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DS Exclusive: SPELLS checking in the Chicago area

SPELLS, a self-described “vacation rock” quintet from Denver, CO, hit the greater Chicago area for a double shot of frenzied fun over the first weekend in February. Night one, on February 2, took place at Brauerhouse in Lombard, IL. SPELLS took the stage after several stand up comedians (including SPELLS singer Ben Roy) started the evening’s events. They shared the bill this night with The Bollweevils and Off With Their Heads.

February 3, the second night of the weekend, at the smaller Liars Club on the north side of Chicago, was a benefit for a beloved member of the Chicago punk rock scene, photographer, Patti Hummel, who is presently battling cancer. Hummel’s daughter Ranae Hummel is the girlfriend of Off With Their Heads frontman Ryan Young. Young described to me how his friendship with the band and weekend bill with SPELLS came about:

Off With Their Heads plays Denver all the time. I met Ben through stand up comedy friends and interviewed him for Anxious and Angry. We hit it off and kept in touch. We played with SPELLS at a festival in Denver and I hit it off with the rest of the band as well. They have a vibe that’s great to set the tone for almost any show. I saw that and thought it would be cool to bring them on tour with OWTH and Iron Chic because I knew they would do just that: set the tone for a fun night. I had Ben come on the road with me for a week doing stand up on my last acoustic tour. Then I flew the whole band to Chicago to finish out the tour with us. I am helping them release a couple records in the near future as well, so I wanted to get them to Chicago so they could do their thing in front of some new people. Definitely one of my favorite bands.

To describe fans of the two more widely known bands, as impressed by the Denver quintet, would be more than a mild understatement. And there is good reason diehard fans of The Bollweevils immediately felt a connection to SPELLS. Both groups are fronted by singers who in perpetual motion and are simply unable to remain static or on the official stage space of whatever venue in which the bands are performing. (Daryl Wilson of The Bollweevils and Ben Roy aka “Little” Stevie Shithead of SPELLS). Instead, Roy spent the majority of his time on the floor. A few perilous moments involving the microphone cord snaking around the legs and more northerly body parts of the crowd members could slow down neither Roy, nor those in attendance. At some point, one begins to wonder about the viability of cordless microphones when it comes to performers like Wilson/Roy.

One particular new fan of the band, Arielle Cunnea, who as fiancee to Death and Memphis’ Steev MF Custer, is no novice in viewing rollicking frontmen, likened Roy’s performance style to an evangelist preacher having a seizure during a big tent revival. Roy’s reaction:

Hahahaha. I’ll definitely take that as a compliment. I’ve always believed that there is no fourth wall in performance. If you want to just hear something, stay home and listen to your records. You come to a show to be a part of something. To witness something. And, most definitely not, I will never match Doc’s jumping. But I have other attributes. For instance, I didn’t see Doc (Daryl Wilson) put his hands in anyone’s mouth. Huh? That’s something. He probably didn’t because he’s a doctor and he realizes how utterly unhealthy that is for both parties involved.”

But SPELLS, as with Bollweevils, is not a one-man band. Guitarist Chuck Coffey aka Charlie “Continental” Stimsell; Don Bersell aka Duke “Box” Standard on bass; Drummer Rob Burleson aka Peter “P” Bohner; and; Lauren Shugrue aka Ella Suga on backup vocals power the sets with nary a breather from any one of them.

Who is SPELLS? BTW, no, cap locks did not get stuck. The band, formed years before the present occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania moved to DC, presents their name in manner similar to some of the current President’s 3 am tweets. However, this is apparently where any similarities cease.

Singer Ben Roy and Guitarist Chuck Coffey took time to reflect on the weekend shows in Chicago and Lombard, the band’s history; and its future.
Chuck: “Although technically formed at the end of 2012 I tend to think of us as having started in 2013. Our first show was February 2013 with myself, Ben, Rob and Don. Lauren joined us by the fall of 2013.”

And while Roy is a well known within the standup comedy world, other bands members have varied occupations external to SPELLS.
Chuck: “Outside of the band I run a record label and DJ company called Snappy Little Numbers. It’s my little entertainment conglomerate! I also produce records and work part-time at a children’s hospital. Rob does graphic design, Don is an engineer and Lauren is a coder.

Though this weekend was SPELLS’ first time in Chicago as a group, Ben Roy had already developed an affection for the city, “I’ve been to Chicago quite a few times, but only for comedy. I’ve done Zanie’s a bunch of times. I love Chicago. Great city. Great people.” {Roy also performed stand up sets at both shows with fellow comedians as a part of Spare Parts West.}

Chuck Coffey,is well versed in the Second City’s storied punk rock history:
I know Chicago has a long and interesting history as far as punk and music in general goes. I’m a big fan of The Effigies, Articles Of Faith, Naked Raygun, Big Black, Pegboy, The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, The Bollweevils, 88 Fingers Louie, Slapstick, The Broadways. I could go on and on. Touch & Go stuff. I also really like some of the more recent bands like Negative Scanner, Heavy Times, Cococoma, Tyler Jon Tyler. I’m a HoZac and Trouble In Mind fan in general. Of course OWTH (duh! But maybe they’re from MN?). We’re also old friends with the gang in Planes Mistaken For Stars and Git Some. Most members at one point or another have called Chicago home and a few of them came from Peoria, which is just down the highway a few hours. I’m sure there are a million sub-scenes, etc. I first started coming here on tour in 1998. Did a few shows with various bands at the Fireside Bowl, some at The Needle House, then Ronny’s and now Liar’s Club.”

Ben: “I love it. I have a few friends that live here. Plus a number of my friends are from there. It’s always had such a great comedy and music scene. Probably because Ol’ Man Winter spends five months out of the year screwing you all over. Nothing better to do than create great art.

This weekend for SPELLS clearly left a deep and lasting impression.
Chuck: “Very aware of The Bollweevils. Definitely an all-time fave. It was so fun not just to see them, but get to know them a little bit as people. I feel like we hit it off and we’ll share the stage with them again fairly soon whether it’s in Denver or another trip to Chicago. As for Chicago, everyone we met this weekend was super nice and we had an excellent time. I’ve found that in our little world we gravitate towards people, bands, venues, spaces etc that support counter-culture whether it’s a big city like Chicago or a small town on the high plains. As a general impression, Chicago is still a great music town.
As a kicker, Coffey adds, “I’d also say the Comfort Suites in Schiller Park is a very nice place to take a nap!

Ben: “The weekend was so fucking great. We were all fans of The Bollweevils prior to this trip, so it was amazing getting to hang and chat with those dudes. Such a fun group of people. A similar energy to ours as well. Always up for a great time, easy going, all about bringing the show to the folks in the crowd. There’s nothing better than loving a band’s tunes and then finding out you love the people in it as much. Ditto Off With Their Heads. I got to know Ryan through his podcast ‘Anxious and Angry’, but I loved their albums before I even met them. So to get to know those guys and find out what great people they are behind the scenes is a blast. They’re like family to us now.”


Chuck Coffey and Ben Roy expressed praise for both Brauerhouse and Liar’s Club but note that the latter is perfectly suited to their particular performance style:

Chuck: “Brauerhouse was a lot of fun too, but Liar’s is more like the places we usually play. We’re just very fortunate to have some rad bands invite us to do some rad things.”

Ben: “Both kicked ass for different reasons. Staff was awesome at Brauerhouse. Lots of people. That’s always fun. But Liar’s Club as Chuck said is more our speed.

Coffey and Roy traced back for me their affinity for the cozier confines of Liar’s Club (about which Roy’s fellow comedian Bill Burr affection describes his night there in one of his monologues. Burr also named an episode of his animated series F is for Family “Liar’s Club.” The “reality” show Ghost Hunters also did an episode on Liar’s Club but perhaps better to leave that for another time).

Chuck: “The first few shows we played in Denver either had no stage or a single step-up stage. When we booked our first show at a venue with a taller stage, Rob figured Ben wasn’t gonna stay on the stage so why should the rest of us? It’s so fun being on the floor and having more of an interaction with our friends and the people that are nice enough to come see us. It’s just become our thing in Denver. On the road, that’s more difficult to control. I think we approach every show the same way in that we totally try to blow the roof off the joint, but audience proximity does make a difference. There’s such a shared energy when playing on the floor or small stage in a small room. That’s what I felt at Liar’s and I think we all felt that.”

Ben: ”Flat out, I don’t like being on big stages. I want everyone to be a part of the show in one way or another. Plus they point the lights directly into your face. I want to feel people’s sweat and breath and shit. Once the attention is turned to them, I want to see the fear in their eyes change to a smile or anger or intensity or whatever. That means they’re present. It’s easy to become complacent as an audience member when a band is separated from you.

Daryl Wilson, a veteran in the punk rock scene, was not completely unfamiliar with Ben Roy prior to sharing the bill recently. “Those who can’t is brilliant! Even has my buddy Kyle Kinane. Perfect!

