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DS Album Review: Anti-Flag – “Lies They Tell Our Children”

Our favorite Pittsburgh foursome, Anti-Flag, are 13 albums deep into their career that has spanned since the late ’80s. There was a long break and line-up change before they resumed their work in ’92, but they are still angry, and this album shows it. To be clear, Lies They Tell Our Children is Anti-Flags’ first […]

Our favorite Pittsburgh foursome, Anti-Flag, are 13 albums deep into their career that has spanned since the late ’80s. There was a long break and line-up change before they resumed their work in ’92, but they are still angry, and this album shows it. To be clear, Lies They Tell Our Children is Anti-Flags’ first concept album and is a collection of probably their finest and most forward songs since their ’96 debut album. The album is 11 tracks, and seven of them have guest features, from Ashrita Kumar from Pinkshift, Campino from Die Toten Hosen, Tim McIlrath, and Brian Baker from Bad Religion, to name a few. While I usually believed that too many guest features were a red flag, this album shows that if you have an idea, you have a clear message, and people believe in the message you’re trying to bring forth, the number of guest features does not matter.

Let’s rewind to 2020; what the fuck happened? Covid, the world stood still; Anti-Flag released an album like many others. Now let’s fast-forward to 2022: war, impending doom, and most of us have given up hope that the system will ever change. Here’s Anti-Flag with clear, straight-to-the-point messages. There’s no misinterpreting anything with their lyrics on this album. Happy New Year, all; I’ll let Anti-Flags point out what is wrong with the system in 2023. But Lies They Tell Our Children doesn’t hold back on any song, and it’s time to go in for the kill. Anti-Flag has tried to perfect the balance between catchy hooks, headbanging instruments, and meaningful lyrics for the past three decades. I thought 20/20 Vision was a masterpiece, but Lies They Tell Our Children has outdone it. So I’ll get on with my review, and I’ll tell you this: I’m a sucker for any album that takes open digs and trashes the Government in any country.

“Sold Everything is a solid album opener; the song starts slowly with the rhythm guitar taking the lead before Justin Sane jumps in with their much-appreciated political lyrics. “Neo-liberal white saviors, Murdoch and Fox News. Fuck the Pittsburgh police and our president too!” sings Justin Sane, backed by the rest of the band during the song. Next up is “Modern Meta Medicine” ft. Jesse Leach from Killswitch Engage taking their dig at Big Pharma, and I would like to say America’s significant consumption of pills and other things. Still, the fact is that it isn’t just a problem in America but everywhere in the world. While “Sold Everything” doesn’t set the tone for the album, this song does. It’s fast-paced with loud drumming and guitars but again highlights the catchy hooks. We’ve all heard this song for some time, so there’s nothing I can say that everyone else hasn’t caught on to. “Laugh. Cry. Smile. Die” ft. Shane Told of Silverstein was the first single to shoot off this album. “The lies we tell our children shaping everything we know/ Turning fact into fiction streamed on every single show” goes well into how the misinformation isn’t anything we can run from. Especially the younger generation has much more access to knowledge than the later generations had while growing up.

I’ll skip a bit because we’ve all heard most of the features, but let’s bring “Shallow Graves” ft. Tré Burt into focus. Now this song is probably one of the biggest standouts, in my opinion, and sad it wasn’t released as a single. This song sounds different, with heavy guitar riffs, rough vocals, and rapid drumming. But it has a more unpolished indie vibe before it goes into the classic Anti-Flag sound throughout the album. “Only In My Head” is another standout track, but this one is without guest features. “They are after me/ But no one’s free,” screams Justin Sane throughout the track, with the rapid machine drumming and simple “oh’s” from the band in between, concluding a great album. Things changed over the years, but Anti-Flag hasn’t that much, and that isn’t bad because this album feels like the beginning of something big to come.

Standouts to listen to: SHALLOW GRAVES, IMPERIALISM, SOLD EVERYTHING and ONLY IN MY HEAD

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DS Festival Gallery: Final Day of an Epic Riot Fest with THE CURE! Also Featuring AFI, Gorilla Biscuits, The Bronx & More! (Day Three, 9/17/23)

The third and final day of Riot Fest had a bit more rain and clouds but that seemed totally fitting for the main headliner of the day, The Cure, and Dying Scene has photos for you in case you missed it. We are also showcasing some other amazing bands, including AFI, Earth Crisis, The Bronx, […]

The third and final day of Riot Fest had a bit more rain and clouds but that seemed totally fitting for the main headliner of the day, The Cure, and Dying Scene has photos for you in case you missed it. We are also showcasing some other amazing bands, including AFI, Earth Crisis, The Bronx, Gorilla Biscuits and Fleshwater!


Fleshwater is an alternative post-hardcore band from Georgetown, Massachusetts. Anthony DiDio and Matt Wood are also members of hardcore group Vein.fm.


Straight-edge hardcore band Earth Crisis brought a blazing and intense performance.


The Bronx! If you are lucky enough to embark on Flogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise in November you’ll see them there!


Finishing off his three-peat performance weekend, Walter Schreifels and the Gorilla Biscuits had no shortage of energy!


I first saw AFI at Riot Fest 2013; ten years later they still put on one of the best shows. If you haven’t seen them live yet you are really missing out.


The Cure closed out the night with a mesmerizing concert to an emotional crowd of fans that waited for this moment all day.


Check out the full gallery below and revisit day one and day two!


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DS Festival Gallery: Riot Fest with the Viagra Boys, Rival Schools, PUP and More! (Day Two, 9/16/23)

Day 2 of Riot Fest had a slew of big names (including Queens of the Stone Age, Death Grips and…Insane Clown Posse!?) and up-and-coming artists. We are featuring the Viagra Boys, PUP, Steve Ignorant Band/Crass, Rival Schools, Warpaint and Enola Gay for today! Irish post-punk noise rock band Enola Gay made their US-debut in Chicago […]

Day 2 of Riot Fest had a slew of big names (including Queens of the Stone Age, Death Grips and…Insane Clown Posse!?) and up-and-coming artists. We are featuring the Viagra Boys, PUP, Steve Ignorant Band/Crass, Rival Schools, Warpaint and Enola Gay for today!


Irish post-punk noise rock band Enola Gay made their US-debut in Chicago for Riot Fest, and performed a late night after show with the Viagra Boys. They will be back touring in the UK and EU in November.


Walter Schreifels strikes again! Post-hardcore group Rival Schools did a full-album performance of their 2001 debut, United by Fate.


LA-based indie-psych-rock band Warpaint played a dreamy set to mellow the mood before jumping back into the mosh pits.


Steve Ignorant co-founded the legendary anarcho-punk band Crass in 1977 from Epping, Essex, England. In 2019 Steve started the Steve Ignorant Band with Carol Hodge (vocals & keys), Jay Bagnall (drums), Peter Rawlinson (bass) and Pete Wilson (guitar). They played a complete set of Crass songs, psyching up both old fans and new.


PUP (abbreviation for Pathetic Use of Potential) is a Canadian punk band formed in Toronto, Ontario, originally under the name Topanga. They have quite the following and energetic fans!


A little rainy set for the Viagra Boys did not stop them from giving everyone the eccentrically weird and fun performance we’ve come to expect from the Swedish punk rock band. Dying Scene covered their show in Chicago earlier this year when they played at the brand-new venue, The Salt Shed, and it is still one of my favorite shows I have seen so far this year. They played all the fan favorites (“Sports,” of course) and had no shortage of crowd surfers (see the surfing Pikachu in the gallery below).


Check out the full gallery below! Did you miss day one? Take a look here!


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DS Interview: Jesse and Justin Bivona on The Interrupters’ new album, “In The Wild”

The fourth album can be a bit of a curious point on a band’s timeline. The dreaded “sophomore slump” has long been in the rearview, and generally by the time the fourth album roles around, a band is at or around the decade mark in their career. It can be a time of transition; a […]

The fourth album can be a bit of a curious point on a band’s timeline. The dreaded “sophomore slump” has long been in the rearview, and generally by the time the fourth album roles around, a band is at or around the decade mark in their career. It can be a time of transition; a time to build off some old influences and also to incorporate new feelings and directions out of a desire to keep from getting stale or repetitive. Sometimes, the results can be ground-breaking, at least sonically if not always commercially or critically. Ignorance Is Bliss by Face To Face, for example. Darkness On The Edge Of Town. No Code. Sandinista!. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Life Won’t Wait. Question The Answers. ZOSO, or however that translate without the ability to add runes to the text here. So on and so forth. 

And so here we find The Interrupters. The widely beloved LA-based ska punk band are back with In The Wild, due out August 5th on Hellcat Records. Recorded during the forced doldrums that were the shutdown of the last couple of years, the album finds the band (which surpassed the decade mark during said shutdown) building on the high-energy, rock-steady core that they’ve built over the course of three records and hundreds of shows, revealing a work that is their most varied, most introspective, and, subsequently, their best effort to date. 

We caught up with the band’s air-tight rhythm section, sensational twin brothers Jesse (drums) and Justin (bass) Bivona to talk about the album’s recording and its personal nature. While much of the process for In The Wild was similar to the band’s previous output, there were a few marked differences that shaped the direction of what was to come. As Jesse explains the fourth album cycle, “one of our little press points about this record and relating it to the previous records is that the first album is kind of like a first date, where you just talk about surface-level things, nothing too crazy. Second album, you start to let them know a little more about you. Third album, you’re kinda getting into the nitty-gritty. Fourth album, all the baggage is out, the drama is revealed, all the secrets are out.”

