen’s shared affinity for obscure folk tunes in a set that included tracks like “The Preacher and the Slave” by Joe Hill, “Pancho and Lefty” by Townes Van Zandt, and “Mary Ellen Carter” by Stan Rogers, a track Mischief Brew had released as a single. They also hit Mischief Brew’s “Lowly Carpenter” along with some Out of System Transfer originals.

By the time the folk punk collective Comrades took the stage the venue seemed so packed it was about to burst, and it wouldn’t have mattered whether it was the loud, angsty, and abrasive sounds of Comrades or another solo acoustic act getting on stage; the audience was ready to lose their minds. The melee ensued the moment Comrades struck their first note and the pushing and shoving didn’t end until after their last. Though Comrades didn’t play any Mischief Brew covers, their track “Give Me Coffee or Give Me Meth” is a clear homage to Mischief Brew’s “Gimme Coffee Or Death.”

It was during their set that the show really started to feel like the sort of shindig that Mischief Brew would have headlined. It felt as though at any second Erik might just come through the door from the merch booth or back from the bar after a glass of whisky.

But in the absence of ghosts, Israeli composer and musician Yula Beeri was no consolation prize. Her three-piece band was one of the most exciting and musically proficient acts of the evening; Yula spent most of their set on a stool and still managed to keep the crowd in a frenzy. She also split part of the set with World Inferno/Friendship Society frontman Jack Terricloth. They did two tracks together, one with Yula’s full band and the other a haunting rendition of “Friend to the Friendless.”

Jack Terricloth’s appearance really put the cap on a night that was already as beautiful as it could have been.

“It is one of life’s absurd jokes that I am playing a memorial for Mr. Petersen, rather than Mr. Petersen playing a memorial for me,” said Terricloth. “Comedy is part of the grieving process, take it from me,” he added before raising a toast to the fallen.

After the official performances wrapped up, Out of System Transfer led a rousing singalong of Mischief Brew songs — among others, “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell” and “Thanks, Bastards” — before the stage was opened up to anyone who wished to jump up and sing a song in tribute to Erik Petersen.

Out of System Transfer leading rousing renditions of some of Mischief Brew’s biggest hits along with the crowd.

While fans of Petersen’s took their turn on the mic and the crowd sang along, the real sadness of the event started to take hold of many in attendance. Terricloth stood stoic in the back of the venue surveying the thinning group, while others sat down on the concrete floor.

As people stumbled over lyrics and pulled out cell phones for quick refreshers on tunes, we all realized that this was it. Denise Petersen watched the clumsy, loving efforts to keep things going for one more song. “It’s a beautiful shit-show,” she said, “like my life.”



Townes Cosentino (Will of Gameday Regulars) to release EP “A New Kind Of Hell”

Gameday Regulars’ Will Romeo is striking out on his own under the moniker Townes Cosentino. He will be releasing an EP next Friday, August 26th called “A New Kind Of Hell.” The EP will be released via Creep Records next friday, August 26th. You can see the tracklist and a demo of an earlier song “Sister Fucker” below.

 

Townes Cosentino’s last release was the “Sister Fucker” demo track.



AJJ announce East Coast tour with Diners and Chris Farren

Arizona’s AJJ is heading out on a fall tour to support their new album, The Bible 2. The tour, appropriately titled The Bible 2′r, will feature support from Diners and Chris Farren. You can check out the dates and locations below.

AJJ will release The Bible 2 on August 19, 2016 through SideOneDummy Records. Chris Farren will be releasing his solo debut LP, Can’t Die, on September 2, 2016 also through SideOneDummy.



Freya Wilcox & the Howl stream cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon”

Freya Wilcox & The Howl are streaming their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 hit song “Rhiannon.”  The track comes off the band’s upcoming split EP with Oh My Snare! , and you can give it a listen here.

The Oh My Snare! / Freya Wilcox & the Howl split  will be released through For the Love of Punk Records. You can order it here.

Both bands are currently touring together around the west-coast US tour. You can check out the full list of dates here.