Taking a brief detour from SPELLS to note, “Those Who Can’t,” on truTV, is awaiting the airing of its 3rd season. The show, which has received strong reviews and a bit of a cult following, centers on three less than fully inspirational teachers at fictional Denver, CO school, Smoot High. Ben Roy, is one of the creators of the show with Andrew Orvedahl and Adam Cayton-Holland, his fellow founding members of Denver Comedy troupe The Grawlix. Roy portrays Billy Shoemaker, a terminally angry yet somewhat idealist history teacher with full sleeves of ink and a punk rock past. In avoiding a lazy trope, Shoemaker is not considered the cool teacher. Or rather the cooler of the teachers to the extent that any of them are considered at all cool. Spoiler for those yet unfamiliar with the show, the only member of the trio considered at all cool, is Spanish teacher Loren Payton, and only from the perspective of their boss, the always trying to look on the bright side, Principal Geoffrey Quinn (Rory Scovel).

Reflecting on the weekend with SPELLS, and in particular fellow frontman Ben Roy, Daryl Wilson told me:
Ben is a guy after my own heart! I had a great time watching him performing and experiencing the fun, in your face, raw energy of his presence. He is funny as funny can be, and I loved chatting and laughing with him.”
Wilson elaborates, “Playing with SPELLS was like hanging with our brothers and sisters in arms. They know how to have fun and truly enjoy the experience of playing live. They know that a show is about putting on a show, not just playing great music. And they play some catchy fucking tunes!

Speaking of tunes: “Catchy fucking tunes” is a solid descriptor. But whilst the music sounds upbeat, inducing both toe-tapping and head-bopping, the lyrics often, in a great tradition of punk rock, belie something a bit darker:
One example can be heard in the lyrics to a song that can easily be adopted as a fist-pumping anthem or a mission statement of sorts, “80% is Good Enough.”

“Now I live my life by a certain set
Of principles, they aren’t hard to get
I only work till I’m certain you’re pleased
And leave the rest for all the “get-aheads
……
Lying awake and I’m racing fast
Cause I worked so hard that they own me
8 out of 10, and I gave enough
Why fill mine up when it’s clear your cup is constantly overflowing?
80% seems good enough…”

Asked to describe the genesis of this particular song:
Chuck, “We were adamantly against perfectionism, mostly because people don’t notice so why drive ourselves crazy trying to be perfect? Don would just casually say “80%” whenever completing a task. Fast-forward to SPELLS and it was something Don and I still rolled with. I asked Ben to write lyrics to the title “If 80% Is Good Enough For Me, Then It’s Definitely Good Enough For You” which then got shortened to “80% Is Good Enough” and it became our band mantra. We’re all on board with it. There are times when 110% is called for and times when 0% is called for. It all balances out to 80% being good enough most of the time.”

Coffey continues: “Pick Me Up”, “Bustin’ Out” and “I Don’t Feel At All” are some of my more serious lyrics and “Pick Me Up” happens to be one of our poppiest songs. I like the balance we seem to have between light and dark lyrically. We even have some darker sounding songs musically, but they don’t seem to stay in the set too long. They’re still fun to play though.

SPELLS’songwriting,however, is collaborative:
Chuck: “The typical approach to songwriting in SPELLS is for me to come up with the music first on guitar. I might have an idea for vocals, I might not. I’ll usually record a demo and send it off to Ben for vocals. He comes up with most of the lyrics but I pitch in here and there. While that’s happening, I jam on the tune with Rob. Although I often have a structure in mind I’m never opposed to trying different things. Sometimes I’ll skip the initial demo in favor of working a song out with Rob first. Once Rob and I have the song down, we do another demo to send back to Ben so he can finalize his vocals. Don and Lauren then come in and learn the song. It has to pass Don’s final edit, he has a good ear for the little things we miss. Lauren and I lock down our final spots for additional vocals and then the song is done. It takes the whole band to make the song what it becomes. Ben has also written some music lately and some of our newer tunes have more room for Lauren to sing. I’d like to think the band keeps evolving, even if we’re not inventing anything groundbreaking…As for the content of our songs, Ben is actually a pretty serious lyricist. He tackles a variety of topics and I think he does it well. “Forget About Virginia,” “Asphalt Navajo,” I’ll Leave Before June;”and “Deceiver” are some examples. Although he’s written a couple sets of upbeat lyrics, most of the tongue-in-cheek lyrics come from me. “Jet Set,” “Big Boring Meeting; and “She Wants To Die Before I Do” come to mind. I’ve done a couple sets of serious lyrics, but by and large I’m not too serious a person. Sometimes I’ll just have a song title I like, a line I like, or a chant I’ve spelled out and Ben will run with it. That’s how “S-P-E-L-L-S Spells SPELLS (SPELLS Rules)” came about. I just enjoy creating and sharing.”

Ben: “I definitely tend to write more serious content. But I’ve always done that. I started playing in my first band at fourteen or fifteen, and it was always an outlet for whatever dogshit I was going through. I’ve never lost it. This was the first band I’ve been in that had this laid back, party type vibe to it. But I just kept doing what I’ve always been doing and mixing that with Chuck’s aesthetic. Although, don’t let Chuck fool you. Chuck writes a bunch of horrifically sad songs. See “Pick Me Up” and “Bustin’ Out”.

Roy’s description of “laid back party vibes” as well as one of the group’s mainstays: coordinated outfits worn by members (more on that in short order) leads to wondering if there is concern that SPELLS might be written off as another band with another schtick, Coffey expresses no reservations.

Being described as a party band doesn’t bother me. I think it just means we’re fun. We’re having fun when we’re playing and if it’s fun for other people in the room that’s awesome. I’m really not worried about people understanding us one way or the other. I have no expectations. I think if someone gets anything from our music that’s cool. It could be a fun vibe, it could be relating to a lyric, whatever. I’d like to think we’re all pretty independent, progressive people and it shows in how we live our lives more than the kind of band we are.

Now to the fashion “statement” from the band:

Chuck: “Rob and I decided from day one we wanted to have matching outfits. We were heavily influenced by 50’s & 60’srock ‘n’ roll and R & B acts. So many classic groups had matching outfits, especially the girl groups of Motown. We also happen to love Rocket From The Crypt so that’s a more recent example. Ben and Don were cool with the idea. We were a little haphazard with our outfits to start with, but once Lauren hopped on board we got more coordinated. We do wear Loudmouth clothing during most of our shows. They have fun patterns that offer more than just matching by a single color or cut. It’s technically golf-wear, but we don’t care… Lauren, Rob and Ben watch for sales and send links out to everyone. Once we agree, we order our sizes and that’s that.

Coffey muses that Loudmouth might have reason to offer a sponsorship deal: “They have yet to sponsor us which is too bad. They would totally have the small-band-no-one-has-ever-heard-of market locked up with us.

Ben: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I’m not quite sure how that pertains to this question or our band for that matter, but you’ll figure it out. Make it work or something.“

So, what are some of the immediate plans for SPELLS?

Chuck: “We just released a new 7” EP called “Big Boring Meeting”. In July we’ll be releasing an LP called “Loose Change, Vol. 1”. It will have our out-of-print cassettes and digital-only releases on vinyl for the first time and all the songs have been remastered. It’s sort of a time capsule of our first two years as a band. Nobody asked for it, but they’re gonna get it anyways.”

Coffey also provided further information on Snappy Little Numbers which he started in 2011 and of which he lists his title as “Head Honcho”. They are presently working on several releases, “the latest of which will be our 37th and counting. We are distributed exclusively by Recess Ops.

Ben: “We’re going to be doing some sporadic shows all over the place this year. Keep an eye out on our web page {https://www.spellsrules.com/ } for it.”

Chuck: “SPELLS is playing Denver in March, May and July. Nothing planned after that but that will change. Rob and I are the rhythm section for Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart and play the occasional show with him. I play bass with some buds in a band called Bad Year too. I’ll be producing albums for Friends Of Cesar Romero and Cheap Perfume this spring and summer respectively while continuing to release records through Snappy Little Numbers. Gonna do some DJing too. Rob is going to Mexico soon, Don is going to DC for the summer and Lauren just bought a house.

Ben: “Bunch of stand up. Follow me on Twitter (@benroy00) and Facebook to follow.

SPELLS music can be found spellsrules.com, spellsrules.bandcamp.com, snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com, snappylittlenumbers.storenvy.com, snappylittlenumbers.blogspot.com.


Returning back around to “Those Who Can’t.” I was actually aware of this show for about a year prior to see SPELLS at Liars, having stumbled upon it while it streamed on HULU in addition to its home of truTV.
In addition to what was already noted above, I would be remiss if I did not ask Ben Roy about any similarities which may exist between himself and Billy Shoemaker.

Ben: “I would say my character on “Those Who Can’t” is a very cartoonish version of my real self. I tend to be a pandora’s box of emotions. I’m not that extreme, but I’ve been known to oscillate between angry, crying, laughing, and calm in far too short of time frames. I’m just an emotional person and that comes out in that character. And that’s already happening, even while I’m in a band. At least for my family. I never played organized sports or anything, so I don’t have tales of glory from the playing field. So I torture my wife and son with stories of shows I played; over and over and over again.
“Those Who Can’t” Season 3 air date on truTV is yet to be announced but the first two seasons can be found at truTV.com in addition to various cable providers’ OnDemand packages as well as at ITunes, Amazon; and Sling.

