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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



DS Photo Gallery: Bad Cop/Bad Cop, Barb Wire Dolls and The Ataris at Vans Warped Tour in Mansfield

There are a lot of descriptors you can use to help quantify the experience that is the Vans Warped Tour circa 2017, but perhaps the most accurate — and non-judgmental — is “total sensory overload.” Now in its 23rd year and counting, the annual touring punk rock summer camp has morphed into a monster: ten hours and seven stages spread across numerous acres playing host to seventy-ish hard and loud and fast bands, each with their own brightly colored merchandise tent selling the entire gamut of logo-adorned paraphernalia (t-shirts and hats and shoes and belt buckles and skateboard decks and flags and rubber ducks and on and on and on), and that’s before you factor in the food vendors and the independent merchandise vendors and the gigantic Slip ‘N Slide. All of the above is also before you account for the weather, which typically qualifies as hot and steamy but on occasions like last week in Mansfield, Massachusetts, consisted of rain that was certifiably torrential.

The rains came early and often with the sky opening up almost exactly as the gates to the Xfinity Centre  amphitheater grounds did the same. Thunder and lightening made repeat appearances as well, causing a few temporary shutdowns in the action, pushing set times back for most of the day. While bottled water is typically one of the most sought-after commodities at Warped Tour stops, on this particular day it was $5 plastic rain ponchos, though any expectation that they were going to keep their users completely dry was obviously a mistake. Still, it was something, especially if you weren’t one of the masses lucky enough to be in attendance primarily for bands playing under the covered portion of the venue and were relegated to the side stages in the parking lot areas. As you can probably surmise from this discussion, we were there for the parking lot stages.

Having focused on some of the older school bands last weekend in Hartford, we turned our attention elsewhere during the deluge in Mansfield, namely to Bad Cop/Bad Cop. We had missed the Fat Wreck Chords foursome at the Connecticut stop due to the timing of their pre-noontime set, so we made it a point to be present this time. The band filled their eight-song set with tracks from their two full-length albums (2015’s Not Sorry and last month’s stellar Warriors) and played with such a blistering pace that they were able to squeeze a ninth song (“Asshole,” from their 2014 Boss Lady EP) into their scheduled twenty-five-minute set. Say what you will about the concept of divine intervention, but clearly something was at play, as shortly after the band took the stage, the rain not only stopped, but the sky cleared up enough to allow the sun to make a welcome appearance that lasted, all told, about an hour, a welcome mid-afternoon respite for sure.

The weather conditions made photography more than a little bit of a difficult proposition for our lowly-trained camera jockey (read as: me). Still, after having just kinda given in to the rain at one point, we were able to catch all or part of super enjoyable sets from Alestorm (a pirate-themed enjoyably gimmicky schtick band), the mighty Valient Thorr, Municipal Waste, Sonic Boom Six and The White Noise. We also shot…and maybe fell in love with…five-piece Greek rock and roll band Barb Wire Dolls. Frontwoman Isis Queen is one of the more enigmatic, quintessentially “rock star” performers we caught during our two Warped Tour stops, with a five-piece band (rounded out by bassist Iriel Blaque, Pyn Doll and Remmington on guitar and Krash Doll on drums) that remained especially tight and high energy in spite of the conditions.

We also caught a spirited set by The Ataris. We’ll be honest; aside from founding frontman Kris Roe, we can’t honestly say we know who’s actually, officially, in The Ataris at this point in 2017. They’ve sorta become Goldfinger or the touring version of MxPx in that regard. But they’re good; they’re real good. The band’s set, particularly tracks like “Your Boyfriend” and, of course, their set-closing cover of “The Boys of Summer” was well received by the soggy masses, and Roe and company promised to play a much longer, higher energy set when they return to the area with The Queers later this summer.

Check out our full photo gallery below.



DS Photo Gallery: Pegboy, The Crombies and The Beer Nuts at Chicago’s Motoblot 2017

Motoblot 2017 was held at Cobra Lounge/All Rise Brewing again this year, June 23-25th. This is the 4th year since the event evolved from the decade long Mods vs Rockers Chicago. Motoblot celebrates motorculture, especially inspired by that of 1960’s Great Britain, per festival assistant Nick Goodwin, a self-described petrol-head. Co-Founder Lawrence R. Fletcher estimated the total weekend attendance at 12,000. He told me it was their biggest year to date. “The weather was fabulous and I am sure Sean (McKeough) something to do with it.”

Sean McKeough, who joined founders Fletcher and Martin Cimek, as a partner the 2nd year of Motoblot, and was also the co-founder of Riot Fest and owner of Cobra Lounge, passed away last November.This year’s event was another chance to celebrate his life. A patch reading “McQ,” as McKeough was affectionally known, adorned Motoblot shirts worn by organizers and staffers. Saturday evening, before that night’s headliners kicked off their set, a group of bagpipers played, as friends and family gathered around and revved McKeough’s collection of motorcycles for what was described as one last time.