Mortars stream new album “+TV+”

Tennessee folk punk act Mortars have just started streaming their brand new album “+TV+”. The album consists of four songs that take acoustic sensibilities, and use them to deliver fast and funny tunes that explode with existentialist longing. Check it out below.



AJJ stream new album “The Bible 2″

Arizona’s AJJ (formerly known as Andrew Jackson Jihad) are streaming their new album The Bible 2 in its entirety. You can give the record a listen below.

The Bible 2 releases on August 19th through SideOneDummy Records. It will be the band’s 6th full-length album, and their first since shortening their name to “AJJ.”



DS Photo Gallery: Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls in Santa Ana, CA (8.5.16)

DyingScene favorite Frank Turner has been out on the road touring the US with Flogging Molly and Chuck Ragan, but on an off night between Santa Barbara and San Diego, he treated the LA/Orange County crowd to a headlining set at The Observatory in Santa Ana. Along with The Sleeping Souls, he played a 90 minute set including favorites from his albums, including “I Still Believe,” “Photosynthesis,” “Recovery,” “Get Better,” and “The Ballad of Me and My Friends,” as well as debuting a new song currently in progress. The night concluded with a crowd-participation version of “Four Simple Words” as Turner surfed his way across the room. Regardless if you are seeing Frank for the first time or hundredth time, you are guaranteed one of the best shows of your life. His boundless energy and passion for the music, crowd, and scene carries through the night until the very last note is played.

Even though his shows are unforgettable, you can relive them through our full photo gallery below!



Show Review: The Stayouts (folk-punk) @ Fiume (Philadelphia), 8.8.16

Finding Fiume proved to be a difficult experience. But stepping into the hole-in-the-wall establishment was instantly gratifying – the small space boasts a bar to the right upon walking in and a small circular alcove where bands have a solid six feet of space to play. This made for an intimate and cozy setting and I immediately got lost in the wall of beer selections, to which I just asked the kind bartender for a recommendation.

Keep reading after the cut.



DS Review: Plan-It-X Fest Day 3 (Loone, Jeff Rosenstock, The Wild, Ramshackle Glory)

I woke up to hear the faint, pounding screaming of the Phillidelphia neo-crust act Soothsayer, echoing from the Stable, all the way to our camp. Not too far from me, a guy named Walter had cooked up a makeshift stew out of everyone else’s leftovers, and was inviting everyone around to help themselves. It was a pleasant surprise to all the folks who had just made the unpleasant discovery that the state of Indiana doesn’t allow the sale of alcohol on Sundays. So much for the separation of church and state.

On my way to the Barn, I found that the pond had been closed in order to protect its fish inhabitants. Fortunately, even though cooling off wasn’t an option, the festival goers were still ready to unleash a reserve of tremendous energy. I walked into the stable to catch Slugging Percentage delivering their baseball and depression themed songs, not on the stage, but within a circle of pogoing fans.

That’s not to say, however, that the day was dominated solely by the hardcore acts. Later on, I had the pleasure of watching Ladycop preform, a six-piece group that delivered neo-pop tunes layered with funky bass and drum lines. At the front of stage, three vocalists stood dressed in white, with glitter on the corners of their eyes, delivering vocal harmonies that were downright angelic.

I think the two stand-out acts of the afternoon were Jesus and His Judgmental Father, and Michael Jordan Touch Down Pass. Jesus and His Judgmental Father (which definitely had the best band name of the fest) delivered impassioned queer-centered alternative rock tunes, including “Kings and Queens” which, to my mind, stands as one of the most powerful songs about transphobia that I’ve ever heard. Michael Jordan Touchdown Pass, meanwhile, delivered something much more hard to define, blurring the lines between acoustic punk and experimental rock, even mixing in touches of jazz. Part of the power of the performance was provided by an absolutely amazing white-haired trumpeter whom, I would later learn, was actually Charlie Schneeweis, the father of both Michael Scheeweis, the group’s creator, and Patrick Schneeweis (a.k.a. Pat The Bunny). However one would define their music, the audience was absolutely devouring it, with the mostly-shirtless spectators providing the largest and liveliest day-time turn out of I’d seen so far. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to grab a picture of their set. I did, however, have my camera handy when, immediately afterwards, a piñata shaped like the Plan-It-X logo was hung from the ceiling and set upon by the crowd.