SPELLS left in their wake in Chicago, many new fans of both their music and new fans of “Those Who Can’t;” as well as numerous new friends.

And both SPELLS and The Bollweevils are taking away from the weekend an excitement for sharing future bills. So when might SPELLS return to the Windy City?

Chuck: “Whenever Ryan Young or Daryl Wilson tells us we’re coming back.

Ben: “Or Pegboy!!! Or any other rad Chicago band. But I’ll be back soon to tell jokes. I love coming there to make the funny.”

The two men also describe what makes their music scene in Denver so special and encourage some of their new Chicago fans and friends to soon visit the Mile High City. They also have plenty of recommendations for first timers to Denver:

Chuck: “Denver is large enough to have a few different punk scenes. There are dive bars, all ages clubs and DIY spaces for all sorts of different sounds and people. It’s not uncommon for some bands to span scenes, but by and large people and bands tend to move towards one scene more than the others. We’re in more of the dive bar scene as far as being a band goes. We play and will continue to play in other venues, but we’re most at home in the dive bars. If you’re a first time visitor to Denver and you like punk (or other forms of independent music) you could see shows at the Hi-Dive, Three Kings and Larimer Lounge (bars); The Marquis (all ages club); Club Scum and 1010 Workshop (DIY spaces). You could check out records at Wax Trax, Mutiny, Black & Read and Chain Reaction. Mutiny is also a great place for coffee and books. There are a bunch of other places, but those would be my personal starting points.”

Ben: “Check out these kick-ass Denver bands: Dirty Few, Bud Bronson and the Good Timers, Cheap Perfume, Allot Helter, Colfax Speed Queen, Fathers, Native Daughters, Pale Horse/Pale Rider, The Velveteers, Dressy Bessy, Itchy-O, Plastic Daggers, Lawsuit Models, Black Dots… Man, I could go on and on and on. So much amazing music in the scene. Come party with us.

Wilson: “I felt like we knew these guys forever. Just naturally drawn to them all and had easy conversation. Can’t wait to hang with them again and destroy some stages. Pure fun.”



DS Exclusive: My Year in Photos 2017 (Meredith Goldberg)

2017 provided me many great opportunities to document the punk rock scene. Most especially, the punk rock scene in my adopted city of Chicago. For my compilation of my favorite images of 2017, I am including a mix of my faves from both veterans bands well known nationally and even internationally; and upstart groups grinding out their place in the punk rock world. I also am including images both published here, heretofore not featured in any online or hard copy publications. These were exciting and compelling shows. If you see any of these bands (hover over pictures in the gallery to catch the names) coming through your city, town; or general area I suggest checking them out! Check out the full gallery below!



DS Exclusive: 2017 A Year in Pictures (AnarchoPunk – Los Angeles)

2017 was an awfully busy year for me! I shot four festivals and an uncountable amount of local shows here in The City of Angeles. But for as frantic as it was there was also some pretty big payoffs. My year was filled with multiple life goals like getting to shoot Rancid, Bad Religion and Propagandhi all for the first time. And through it all, I got to meet tons of great folks, all of which deserve thanks in one way or another but would take too much time to acknowledge here. So, I’ll instead just say thanks to the incredible bands that allowed me to take their pictures while most likely being uncomfortably close to them! Keep up all of the great work and I can’t wait to see you all again in 2018! Check out my personal favorite shots from almost every set I shot this year, below!

*For more pics, follow Dying Scene and my personal page over at Instagram!



DS Photo Gallery: Night Two of Street Dogs Wreck The Halls 2017 (w/Pinkerton Thugs and The Abductors)

Last weekend marked the twelfth installment of Boston street punk veterans Street Dogs‘ annual Wreck The Halls festivities. The shows have taken a variety of shapes and sizes over the years, but remain one of the annual occasions where all of the old punks and skins and hardcore kids get together for a few debaucherous nights to celebrate the holidays and the music and the scene (oh, and to raise money and toys for a few good causes). This year, Wreck The Halls took place in a new spot, Sinclair in Cambridge, and spanned three overwhelmingly successful nights. Street Dogs guitarist Lenny Lashley’s other main project, The New Darkbuster, opened the first night (Thursday) alongside Boston hardcore act Taxi Driver, though sadly, we weren’t in the house for that night. We were, however, in the house for nights two and three and somehow lived to tell the tale!

The Abductors got things off to a flying start on night number two (Friday). The Connecticut based outfit have spent most of their eight-year history as a four piece, but they’ve recently added none other than Ritchie Bruiser of the seminal New Hampshire hardcore band The Bruisers on second guitar, beefing up their already beefy, high-powered Oi!-infused street punk sound.

Continuing the throwback New England-centered punk rock theme of the weekend, next up to bat were none other than The Pinkerton Thugs. The four-piece have been on-again and more typically off-again over the years, but have been newly reformed around Paul Russo and recently released their final LP, 2000’s End Of An Era, on vinyl for the first time. The Pinkerton Thugs came of age in the mid-to-late 1990s, the last real formative golden era for the Boston area punk music scene, and yet somehow, according to the spreadsheet I keep from all my show-going years, I don’t think I’d ever seen them before (even though a kid I went to high school with played drums for the Thugs for a while). It took 21 years, but another one off the old time bucket list!

Which brings us to Street Dogs. After an interlude that consisted of a live rendition Bruce Springsteen covering timeless Woody Guthrie classic “This Land Is Your Land” proudly leading the show-goers in a singalong, the band came flying out of the gate with “Savin Hill,” the ode to frontman Mike McColgan’s formative stomping grounds. The Street Dogs lineup has varied a little over the years, but I’ll be damned if the roster we’ve been graced with the last four or five years (McColgan and longtime bassist Johnny Rioux backed by Pete Sosa on drums and Lenny Lashley and Matt Pruitt on guitar) isn’t the tightest and most powerful edition to date. The band obviously earned their stripes as a true blue collar, working-class punk rock band and have the pedigree to back it up, but they are also underrated as a straight-up rock-and-roll band. Sure McColgan spends a fair amount of the set at the barricade, surrounded by fans singing in unison and not only invites but takes part in crowd surfing and making old-fashioned circle pits, but there are also equal shades of Roger Daltrey and Keith Richards and Brad Delp in the way he struts and jives and belts out primal-level screams when necessary.

The setlist on this particular night was probably the deepest I’ve seen them play in this lineup, ranging from a fairly obscure early demo (“Locked and Loaded” which, I must point out, was predicted by my good friend Nick Gold in a pre-show chat) to a brand-new song, “Stand For Something.” The latter is slated to appear on the band’s forthcoming full-length, which is slated for release probably early in the springtime via Century Media, and is destined to be an instant classic, as evidenced by the volume of the people that had heard the song the previous night and were chanting the song’s singalong chorus in unison already. CJ Ramone hopped on stage to assume lead vocal duties for a rousing rendition of the Ramones’ classic “53rd & 3rd,” during the encore, and half the crowd (including the same luchador-masked crowd surfer I mentioned in the Bouncing Souls show review a couple weeks ago) hopped on stage for the set-closing “Borstal Breakout,” originally penned by Sham 69 and adapted for the Boston scene by the Street Dogs themselves years ago.

Head below to see our photo gallery, and stay tuned for our shots from the Wreck The Halls finale, featuring Michael Kane and the Morning Afters and A Wilhelm Scream! Oh…and we’ll also have more to say about that coming Street Dogs full-length coming down the ‘pike very soon!



Turkey, Pumpkin Pie, and Punk Rock – Pegboy, Bollweevils and more in Chicago

“Thanksgiving Eve” and the extended holiday weekend in Chicago had the city hopping with terrific shows. I covered a few of them.

Thanksgiving Eve at First Ward ChopShop was headlined Pegboy, The Bollweevils pretty much co-headliners; with Airstream Futures out of St. Louis; and Breakmouth Annie also on the bill.

It was Pegboy’s first show back in their hometown after terrific receptions at two recent festivals, the most recent being in Brazil. This was first international trip for “Skinny” Mike Thompson and he described it to me as “incredible.”
Pegboy, in recent years has rarely left the state of Illinois to perform. To their beloved hometown crowd they brought their classics, including lead singer and guitarist Larry Damore’s classic uniform of white t-shirt and blue jeans. In the crowd, the team #WeAreLarry #CultofDamore, a small group of big Pegboy fan whom also happen to be close friends with the band members, also sported that same uniform.

Damore himself made fun of his usual hitting the floor with exhaustion. However, he impressively lasted nearly an hour before lying down on the job. Damore punching the air throughout the set and leaving the stage as he crowd surfed, caused a frenzy in full measure with Pegboy bandmates, lead guitarist John Haggerty, the gold standard of punk rock guitarists; John’s brother Joe Haggerty powering through on drums, and bass player “Skinny” Mike Thompson roaming the stage and cranking up the intensity. Thompson, appeared not to just playing his bass but the bass seemed to be another of his limbs as he folded himself over time and time again. At times it became difficult to distinguish the instrument from the player of said instrument.