The secrets are indeed out in more ways than one on In The Wild. It is by far the band’s most personal album to date, and it’s their most sonically diverse album to date, and both of those things are by design. Thinking back to the early days of the band, specifically around the recording of the band’s self-titled 2014 debut record, Jesse describes that the band was “just trying to keep it simple. We weren’t trying to reinvent anything, we were just trying to be a straight-ahead ska-punk band.” The more cohesive the band god, the more layered and textured the sound became, and the more outside influences began to creep in. While still very much an Interrupters record, In The Wild showcases sounds that include traditional reggae and rock steady and 2-tone and 80s punk rock and ‘50s doo-wop. The album closes with “Alien,” which centers around Aimee’s soaring, heartfelt vocals and is, as Jesse points out, “the first Interrupters song with no guitar on it!

The seeds of In The Wild were initially sown in the early days of the pandemic shut down two years ago. The very early days. In fact, quite literally, the first day. The band had taken a few weeks off after wrapping a lengthy touring cycle for their 2017 album Fight The Good Fight – an album that continued the band’s launch into a higher stratosphere based in part on the crossover success of the single “She’s Kerosene” – in February, and was planning to return to Tim Armstrong’s studio in early March to begin work on album four. That plan was foiled just as it was beginning. “Day one of us going into the studio,” explains bass player Justin Bivona, “was that day where the NBA was canceling, and Tom Hanks had Covid…” After a few ‘wait and see’ days, recording plans – and, frankly, most of real life – got put on pause indefinitely, and the band retreated to what they affectionately refer to as The Compound; Justin and Jesse live in one house while the twins’ bandmates and, more importantly, older brother and sister-in-law Kevin and Aimee, live in the house next door. The two houses share a driveway and, more importantly, a garage, the latter of which would come in handy in a pandemic shutdown.

After some time spent doing what the rest of us did – binge-watching TV shows and movies, going for walks, and reflecting on their lives-to-date. As Justin tells it, that process “Aimee got to do a lot of looking back on her past and realized there was a lot of stuff she hadn’t written songs about.” And so even though the band had plenty of material they were going to work on in the studio at the beginning of 2020, writing eventually continued. 

So, too, did recording, though the band didn’t have to go far. “At some point during (quarantine),” explains Justin, “Kevin was like “we need to do this record at our house, in our garage.” It’s a tiny 10×20 room that we would practice in, but it wasn’t treated, there wasn’t any studio equipment. So we spent maybe a month building things. Me and Jesse with power tools building racks to put gear in and tabletops and stuff. Pretty much “tiny housing” the studio to make every part of it work.”

This created the freedom to work together at their own pace. There’s no need to reserve studio time or book an engineer when you can do it all, effectively, in your collective backyard. That moved Kevin, the elder statesman of the Bivona brothers, officially into the producer’s seat. Tim Armstrong, who both oversees Hellcat Records and executive produced the first three Interrupters records, “told (Kevin) to just grab the reins and take off” says Justin, with Jesse quick to point out that their big brother has “always kinda been the shadow producer of everything in a sense.”

And while it may seem daunting to have your bandmate – and older brother, steering the ship, the timeline and the setting and their relationship made for a smooth, collaborative effort. “If we’re working on something and it’s not working,” explains Jesse, “all four of us can be like ‘well, what if we try this, or what if we try this,’…there are no bad ideas until you try (something and realize it’s bad.” “It was just us as a cohesive band, the four of us, working out songs and writing songs, and it really informed the process,” adds Justin. “It was the best thing we’ve ever done.

The more that writing and recording continued, the more that the direction of the album revealed itself. “Aimee realized that the record was pretty much her life story,” says Jesse, adding “so the songs that didn’t fit with that theme we pushed aside and focused on the ones that told her story the way she wanted to tell it.” Because the lyrics bare so much of Aimee’s past, the task of recording vocals involved being in the right headspace to tackle some of the memories that were evoked. “Doing on the property,” reveals Justin, “it allowed Aimee the freedom to record vocals whenever she felt emotionally connected enough to a song” to power through it, a freedom that proved vital as it is apparent on first listen that Aimee dug deep lyrically, reflecting on some of the messier parts other upbringing and past relationships and grief and loss and trauma and mental health struggles that she has worked on over the years.

The added time and convenience of the recording process allowed the band to work through multiple versions of songs, in order to make sure that the emotion of the music matched the emotion of the lyrics. “There are a couple songs on this record where they were recorded one way and pretty much done,” explains Justin, “but then it wasn’t just fitting in with the rest of it when we would get back there. I think specifically “Love Never Dies” had a totally different feel, it was more of a rock/reggae Clash-y song. And it was dope, but it wasn’t fitting in with everything.” Jesse elaborates: “(Kevin) said “Jesse, play a one drop” so I played this one drop, and then he said “Justin, play this bass line” (*mimics bassline*). And then he said “okay, watch” and he just started skanking, and then he started singing this melody the way that it is now, and we played that for like four bars and just stopped. We were like “yeah, that’s it! Now we’re on to something!

The result is one of the more straight-forward reggae songs in the Interrupters’ catalog to date. It also features a guest appearance from The Skints, the UK reggae punk band who recently wrapped a successful run opening a bunch of US shows for The Interrupters and Flogging Molly. The Skints are just one of an impressive handful of guest starts that found their collective way onto In The Wild; Tim Armstrong lends his vocal talents to a track, as per usual, but so too do Rhoda from The Bodysnatchers and Alex and Greg from third-wave ska legends Hepcat. The latter recording session occurred at Armstrong’s studio once the initial Covid waves had subsided and society started to open up again. As Jesse tells it, “it was a magical session to be a part of.” Justin explains “Greg and Alex came in and…we wanted them on the song (“Burdens”), but we didn’t really have the part. We went in with them and showed them the song and within a minute the two of them are sitting there writing the parts and figuring it out together. It was so cool to see because they’re literally our favorite ska band.”

It was yet another moment in a decade-long journey that has found the foursome feeling eternally grateful for the opportunities they’ve been presented; playing with longtime idols like Rancid and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Joan Jett and Green Day, playing legendary venues, getting introduced by RuPaul on the Jimmy Kimmel show (as was the case the night before we spoke). Case-in-point: the three Bivona brothers served as the backing band for The Specials during a fundraiser event in Los Angeles back in February, a mind-blowing moment that got overshadowed by the fact that a mini Operation Ivy reunion brokeout pre-set as Jesse Michaels and Tim Armstrong joined for a cover of the Op Ivy classic “Sound System,” an event that damn near broke the punk rock internet. The gravity of those situations is not lost on the band, by any stretch. “The moment that starts getting old is the moment that you’ve gotta start packing it in and figuring out what 9-to-5 (job) you want,” says Jesse. 

Keep scrolling to read our full Q&A with the Bivona twins, Jesse and Justin. Pre-orders for In The Wild are still available here. And check out the full list of upcoming Interrupters tour dates, including their European run and leg 2 of the US dates with Flogging Molly, right here.

(*Editor’s note: The text below has been slightly edited and condensed for content and clarity.*)

JS: First and foremost, congratulations on another successful appearance on Kimmel!

Justin: Thank you!

JS: So this is probably then the second coolest thing you’ve done this week…

(*all laugh*)

Justin: For real though, it is good to see your face!

JS: Is that the third time now on Kimmel?

Jesse: Nope, two! Four years ago we did “She’s Kerosene.”

Justin: Almost four years ago to the day. It was like July 26th.

JS: Man, how time has flown. The Kimmel show seems like it’s a cool one to do because the audience is right there, versus some of the other late-night shows where they’re sitting back and you’re kinda playing to the cameras as much as anything. That seems like a cool one.

Jesse: Yeah, they make it seem like it’s an indoor club show, 

Justin: Which is really cool.

Jesse: It’s really cool. And the whole staff and crew there is excellent. They’re very nice. We had a GOOD time yesterday.

JS: And you got to hang with RuPaul, that’s pretty cool!

Justin: He’s super nice too!

Jesse: So nice!

Justin: An old punk rocker and a big ska fan too!

JS: I had no idea!

Jesse: Yeah, he played in a punk band in like the early 80s.

Justin: He loved The Selecter and The Specials.

JS: So then he’s totally going to dig your music, especially the new album!

Justin: He gave us the best soundbite! He just said “It’s time for some ska music, bitches!”

(*all laugh*)

Jesse: We were on stage and just looked at each other like “WHOA!” (*all laugh*)

JS: Does that stuff ever get old? And I know I probably know the answer to that question, and actually I think I’ve asked Kevin and Aimee that sort of stuff before, but playing in massive crowds, playing in places like Fenway Park, playing for RuPaul on the Kimmel show…does that stuff ever get old?

Jesse: Never.

Justin: No.

JS: I feel like I knew that was the answer…

Jesse: The moment that starts getting old is the moment that you’ve gotta start packing it in and figuring out what 9-to-5 you want.

JS: When I started doing this Zoom interview thing during the early days of Covid, it was really to sort of check in with people. I was used to doing more phone interviews and then I’d type them up and write a story, but A) the website crashed so there was no publish things anymore for a while, but I liked the idea of actually chatting with people when they were in quarantine and we were in quarantine and you could see each other and stay connected. We’ve been in this weird situation for so long now that music that came out of quarantine is coming out commercially. That’s sort of the long way of getting into In The Wild, which is a really, really, really great album and I know I say that about each one that you guys put out, but the bar just keeps getting raised. So let’s talk about that process. When during lockdown did you realize “well, we’re not going to be out on the road for a while, and we’re not going to be able to go into a studio for a while, so fuck it, let’s do it ourselves”?