After a much needed dinner break, I caught a performance from Loone, another queercore whose identity was almost entirely shaped by the sheer personality of its front-woman. Guitarist/vocalist Noel’le Longhaul preformed the group’s dreamy post-folk punk tunes in a hypnotically rigid style; where every time she hit a major node or struck a guitar chord, it seemed like she was breaking out of the sheer discomfort of her own skin. This actually added to the power of group’s songs, which all explored this very same notion of trying to find comfort with your sense of self. What really surprised me, however, was when, talking to Longhaul after the show, I found out that I’d pegged the performance entirely wrong, and what I saw wasn’t discomfort, but rather a minor moment of transcendence.

“I feel like, a long time ago, I went through feeling really anxious on stage, but I really love preforming,” she explained. “I feel there’s a particular space I can get into with the people in my band, that I think is really special, and I like sharing it with people. I think that our music comes from caring for each other, and so I feel like when I’m preforming about things, that’s what I’m preforming.”

Loone was followed by Tig Bitty, a rapper whose mix of hyper-sexual lyrics and experimental booty-shaking beats probably stood as the strangest act of the entire festival. After she was finished, the stage was taken by Whelmed, an East Bay style punk act that accompanied their bright pop-punk tunes by jumping and shaking across the stage, as if their instruments were electrified.

Later, while I was walking to the backstage area to charge my camera battery, I had a chance run in with Charlie Schneeweis who, in turn, introduced me to Nick Berger, who played dwith Loone, Paper Bee, and Ramshackle Glory. We had a short discussion about Plan-It-X as an inclusive space, and I was struck by the immense love that Berger had for the community they had found within it.

“People from Plan-It-X were some of the first musicians I saw that were queer musicians, and when I started playing in Ramshackle, I felt like one of my biggest goals was to create a space that felt like my teenage punk scene, where the people playing were weird, the people watching were weird, and you could just meet other strange outsiders, and maybe you get a zine or learn about feminism,” Berger recounted.

Interestingly, however, they were still willing to point out some of the shortcomings of the DIY community, particularly regarding the general whiteness of both its musicians and fans.

“I think there are things we could be doing better; things I could be doing better. Because of the level of whiteness that exists currently, it can be pretty alienating for people of color to just step into it, and to go ‘you guys should do this thing with us because we want more representation’ is pretty tokenizing… I dunno, it’s just really hard to walk the line between inviting a group of people into a space and being tokenizing. But even if there’s not a simple answer, I want to keep thinking about it, because it is a problem in every scene I’ve ever been in.”

 

As a consequence of this interesting talk, I missed the very beginning of Jeff Rosenstock’s set. When I walked in, he was halfway through “I’m Serious, I’m Sorry”, and looked like somethign genuinely inhuman. Absolutely drenched in sweat, he howled into the microphone while laying into his guitar, like it was a beast that needed to be tamed. At one point, somebody threw a shark-shaped life preserver at Rosenstock that managed to perfectly encase his shoulders and bind his arms to his side, yet he kept playing regardless.

The music then took a minor break in order for the fest to reveal its sadistic side. At the back of the barn, a table had been set up for the annual Eating Competition, in which all of the contestants had to tuck away an entire 16 oz jar of Veganaise. I was honestly a little too grossed out to stick around and see who won, but I think the photo below speaks for itself.