Pegboy started their set with “Not What I Want,” and jammed through 15 songs including classics “Superstar,” “DangerMare,” “Strong Reaction,” “Revolver” (their great cover of Mission of Burma’s “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver” and the song Damore has routinely described as making him financially independent) and “Through My Fingers.”

Their classic and moving “Strong Reaction,” which has been covered live numerous times by well known artists, has been getting renewed attention, in big part due to Chuck Ragan speaking publicly about how Pegboy has inspired him. Ragan and his Hot Water Music bandmates pay homage to the tune in the first line of the song “Never Going Back” from their new album Light It Up— “Had a strong reaction waking up.”

Full Disclosure and personal note: I am friends with the band members, especially Skinny Mike and Larry. Larry and I had actually discussed “Strong Reaction” and what it meant to me less than a week earlier when we hung out a Liar’s Club show. So this show was a first for me: It was the first time I ever joined the lead singer on the mic, informally and spontaneous as it was. Whilst shooting the show, I had to sit partly on the stage to work amidst the chaos and Larry came over and put his arm around me and I helped him sing that tune. This was truly a verklempt-inducing moment for me.

However, I am glad no footage of that has surfaced as of yet, because as a singer, I am a great photographer.

Still, just another example of how punk rock is about more than just getting rowdy, the connections between those who write the songs and those who find meaning in them cannot be underestimated. One just need to listen to few of the lyrics to “Strong reaction” – “ I walk alone through the sleet and snow and pouring rain to…Get my heart broken, forever ever lost inside of…I walk along to slip and fall on strong reactions…Keep my heart broken, never ever amend myself…That’s all right and that’s okay” — whatever Damore’s personal motivation or his own story behind his writing, no doubt many people can take those lyrics and relate to them in some measure.

However, the crowd was not filled with just locals. Karring Moan flew in from his present home in the Twin Cities of for this show. Moan is a long time fan of both bands, “I try to go to most Pegboy shows actually. My first punk show ever was Pegboy at Fireside Bowl in the mid ’90s, and it was just one of those moments that changed my musical taste — or at least what I wanted to experience in music. And the fact the Bollweevils were playing too meant that it was a no brainer of a show. I still have the flyer from that first Pegboy show…”

The Bollweevils were the penultimate set and they too spend some time rocking on the international fest set. This past August, they played Rebellion in Blackpool. Dr. Daryl Wilson, aka the Punk Rock Doc, punctuated the space above the stage with numerous high jumps that makes one wonder if he competed in the track part of the track and field as a high schooler. Surely the combination of his 6’5″ frame and ability to grab massive air would have served him well in several events.

As it was Wilson did not spend his entire time on stage. He often ventured into the crowd where he shared the mic with the enthusiastic crowd and diehard Bollweevils fan. The 14 song set list started off with “Honesty Isn’t so Simple,” and included “Fencesitter,” “Bottomless Pit”, “Peggy Sue”, “Galt’s Gulch”, “John Doe”, “Altered States” “999-Stoney” and of course their call to fun,“Bollweevils Anthem.”

Wilson is one of the subjects in the documentary, “Men: the Series.” The film tells the stories of four African-American men, one of whom is Dr. Daryl Wilson. Wilson is by day is EMS Medical Director at Edward Hospital in Naperville, IL.

Remaining on the stage but providing just as much power for the Bollweevils are the two Petes: Peter Mittler on bass, and Pete Mumford on drums. Mumford seems to always have a smile on his face, look of pure joy as he smashes the skins. What is going through his mind as he plays? This is how Mumford described it to me recently: “I normally don’t really think of anything at all when I’m playing. When I’m on stage, I like to look at the people in the crowd acting like idiots and having fun…that always makes me smile. I like to make stupid faces at the people I know too. So yeah, not thinking much…just trying to have as much fun as I can.”

Mittler said this about playing in The Bollweevils: “I love playing in this band with guys I love and have so much in common with. I also think that it’s the heaviest drinking band I’ve ever been in.”
This is a sentiment shared by his bandmate, guitarist Ken Fitzner. Fitzner is arguably the Chicago Public School system’s coolest elementary school principal. Fitzner brings the serious chops, and the communal bottle of Makers Mark. He also seconds Mittler’s description of the allure of playing in The Bollweevils: “yes hardest drinking band.”

As for some of The Bollweevils most diehard and long time fans? Patrick Lancor of Chicago remembers his first show: “I was the kid on Fullerton at the Fireside with a 40oz of Big Bear standing at the corner fucking with the red laces. Then a giant showed up, like 6′ 5″ or some shit. His name was Daryl, and he had a 3-liter of RC Cola in hand.”

As I noted above, for all intents and purposes Pegboy and The Bollweevils were co-headliners, no matter that Pegboy’s name was at the very top of the bill.

Daryl Wilson joined Larry Damore at the mics. Though they joked about Ebony and Ivory,”” the song closing out the night was Pegboy’s “Hardlight.” And they left the crowd smiling…and exhausted. Which is exactly how one should feel at the end of a great night punk rock.

In addition to the veteran groups co-headlining the show, first two bands on the bill, Breakmouth Annie out of St. Louis; and Chicago’s Airstream Futures provided far more than just a warm up. Both groups got the crowd moving and rowdy.

But terrific music this weekend also happened at least twice at Liar’s (likely three times but I was on site twice).




Friday was a night to recover from any family drama and over-eating that might have occurred on Thanksgiving. It was also a night to celebrate the birthday of lifelong skateboarder Abe Linders who turned… well a bit over 21 and let’s leave it at that. While he pulled no tricks on the cozy stage indicating that he was too old for that well we know how the line goes. His band Fastplants, out of Waukegan, needed no tricks to provide fast-moving punk rock. Linders described the origin of the band name, “We’re all skateboarders none pro. A fastplant is a skateboarding trick that none of us are able to do.”

Stomping Grounds is American Oi!/punk band formed a decade ago and members describe the band as product of the tough working class culture found on the streets of Chicago’s south side and Northwest Indiana. Lead singer/guitarist Marcus is a Chicago Fireman, His twin, E.J. commands the drums and is also a writer; Matt on rhythm guitar is a member of the Indiana Teachers Union; Dmitri on bass wears his blue-collar proudly as well.

Paulie Think brought his unique brand of Hip Hop Folk-Punk to Liars. This time on stage fronting Shots Fired Shots Fired, he sounded out on the President Trump and his administration. Needless to say, he is apparently is not a fan of the 45th President of the United States.

Sunday brought the 5th annual Punksgiving Food Drive and Benefit. Among the acts featured this night were the Anti-Trumpz and Squared Off. The Anti-Trumpz may be one of the first punk bands founded and focused completely on protesting President Donald Trump. They classify themselves as protest punk and their mission statement on Facebook is: “Playing loud music, Fighting the powers that be, Corrupting the corrupt system, Speaking the truth, Empowering the people, Sticking up for the downtrodden.” The founding date of the band is listed as November 8, 2016, as in the date of the presidential election. With a set list including: “Trump Nation,” “Thanx for makin’ me a Target”, “China is comin’ fo Texas”, “Uncle Sam’s a Peepin’ Tom”,“Up to Us”, “Do the Pussy Grab”, “Dump Trump,” and they are about neither political subtlety nor apathy. This is their punk rock version of right of the redress of grievances provided in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Chicago blue-collar stalwarts Squared Off are veterans of the stage at Liar’s Club and never fail to stir the crowd to full on chaos. Sunday night was another example of this as they performed a set including, “Haymarket Riots,”“ My World,” “As one”,“Instigator,” “The rail,” “B.C. Boys”; and “Blue Collar Cry.”

The night was a success in raising almost $200 and a many bags full of non-perishable food donations for the Greater Chicago Food Depository. It was also a terrific way to close out his holiday weekend. But hey, in a few weeks, there will be Christmas shows followed in quick succession by New Years’ to keep the holidays rocking.



DS Photo Gallery: OC45 Boston Homecoming Show, with Diablogato and On The Cinder

One of these days, one of the Boston-area bands that’s spent the last handful of years plying their wares in local divey establishments like O’Brien’s and the Midway Cafe and Koto is going to break through to the next level and usher in a new golden era of Boston punk rock. Maybe it’ll be Rebuilder, or perhaps Choke Up, or even Save Ends or The Hotelier. But if it’s going to be the hardest-working band in the scene to break through, that title would have to go to none other than OC45. In addition to a handful of late summer East Coast dates with Teenage Bottlerocket, the foursome spent the better part of two months on the road in the States earlier this year and headed across the pond for the first time, playing two weeks worth of shows. Upon their return, it was right back on the Stateside roads where they closed another four weeks on tour with a homecoming show at Boston’s Great Scott on Sunday night.