The music was the centerpiece of the festival. Saturday’s lineup included, among others, three Chicago based bands with varied styles and devoted following inside the city and out: The Crombies; The Beer Nuts; and Pegboy. The Crombies’ performed mostly covers of 2 Tone classics with a few originals sprinkled in. Their rollicking set transformed the parking lot in front of the stage into a dance floor. Among the highlights were “English Civil War” (The Clash); “Lip Up Fatty” (Bad Manners ) and “Monkey Man” (Maytals via The Specials); The Crombies’ original “It’s Not You”; and a reworked version of “Mad at the World” originally written by lead singer Mike Park for his former band Deal’s Gone Bad. The set also included: “Plastic Gangsters” by The 4-Skins; “Hooligans” by the Wailers “Hey, Little Rich Girl” by Roddie Radiation and The Specials, “Wash Wash” by Prince Buster, Gangsters by The Specials; “It’s You” by Toots and the Maytals, “Blood and Fire” by Niney the Observer; “Little Bitch” by the Specials.

The Beer Nuts is described in their Facebook fan page as “Chicago’s most notorious party band.” and advises fans to “Bring a raincoat and Silly String for a night of maximum rock and roll and random sex with strangers.” The band’s mission statement could read simply, “fun” but the group is composed of veterans of Chicago’s punk scene, including: Joe Kelly (Ministry), Herb Rosen (Rights of the Accused; as well as the founder and owner of Chicago’s Liar’s Club), Leanne Murray (Pig Face), Louis Svitek (Ministry), Mike O’Connell (ROTA). At Motoblot, official members of Beer Nuts were joined by others including Vee Sonnets (The Crombies; The Sonnets); Dave Simon (Deal’s Gone Bad; The Crombies; Anger); and Scott Lucas (Local H; Scott Lucas and the Married Men). Beer Nuts shows consist of such songs as “Who’s Got The Yea Yo,” “Blow Me For Beer,” “Woke Up Tied Up” and “Pro Vag.” If you’re interested in neither having fun nor getting doused from flying cups of brew, and continuously flowing bongs, it’s best you head to the rear of the venue or festival grounds to wait for party’s end. And if you are documenting the show or for any other reasons have gear, take cue from the sight of the plastic covered speakers on stage and protect your equipment.

Headliner/Chicago legends, Pegboy gave what seemed to be one of their most highly energetic shows of late. Lead singer Larry Damore, dispensed with the guessing game familiar to Pegboy fans in recent years— at which song would he sit down on stage (and on occasion take his own pulse)? At about the second song he joked to the crowd that they would just get it over with. Damore would return to that position throughout the set, at times dangling his legs over the side of the stage, or lying flat on his back. However, he also repeatedly jumped off, or, slid himself off, the stage to pace in and sing from the photo pit. Numerous times he returned to the makeshift barricade to sing at and within the crowd and, on at least one occasion, surf above it. The barricade held Damore, the photographers scrambling for shots; and the crowd, though it was in continuous sway throughout the set.

“Skinny” Mike Thompson roamed furiously over much of the stage, slinging his bass up and bowing low, in seeming perpetual motion. His bass work; and Joe Haggerty’s ferocious drumming, along with Joe’s brother,  guitarist John Haggerty’s propulsive playing provided the hyperdrive heartbeat to Damore’s gritty and growling vocals.Their setlist did not disappoint, including “Strong Reaction” near the start and closing out with “Hardlight.” The group propelled through others such as “Superstar”, “Through My Fingers,” “Field of Darkness”; and the song Damore joked was responsible for making him independently wealthy, that is, “Revolver,” Pegboy’s driving cover of the Mission of Burma classic “That’s When I reach for my Revolver.” The rest of the set included: “Still Uneasy,” “Not What I Want,” “Locomotivelung,” “Witnessed,” “Fade Away,” “Time Again,” “Never A Question,” “Dangermare,” “Walk On By,” and “Line Up.”

Full Gallery Below!



DS Photo Gallery: Lucero return to Boston! On a Boat! With Banditos! (6/26/17)

Longtime Boston-area fans of Lucero likely remember back to the band playing aboard a Boston Harbor cruise boat nearly a decade ago. By all accounts (yours truly was not in attendance), it was a bit of disaster, noteworthy in all the wrong reasons, not the least of which were a combination of space issues, technical difficulties, and Mother Nature not being in a particularly good mood. Fast-forward to this past Monday night and they band gave it another shot, this time aboard the larger Provincetown II. The net result could not have been more polar opposite from the 2008 show, giving both the band and the crowd a show that was equally noteworthy but for all the right reasons.