The penultimate act of the night was The Wild, a group I’d always seen as more of a folk-rock group than a punk act, but, boy, did their set make me realize my mistake. The songs that I’d always found soothing when listening on speakers and headphones, were suddenly loud and pounding, whipping the audience into an absolute frenzy. At one point, Jeff Rosenstock hopped back on the stage, seemingly out of nowhere, to join Witt on the mic, before diving into the crowd. Near the end of their show, they subtly revealed that this would, in fact, be their second to last show. Still, this little shock wasn’t enough to taper the audiences sheer adoration as they closed with “Set Ourselves Free”, giving everyone something very strong to remember them by.

The final show of the night was, in all likelihood, the the main reason quite a few people came. It was, after all, not only Ramshackle Glory’s final show, but also Pat the Bunny’s final performance before quitting punk entirely. Over the course of the day, the people around me had been speculating how the set might go down. At one point, someone joked “maybe his heart is actually going to explode,” a reference to a line in “From Here To Utopia” that made us laugh, albeit somewhat nervously.

On the second day of the festival, I had actually, by chance, run into Pat hanging out near the Barn. I asked if he would be interested in doing some kind of final interview, either before or after his final show, and he firmly declined. That’s not to say he was unfriendly- he was more than happy to chat with me for a while about music, spirituality, and Russian history; he even introduced me to his dad who, by a bizarre coincidence, grew up in the same small Minnesotan town as my mom- however he made it very clear that he didn’t want to give any on the record assessments about punk rock or anarchism. He honestly just seemed like he had moved on from thinking and talking about those two subjects.

With that in mind, I’d be lying if I didn’t enter the show with both a sense of disappointment, and high expectations. Would this be a climactic lamentation on recovery and anarchism, or would it feel like an obligatory farewell from someone who no longer felt a connection to his audience? It turned out to be something wonderfully different.

The set began with “We Are All Compost in Training”, and from the opening lines, seemingly every member of the audience was singing along word-for-word. The song started out slow and subtle, but on the two parts of the song where the singing stopped, the brass section of the act- two trumpets and a clarinet- kicked in, and you could honestly sense the shivers going through the spines of every member of the audience, as everyone on stage lay into their instruments with all the power that was humanly possible.

Of course, that intensity was just a tiny sample of what was to come; next, they played “From Here to Utopia”. This may be one of my favorite songs of all time, and I don’t know whether it was the faster tempo brought by the drum set, the mandolin-esque twang that the guitars seemed to pick up when they played the keyboard section, or the constant chirping of the brass section, but they managed to make it pulse with an energy that felt living and tangible. The trumpeters managed to breathe creative little flourishes into small moments of the song, bringing about the sensibilities of a Dixieland marching band. Meanwhile, every time the song reached a point where Pat screamed his lyrics, I swear the volume of his mic and the crowd were at equal levels. I found myself so caught up in the moment, I thought it would be a good idea to try and photograph the band while in the process of jumping off the stage and crowd surfing (hence the sweat covered photo at the top of the page).

From here, they went on to play an unnamed song from their upcoming album, followed by “No Shelter”. When they played “Never Coming Home” the audience swayed, arm in arm, and when they played “Your Heart Is A Muscle” the crowd turned into a rowdy, overjoyed mob, screaming along with the songs titular promise of hope.

Then they announced that the next song would be their last, and people started calling out desperate pleas for the song that mattered most to them. Someone shouted “play a Johnny Hobo song” and was promptly booed by seemingly the entire audience. The band proceeded to play “Time to Wake Up”, a song from one of Pat’s solo projects. At first, the song choice felt like an anti-climax, something subdued and a little more obscure. But as they played, something strange happened. People started crowd surfing, but not in the usual cannonball kind of way; instead, they would lean off the stage and float across the audience like a pilgrim across the dead sea. Even Charlie Schneeweis fell into the crowd, a huge grin across his face as he slowly glided across the barn. When the song reached its climax, everyone chanted the chorus with pat, singing “please wake up now, the world really needs you, desperately/ please cheer up now, we’ve been waiting for you, all your life,” before the entire band chimed in, creating a cacophony of pure serenity. I looked and, to the left of me, saw two lovers were hugging each other tightly. To my right, a man was breaking down into tears. Then, as one of the crowd surfers drifted close, and we all reached out to make their weight feel like nothing, I realized that past all the sweat stinging my eyes, I might have been crying too. But thank god that wasn’t actually the end.