In some ways, OC45 are a throwback to an era in Boston history that’s fallen by the wayside. There was a time when the city was not only renowned for being a tough, gritty place to live and work, but wore that reputation like a badge of honor and spawned a tough, gritty, hard-working music scene as a result. But the Boston of the last fifteen years or so is a different, increasingly safe and gentrified and tech-savvy place to be, and I can’t quite put my finger on what the music scene even is nowadays (check out the lineups of the last few years of the Bosotn Calling Music Festival and you’ll note a lack of anything resembling “grit”). OC45 are loud, brash, high-energy, snotty, dirty and booze-infused, and seem to genuinely take pride in their community and on working their asses off. Last Sunday night was no exception, as the fellas were welcomed home to a loud, vocal crowd that was worked into a circle pit and a seemingly never-ending stream of stage-invaders from the opening notes.

Local band Diablogato provided direct support on the evening. Trying to affix a label to Diablogato is a bit difficult, but they were a refreshing change of pace wedged between two street punk bands. “Rockabilly” is probably the default label most people would affix to them, but that’s not quite right. They’re not quite psychobilly, not quite Stray Cat strutters, not quite a soul-infused rock band, and yet they’re all of those things at the same time. Regardless, they’re a bunch of scene veterans who’ve been in myriad bands over the years who combine like a sort of devilbilly Voltron and, as a result, fit in with a slew of different genres while carving out a sound that’s strictly theirs. Wait, is devilbilly a thing? It is now!

On The Cinder opened the show, as they’d been tourmates with OC45 for the last week. The Buffalo-based trio share a lot in common with their Boston-bred tour buddies stylistically and sonically, which was much appreciated by the crossover crowd, many of whom seemed almost as familiar with the out-of-towners as they were with the home team.

Head below for our full photo gallery of the evening. Oh, and serious props to whoever booked a three-band bill on a Sunday night. Maybe I’m showing my age here, but five or six bands on a bill is tedious and some of us have to work in the morning, damnit. Nice work, Great Scott!



DS Photo Gallery: Hot Water Music with Big Jesus and Bundles, Cambridge, MA

Hot Water Music made their long-awaited return to the Boston area last Friday night, playing to a packed house at the Sinclair in Cambridge that sold out long before the show actually took place. Touring in support of their most recent studio album, Light It Up (released September 15th via Rise Records), the genre-defining four-piece were playing down a man, with Chris Wollard sitting out this run of shows to focus on taking care of anxiety and stress-related issues. However, just like they did at Fest last month, they called on the help of a pretty well-respected friend to fill Wollard’s shoes. That, of course, was none other than Flatliners frontman Chris Cresswell.

If Cresswell had the pre-game jutters that might be expected when filling in on the sold-out first night of a run with a highly influential band fifteen years his senior, he didn’t show them. The show’s twenty-one song setlist did steer more heavily toward the Chuck Ragan sung end of the catalog, and Ragan took over lead vocal duties on the new track, “Vultures,” but Cresswell did Wollard justice on such staples as “A Flight and A Crash,” “Paper Thin,” and, of course, “Trusty Chords.” Ragan, who sounded as solid and high-energy as he ever has, seemed on more than one occasion to look on in proud admiration at his new stage-left counterpart. For their part they rhythm section core of Jason Black (bass) and George Rebelo (drums) were a lock-tight gas pedal, which, while they’ve been playing together for the better part of a quarter-century, is not necessarily an easy task given that it was the first night of a brief three-day tour for a band that doesn’t live on the road nearly the way they did earlier in their respective careers. Rebelo’s recent turn behind the drumkit with Bouncing Souls has provided his playing with a little bit of an added, uptempo spark, which seems to play right into the nimble-fingered Black’s wheelhouse. It may not have been the traditional Hot Water Music lineup that has been so long-revered in this scene, but goddamn it still felt pretty special.

Big Jesus provided direct support on all three shows on this run. Trying to narrow down the sound of Big Jesus to one definable genre is a bit on the difficult side, but they’ve got a sludgy, swampy metal guitar attack that’s offset by bassist/vocalist Spencer Ussery’s airy, melodic vocals that have drawn comparisons to Smashing Pumpkins but are really more like Silversun Pickups-meets-Clutch. They were apparently “discovered” and subsequently managed by the Madden brothers, though you’d honestly never guess that from their sound or their look. 

Local three-piece Bundles, who’ve become increasingly beloved around these parts, were added to the bill to kick off the show only about a week or so ago, after it was announced that Strike Anywhere wouldn’t be on this particular date. We’ve caught the trio on longer bills at various smaller bars in Boston, so to get the chance to see them on the larger stage (editor’s note: we’re pretty sure O’Brien’s in Allston would fit on the stage at Sinclair, but we digress) was a bit of a proud moment that the band seemed to revel in. There’s is an updated, stripped down version of the sound pioneered by bands like Hot Water Music twenty-five years ago, but with lyrics that draw as much inspiration from classic literature as they do from personal pain and struggle. Fun opportunity for the band and it was awesome to see them as being up to the task.

Check out our full photo gallery below, and stay tuned for our sit-down with Hot Water Music’s Jason Black in the next few days!



DS Photo Gallery: Barb Wire Dolls, Svetlanas, 57 and The Devil’s Twins – Somerville, MA

So an interesting and noteworthy thing happened last Thursday night at a club called Thunder Road in Somerville, Massachusetts, the traditionally working-class city located immediately north of Boston. However, an evening that we thought, at the time was noteworthy for good reasons became noteworthy for negative reasons in the span of about twenty-four hours. I’ll explain…

Thursday night in Somerville should have marked the halfway turnaround point for one of the most internationally-diverse touring bills we’ve had come through this way in quite some time, which is compelling enough given the current sociopolitical environment but especially given the brazenness with which some members of the, shall we say ‘less culturally sensitive’ members of our society have been emboldened and empowered in displaying their less culturally sensitive ideas under the current administration. (Nazis, folks…we’re talking about Nazis.) Barb Wire Dolls hail originally from the Greek Island of Crete, and kicked off what should have been an impressive span of forty-one shows on October 6th in Laguna Niguel, California, that all featured support from controversial, in-your-face ex-Russian punks Svetlanas and South Korean alt-rock duo 57. The trio of bands should have wound their way clockwise through the lower 48 before coming to rest in Los Angeles on November 25th and it should have been a triumphant feat to behold. The road to hell is paved in good intentions, though, and tour date #22 in Somerville turned out to be the last. Because Nazis. New Hampshire Nazis.

57 kicked off this evening’s festivities and did what I imagine they did over the first three weeks of tour: caught a room full of unassuming Americans completely off guard. The duo (Jun plays guitar and sings, Snow plays drums) hail from Seoul, South Korea. They’ve been plying their wears throughout Asia and Europe for the last three years as a band, and and brought their show across The Pond for the first time for this tour. And what a show it is. Dynamic is the first word that came to mind, as the band have perfected the sort of loudQUIETloud sound originated by the Pixies a few decades ago, only if that sound were completely fuzzed out a la Sonic Youth and, of course, produced by only two people. The crowd was slow to arrive on this night (it never did really “fill out” in the traditional sense, leading a friend who was working the venue to make note of the seeming 1-to-1 press/photographer to crowd member ratio), meaning that the limited few of us in attendance were treated to a special, memorable performance. I have absolutely no prior knowledge of the South Korean music scene — K-Pop notwithstanding — but I will say that 57 deserve to be big no matter where they play.

Boston’s own The Devil’s Twins followed, providing local support for the evening. The band have been slowly, steadily making their way up the ranks of the local music scene, culminating in a few recent Boston Music Awards nominations. If you’re not from around here, the band have themselves billed as an “American Noir” band, and I’d say that is pretty accurate; there’s sort of a goth surf rock vibe combined with a black-and-white, throwback stage vibe that evokes images of a haunted Salem graveyard.

Which brings us to Svetlanas. Frontwoman Olga Svetlanas is all of five-foot-nothing and yet brings an intense stage presence that has earned her — and her band — a reputation as one of the most intense and powerful figures in our scene. Her band — Diste on drums, JJ on guitar and Steve Armeli on bass — plays loud, tight and fast, combining to create the effect of sweeping the show-goer up in a hard core punk rock cyclone. Those who complain that punk rock has become too safe or too tame in recent years would be well served to take in a Svetlanas show to regain their bearings. It’s brash; it’s aggressive; it’s political; it’s confrontational — Svetlanas are the real deal. You don’t have a choice but to pay attention when Olga and crew are playing; they bring the show right directly into the crowd. On this particular night, the crowd was trended largely male and largely of the “over-30” age bracket, yet was just as engaged and involved in the show as many a crowd half is age might be, not scared off but instead reveling in the politically controversial whirling dervish in their midst. As is usually the case when Svetlanas play, they more than stole the show, even if their set was cut a few songs short due to Diste’s obliteration of the kick drum!