In areas like Boston (and New York and probably other places but I have a horrible East Coast bias), boat cruise shows have become a bit more of a popular option for at least two-and-a-half seasons a year, as soaring real estate costs, liquor licenses, etc., have culminated in a virtual drying up of small- and mid-sized venues. The Provincetown II is an older ship that docks in Boston’s Seaport District and typically spends most of its summer evenings running three-hour booze cruises around the Harbor (that is, when it’s not running as a shuttle between the city and Cape Cod). The minimally-lit stage (which is really not much more than a twelve-by-twelve-foot square set maybe a foot off the floor) is set at the rear of the three-tiered ship’s top deck, meaning that as the opening band takes the stage and the ship pulls away from the dock, you’re not only watching the band play, but watching the city skyline become smaller and smaller in the last few minutes of sunlight.

Boston’s port and harbor remain fairly active and are bordered to the immediate north by Logan International Airport, so tour-opener Banditos (a six-piece Southern-fried rock band from Alabama) started playing in the waning early Summer daylight surrounded by smaller cruise ships, fleets of tanker ships, returning fishing vessels and a string of departing planes taking off immediately overhead. The band were pretty well received, and seemed to think that the experience was just as cool and, in the literal sense, “awesome” on their end as it was on ours. The band’s high-energy forty-minute-ish set seemed to pass particularly quick, probably due in gigantic part to the borderline sensory overload of the experience. It can be tough to pick a perfect opening act for a band like Lucero, but Banditos are a pretty solid fit, their trummed-down Southern jams and three-headed vocal monster seeming to work pretty well on a beer company-sponsored outdoor Summer booze cruise. Their set-closing cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” (popularized by Nina Simone or Creedence Clearwater Revival, depending on your perspective) damn near stole the show as Mary Beth Richardson belted out the lead vocals from the center of the crowd.

The sun had officially set by the time Lucero took the stage.As has frequently been the case recently, the band started with a sort of mini acoustic set, kicked off by “Can’t You Hear Them Howl” from their last full-length, 2015’s All A Man Should Do. While that moment may have been scripted (frontman Ben Nichols joked that he “likes to start with that song because (he) likes it and nobody ever requests it”), the remainder of the twenty-one song (by my count, certainly not official) setlist was largely improvisational and wide-ranging. “Texas & Tennessee,” perhaps one of the two or three saddest songs in a catalog that’s chock full of sad songs, made in early appearance as it generally does, followed quickly by crowd favorite “My Best Girl.”

From there, a few twists and turns popped up, as the bulk of the set seemed to be culled mostly from the wishes of the audience who, for their own parts, were loud and engaged all night. Because of the unique setup of the ship’s upper deck, the crowd essentially filled in around the entirety of the stage, making it seem like the band were playing a theater on the round. “Hey Darlin’ Do You Gamble,” “Wasted” and “Hold Fast” were particular favorites for yours truly, if only because I’d not seen them live before. “Chain Link Fence” sounds more raw and intense than it did when it debuted fifteen years ago, and the band, now a five-piece again after losing the horn section that had joined them through three albums and their accompanying touring cycles, seem to have figured out how to accommodate for some of that lack of brightness and depth on songs like “Women & Work” and “On My Way Downtown.”

As the ship had turned around and headed back for port, Nichols played a few stripped down songs, starting with “Loving,” a song written for his filmmaker brother Jeff’s 2016 movie of the same name. He kept things stripped down for “Mom” and was joined by keyboard player/accordionist extraordinaire Rick Steff on “The War” and took on an a capella rendition of his solo track “Last Pale Light In The West,” which he jokingly referred to as the only sort of lullabies he can sing to his infant daughter, before being rejoined by the band for most of the rest of the set. Drummer Roy Berry’s unique playing style has long been one of my favorite things to watch, and he seemed steady as ever despite playing on a boat in an active harbor (guitarist Brian Venable commented after the show that it putting a stage on a boat is like trying to play on a piece of plywood inside a bouncy house, if that gives you a little perspective). Venable’s growling lead guitar playing does not always take center stage in a band like Lucero (particularly in the early years where the leads were more noodling riffs than true leads), but when called upon, he continues to shine on tracks like “Tears Don’t Matter Much” and “Last Night In Town.”

Special note should probably be paid to bassist John C. Stubblefield, who disappeared from the stage at one point toward the mid-point of a particularly raucous rendition of “Tears Don’t Matter Much” to partake of the festivities from the audience’s perspective and did so while missing nary a beat in the process before rejoining his bandmates on the stage in stride. Closer to the end of the evening, Stubblefield eventually raised a red wine-inspired toast to the “best night ever,” before the band wrapped up their set and the ship docked and, while maybe a tad hyperbolic, he wasn’t far off from the truth.