The band proceeded to play a tribute to Erik Peterson, giving their rendition of Departure/Arrival. Then, after the brief “Club Hits of Today Will Be The Showtunes of Tomorrow”, they played “Last Song, Part 2”. The crowd surged forward one last time, to bask in what truly felt like the conclusion of a beautiful punk legacy. They savored every moment, until the show was ended with the same line that concluded the album I fell in love with almost three years ago, “so maybe god isn’t the right word but I believe in you.”

With the last song concluded, the audience started chanting “thank you Pat,” to which he bashfully approached the mike and replied “thank YOU.” It was at that precise moment that a thought struck me. Throughout the set, they had stuck to Pat’s most hopeful songs, avoiding the likes of “More About Alcoholism” and “Eulogy for an Adolescence”. The performance carried no bitterness, and hardly any real anger. Instead, all the musicians just had a constant peaceful smile, like someone reading the great ending to a good book. The final words of “Last Song” echoed through my head, and I no longer felt upset about not doing the exit interview. Over the course of half an hour, with just the hopeful words of his music, he had just given us all the explanation we needed.

And with that, he gave the audience a thumbs-up and disappeared behind the painted curtain.



Album Review: Frank Turner – “Positive Songs For Negative People”

Yesterday marked one year since the release of everyone’s favorite English, Riot-Folk, alt-country hero Frank Turner‘s latest album Positive Songs for Negative People, released through Xtra Mile Recordings. Proudly and relentlessly having crawled through the mud and the muck of the underground punk scene since 2005. After his departure from the English post-hardcore band Million Dead, Turner has pioneered (some would petulantly say popularized) a sound built on a breed of Crass style “fuck you” candor with the relatable Springsteen-esque conversationalism, usually wrapped up in a catchy, Buzzcocks lunchbox or a thoughtfully orchestrated Dylan-ish progression. With such a broad spectrum of sounds and principles, most find it hard to avoid the charming hooks and concepts that it spawns. Having meandered through music and rooted itself in so many genres, the aforementioned sound has created a vast network of Frank-o-philes and has ultimately led to the release of six full-length studio albums. With each album, Turner’s acclaim has grown exponentially, with 2013’s Tape Deck Heart going as far as nibbling at the edges of mainstream radio with the inarguable hit “Recovery”. With no surprise to anyone, such success comes stained with the all too familiar backlash attached to any aspiring crossover punk artist, and that of course is the ever-present and oh-so-very touchy veil of “selling out”. With the equally talented, and nouveau king of pop-rock, Butch Walker at the Producer’s helm (having prior success producing Taylor Swift’s Red), the album has the potential to churn out new fan favorites while concurrently creating more defectors.