Jesse: Well…

Justin: Here’s the thing. We finished the Fight The Good Fight album cycle tour in February of 2020. We ended in the UK with two amazing shows in London. The plan was to finish that and go home. Kev and Aimee were going to start writing for a couple weeks, and then we were going to go into the studio in March. Day, like, one of us going into the studio to record, was that day where like the NBA is canceling and Tom Hanks has Covid.

JS: Right! That’s when we really knew the world was ending!

Justin: Yeah! So we were going to go back in the next day, but everything started getting canceled, so we put the weekend on hold and then the next week on hold, and then the month, and everything just got shelved. So we were sitting at home, and couldn’t really do what our plan was. But it was nice at the same time, because we had just kept rolling for ⅞ years. There was no break. So we finally got to sit back and wait a little bit. We did the live record to give something to the fans during the break, and with that we did the documentary, This Is My Family, and put it all together as like a cohesive concert film. Kinda while we were doing that, we got to reflect on our past and Aimee got to do a lot of looking back on her past and realized there was a lot of stuff she hadn’t written songs about. At some point in the middle of that, Kevin was like “we need to do this record at our house, in our garage.” It’s a tiny 10×20 room that we would practice in, but it wasn’t treated, there wasn’t any studio equipment. So we spent maybe a month building things. Me and Jesse with power tools building racks to put gear in and tabletops and stuff. Pretty much “tiny housing” the studio to make every part of it work. And then they had some songs and we would just get in there the four of us with Kevin producing and work out these songs. It was a fun process because there were no outside distractions, there was no one else we had to worry about, it was just us as a cohesive band, the four of us, working out songs, writing songs, and it kind of really informed the process. It was the best thing we’ve ever done. 

JS: So there was stuff written to be recorded back in March of 2020 when you first got off the road?

Jesse: Actually the one day that we did spend at the studio, we were working on the instrumental for “As We Live.” That was the only thing we recorded at Tim’s studio before everything got shut down. 

Justin: I think they had “Alien” kind of on the docket, and “The Hard Way” was in there also.

Jesse: Yeah, they had done a few weeks of writing so there was a batch of songs. A lot of those songs got shelved because they didn’t fit the whole record idea. Once Kevin and Aimee started writing a lot, Aimee realized that the record was pretty much her life story. So the songs that didn’t fit with that theme we pushed aside and focused on the ones that told her story the way she wanted to tell it. We’re stoked on how the whole thing came out.

JS: How far into that writing process did the real direction of the album start to take shape, or at least when did she tell you that that was the direction that the album was going to go? And did that involve sit-down conversations…like, I know you’ve been family for a long time but that maybe there’s some shit she was going to sing about that’s a little…

Jesse: No, I think it happened kind of naturally, and it wasn’t until we had like 

Both: Eighteen songs

Jesse: …that we were working on that it was like, okay, this batch is all very cohesive. I feel like we’re saying that word a lot? (*all laugh*) 

Justin: It was a theme, you know?

Jesse: Yeah, and these other ones, they’re good, but they distract from the message we’re trying to send here and the themes we’re trying to talk about. 

Justin: Yeah, once it was like, there’s all these songs (*gestures*) it was easy to look at the board and say, “well, these fourteen (go together).” 

Jesse: And there was even a time where we weren’t completely…where we didn’t have like the last three figured out, and we dug up an old one, and once Aimee looked at it, it was like “actually, if I just rewrite these verses, this could fit.” That was “Worst For Me,” which was a sleeper favorite of mine. That song rips.

JS: That song is great, yeah!

Jesse: But it was on the back burner for months! It was just like, we recorded it and then we just forgot about it.

Justin: That was the other great thing about the process. We had so much time just sitting at home that they would finish a song and live with it for six months, then come back to it and say “oh, this song needs a bridge.” Then they would just write a bridge and it would bring the whole thing together. We’ve never really had the opportunity to sit and live with something and then come back to it and fix it. Usually in the studio, it’s like record it, it’s done…

Jesse: Go on tour, it’ll come out when you’re on tour. The most time we’ve ever had off in this band was maybe two months, right before Fight The Good Fight came out. And that wasn’t really time off, that was us preparing for the album cycle and the release and all that. So to be forced to sit on our hands during the pandemic, it helped a lot.

JS: What did you do otherwise to keep creative, musically or otherwise, to keep from getting into those doldrums when it seemed like the world was never going to open up and that sort of thing?

Jesse: You know, that’s a good question. We did what everybody did…binge-watched a lot of TV…

Justin: We did get to a point after the first few months where it was like, “okay, we’ve gotta go outside.” 

JS: Touch grass.

Both: Yeah!

Justin: Going to the beach, or going on hikes.

Jesse: Going on bike rides.

Justin: And we had a small quarantine bubble of friends that we trusted to come over, or we’d go over there. But other than that, it was a lot of TV

Jesse: A lot of movies.

JS: Were you still playing music, even if it wasn’t Interrupters stuff, or did you just like put it away?

Jesse: It was always there. Our back room is always set up so we could always go back there and jam, but there was definitely a time…

Justin: There was definitely a three-month period where I didn’t touch a bass. (*all laugh*)

Jesse: Yeah, I was the same with drums.

JS: Is that the longest you’ve ever gone, since you started playing?

Both: Yeah!

Justin: For sure.

Jesse: Definitely.

JS: Was it interesting working with…I know you’ve worked with Tim (Armstrong) executive producing before but this is the first one where it was listed that Kevin was the producer of (the album). Does that change the dynamic when not only one of the four of you is producing it, but he’s also your brother and your band member? Does that impact the dynamic in the studio or have you been doing it with each other for so long now that you just know how it works?

Justin: Yeah, exactly. We’ve been doing this our whole life. We’ve always looked to Kevin for answers when we have questions about what we’re doing.

Jesse: He’s always kinda been the kind of shadow producer of everything, in a sense. 

Justin: Yeah, so Tim gave him full rein…told him to just grab the reins and take off with it. 

Jesse: The other thing about the way we work is we try everyone’s ideas, so we could be in the studio and it wouldn’t be like him saying “no, this is how it’s going to be, we have to do it this way.” If we’re working on something and it’s not working, all four of us can be like “well, what if we try this, or what if we try this.” And he’ll say “okay, let’s try it.” There’s no bad ideas until you try it and realize it’s bad, you know? It was very good. And we have such a great relationship and we’re very good at communicating, so there wasn’t any headbutting. It was very fun and very easy.

Justin: And again, doing it on the property, it allowed Aimee the freedom to record vocals whenever she felt emotionally connected enough to a song to sing the vocals. 

JS: Especially on an album like this, that’s crucial.

Justin: Yeah! When you have studio time, you know you’ve got to be in there at 5pm and be there til 11pm.

Jesse: We’ve gotta bang out all these songs

Justin: And you’ve got to record these (specific things). That’s almost like a 9 to 5. This way, it was like, if we went back there and she was like “ah I don’t want to sing that right now, let me sing this one.” And also, if she got her second wind at 2am, she could just hop back there and record. 

JS: Do you guys live close enough where it’s like “hey, it’s 2am but we’ve got an idea…”

Both: Yeah!

Justin: We call it The Compound. In California technical terms, it’s a multi-family housing property, there’s one driveway, there’s two houses and a garage that we share, and a backyard. They live in the front house and we live here, so we’re right next to each other. 

JS: It’s like being on tour while you’re at home!

Justin: I know, but with that being said, when we come home from tour sometimes, we don’t see each other for a whole week. (*all laugh*)

JS: Obviously it’s still early because this album’s not even out yet, but does that inspire you to kinda work that way going forward, now that you know that you can make an album like that in your little garage studio?

Jesse: Yeah I think so.

Justin: I think so, I mean…

Jesse: We haven’t really started thinking about the next one yet, but it is easy to just naturally fall into that. If we have to do a song for something, we can just hop back there and do it. So when we have something (to work on), it’s like “when do you want to work on that?” “I don’t know, tomorrow?” So we just hop back there and do it. 

JS: How did the writing process work? Were there times when all four of you were writing together, or do Kevin and Aimee come up with the stem of the song and then you guys work on your rhythm parts? And does that ever change the direction of a song? Like if they start writing and a song has a certain feel, do they give you the freedom to say “hey, we think there’s a different feel that might go better with this song?” Because there are a lot of different feels on this album, and we’ll talk about that in a few minutes, but…

Justin: They would definitely have…it could be anything from the core idea of the song to an entirely fledged out song already, knowing how it should feel and what it should sound like. But, there are a couple songs on this record where they were recorded one way and pretty much done, but then it wasn’t just fitting in with the rest of it when we would get back there. I think specifically “Love Never Dies” had a totally different feel, it was more of a rock/reggae Clash-y song. And it was dope, but it wasn’t fitting in with everything. 

Jesse: It didn’t age well.

Justin: It didn’t age well. So when we got back there with the four of us, we said “What do we do with this?” And Kevin said “what if did it more like a roots thing?”

Jesse: Yeah, he said “Jesse, play a one drop” so I played this one drop, and then he said “Justin, play this bass line” (*mimics bassline*). And then he said “okay, watch” and he just started skanking, and then he started singing this melody the way that it is now, and we played that for like four bars and just stopped. We were like “yeah, that’s it! Now we’re on to something!”

Justin: And then we finished it and we were like “dude, we gotta get The Skints on this one.” 

Jesse: We built up this track, sent it to The Skints, and they sent us back a whole bunch of stuff that we kept. They’re fantastic.

JS: I was going to ask if all the guests got recorded in studio with you too. Obviously they didn’t if The Skints recorded their own stuff. People haven’t heard the album yet but obviously, Tim’s on a song because Tim’s gonna be on a song. Rhoda from Bodysnatchers, Alex and Greg from Hepcat, obviously Billy Kottage, the fifth Interrupter. Shoutout to Billy Kottage, the pride of Dover, New Hampshire.