Check out Lucero’s upcoming tour dates here, and our full photo album below.



DS Photo Gallery: JFA returns to Chicago (w/The Dwarves, The Bollweevils, I Attack, and Decent Criminal)

JFA returned to Chicago for their first Windy City show in more than 2 decades

Skate punk legends, with origins in Phoenix, AZ, and Southern CA, JFA (Jodie Foster’s Army) return to Chicago for the first time in more than two decades.  The Dwarves put on a great set as for first time live they ripped though their classic album “The Dwarves are Young + Good Looking,”and then rumbled through other songs as well as the night’s headliner. Local punks The Bollweevils got a rowdy summer send off; I Attack, another local punk band, attacked ferociously; Decent Criminal played a set far more than merely decent.

Taking nothing away from The Dwarves and their terrific set; however, it was JFA that appeared to garner the most excitement and whip the crowd into their most frenzied. And not just from fans in the crowd, but numerous fans in the bands sharing the bill as well. Some other musicians expressing that JFA was THE inspiration for them to get into the punk rock game.

Brian Brannon shares the mic with a fan.

JFA lead singer Brian Brannon frenetically covered most of the stage, dancing and jumping on every bit of stopping only for the briefest of moments here and there to catch his breath, this allowed band mates, Don Redondo on guitar, Corey Stretz on bass; and drummer Carter Blitch to shine in their own moments. The set was dominated by classics from their early days. JFA was officially (according to their cited history) formed just 10 days prior to the attempted but failed assassination of former President Ronald Reagan by John Hinckley Jr. Hinckley Jr.  famously admitted the reasoning for attempting to kill Reagan was to impress actress Jodie Foster. Guitarist Don Redondo explained that they were partially inspired by the Dead Kennedys’ political tweaking in choosing a band name.  Redondo also added that the climate of increased political and social division also inspired a new track on their as of yet scheduled upcoming release. They played the new track “N/Tolerance” on Friday, with the simple credo of “Just Don’t Be A Dick.”

Corey Stretz of JFA

As noted, perhaps the biggest admirers were in the other bands on the bill, and Redondo spent much of the evening offstage engaged in conversation with drummer Pete Mumford. Mumford is a member of the legendary Chicago punk outfit, The Bollweevils, which lit the stage on fire once again immediately prior to JFA. Redondo and Mumford had a continuing dialogue about the best drummers and bass players in rock history, or at least their favorites (which included drummers Keith Moon, Neil Peart and John Bonham; and bass player John Entwistle.)  Redondo spoke of his belief in the best way to craft a new band, “Start with a great drummer and a great bass player and build from there.”

Don Redondo also spoke of the reasons for the long absence from Chicago: busy lives, other jobs (including Brannon’s other career, as Senior Chief Petty Officer in the United States Navy Reserve), families; and added that while the band is not changing its name from Jodie Foster’s Army, its motto as of late could be  thought of as Jodie Foster’s National Guard. That is, “one weekend once a month.”Judging from the reception they received at Reggies Rock Club, the crowd may be asking for far more than that, but were ecstatic and grateful for the band’s return.

As mentioned, The Dwarves and The Bollweevils both lit up the stage as expected. And in the case of Daryl Wilson, the lead singer for beloved Chicago legends The Bollweevils (and namesakes of a 2016 IPA  collaboration with 350 Brewing, “Weevil Wobble”) lit most of the area off stage on fire as well He repeatedly threw his 6′ 5″ frame into the welcoming arms of the crowd.

The Bollweevils are not scheduled to play again in their home region until they return from their journey to Blackpool, United Kingdom. They are confirmed for Rebellion Festival 2017, taking place in early August, along with their friend sin another Chicago favorite, 88 Fingers Louie.

Decent Criminal

Decent Criminal, from Northern California,  started the night off strong fashion with straightforward punk, proving that a show can be solid and rowdy from first note by the opening band to last note from the headliners.

Rob V. of I Attack

I Attack, led by the one man wrecking crew of Rob V. “Jak,” may have been be the cause of the most colorization of the crowd members, as in ending up black and blue; and purple.  Many showing their colorful souvenirs from the set seemed to have smiles on their faces, accompanied by expressions of half disbelief. If there was a Richter Scale equivalent in Circle Pits, the pure rowdiness whipped up by I Attack might, conservatively speaking, hit the 7 plus to 8 range.

This show had a bit of everything for from start to finish and may very well have thrown down the gauntlet for top to bottom billed, non-fest punk shows this summer. It is s summer is still in its infancy with many promising such events on tap, but judging from this night, it will hopefully be long and hot in the very best ways. Head below to check out our full photo gallery from the intense evening!