This years “Positive Songs for Negative People” has, vaguely put, created a splash. For some, it’s a flirty and inviting swat of water prompting everyone to jump into the pool and lounge around on inner-tubes and enjoy the sunshine, and for others it was a blind-siding cannonball that got everyone wet, doused the grill and ruined the barbeque. The opening track, “The Angel Islington”, is a hollow continuation of Tape Deck’s Heart’s “Broken Piano”, picking up back at the Thames River. Along with that clever little writing trick, a stripped down, live tone gets you excited, but alas, the song goes nowhere. Instead it’s filed into a folky filler song, of which Frank has few, yet they do exist. “Angel…” is followed up with the hopeful, rabble rousing “Get Better”; a song that will surely be a moshpit-inducing staple in Frank’s faster sets. Though catchy and fun to blast in the car, one can’t help but catch a bit of Gaslight Anthem’s “American Slang”, but fuck it, it’s punk rock, The Ramones did it all the time. Frank get’s a pass on that one. “The Next Storm” keeps the hope afloat, ending on the head-butting exclamation “I’m gonna’ step out and face the next storm”. Riding the coattails of “Get Better”, the buoyant message and up-tempo feel keeps you bobbing your head enough to not really care that it doesn’t really fit Frank’s typical brand of songs; you take it for what it is and have fun. “The Opening Act of Spring”, is much more reminiscent of something you’d hear off of Frank’s third album “Poetry of the Deed”. Long time fans will love this mandolin driven folk number strewn with remorse and desperation, with just enough edge to drink beer to. However, the same certainly can’t be said for “Glorious You”. Walker’s influence bleeds through on this poppy runaway. Simply put, this isn’t a Frank Turner song. The diehards and no-matter-whaters will love it, but those that are looking for the candidness and clever word play that they’ve grown to love will be sorely disappointed. The second single on the record, “Mittens”, follows in the same vain. The lyrics are forced and the melody should have been left for Tay-Tay to sing. As genuine and heartfelt as it might be, it leaves the listener wanting something else, or maybe nothing at all, especially as a single. As soon as you think all is lost, you’re brought back with the hard hitting, stand alone punk song (there’s at least one on every album) “Out of breath”. Frank’s spitfire vocals are befitting to the title and the rolling piano adds the image of an old west saloon shootout. You’re sucked in from the get-go. Then we get to “Demons”, a song highlighted by the victorious battle cry “At this truth we have arrived, god damn it’s great to be alive”. It’s a truly optimistic sentiment for anyone, but a trite sentiment nonetheless. It is at this point in the album that we get slightly sick of Frank Walker (or Butch Turner, if you will) and want the old Frank back. The third single “Josephine” is another Butch Walker song right off the bat, with it’s “Whoa-oh-oh-s”, though this one doesn’t require any teeth grinding or track skipping. Frank’s lyricism saves the day and you find yourself tapping your foot in no time. “Love Forty Down” Is just what we needed. An old fashioned analogous, quick witted love song that starts out mellow and ends with that distinguishable, despairing yet confident Frank Turner shout. The tennis tune drifts into “Silent Key”, busting open with heavy guitar riffs and then riding out into a lovely homage to the Astronaut/teacher Christa McAuliffe of the Space Shuttle Challenger. This song plays out more like a personal narrative, flipping back and forth from the story of Christa and her fateful flight, and a four year old, English ham radio operator. You float through the whimsical melody and the haunting guest vocals of Esme Patterson, and then you’re brought back to earth with Frank’s exclamatory “Silent Key” howls. Finally, the Album ends with “Song for Josh”, Frank’s fervent, acoustic dedication to his friend, and 9:30 Club (Washington DC) security manager, Josh Burdette. Recorded live at the 9:30 Club, There’s no mistaking the authenticity and rawness of the content. A beautiful song with a beautiful message dedicated to, what general consensus says was, a beautiful soul. The album ends with a tearjerker, and a true to form Frank Turner number.

Final summation: The album has its strong points and its weak points. You’ll very soon find the tracks that you want to skip ahead to. While Butch Walker certainly added his two cents, the duo didn’t create the masterpiece that we all hoped for. Maybe next time. Frank’s Diehard fans will love this album regardless, but those that are looking for the wittiness and veracity of “Love, Ire and Song” or the call for personal revolution and self-acceptance of “England Keep My Bones” will find themselves lost and directionless in its intermittent lazy lyrics. By Frank’s request, it may be time for a few of us to “take [him] down to the English Channel.”

3/5 Stars



Plan-It-X Fest Day 2; Little Waist, Dasher, Shellshag, and The Max Levine Ensemble

 

Okay, so I have a bit of a confession to make. My original plan was to write each entry the immediate morning after the day in question; I ended scrapping this after my morning writing/photo-uploading session lasted until the afternoon. The consequence of this poor timing, is that I ended up missing Cottontail (an awesome folk/electro-pop group). But the morning wasn’t all bad. As I worked on the first day’s round up, there was a nod of recognition with every scruffy, tattooed patron of the café, who had obviously come for a coffee break between acts. I also couldn’t help but put on the biggest grin when the barista behind the counter asked “so who the heck is this Pat The Bunny guy I keep seeing on everyone’s t shirts?”