(*Justin adjusts camera, revealing Billy Kottage sitting on the couch in the corner!)

Both: He’s right there!

JS: That’s awesome! I don’t think we’ve ever met in person, but Billy and I are both from the State of New Hampshire, so I always think that’s awesome. 

Justin: When he comes out here, he pretty much lives with us. 

JS: That’s great. There aren’t many of us in New Hampshire, the scene wasn’t very big, so when someone from the Granite State is cool and does cool things, I love it. So shoutout to Billy Kottage. So yeah, did they all record with you?

Jesse: It was all different. The Skints did it on their own in England, Rhoda recorded her vocals on her own at her place back in England. 

Justin: (For) Hepcat, we actually went into Tim’s studio for a day. 

Jesse: Which was great!

Justin: Greg and Alex came in and it was just one of the most fun days. That’s the thing, we went in to have them record on the song not knowing…Kevin didn’t really know what to have them do. We wanted them on the song, but he didn’t really have the part or anything. But we went in with them and showed them the song, and within like a minute, the two of them are sitting there going…

Both: “ooooh oooh” (*harmonizing*)

Justin: Like writing the parts, figuring it out together, it was so cool to see because they’re literally our favorite ska band. 

Jesse: It was a magical session to be a part of. They were sitting there laughing…

Justin: ..having a good time…

Jesse: …singing all the right notes. It was awesome. We did that at Tim’s studio. Tim also did his vocals at his studio. That was later in the process, where things were a little more comfortable, where we could actually travel to a studio and not worry about everything. And then also, we had a guest vocalist on “Alien.” It’s this guy named Arnold, who is a friend of Tim’s and a friend of Brett Gurewitz’s. When we were working on that song, I think it was Tim’s idea, he was like “Arnold’s voice would sound great on this,” and we were like “let’s give it a shot!” So we had Arnold come in and he sang all those background vocals, and he’s got this emotionally delicate approach to his vocals that just lifted that song to another level.

JS: That song is something else…

Both: Yeah!

Jesse: First Interrupters song with no guitar. 

JS: Right! That’s actually a thing I wanted to ask about. There’s so many different directions! Obviously you’ve always played on a lot of different influences, but I feel like with this album, you go deeper into the reggae thing, into the 2-Tone thing, and then “Alien” which is unlike anything else in the Interrupters catalog. What made you take the freedom to just kinda go with that. Is that stuff that’s always kinda been in the arsenal but maybe you didn’t want to go too deep on the first few records, but now that everyone’s along for the ride it’s like, “well, let’s push that.”

Jesse: Maybe a little bit of that, but also, it is more that the songs were telling us how we should play them, so to speak. So the way that that song was written, there was never really another way to approach it. That song went through a lot of different versions – not crazy different versions but it was layered up with heavy guitars at one point…

Justin: It was kind of like The Beatles’ “Oh Darling” at one point, where it was like rocking

Jesse: There were heavier drums on it at one point. It went through a bunch of stages.

Justin: But the emotion wasn’t there. Aimee fought really hard to bring it back to what it should be. 

Jesse: What served the song better. 

Justin: And that involved one day just pulling it up and being like “take the guitar off, take that off, take that off”…it got down to literally just the drum beat and the string arrangement. 

Jesse: Even cutting a whole outro and just being like “no, the song should end right there.” 

Justin: And then also with “My Heart,” which is also kind of a different…

Jesse: That “doo-woppy” 50s feel.

Justin: She had already had the melody and was singing it and I was like “well, it’s gonna be in 3, and it’s gonna have this rock feel.” Even if we tried to make it in 4 as a ska song or a reggae song, it just wasn’t working. So the way those songs were written informed the styles. And at this point, we’ve kind of realized that no matter what style it is, if it’s me and Jesse and Kevin playing and Aimee singing, it’s going to sound like The Interrupters. Us just believing in ourselves and pushing it forward that way really helped the process.  

JS: When there’s an album I’m really excited about, I try to ignore a lot of the singles and just listen to the album all the way through because, I don’t know, I’m in my 40s and that’s the way we did it when we were kids, right? So I listened to it all the way through and I took notes and next to “My Heart” I wrote “whoa, an Interrupters doo-wop song.” It’s very much an Interrupters song still, but it’s got that sort of 50s diner, doo-wop vibe to it. Which I think is awesome, and it’s cool to see elements like feature in the mix but still be an Interrupters track.

Justin: Thank you!

Jesse: Yeah, initially that was one where we were like “let’s just play like The Ramones would play in 3.” So it was real heavy, but it didn’t serve the song well.

Justin: So dial back a little bit. 

JS: I think people are going to dig that song.

Jesse: I think that’s my favorite song on the album.

Justin: Specifically behind the scenes with that song, Aimee had a service dog named Daisy for 13 years, who passed away in 2018. It was like her little girl, and it was devastating when she passed away. She wrote that song about her, and not even just the first time but the first few times I heard it, I couldn’t keep it together. I’d cry every time.

Jesse: Yeah, because when we worked it out in the studio, we just had the choruses, singing “my heart keeps beating, my heart keeps beating…” so that pretty much informed the drum beat just being a heartbeat. And then a couple weeks later when they updated the Dropbox with the verses and said “listen to this,” me and Justin were both sitting right here in our living room with our earbuds on and we’re both just like crying. Like, oh my god this is so emotional, because we all lived with Daisy, she was fantastic. She was a German shepherd/wolf, and we all still miss her a lot. That was a heavy one.

JS: Have you been able to play a lot of this stuff live yet, or are you waiting until the album is out?

Jesse: On the Flogging Molly tour we just did, we were only doing “Anything Was Better” and “In The Mirror,” and then when we dropped “Jailbird” we started doing that. The plan is to play as much of it as possible.

Justin: We tried a few of them at soundcheck on occasion.

Jesse: Yeah, we’d always screw around at soundcheck and be like “do you guys know ‘Kiss The Ground,’ let’s try that”

Justin: Or “Raised By Wolves”

Jesse: But we’re in rehearsals next week for a few days to work on stuff for the European tour, because that’s when we’ve gotta do longer sets, but the plan is to try to learn the whole record.

JS: I think people are going to dig a lot of it. I was just curious about if you’d throw a curveball song like that at people before they’ve heard the album to see what the response is. Because I feel like “In The Mirror” is one of those songs that the first time you hear it, you go “yup, that one’s a classic. That’s going to get the crowd whipped up.” Do you know when you’re writing a song like that that it’s going to be “the one.” Like “She’s Kerosene” was like that. The very first verse when I first heard it, I remember going “well, that’s gonna be a big hit.” 

Jesse: When we’re working on it in the studio, I think we’re so lost in the process that we don’t give songs that sort of focus, like “that’s going to be the single, this is going to be the hit.” But there was a point when we were doing “She’s Kerosene” that we had Mr. Brett come in and he was listening to stuff and he when he heard “Kerosene,” he had his little notepad and he was just like “hit.” And we all just looked at each other like “Whoa! Really?” 

Justin: We thought there was so much more work to be done with that song and when he gave it that check of approval, we were like “alright, we don’t have to do much more to it.” That was cool. But then also for this record, when there was like 18 or 20 songs, “In The Mirror” was a standout, at least for me. I was like “I think that one is really good.” Then as it dwindled down, it was like “In The Mirror” and “Raised By Wolves” as the top two. They’re different enough, one’s ska, one’s sort of heavy rock, and you’re just like these two are the shining examples of the record and what we’re trying to sound like. 

Jesse: And “In The Mirror,” Kevin and Aimee wrote that song ten years ago. That was one that wasn’t written specifically for this record. But when they were doing the inventory for the record, Aimee was like “we should dig this one up, this is a great one.” I remember when we were trying to work that one out in the room as a four-piece, I feel like it was a more difficult one to get away from the demo version, because I’ve been listening to that song for ten years. There is a demo recording of it – it’s not even a demo, it’s a full fledged-out different version of it. And having that ingrained in your brain and trying to get away from it and being like “alright, how would The Interrupters do this,” that was an interesting process. There was definitely a day where I was like “that song’s not going to make the record, we have so many other songs.” (*all laugh*) Obviously, I was wrong, that song rips. 

Justin: But it’s wild too, because they wrote it ten years ago. From that time, that’s when they wrote “Easy On You,” “Gave You Everything,” and then “In The Mirror” was in that batch.

Jesse: “Love Never Dies” was in that batch.

Justin: Yup, “Love Never Dies.” I think now if we’re recording, it’s like “hey what else was from that time period? What else did you write then? Anything else we can dig up?” There was some gold.

JS: It’s interesting to hear that it’s from that time period. As I was driving around this morning for work, I listened to the first album and this one back-to-back, because they come out on the same day; the new one comes out on the 8th anniversary of the first one, so I thought it would be cool to listen to them back-to-back. And, I loved the first album when it came out, but it is startling how far you guys have progressed as a band in eight years.

Both: Yeah!

JS: And so to listen to them back-to-back, obviously you can kinda see how ended up here, but at the same time, you’ve progressed so far. So it’s really interesting that that song, in particular, is from that batch.

Jesse: So, one of our little press points about this record and relating it to the previous records is that the first album is kind of like a first date, where you just talk about surface-level things, nothing too crazy. Second album, you start to let them know a little more about you. Third album, you’re kinda getting into the nitty-gritty. Fourth album, all the baggage is out, the drama is revealed, all the secrets are out. That is kind of where we are with this. And talking about the recording of the first record, we were just trying to keep it simple. We weren’t trying to reinvent anything, we were just trying to be a straight-ahead ska-punk band. 