Barb Wire Dolls closed the show out with an extensive, nay exhaustive, set that didn’t wrap up til the wee hours of Friday morning. By now the story of the Barb Wire Dolls and their having been signed personally by Lemmy Kilmister has been told far and wide. Co-founders Isis Queen (vocals) and Pyn Doll (guitar) have been touring endlessly for the better part of seven years with bit of a rotating cast behind them that currently (bassist Iriel Blaque, drummer Crash Doll and new rhythm guitar player Xtine Reckless) sounds and plays as tight as ever. The sound was a little thinner than might be expected with twin guitar attack, though that may have been a PA issue more than anything else. For a band with an international make-up, Barb Wire Dolls are a quintessentially Los Angeles rock and roll act; clad in leather and lace and oozing sweat and sex appeal through a chorus that owes as much to Nirvana as it does to The Clash (sometimes those musical comparisons are a little too close for comfort, but that’s a story for another day). Barb Wire Dolls seemed to be right at home on the larger stages afforded by their stint on the Warped Tour this past summer and their stage show more than fills the smaller confines of a club show; as evidenced above, Isis Queen and the gang left it all on stage (and, in fact, off the stage as well after she took an unplanned tumble off a wobbly monitor early in the set only to escape seemingly unscathed).

Sadly, as it turns out, this would mark the last night this trio of touring bands would appear on a bill together in the States. The following night in Manchester, NH, brought with it an incident in which an individual in Nazi paraphernalia showed up at the show. Threats were made (and continue to be made), safety was jeopardized, and ultimately, Svetlanas refused to play that particular show. In the day that followed and in a story that’s still developing, both Svetlanas and 57 have dropped what should have been a triumphant “fuck you” to the xenophobic members of the power structure and the rank and file it supports.

Check out our full gallery from the evening below.



DS Photo Galley: Racquet Club and Mercy Union, Cambridge, MA (10/16/17)

 

For those that were paying attention, a fun bit of punk scene history took place just under the radar upstairs at the legendary Middle East nightclub in Cambridge, MA, a couple of nights ago. The centerpiece of the evening’s festivities was the East Coast debut of Racquet Club, the latest brainchild of Blair Shahan and Sergie Loobkoff, the latter obviously of Samiam fame. Racquet Club became a thing only recently after the reunion shows that Shahan and Loobkoff’s previous band, Knapsack, played a handful of years ago after what had been a decade-and-a-half absence. After the demise of Knapsack, Shahan went on to front The Jealous Sound for a number of years, and recruited that band’s last drummer, Bob Penn, to join him when the new, post-Knapsack project with Loobkoff started. The rhythm section on the new project would be rounded out by Ian Smith, who previously played bass in a band called Mercy Beat with Sam from The Bravery (remember them, kids??). Put ’em all together and what’ve you got? Racquet Club!

The foursome put out their self-titled full-length debut album three weeks ago via Rise Records and headed out on their first headlining tour this week, stopping in Chicago before making their way down the East Coast. Cambridge marked only their third headlining show, though you wouldn’t necessarily know that by watching them. Penn and Smith were a thunderously tight anchor, keeping the low end rocking hard and heavy to drumstick-shattering results. Their dynamic playing provided reliable foundation for Shehan and Loobkoff to build and soar off. Given the songwriting parts involved, there is an element of familiarity to the melodies, though Shahan’s tone is a bit more hopeful than from the Jealous Sound/Knapsack days. Loobkoff’s trademark SG-divebombs are as angular and textured as ever, even if he snapped his high E string halfway through the set and forged ahead as a five-string player for the duration of the set, that included the band’s entire album in reordered fashion. The crowd was a tad thinner than some (read as: me) had hoped, though it was a Monday night for sure. Still, those in attendance were legit fans, many singing along for the duration of the set.

Opening this week-long stretch of the Racquet Sound East Coast trek is four-piece New Jersey band Mercy Union, whom you probably think you’ve not heard of and yet whom you’ve most definitely heard of. I’ll explain. A handful of years ago, Jared Hart, frontman for Bayonne, New Jersey street punk band The Scandals, started performing solo acoustic-style during Scandals downtime. With the help of a few local friends, he put out a full-length solo album, Past Lives and Pass Lines, a couple years ago on Say-10 Records and continued to alternate between solo shows and Scandals shows (as well as a stint in Brian Fallon’s backing band, The Crowes). Hart put together a full backing band for a few shows earlier this year, and used them to record what was slated to be the second Jared Hart solo album but what in actuality turned out to be its own thing, and for good reason. The aforementioned “backing band” includes Nick Jorgensen on bass, Rocky Catanese of Let Me Run (one of the first bands I discovered and subsequently fell in love with through Dying Scene) on guitar/backing vocals, and Benny Horowitz of The Gaslight Anthem on drums. They decided on a name — Mercy Union — only a few days before this run with Racquet Club (they had previously been billed as Jared Hart – Full Band shows), and since Cambridge was the first night of tour, that meant it was also their first show as a unified item.

The band’s set consisted of a mix of reworked songs from Past Lives & Pass Lines interspersed with new tracks from their upcoming full-length debut (more on that in the coming months). Hart’s projects, whether solo or The Scandals, have always been well received in Boston, which has become a bit of an adopted home-away-from-home for him, and that was certainly true on this night as well, if a bit more subdued than in previous shows (Boston…seriously…if you like a set of musicians enough to pay money to go to their shows and sing along and enjoy yourself in the process, what’s with the invisible semi-circular perimeter in front of the stage that people dare not tred in. Particularly upstairs at the Middle East, it’s a phenomenon I’ve never been able to explain. But I digress.) The sound, particularly on the new songs, is very much rock-and-roll (not surprising given their so so Jersey pedigree) but doesn’t quite sound exactly like the sum of the aforementioned parts would. There’s a really cool upbeat groove to a couple of the tracks (I won’t pretend to have written the names down). Even though the band collectively have several decades in the game as touring musicians, there’s a bit of unfamiliarity as they learn to play with each other. That said, the rhythm was pretty tight, Catanese provided noticeably solid harmonies to Hart’s trademark rask, and the added guitar tone provided plenty of depth to Hart’s pre-existing body of work; all clear signs that this was only night one of what should be — and deserves to be — many more to come. And don’t worry Scandals fans; both projects will co-exist!

Check out our full photo gallery below, and stay tuned for more on these pages from Racquet Club and Mercy Union going forward!



DS Photo Gallery: Riot Fest Chicago – Day 3 (Jawbreaker, Hot Water Music, The Flatliners, The Menzingers and more)

The weekend of September 15-17 saw the annual return of Riot Fest. Riot Fest 2017 was held for the 12th consecutive year in Chicago and for the third consecutive year in Douglas Park. Once again, Riot Fest saw an eclectic crowd turn out, including multiple generations of families. You can check out our coverage of day one here and our shots from day two here, but we, like Riot Fest organizers this year, certainly saved the best for last. 

While last year’s Riot Fest included a Danzig-led Misfits reunion that was noteworthy in its own right, this year’s headline reunion band felt somewhat bigger and more important in a lot of ways. There’s a giant faction of the punk rock scene that’s effectively been the House That Jawbreaker built, and that was certainly reflected in this particular day’s lineup. There’s a direct sonic and stylistic connection from newly-reformed trio, playing only their third show in over two decades, to bands like Hot Water Music to more recent torch-bearers like The Flatliners and The Menzingers. All of the above were on display on a hot and sweaty third-and-final day of Riot Fest 2017, marking a notable past, present and future that seemed to find each generation drawing inspiration from the others.

But wait, there was plenty of other punk rock history to go around! GWAR have kept on keeping on following the death of frontmonster Dave Brockie a few years ago, and have been Riot Fest regulars for years. The Mighty Mighty Bosstones made another stop on their Let’s Face It 20-year celebration shows that’ll wind down with this year’s Hometown Throwdown around Christmastime. Pennywise, who will be celebrating their thirtieth birthday as a band next year, played one of the weekend’s best-received sets. Check out our full photo rundown below!



DS Photo Gallery: Riot Fest Chicago – Day One (Nine Inch Nails, X, Buzzcocks and more)

The weekend of September 15-17 saw the annual return of Riot Fest. Riot Fest 2017 was held for the 12th consecutive year in Chicago and for the third consecutive year in Douglas Park. Riot Fest saw an eclectic crowd turn out, including multiple generations of families. There were too many young punk fans, some just a few months old with mohawks and iconic band tees, to count. 

Day 1, held on September 15th, saw, per usual, a wide variety of acts. As with every previous year, legends and veterans gained the headlining spots and the most attention. In this case, the top billed act for Day 1 of Riot Fest, was Nine Inch Nails

NIN also remains relevant for the prolific film and television scoring work that lead singer Trent Reznor and his collaborator Atticus Ross outside of the group. The duo won the 2011 Oscar for the Score for the film The Social Network. Their work for the currently being broadcast and critically acclaimed 10 part PBS documentary by Ken Burns/Lynn Novick “The Vietnam War” is receiving equal acclaim to the reception of the documentary itself.