When I got back to camp, the heat was bearing down worse than ever. I decided to follow the example of seemingly a quarter of the festival goers, and listened to Calyx’s noise-laden powerpunk from the comfort of the pond. At one point, as I lay in the water listening to her calming wailing to the accompaniment of a thrashing drumbeat, a water moccasin lethargically glided about an inch away from my head. That was when I decided to get off my ass and treat my journalistic responsibilities seriously. I got back just in time to catch the impressive pop-punk double feature from Nostrodogous and Nutter. The two groups were both fast and hard-hitting, with Nostrodogous delivering a greater sense of desperate energy in the way their lyrics and melodies were delivered. Meanwhile, Nutter’s vocalist offered a more ironic kind of singing, that heavily added to the overall fun of the band.

After an hour, I needed to change return to camp just to change shirts and rehydrate. On my way back, a guy named Lucas unfortunately informed my that the barn was now taking a two-hour break between acts. For a moment I was so disappointed that I almost didn’t notice that he was inexplicably wearing a black and crimson ball gown- one that would make even the most salacious of evil Disney queens jealous. He explained that he’d dropped by trading post that two kids had set up outside the barn which, true to its name, was trading wares for other goods. Assembled in front of them were patches, shirts, old toys, children’s books, assorted ps1 games, and a Nintendo 64 controller. They were also giving away stickers in exchange for hugs.

Not too far from them, a circle of people had gathered around one of the designated workshop areas, and were having a heated discussion on prison reform. Near that, another seminar was taking place, exploring the benefits of herbalism, and giving out recipes for natural solutions for anxiety, indigestion, and menstrual cramps. Some folks from a group called Mystic Hand had also set up a printing station, letting people craft their personalized Plan-It-X Fest posters, or anything else that took their fancy (I’d eventually spot someone printing their catchphrase on their underwear.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a true folk-punk festival without a platitude of stalls dispensing revolutionary literature. PM Press had a table inside the stable, selling books on anarchism, environmentalism, veganism, colonialism, and trans reform. Next to them, a vast collection of zines and self published novels had been set up by Pioneer Press. There was also a logo-less table near the pond that was selling the assorted works of Marx, Fuccault, and Sarte for, roughly, $5 a piece.

Once the music started up again, I’d have to say that one of the real standout performances of the day came from Brooklyn queercore act Little Waist. The band played quick pounding melodies, with the instruments delivering their riffs at a pace that was constantly changing, yet always so catchy that your brain would want to just go along with their seductively angry tunes. Throughout all these songs, vocalist Audrey Zee stood so close to the mic that you’d swear she was almost kissing it, giving a roar that conveyed a fierce mix of sadness, anger, and apathy, all at the same time. Since the set ended, I think I’ve listened to their track “I Wanna Be A Dyke Wife” at least ten or so times. I had a chance to speak with Audrey after the show, and I was fascinated to learn that her voice was, in fact, one of the most anxiety-inducing components of the group’s sound.

“I always thought I would never be able to sing in public, let alone front a band,” Audrey said. “When I started to sing in public, I think I kind of wanted it to be a way that was a little bit noisy and fucked up, so I thought if I’m a singer-songwriter, unless it’s something a little more fierce, I’m going to feel way too scared of people hearing me; so I thought ‘I’m going to make a lot of noise, and people are just going to have to listen to that noise.’”

I’ll be uploading the full conversation with Audrey in a later post, but one of the most fascinating insights I gained from talking with her related, not just to her music, but to the identity of the DIY scene as a whole.

“This is something that I have a hard time defining, but I already feel like an outsider in punk music,” Audrey explained. “I feel like I also do have a really good community of people who are like me, and with who I can make music that is really powerful. I don’t know, I kind of, like, feel really free to do whatever the fuck I want, already I’m, like, different, so maybe I’ll make this song go into 6/4 or something, because I’m already a fucking weirdo up here, so I might as well make my music a little weird too.”