Justin: We did like twenty-four instrumentals in three days. Some of them didn’t have any lyrics or anything, we just got the music done. The ones that didn’t have any lyrics done, they just wrote to the instrumentals. There was no going back to redo parts, it was just like “this is it, we’re done.” 

Jesse: And keep it simple. Like, for me on drums, it was like “don’t do any crazy fills, just keep it straight, keep it steady.” 

Justin: Which is wild, because some of my basslines, I play so many notes! Why did they let me do that?!? (*all laugh*)

JS: Yeah, but they work, and as somebody who wanted to be a bass player when he grew up, I like that they let you play all the notes!  …. Thanks for doing this. This was fun. I talked to Kevin and Aimee for I think the first three records, so it’s nice to talk to you guys. It’s been a while!

Jesse: Yeah we’re being let off the leash a little bit. (*all laugh*)

JS: Well and that’s good, you should be. It’s fun that you guys have your own language with each other, and I know that that’s talked about in other places, like the documentary. So it’s perfect that you guys ended up as a rhythm section, and you end up doing this. Is that why you ended up as a rhythm section?

Jesse: Yeah, kinda. It kinda happened naturally. I don’t remember if we talked about it in the movie, but Kevin started out as a drummer. We had a drum set in the house because our dad was a producer and worked with his friends. So there was a drum set always in the house and Kevin gravitated toward that at an early age. But then, one day our dad came home with a guitar and a bass. So Kevin grabbed the guitar, and I was already dicking around on the drums, so then the only thing left over was the bass. So then naturally it was like “well, this is your instrument, this is your instrument…” And then we would just jam as little kids. There’s some video in that documentary but there’s a LOT more video when we were like 7 years old and Kevin is like 9 of us just trying to play like Green Day songs and Blink 182 songs

Justin: Sublime songs.

Jesse: Yeah, Sublime songs! Whatever we were hearing on the radio is what we were trying to play. The crazy thing is that we’ve come full circle and we know a lot of the people we were trying to emulate and we’re lucky enough to call them friends. 

Justin: Some are like family.

Jesse: Yeah, some are like family now. It’s been a crazy, crazy life that we don’t take for granted. 

Justin: They always say don’t meet your idols but...

Jesse: …we’ve never had a bad experience when we’ve met our idols.

Justin: I couldn’t tell you one person that I had looked up to that I met and they ruined it for me. Everyone’s been amazing.

JS: You know what, I’ve got to say almost the same thing. The amount of people that I’ve gotten to know through doing this for…well, The Interrupters started in 2011 and I started with Dying Scene in 2011. You’re one of the bands that came out right when I was getting started with this whole thing so it’s been a fun sort of parallel, but there’s only a small, small handful of people where you go “wow, that guy’s kind of a dick.” Everybody else has been super cool and super rad and supportive of each other. Especially those people that we grew up listening to in the late 80s and the 90s. It’s a pretty good, supportive group.

Justin: It is, it is. Even when we just started out, to tour with Rancid was amazing, but then to go on and get Rhoda from The Bodysnatchers, we get Horace and Lynval and Terry from The Specials love us. It’s just insane. To have that mutual respect and to get it back is just…yeah…it’s mind-blowing.

Jesse: We did a charity show back in February where we were backing The Specials. I was the drummer of The Specials for a night. We did the whole set, like twelve songs. Justin played piano, Kev played guitar. 

Justin: You saw that thing where we played with Tim and Jesse Michaels and did the Op Ivy song? 

JS: Yeah, yeah. That was amazing.

Justin: That was the same event. That one song with Jesse was amazing but it overshadowed the fact that we played in The Specials! (*all laugh*)

Jesse: It was just mind-blowing. 

JS: Yes! Everyone kinda lost it with the Jesse thing but yeah, that’s awesome. Just awesome. 

Jesse: And just being able to sit in a room for a week with Terry and Horace; Lynval got sick so he couldn’t come out, but just to sit there and run the songs with them was mind-blowing. 

JS: I’m glad this stuff keeps happening to you, because you certainly deserve it. 

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DS Interview: The Punk Cellist on His Debut EP, the Similarities Between Punk and Classical Music, and A Full-Length Release Due Out Later This Year

I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Ian Legge, known by most as simply the Punk Cellist. I was particularly drawn to Legge’s unique spin on punk, emo and hardcore tunes because of the refreshingly reimagined transcriptions not of songs I was hearing for the first time, but ones such as the […]

I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Ian Legge, known by most as simply the Punk Cellist. I was particularly drawn to Legge’s unique spin on punk, emo and hardcore tunes because of the refreshingly reimagined transcriptions not of songs I was hearing for the first time, but ones such as the Gaslight Anthem‘s “The ’59 Sound” or The Menzingers‘ “Burn After Writing,” melodies that have consistently occupied my airwaves. I was given the feeling of hearing a brand new song, yet was able to sing every word along to the instrumental.

For a genre that, as a reader of Dying Scene I hope you love, but others sometimes misunderstand, the Punk Cellist is able to reimagine these punk tracks as arrangements that demonstrate their true musicianship, a duty that pays homage to such masterminds as Tony Sly, Dave Grohl, and the numerous others that Legge has covered. I’ve found Legge’s YouTube channel as an effective means of demonstrating some of what I love so much about punk to those that just don’t get it, and may not even want to. The Punk Cellist said it best by stating, “you can show this to your grandparents and they would be like ‘oh that’s nice’.”

I was ecstatic to hear that Legge was hard at work preparing for the release of his debut full-length later in 2023. After seeing that The Menzingers and Alkaline Trio held the honor of being the first two singles for this release, I have still yet to come up with two more suitable tracks to help warm fans up for what’s to come. Before these demoes were even released, I can remember running through the videos on The Punk Cellist Youtube channel and noting that tracks by the Menzingers and Alkaline Trio were ones that seemed to flow the best.

Be sure to continue scrolling for all kinds of great stuff to help get you acquainted with who I consider to be one of the most unique acts in punk rock. We cover all kinds of cool topics including what the process looks like going from punk track to cello instrumental, some of the similarities between two unlikely genres in classical music and punk, such future aspirations as possibly composing full orchestral pieces, as well as a whole lot more. Linked below is what is currently available on Spotify, as well as where you can grab a flexi of the two released tracks.

The Punk Cellist Fall ’22 Demo Flexi!

(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sake because a good chunk of this interview was just two guys shooting the shit.)

Dying Scene (Nathan Kernell NastyNate) Hey man, how you doing?

Ian Legge aka The Punk Cellist: Doing well, excited for this release, it’s doing well so far. Went on a good bike ride today, it was cold, but it was good.

So yeah, let’s hop right into it. Congrats on the release, man. I honestly couldn’t think of two better songs for it, they fit so perfectly. How did you decide upon those two songs with the Menzingers and then “Clavicle”?

Honestly, I had started putting together some mixes for a larger album and then I actually thought that I want to just do a demo at first and see kind of how it did. So I just chose what the first two songs that were kind of ready.

So how long has this been in the works, have you been working on this quite a while?

Since probably this summer, I’ve been looking for a label to help me put out these songs and press them on vinyl, help me with digital streaming, getting publications to talk to me when it’s released you know, just all the like background stuff. I’m really good at recording and arranging, but the whole back end of the band, it was never really my forte. So Ryan [Curtiss] came along saying that he wanted to help put out my music, he has a small label called Over Caffienated Records, so I’m working with him on it and we’re already half sold out of this pressing. We’re really excited to really thank you everyone who’s snagged one so far.

Have there been any issues you’ve run into with like licensing with these being covers? That seems like it could be kind of a difficult hurdle.

That was my concern at first, definitely. Luckily there is a step to payout royalties to these bands, so we did that and we can legally release these covers and everyone gets paid accordingly.

Did you record these yourself or did you go somewhere?

Yeah so I recorded them at home and mixed them myself and then I sent them to Joe Riley, who is actually Trevor Riley from A Wilhelm Scream, his dad and he has a little mastering studio called Black and Blue. So he mastered them and they sound great, he’s really affordable and quick and professional. So if you ever need any mastering done he’s a great person to go to.

I was looking around on your YouTube a little bit and actually the Menzingers, I thought those songs fit perfectly with you playing on cello. And then The Gaslight Anthem’s “The ‘59 Sound, I thought that was perfect too. Are there some songs that just don’t work on cello?

Honestly yeah. It’s funny because there are some songs that I really do want to arrange, but I’ve sort of hit some roadblocks in a way with how I think they would sound. For example, especially songs with not exactly like a vocal melody, they might be yelling something, that definitely makes it more difficult. I’m thinking of Propagandhi’s “Back to the Motor League.” I wanna do that one but right in the beginning, he yells ‘I wanna party fuckin’ hard’, like how do I recreate that on cello? But kind of a successful example with taking a sort of yelly, screaming part, I made it into a melody and it ended up working; the example I’m thinking of is Still Waiting by Sum 41. In the first verse he kinda yells ‘drop dead, a bullet to my head, you’re words are like a gun in hand’, and so I made that into like a melody with harmonies and stuff, I think it sounds pretty cool.

So then when you’re choosing a song, is it just as simple as transcribing it, it seems like it’d be more complicated than that?

Thankfully, I have a little bit of experience with arranging, just in school doing it a lot. What I realized is that the cello is tuned in a way that makes it pretty easy for me to recreate a lot of these songs because they’re tuned to fifths, so basically when I put one finger down across two strings, it makes a power chord like on a guitar. So when I realized that, I just went to town just trying to figure out everything that I could play. So then there are definitely bands that their musical style really makes it pretty easy for me, pretty straightforward. Some recordings are more difficult to hear, so trying to figure out the exact notes that they’re playing sometimes can be kind of a challenge.