The NIN set also demonstrated that the group is as electric as ever. Classics such as “Closer” and “Head Like a Hole” had the large crowd at a fever pitch. However, capping the set; and the night out with  “Hurt” was an emotional gut punch. It has always been a powerful song, but as covered by Johnny Cash, that emotional shot to the heart was upgraded several notches, especially as performed in the video accompanying it. Johnny would lose his beloved June Carter Cash just three months after the filming of the video, and he followed her 4 months later.  It seemed on this night that NIN was not merely playing one of their own best tunes, but rather, they were also singing it in tribute to one of our most beloved, acclaimed and greatest singer-songwriters. Again, an absolute emotional gut punch and shot to the heart. Not something many people would immediately associate with or expect from what started out as a punk rock festival, at least those with little knowledge of this music.

Also, per usual, several veteran acts played one of their albums in full. On day 1, X did the honors with their classic album, “Los Angeles.”  Singer Exene Cervanka wore a black t-shirt emblazoned with her surname on the back and the Los Angeles Dodger log on the front. But a good portion of the crowd (made up of both citizens of the Chicago area, as well as fans who traveled in from other states and other nations) surely appreciated it when she donned a black baseball cap (with a slightly altered color-wise version of) the iconic 4 stars from the City of Chicago flag. X also proved they still have the chops and the songs are still highly adored by their fans. 

One of the most powerful sets was that of Saul Williams. He repeatedly challenged the crowd to face truths about the turbulent times brought on in large part by the current occupiers of the White House and Congressional majority party. He made it known, though perhaps not stated outright, that he was about speaking truth to power; and that words of condemnation are not enough,. His message remains that music is meant to spark change. Williams also repeatedly sent out calls to action with his oft-repeated refrain of “Your punk ain’t punk if you don’t smash Fascists.”

Other day 1 acts demonstrated quite the contrary to Riot Fest’s official and self-deprecating motto “Riot Fest Sucks,”  They included legends such as Buzzcocks and Ministry; and newer groups: The Hotelier, Death From Above; and The Story So Far.

It may be popular to hate on musical fests, including Riot Fest; something as noted above, at which the organizers playful wink. However, perhaps the only thing that truly sucked about day 1 was the blazing heat. It reached into the at least the mid to high 80’s but felt even hotter for those making their ways from stage to stage and the carnival areas. Head below to see our full photo gallery from Day 1 of Riot Fest Chicago, and stay tuned for coverage from Days 2 and 3 soon!



DS Photo Gallery: The Bouncing Souls’ Stoked for the Summer (w/ Lucero, The Menzingers and more)

As has become an trend among long-running bands who’ve developed a particular affinity for their respective hometowns, groundbreaking New Jersey punks band The Bouncing Souls threw the latest installment in their “Stoked For The Summer” concert events last Friday at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park, and it may well have been the best of the bunch.

“Stoked For The Summer” technically takes place at the Stone Pony’s Summer Stage, the asphalt lot immediately adjacent to the legendary venue that turns into a 3000-capacity outdoor beachfront venue once the weather turns warm enough to allow. If there’s an idyllic setting for an outdoor summer punk rock throwdown, it may well be this one. But I digress.

For late August, the weather could not have been better; a warm-but-not-hot, sunny-but-not-overpowering. Timeshares kicked off the festivities in the late-afternoon with the venue still filling in with revelers who were able to pull themselves away from the picturesque setting of the beachfront boardwalk just steps away. The three-piece NY band (playing as a four-piece with the addition of Max Stern on guitar) kicked things off in good form, their uptempo half-hour set going over quite well with the Souls’ hometown crowd. Of particular note: the played played a couple of songs from their still-unannounced but nevertheless upcoming full-length that, if these tracks are any indication, promises to be a banger later this year.

Boston’s Mickey Rickshaw followed and kept the energy level high. We’ve seen the eight-piece Celtic punk swashbuckling crew on some of the smaller stages in the greater Boston area in the past, so it was fun to not only see them take over a massive outdoor stage, but to win over a sold-out crowd of out-of-towners in the process. If you haven’t jumped on their latest, vastly under-rated album yet (last year’s Behind The Eight Ball), you really should stop wasting your time. Check out video of the band’s Stoked For The Summer performance of the track “Not My Problem Now” here.

The Menzingers, who have pretty much retaken their claim as the “it” band of our scene again with the release of this year’s stellar full-length After The Party, occupied the third slot on the bill, taking the stage in the very early evening.  the four-piece from just down the I-95 corridor in Philadelphia could very well have headlined and sold out the venue on their own, lending credence to the strength of the event’s lineup. Their eagerly-anticipated twelve-song set kicked off with After The Party‘s opening track, “Telling Lies,” and had the crowd well whipped-up from the opening notes, inspiring the first member of what would turn out to be an at-times seemingly endless parade of crowd surfers. The bulk of the remainder of the set was a veritable sing-along, and included such crowd favorites as “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore,” “The Obituaries,” the Stone Pony-referencing “Your Wild Years” and set closer “Lookers.”

Lucero occupied the bill’s penultimate spot, hitting the stage as the last remaining vestiges of daylight were taking their leave. As has been the custom in recent years, the band split their set in half, leading off with a handful of acoustic tracks before kicking things up a notch as the set went on. “Texas & Tennessee,” which we’ve established on these pages in previous show reviews is one of the two or three saddest songs in a catalog chock full of sad songs, may be a curious choice for a song to kick off a set for an out of town band opening for a legendary punk rock act in their hometown, but this is Lucero we’re talking about —  one of the hardest working, genre-eschewing bands in the game with a penchant for keeping things, shall we say, interesting — so of course the song turned into a singalong. The set was a little bit close-to-the-vest in some regards; fans hoping for either obscure, rarely-played older tracks or hints as to what is to come on their upcoming full-length would have to wait. Still, Ben Nichols and company were in fine form, with lead guitarist Brian Venable adopting a Willie Nelson sort of visual vibe and bassist John Stubblefield adopting a sort of stone-cold, baddest mofo in the venue sort of visual vibe (seriously, check those shoes in the picture below – and he didn’t even get “seasick”). We’ve yet to see keyboardist/accordion player Rick Steff play a set that he didn’t seemingly enjoy the hell out of, and drummer Roy Berry somehow keeping the whole impromptu set anchored and heading in the same direction. Particular highlights included “Chain Link Fence,” “Tears Don’t Matter Much,” and Nichols’ a capella lullaby rendition of the title track from his Last Pale Light In The West solo EP.

A show that included only Timeshares, Mickey Rickshaw, The Menzingers and Lucero would have been quite a party in and of itself, but this was unmistakably, without question, The Bouncing Souls’ night. Hometown shows for legendary, beloved bands have a bit of a homecoming, high school reunion type of vibe to them, and even though yours truly traveled down from Boston (sadly not with Mickey or the Rickshaws) for the occasion, there was still very much the overwhelming sense that we were among friends and family (and not just because my wife and our daughter came along for the festivities). The band took to the stage surrounded by their own literal families en masse, teasing the first few notes of “Ole” before diving headlong into crowd-favorite “Hopeless Romantic.” From their followed nearly two dozen of the band’s most beloved tracks: “The Gold Song,” “That Song,” “East Coast! Fuck You!,” the ode to their long-time manager/den mother Katie Hiltz “Kate Is Great,” “Satellite,” “Manthem,” “Anchors Aweigh,” and on and on into the evening. They also played a rousing cover of the Avail classic “Simple Song,” an ode to their Chunksaah label brother Tim Barry whose own newest album is due out on that very label next week.

When Dying Scene caught the Souls in Boston in their opening slot at Frank turner’s show at the Agganis Arena, we noted how the band sounded tight but the sound seemed to get swallowed up in the cavernous environs. Yet on this late summer night, the high energy performance from the band and the crowd alike was more than enough to fill a setting that was bound in only by the horizon line. The obvious mutual reverence that the four-piece — founding trio Greg Attonito (vocals), Bryan Kienlen (bass) and Pete Steinkopf (guitar) now being anchored by Hot Water Music’s George Rebelo who seems like he’s been with them on drums forever now — have for each other and for their fans meant the gave the entire evening a positive, celebratory vibe that had people watching and dancing along from nearby rooftop and patio bars for blocks in either directions. A happy and well-deserved celebration of one of our scene’s — and New Jersey’s — beloved bands of brothers. Check out our full photo gallery below!



Show Review: From Ireland to New York City Leftover Crack Kills

All Photos by Jeff Schaer-Moses Photography
Leftover Crack made it from the stage in Dublin to the Stage in Brooklyn in less than 24-hours and looked damn good doing it .

Watching Leftover Crack frontman Scott Sturgeon perform in 2017 is somewhat akin to watching the film Logan. He’s getting old and a little beat up, but he’s still every bit as feisty as he was at 21. We even get to see him do battle with X-24 in the form of all the Crack Rock Steady imitators out there copping Stza’s swag — and just like in Logan, the original wins out.