Little Waist was then followed by Dasher, another extremely memorable act purely thanks to the intensity of their onstage presence. I’m continually surprised by how rare it is to find a group where the drummer doubles as the lead vocalist. Usually, the drum kit is relegated to the background of the stage, serving as a sort of boiler room to the band; its beats form the lifeblood of the songs, but its worker is kept in the shadows. But when Dasher played, Kylee Kimbrough sat front and center, screaming bloody murder into the mics and beating the ever loving shit out of her kit. She managed to convey so much ferocity, even while remaining seated, because all of her dark lyrics carried a physical repercussion whith each drum-strike. Of course, this would be nothing without the backup of the guitar and bass, which delivered harsh tunes both dark and witchy, a perfect accompaniment to the howling demon in the center.

Much like the previous day, all the festival goers emerged from their fire circles to crowd the barn to catch the headliner; in this case, it was the Max Levine Ensemble. However, anyone who showed up earlier was treated to a wildly entertaining set from the wild rock two-piece Shellshag. Consisting of a guitar and a drum kit, the duo played around a strange light emitting device that sort of resembled a tripod from the War of The Worlds remake. Their music was fast yet soothing, working vocal harmonies into CBGB-era punk riffs. The duo kept on finding new ways to add creative flairs to their music, whether through the working in Ramones and Blink 182 mash-ups, or in the way drummer its drummer would twirl around the stage, showing off the tambourines that snaked around her ankles; or even in how they concluded the show by precariously stacking their instruments atop each other, like some strange future-punk monolith.

Lastly, there was the Max Levine Ensemble which, simply put, was absolutely electrifying. As they played “My Valerian”, guitarist David Combs and bassist Ben Epsstein constantly hopped across the stage as if the floor was made of hot coals. The audience, meanwhile, began letting some of their pent up mosh energy out, with roughly a dozen people leaping off the stage to surf across an extremely welcoming audience. The set concluded with several other musicians entering the stage, to join the trio in a rendition of Mischief Brew’s “Old Tyme Memry”, a serene song about memory that, in of itself, honored the memory of a fallen hero.

With its lineup concluded, the barn was then turned into a makeshift projection room to screen entries in the Instant Gratification Film Festival. However, that didn’t mean that the music of the night was necessarily over. A couple hundred yards away- practically on the other side of the festival- a stage had been set up by PIX for whoever felt brave enough to play. These acts were, by nature, unplugged; hell, the musicians were only visible thanks to a few people in the cross-legged audience with enough foresight to bring flashlights. This was the ground zero of folk punk; twenty-somethings playing borrowed guitars and screaming their lungs out as they sang about depression, alcoholism, and the futility of life. Within these acts- groups with names like The Whoopi Goldblum Experience, Happy Noodle Boy, and The Broken Glass Kids- I found a distilled concentrate of everything wonderful about folk punk. While each one of these acts held a unique musical identity, they all shared the same scrappy desperation to figure out what it means to live a life worth living.

 

 



Hoist The Colors honors late Pennywise bassist with cover of “I Can Remember”

Los Angeles folk-influenced punk act Hoist the Colors recently released a cover of the Pennywise song “I Can Remember” in honor of their late bassist, Jason Matthew Thirsk.

Thirsk passed away in July of 1996 and, even through death, still manages to touch the lives of musicians and punks alike. Hoist the Colors did a great job with this cover. Give it a listen below and let us know what you think.

Hoist the Colors has a new album coming out this September entitled “Mourners”, and it will serve as a follow up to their 2012′s “Miles to Go Before We Sleep”.



Music Video: AJJ – “Junkie Church”

AJJ (formerly known as Andrew Jackson Jihad) have released a new video for their song “Junkie Church.”

Check it out below.

“Junkie Church” comes from the bands’ upcoming album The Bible 2, which releases on August 19th through SideOneDummy Records. It will be the bands’ 6th full-length album, and their first since shortening their name to “AJJ.”