So I think you mentioned it, but this two-song demo, is this part of a bigger release coming?

Yeah, I definitely hope to release a full-length vinyl with a good amount of covers on it, hopefully like 12 to 14 covers. I will be trying to do some smaller releases of maybe like just one or two bands as well. So yeah we’re gonna really push hard in 2023 and hopefully keep putting out some cool stuff.

Do you have any type of deadline for that or are you just aiming for some time in 2023 at this point?

Just 2023, getting that done at some point. I don’t wanna put any date on it just because we were supposed to release this [demo] in the fall and it ended up coming out in January.

So I wanted to pick your brain a little bit on choosing songs, on how you do that. A lot of these songs, are they just favorites to yours, was that kind of what it was in the beginning and now it’s progressed? How do you go about choosing some of these songs?

It definitely started as just my favorite songs. I’ve always loved hearing them turned into these string pieces, it’s so cool and it like scratches an itch for me that I had always had and I didn’t know that I had. Then people started asking to collaborate, for me to commission work now which is really cool, like it’s helping me pay bills. And also my Patreon supporters, there are about 40 of them supporting me monthly, they’ll request songs and I have a lot of cool songs in the works. One in particular that stuck out to me that I’m really excited to get working on is Strung Out. I’ve never really listened to them before and someone requested it and I was like ‘wow these guys are awesome, I’m surprised no one had suggested them to me before that’. So I hope to put out a Strung Out cover sometime this year as well.

Yeah that’ll be pretty cool because I know you did the A Wilhelm Scream cover a while back. I kind of put those two in the same realm, even though Strung Out has been around longer. They kind of go hand-in-hand to me.

I also have another A Wilhelm Scream cover in the works currently that’s actually more complete, hoping to release that sometime in the next few months.

I think that’ll be really cool once that comes out. I will say it is really cool listening to you, I was showing you some of your music to my girlfriend last night. She can’t stand punk man, she just doesn’t get it, but I showed her like “The ‘59 Sound” and “Burn After Writing,” “Dumb Reminders,” and she actually really liked them. “Dumb Reminders,was that like your first video?

Yep, I was gonna say that’s a real throwback, that was my first YouTube video.

I was showing her because she just doesn’t get punk, she doesn’t want to get punk and it’s cool showing her because it really shows the musicianship behind the writing. For people that maybe don’t understand or can’t really hear it because it’s so fast or whatever, it’s cool because it really demonstrates the musicianship behind the music.

I totally agree. I think that’s one of the coolest parts about it, you hear in a different way, but the music is still there. I like to keep things pretty close to the originals and it really does highlight the songwriting that is in punk because it’s incredible. I think it oftentimes gets overlooked, but I think it’s just because it sounds a bit harsh to people, they’re not used to it. That’s where they kind of draw the line, their brain kind of shuts off. I love to say you can show this to your grandparents and they would be like ‘oh that’s nice’.

So how long have you been playing cello, is this something you grew up doing?

Yeah both my parents are hugely into music and I started playing violin in 3rd grade. Then in 4th grade, that was actually when I saw the cello for the first time and I switched right away, so 21, almost 22 years and counting.

I know from some of your videos you play guitar and sing a little bit, did you pick those up later on?

Yeah drums, actually, I think is like my second best instrument, I practiced that a lot and I played in a punk band for 10 years on drums. So that’s kind of where my love of punk really came from was playing drums for this band called Half Hearted Hero. My bass player and my guitar player and my singer, we were all super close when we were in the band, which we’re kind of on hiatus right now, but they all showed me like NOFX, Propagandhi, all those great bands; No Use for a Name, the Swellers, Less Than Jake, Set Your Goals. I used to listen to like Green Day, Simple Plan, Sum 41, Story of the Year, you know like all those bands. That’s like how I started getting into the style of music and then they kind of really opened my world. And like Ramones and Descendents and all the OG punk, I actually kind of found that within the past few years which is cool because I’ve gone backwards in time. I started with all the newest stuff and then went backwards in time and just like kept looking for older stuff. And I feel bands like Ramones and even the Saints were really such a cool way to kick off the whole punk movement.

I’m kind of the same way, those were some of the bands I grew up on, Green Day, big on them Sum 41, all those guys. And it wasn’t until pretty late in high school that I really started getting into some of these punk bands that I love now.

That’s actually one thing I love about this project. I’m learning about so many new bands I don’t think I would have ever listened to really. There’s like a little community that I’ve built online, like we’re always chatting about different bands, different music, I’ve definitely discovered some really cool bands because of it.

I wanted to talk to you little bit about about like classical music, that’s kind of what everybody thinks of when they see the cello. I grew up playing violin as well and I wasn’t playing punk rock. Were you trained classically, and if so, I wanna kind of hear how you made the jump from classical to punk?

Yeah so that was how I started, just through school like the whole elementary, middle and high school orchestra track. I played in a youth philharmonic orchestra as well, so that was a little bit higher end as far as performance level; three hour rehearsals once a week, playing like real stuff. And I liked it but I was already kind of getting burned out on it by high school. So then I discovered Apocalyptica and all the others that were doing contemporary stuff at the time, like rock-based contemporary stuff and it made me stick with cello. Like I almost quit, I almost just stopped, went with drums. I never really had lessons on drums but I’ve always loved drums so much. It’s something that I wasn’t really technically proficient at though like I was on cello. So I’m appreciative that I kind of stuck with it because I would have been starting from square one with drums if I wanted to learn it like that.

I mean I can’t really think of two more polar opposites than classical and punk rock. So this is kind of like a two-part question, was there somewhat of a learning curve when you started doing punk on cello and were there any surprising similarities between playing classical and playing punk?

That’s a good question. Yeah I actually think one of the things that I learned most, or needed to learn that I didn’t really know was to play in certain positions that benefit vocal melodies. What I mean by that is that a lot of vocal melodies are actually pentatonic scales, and so I learned basically how to play pentatonic scales on cello in learning all these vocal melodies for these cover songs. Like the chords are one thing, that’s where the similarities lie I think is in the chord structures. Not only like the fact that I could place one finger across two strings and it sounds like a power chord, but like in western music you can’t really go too far outside of the 12 chords that you are given and so you definitely will see a lot of chord progressions where you’re like ‘oh I’ve heard that before’. Another example, spiccato on the cello is actually like palm mutes on guitar; like those types of things, where one articulation from classical is a different articulation in punk rock or rock music. Especially that spiccato, which means that your bow is bouncing on the strings, it sounds exactly like a palm mute sound, and so one of the fun parts about arranging these songs is taking the techniques that I’ve learned from the classical world and mimicking sounds in rock or punk. For example, doing a pick slide, there’s no real specific technique name for that but it’s something that’s been transcribed into some classical music that I’ve played before where you just have to slide up or down the neck.

I mean that’s so surprising to me that there are those kind of similarities between two things that, just on the surface, seem so different.

But sonically, you’re like ‘Oh yeah it sounds very similar’.

Is a lot of the theory very similar too?

It depends on what era of classical music you’re talking about. The further you go back, the more rules there are that punk rock tends to break, like parallel fifths, that type of thing. It was really interesting for me to learn where punk rock came from because that informed my knowledge of theory behind punk. It’s really based out of just straight-up rock’n’roll, like Elvis Costello and just guitar players that were pushing the envelope back in the day in the Blues and the rock scene. I mean you can draw a straight line from punk rock, through rock and roll, through Blues, all the way back to classical music. I mean there are similarities that you can find, for sure, it just depends on kind of how you look at it because they’re pretty far apart.

That does make a lot of sense about it being harder to find similarities with theory because punk kind of inherently breaks rules. For 2022, I saw you did stuff with Garrett Dale, can you talk about some of the other shows you were on, some of your favorites?

We played with Tim from Elway and also James Renton, he kind of sat in when we were playing shows in Canada and that was a lot of fun. I met some really cool people it was a quick one, two in Canada and two in Colorado and we plan on trying to do that again at some point for sure. That was sort of a test run for us.

What about 2023, anything planned?

I’m trying to play more locally, just like trying to have cello pay the bills. I’m playing a lot of breweries, a lot of coffee shops. You probably know Narragansett brewery, I’m playing at their tap room in Providence in April. Just definitely trying to do more of those things and then we’ll definitely be doing some fun things around Fest time, we’ll try to plan a tour down there, it depends on if I can find a band to go with, that definitely helps. There will be some cool collaborations happening at Fest, but just little stuff up until then.

I know you’ve done covers up until this point, do you have any plans on originals?

Not really at this point. I mean I’m also really into hardcore and so I’ve been thinking about starting a heavy band, but nothing planned right now for cello. At this point I’m actually thinking about trying to expand these covers into doing full string orchestra at like a theatre. I think that would be taking my idea to the next level.

Oh that’d be awesome. I know with the Decline doing their thing at Red Rocks, that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

That was pretty mind-blowing to me. That gave me kind of the idea of doing something like that, and also me playing with the 8-bit big band with my friend Charlie from school, he makes video game arrangements in big band, like jazz band. So I was like ‘I would love to do this with punk tunes’, there a lot of punk fans that I think would appreciate going out, having a nice night out, drinking fancy cocktails and hearing their favorite punk songs done on strings.

Any big collaborations planned, I mean you don’t have to spoil anything?

I hope to have something out with a couple bands, I’m working on kind of a double cover where one of the songs will be a Descendents song that I’m doing by myself and then one a member of No Trigger will be doing vocals on the other one. And then I just spoke with Scott from Born Without Bones, we want to do a Rancid cover together.