At the ripe old age of 41, Stza finds a way to put on electric shows night after night and from nation to nation. I’m 29, and I don’t think I’d be able to play a show in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday night, then fly straight back to New York City for a 5 p.m. Sunday timeslot in Tompkins Square Park before taking the stage at 10 p.m. in Greenpoint.

But Stza does and he does it well; he brings the explosive performance of a much younger man and mixes it with skills acquired as a frontman over the past twenty years, making for one of the most engaging lead singers in punk. This was my first time seeing Leftover Crack, so I’d never seen Stza play without a guitar before, and the freedom of not having an instrument slung on his back all night really showed in his movement and stage presence.

I, unfortunately, missed the Tompkins set because I had to be at my day job, but when I informed one of the contractors at work, he snuck off across the East River to catch the show. He reappeared with photos and fresh bruises from the mosh pit.

Bass player Alec Baille

In October 2016, Choking Victim played the Warsaw on the 30th and World/Inferno Friendship Society played their annual Hallowmas the following night. In August 2017, World/Inferno led the charge, playing Brooklyn Bazaar on the 5th while Stza rolled out his other mob, Leftover Crack, to close out the weekend on the 6th. Once again, Robert and Andrew over at Scenic Presents managed to attain a festival vibe without crazy high ticket prices (or even a festival).

Stza also let fly that Leftover Crack is working on new material. He said it might take them the better part of a decade to release it, but that it is on the way.



Theatrics and Poise: World/Inferno Friendship Society bring the house down at Brooklyn Bazaar

Photos by Jeff Schaer-Moses Photography
Jack Terricloth serenading one lucky fan at Brooklyn Bazaar.

The World/Inferno Friendship Society have really only been playing New York three or four times a year as of late, which makes every one of their hometown performances a must see. Their music is complex and beautiful, their sound is raw and powerful, and they bring a level of showmanship and theatricality to the stage that no other punk band on the planet does.

For their last hometown performance before their annual Hallowmas, Mr. Terricloth and his cohort invited Philly ska/punks Teenage Halloween up to the Big Apple to open the evening in Brooklyn Bazaar’s ballroom. They played well and announced that they would be dropping a new record soon on Philadelphia-based Fistolo Records.

Next on the bill was Slackers frontman Vic Ruggiero, who may just be the single most New York human being on the planet (under the age of 60 at least). Vic’s solo sets are like watching New York blues history unfold right before your eyes, and it’s really a thing of beauty. He’s an engaging storyteller, a tremendous guitarist, and a genuine guy.

Vic Ruggiero of The Slackers doing his solo thing.

It’s hard to fill up a stage like Brooklyn Bazaar’s as a solo act, but Vic actually made the room feel full with his electric guitar, a kick drum, a tambourine, and his chest-mounted harmonica. He played his solo stuff, took requests, and even workshopped a new song entitled “Garlic is the Sun” for his hometown crowd. Not all the requests were honored, however, as Vic pointed out to one fan that “if you wanna hear dat one, you’ll need to come to a Slackers show” in his droll New York accent.

As great as Vic was, the crowd was there for one reason and one reason only: to fuck shit up with World/Inferno. The room went bonkers with the first notes of “Tattoos Fade,” and Mr. Terricloth raised a full bottle of Coppola wine to toast the WIFS faithful. The crowd roared along to every lyric of World/Inferno’s opening score, and the ever friendly World/Inferno moshpit sprang into existence. There are punks to help you up in every pit, but something about the WIFS pit is just far more inviting than any other band’s.

Mr. Terricloth raising a toast to his World/Inferno faithful.

In a pre-show interview, Mr. Terricloth had said that Saturday night’s show would be “off the hook,” and he delivered on his word with a big-time performance. The group, which sometimes swells to more than thirteen members, was a lean eight-piece in Greenpoint, but they still packed a mighty punch when performing hits off of Red Eyed Soul like “The Velocity of Love,” “Your Younger Man,” and “Let’s Steal Everything,” among a slew of others.

They went through damn near half their catalogue in a performance that ran nearly two hours, and they did it all with panache. When they left the stage for their admittedly planned encore, the giant who was standing next to me in a denim vest (complete with Choking Victim patch on the back left and Grateful Dead patch on the front right pocket) lept onto the stage and led the crowd in a rousing chant of “tonight we’re gonna fuck shit up” until the band came back.

Ms. Malak

The encore opened with “Politics of Passing Out,” which required Mr. Terricloth to play a little acoustic guitar — in this case, one that he acquired from his old friend Sly Stone back when he was Sly’s driver — and closed with a tune I just don’t know the name of that was selected by WIFS bass player Ms. Malak.



DS Photo Gallery: The Flatliners, Pkew Pkew Pkew, Garrett Dale and Dan Webb and The Spiders (Cambridge, MA)

If you’ve read any of the online comment sections surrounding the release of Inviting Light, the latest full-length from The Flatlinersyou’re no doubt aware that critics of the band feel they lost a couple miles (or is it kilometers?) per hour off their collective fastball. Let this be yet another lesson to you as to why it is never, ever a good idea to read the comments; let it be known that The Flats still slay.

As the northeastern US leg of their Inviting Light tour wound down, the band found themselves headlining a sold-out Sunday night show at the legendary Middle East nightclub in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The band kicked off their hour-plus set with “Mammals,” the slow burning lead track from Inviting Light, and seemed to have the capacity crowd hooked from the first notes. I’m not entirely certain if the band finds that reassuring, but I know that I do personally, given the amount of love I have for Inviting Light and the prevailing chatter about the band’s first non-Fat Wreck release in a decade. The quarters at upstairs at the Middle East are cramped and hot and sweaty when the venue is sold out, but the crowd was in high-energy motion by the time the crescendo built to the first chorus in “Mammals,” resulting in the first stage dive attempt of the night (albeit not an overly successful one).

The band tore through a seventeen-song main set that was pretty equally representative of their recent catalog, with four or five songs each from Inviting Light and it’s two immediate predecessors (2010’s Cavalcade and 2013’s Dead Language), though the two song encore consisting of “He Was A Jazzman” and “Shithawks” ultimately tipped the scales in Cavalcade‘s favor. Frontman Chris Cresswell’s voice sounds just as snarly and aggressive as ever when he wants it to, though he’s really pushed himself as a singer in more recent years. A lot of times in the live show of a rather dynamic band, you’ll find the bass player locked in to his spot at the drummer’s side allowing whoever is singing or playing guitar (or both) to roam and wander, both literally and musically. That’s not the case in The Flatliners, as the rhythm section of Paul Ramirez (drums) and Jon Darbey (bass) exhibit little in the way of interplay on stage yet remain more musically locked in the vast majority of their counterparts, making it look both infectiously fun and frustratingly easy in the process. Cresswell and lead guitarist Scott Brigham have grown immensely as guitar players over the years as their sonic palettes have expanded, and they too seem to bounce off each other in effortless, symbiotic ways. Much has been made of this being the year that not only do all the band’s members turn thirty (which boggles the mind) but the year that the band itself turns fifteen (which causes the mind to explode, Scanners-style), giving the band a well-earned reputation as valiant road warriors. If Sunday’s show — and specifically the crowd reaction — at the Middle East was any indication, they may actually just be hitting their stride now, which is a pretty inspiring thing.

Direct support on this entire tour was provided by Pkew Pkew Pkew and Red City Radio‘s Garrett Dale, the latter doing the solo troubadour thing. We’ve been big fans of the four handsome Torontonian Pkew fellas since their self-titled debut album was initially released a year ago on Royal Mountain Records a year ago, so news not only of their spot opening for the Flatliners but the more recent announcement of their having signed with SideOneDummy Records has made for pretty exciting times. The band’s live show is just as fun and high energy and handsome (did we mention handsome?) as their album is, and even though a lot of the songs might be straight-forward jams about hanging out and drinking beers, don’t let that fool you; these dudes can really, seriously play. There’s a camaraderie between not only the individual band’s members but really between all the members of this two-week East Coast jaunt, with the Flats, Pkew Pkew Pkew and Garrett Dale making frequent references to the good times they’ve been having on this trip. Dale is another classic example of not letting the occasionally straight-forward nature of the songwriting fool you; in the solo format, he’s got a gravelly voice that is full of the kind of heartbreaking soul guys like Chuck Ragan and Tom Waits have made their hallmarks, and it forces you to take notice whether he’s singing about lost love or seeing a dead body or, well, the devil’s weed.

Local support on this show came by way of Dan Webb and The Spiders.  DWaTS are one of those local bands that I’m sure most scenes might have that really should be bigger than they are. The four-piece rock-and-roll band plays hard and fast, a not-quite-punk-rock but also not-quite-90’s-alternative vibe that cuts across genres and makes them a perfect fit on a fairly wide range of bills, especially on one as varied as this particular show. One of these days, DWaTS…one of these days…

Check out our full photo gallery below. While you’re at it, the Flatties recently announced a set of West Coast tour dates around the US and Canada. They will be accompanied by The Smith Street Band, up until It’s Not Dead Fest. They are also adding a few dates to the end of July, in Canada, supporting Sum 41Check out all the dates here