Well it sounds like you’ve got a lot going on, I’ll definitely follow along man. I appreciate you sitting down with me, and good luck with the upcoming releases.

Yeah thanks man.

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DS Introductions: Characters of Riot Fest 2023

One of my favorite quotes in photojournalism is from the legendary William Albert Allard. He famously said, “I think the best pictures are often on the edges of any situation, I don’t find photographing the situation nearly as interesting as photographing the edges.“ It has long been a sort of mission statement for me in my career as […]

One of my favorite quotes in photojournalism is from the legendary William Albert Allard. He famously said,

I think the best pictures are often on the edges of any situation, I don’t find photographing the situation nearly as interesting as photographing the edges.

It has long been a sort of mission statement for me in my career as a photographer. One I try to apply every time I have my camera with me. This year, I decided to forgo the photo pits and let my fellow DS Team Chicago member Mary handle those duties. First time since we started documenting Riot Fest I was not in the photo pit. I missed being in the photo scrum but being able to cover all the other wild, cool, fun and compelling parts of the festival was well worth it. A few of the following Characters of Riot Fest I knew already and am friends with some. But I also met so many more fantastic people. A few I’d like to introduce to you dear DS readers.


The Son also Rises

As Riot Fest’s main focus is music, let’s start with one of the great bands. Sludgeworth had the Rebel Stage with a time slot in competition with Foo Fighters. Yet, the Chicago band first founded in 1989, held its own. The band is comprised of singer Dan Schafer aka Dan Vapid, in the front, Brian McQuaid aka Brian Vermin, on drums in the back, and their bandmates, Adam White and Dave McClean on guitars, and Mike Hootenstrat on bass, long-time Sludgeworth fans were ecstatic. McQuaid, who was in Screeching Weasel prior to Sludgeworth, told me,

We played RF with Bad Brains back when it was at the Congress, but this time was just bigger and more exciting. It was an amazing experience to be part of such a massive production. +-This time was more special because the first time was a one off, and this time we’re gonna keep going.


The band returned this year earlier, taking the stage at Cobra Lounge and garnering newer fans and introducing a new part-time member, Brian McQuaid’s 13 year old son Max McQuaid. The younger McQuaid has been playing for 5 years but at Cobra, he made his live performance debut. It was fun to document that performance and see the warm welcome the young musician was given. Not just because his dad is in the band but because the kid has a legit talent with the sticks. Did not have to be a drummer to understand that when the Max smashed his way through “Anytime.”


“Max has played both Cobra and Riot Fest. He worked really hard and played like a pro both times, I can’t express how proud I am. He’s gonna go places I never have with his work ethic and indoctrination into this music scene.”


Riot Fest is the Pits

Another person making his Riot Fest debut its Kamran Khan. Rather than on the stage though, Khan was stationed near the stage, He worked as a member of the team regulating the photo pits. Among, the duties, making sure photographers in the pit had the proper credentials and providing instructions to the shooters as to the general protocols, as well as the individual mandates of the various bands. The team ensures that we photographers get the best images we can, at the same time making sure everyone stays safe. Khan was pretty confident he could handle the job.

I’d never worked a press pit before but I’ve been a bartender, a teacher, a bouncer, a real estate agent, a minister, a waiter at a Russian bath house, an editor/publisher, a ditch digger, a secretary, a babysitter, a writer, and I even lasted one day as a line cook. So, I figured he thought I’d have the skill set covered.

And his impressions?

Well, besides the fact I got to see some of the most badass musicians around performing at the top of their game from just several meters away, the best thing about it was meeting all the heroically hardworking and talented people that keep the Fest going that also happen not to be wearing artist wristbands. There’s so many moving parts to get this many acts going on in front of this many people smoothly, and so many people trying to do their best to make sure everybody’s safe and having a good time, and you gotta do that gig amongst the constant shifting demands and constraints of all the different emerging variables, pivoting and adapting on the fly. Working a fest is kinda like being Harrison Bergeron, (from that Kurt Vonnegut Jr story) trying to dance in a metal suit, and pulling it off.

But so many cool hardworking folks pull it off and it was great to have a killer weekend with them all. I also got a kick outa watching all the press do their work, the elegant yet clumsy dance of the “Where’s a damn angle where I can get a transcendent shot before I have to run across a city park dodging drunk grey bearded punk rockers between rain soaked lakes without twisting my ankle or breaking the strap on my camera (which can be fixed with a zip tie if it happens I learned) in order to hopefully get a shot that may or may not get cut depending on what somebody in an office 2000 miles away thinks. And getting to sit in the press tent and jaw with you about old pictures. That was a blast.

Describing his experience with vivid and poetic details is not surprising for a person whose Instagram handle is “Punks With Books”. And Khan’s last statement about pictures was actual a reference to 1970’s cinema. Khan, with headband and his style of facial hair, appears to be straight out of central casting for a Sidney Lumet or Alan J. Pakula directed film. It was a blast to be able to discuss, in general, cinema’s greatest decade, and specifically, Al Pacino. I need to go watch Dog Day Afternoon now. “Attica! Attica!”


Shoot to Thrill


One person who did not make his Riot Fest debut this year is photographer Mike “MXV” Vinikour. While a good portion of photographers, including myself for DS, have covered multiple Riot Fest, only Vinikour has wielded his camera and his vision at Riot Fest every year. The Downers Grove, IL-based photographer and Associate Game Developer at Stern Pinball runs his own site called The Punk Vault.

Vinikour described to me how he got started shooting Riot Fest, how it has changed over the years, and what it has meant to him.

Back in 2005 I saw a flier for this two day punk festival at the Congress Theater called Riot Fest. I saw the lineup of bands and it was full of all these great old punk rock bands I grew up with, some of them still mostly intact and some of them a fraction of what they were with different/new singers. I had only been shooting shows for about a year or so at that point and was still pretty green. I didn’t know who the promoter was at the time, but I had connections through a couple of bands that were on the bill. One of the days I think I got my passes from the Dead Kennedys’ publicist, and the other day I either got in through The Effigies or Channel 3.

It was a really fun two days and there were so many great bands both old and new, though it was the old punk bands of my youth that got me to go to it.

After the fest I had posted my show review and photos on my site. I was the only photographer at that first Riot Fest. A few months later, Riot Mike [Michael “Riot Mike” Petryshyn, founder and owner of Riot Fest] came up to me at a show and thanked me for the nice review of his show and giving him some exposure and he liked my photos. He told me of his plans for the second Riot Fest and that got me really excited. He invited me to come shoot it again and that started a long relationship I’ve had with Riot Fest. I haven’t missed shooting a single one and Mike, Luba [Vasilik], Heather [West of Western Publicity], and everyone in the organization have been wonderful to me over the years. I can’t say enough good things about all of them.

I liked it when they were just in the Congress Theater because I loved shooting at that venue, and it had a lot of space. When they added that second stage in the lobby though it made navigating in and out of there more difficult. That club had great lighting and the barricade had enough room in there to drive a car inside of it. The rest of the place was falling apart though.

When they moved it to the different clubs, it really made it difficult to try and shoot multiple shows, and many times I had to make a difficult choice of what ones to do because as good as modern technology is, I was never able to clone myself to be in two places at once. Driving between the venues was difficult too, having to find parking, going through traffic if you had only a short window of time to get from one club to another, and some venues were harder to shoot in than others due to their size, lack of barricade, etc.

I was pretty happy when they moved past the multi-club thing (which was always an exhausting week) and moved it to the big outdoor festival. I was blown away at that first one at Humboldt Park with how massive it was and what a huge undertaking it was on Riot Fest’s part to do something that big, but it turned out awesome and to this day it’s the only outdoor festival I like or want to participate in. They adapted well over the years of being a huge fest to make the layout more user friendly and I think the last few years have been even better than ever with how they’ve managed it all.

It was kind of a neat parallel with how Riot Fest grew over the years and how I grew and honed my craft at photography. We both started close to the same time and have both gotten way better over the years. I definitely own a part of my growth as a concert photographer to Riot Fest.

I started taking photos around 2004 for my website The Punk Vault. I had been writing about music since 1985 when I started a fanzine called Spontaneous Combustion. That ran until 1997, then a few years later I did a web version of that which then morphed into The Punk Vault site that I’ve been doing the last 20 years.


RE: the way shooting bands has changed at the fest over the years: Well in the old Congress Days I was allowed to shoot the full sets of every band and had all access passes, so I had the full run of the place. I was pretty spoiled, and Mike made me feel really special and appreciated. When they became a big outdoor fest, I understood the logistics of that wouldn’t work anymore. I was just happy that when the fest became huge, they. never forgot me and told me that I’ll always be welcome to come shoot the fest as long as I want. It went from me being the only one there, to being in a pretty small group of photographers sharing the pit, to now being one of probably 100 that shoot the fest every year. It can be challenging at times being in there with so many people all vying for the same three spots to shoot though those giant speaker stacks that are blocking most of our view, but I’ve been so many awesome photographers over the years at the fest that it feels like a family. There’s a core group of us that have been shooting the outdoor fest for so many years now that it really has become the most fun weekend of shooting bands of the year and the one I look forward to the most. It’s like a brotherhood of photographers and we all laugh and have a great time.

Sometimes being crammed in there with so many people can be hard on me because I have anxiety and that can trigger me, but it’s always been manageable and in a way it’s good for me to challenge myself. Also, there’s been times where instead of 3 songs, we only get 1 due to them splitting us in groups, or certain bands may have restrictions that only let us do one song. That has made me a more efficient photographer so when those situations happen I can roll with it a lot easier than ever now.

I almost never just watch a band unless I’m shooting them. The enjoyment of shows for me is shooting photos, I won’t go to shows unless I’m shooting them. I’ve made exceptions at the fest for bands I really love that may not allow any photography, (The Misfits for example) but typically if a band won’t let me shoot them, I won’t stick around to watch them, and I’ll go shoot someone else.


Having a Senior Moment


AnnaBelle “Bee” Pant, is a 12th grader at what her mother Monica described to me as a “progressive-ish” high school in a small, conservative Michigan town. AnnaBelle wanted something a little different from the typical senior portraits she had seen with classes coming before hers,

I’m 17, and I live in southwest Michigan, which is basically just a bunch of cornfields. I wanted to get my senior pictures somewhere a little more “me.”


AnnaBelle and her parents – Ben & Monica Pant – and her 11th grader brother Trey, made it a family affair.

This is our third year at Riot Fest, and I’ve always loved going with my family seeing concerts. I know it’ll be some of my best memories with my parents.”

As for the family’s favorite sets? AnnaBelle spoke on behalf of the quartet,

For sure Bowling For Soup!! and The Used were awesome, we were camping at the barrier for both.”

Oh and the Pants also brought along a friend named Ryan, whom the Pant family befriended at the festival in 2021. Well, sort of. The actual Ryan was unable to attend this year so family carried “Flat Ryan,” inspired by the Flat Stanley travels the word idea. This is just one of the many long-lasting friendships formed at Riot Fest every year.


Maker of the Mosh


Nik Simmons describes himself this way,

Stay at home dad and drumming for Exegesis until Rod Tuffcurls and the Bench Press needs me.

But Simmons is also a man with an annual mission to organize the best Riot Fest mosh pits, or at least the most unique.

Over the years, it has become a Riot Fest tradition to have a gimmick pit. As soon as I read that Corey Feldman was playing, I knew he was the perfect act. 

Feldman became famous as a child actor, including in the classic 80’s films, Stand By Me, The Goonies, and The Lost Boys. During the past few decades he has concentrated on music but has never really been acclaimed for his musical talents.


Still, Feldman elicited both enthusiasm and snickers from a good number of fest attendees. Simmons told me,

His name stood out from the lineup so much that I had to see him perform. I’m sure many went for the irony. However, even those who went in with that attitude were soon won over by Corey Feldman’s performance.

Simmons, who cited The Lost Boys as his favorite Feldman film, didn’t get to meet the star but does believe the actor was aware of the pit,

I think he did. It was posted on one of his social media accounts.

More importantly, the crowd seemed to enjoy it as Simmons described the result, 

Excellent. A bunch of people had a great time.

This was not Simmons’ first such experience as he informed me,

Yes, there was a wall of death for The Village People, corn dog pit for Sincere Engineer, and a pit for Devo. I’ve made a sign for each of those mosh pits too.

Looking forward to witnessing what Nik Simmons comes up with at Riot Fest 2024. 


Board with Riot Fest


Cooper Greenslade, 13, caught air and grabbed attention as he flew high above the Riot Pop! skate ramp set up against the Riot Fest Devil. Greenslade shared with me, via instagram, his first Riot Fest experience.

Yes, this was my first time at RF, and as far as the experience it totally exceeded my expectations honestly. I didn’t really know how kool it was gonna be till I walked through the gates and saw all the people and heard the insane music I was immediately stoked about being there. I have not skated any other music fests but I definitely intend on going to more in my life.

I have been skating 5 1/2 years not pro (yet) but hopefully one day. I am sponsored by Character Skateboards, GROM USA, Static Hardware, Fargo. I would say my overall experience with RF is the bands were amazing and the stages were close enough to get to see a lot of bands quickly, and the people watching was amazing.

I always get super stoked riding with older dudes cause they have a lot of experience and all of them are super kool and they are always giving me tips and advice to get better, the Chicago skate scene is very positive and motivated. I’m super excited to have so many good influences around me.

Yes, I would love to make this a full time career, but for now I’m having a ton of fun and meeting a lot of amazing skaters all over the US. I’m just gonna keep hustling and see where it takes me.


Punk Rock Nuptials


The wedding party wore t-shirts emblazoned with Cards Against Humanity style references to past (“Throwing Meat at Morrissey“) and present (Dave P., a Dave Grohl doppelgänger, wore a shirt with the Foo Fighters singers’ name on it) Riot Fests and the group’s all too often reaction whilst watching Chicago Bears games (“Shit Got Fucked”). The Bride and Groom wore t-shirts where the traditional “til death due us part” was wrapped around corpse hands, and Old Skool Vans with their initials and the wedding date printed on the heel. The corsage was made out of Riot Fest lineup cards, and there was a swarm of (fake) adorable bumblebees. For Angela Vetrovec-Schiller & Aaron Schiller, there was no doubt the chapel they would head to would be the Riot Fest Chapel.

Riot Fest means so much to me. Music is a huge part of my life. I’ve been going to Riot Fest since the start. It’s basically a holiday weekend for me and my friends. Moving away from Chicago was a hard decision for me. Riot Fest has now turned into a yearly reunion. The random run ins are one of my favorite parts. I met my husband at a show, fell in love with him at a fest, he proposed to me at another fest, so getting married at Riot Fest was the perfect way to do in front of all of our best friends. I love being at Riot Fest, I love the people of Riot Fest, I love our scene. 


Punks Care


Punk Rock Saves Lives and Riot Fest have combined to save lives for years. PRSL founder Rob “Rover” Rushing explained why Riot Fest is so meaningful to him, his wife and board member Tina Rushing, and all involved in the beloved nonprofit.

“PRSL was formed in November 2019. As a continuation of the work that we did with the Love, Hope, Strength, Foundation. It Is my dream and my wife’s and quite a few others’ dream to use the positivity of the punk scene to make incremental differences in our lives every day.”

As LHS or as PRSL, I believe Since 2013, possibly before, and that includes all of the Denver ones as well, we were invited by Sean (McKeough), the co-owner of Riot Fest as a kind of a personal mission because he had beat cancer before his untimely death from a brain aneurysm. We’ve swabbed close to 400 every single year we’ve been at Riot Fest, if not more. Considering 1 in 100 matches to save a life, and 1 in 1000 of those make it to the donation, Riot Fest is way above normal averages for saving lives. Something about Riot Fest is just special because people not only come to have an absolute blast but seem to care. 

Seems like that is the community and it’s even with, you know, years where it’s more punk rock, or it’s more rock or it’s more rap, it doesn’t change. The community of Riot Fest is pretty amazing. 

One of my favorite moments of Riot Fest ever, and it’s kind of sad to say it this way, but the year Sean passed away. They went forth, obviously. Very, very sad. But also, they had his Gator, his golf cart type thing. And they brought it, and they displayed it as a memorial for him. And they came and got me at my booth. When I got there to set up, they drove by and took me to the Gator and had me put a sticker on the Gator because they knew how much our charity meant to him.  

That just proves that the people of Riot Fest, it’s not only a business and obviously it’s that, but it’s also a community and they believe in it and seeing, you know seeing Mike’s article this year, where he came out as on the spectrum, it was a very inspirational and awesome article. So that’s just some of the cool things about Riot Fest. That makes it special to me and I will always, always be there as long as we exist.

“Going into it, I obviously thought it was more rock-centric than it had been in the past. But it ended up being just so widespread that I didn’t even realize that. It was so cool. And you know, having The Dresden Dolls on the main stage…luckily Amanda gave us an amazing shout out for the charity. And because of her, we probably signed up an extra 90 to 95 people within the next 15 minutes at our little pop-up booth, as well as people going into the booth.

“Mr. Bungle doing thrash, which was incredible too. Learning about a whole bunch of new bands and just the community and the people embracing what we do. It just warms my heart, you know? It’s incredible. So, Punkers do give a fuck. That’s one of our slogans, punks give a fuck. And it’s true, right? Riot Fest is proof.


Please check out more sights from Riot Fest 2023! Thanks and Cheers!


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DS Photo Gallery: Conservative Military Image, No Friend of Mine, No Guard, Home Invasion, and Memento Mori from Chicago’s Cobra Lounge

Illinois bands come together and put on a true punk show with a matinee showing at the Cobra Lounge. Bands played their best songs, showed off their best jumps, and some played their last gig. Fans sang and danced hard at this all age show! We need more shows like this. Conservative Military Image is […]

Illinois bands come together and put on a true punk show with a matinee showing at the Cobra Lounge. Bands played their best songs, showed off their best jumps, and some played their last gig. Fans sang and danced hard at this all age show! We need more shows like this.

Conservative Military Image is no stranger to Chicago’s hardcore punk scene. The fans felt their amazing energy and took it to the floor. Find them here.

No Friend of Mine is a straight edge band also from Chicago, they did not disappoint.

Springfield’s own Oi! band No Guard performed a great show. They will have you dancing the floor and doing high kicks. Be sure to follow them.

Home Invasion is a straight edge hardcore band from Chicago. They just released Enemy in May, give it a listen. Give them a follow as well.

Memento Mori played their last show. But keep on eye out for them for other projects they might be working on. Follow them here.

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DS Photo Gallery: Mercy Union “White Tiger” record release w/Lenny Lashley, Early Riser and Felons (Crossroads, Garwood NJ – 8/5/22)

If you read our review of Mercy Union‘s dynamite sophomore album, White Tiger, last week, it should probably come as no surprise that even though I live in Massachusetts and the official record release show occurred on a Friday in New Jersey, I was going to be there. And I was! My “forever-plus-one” and I […]

If you read our review of Mercy Union‘s dynamite sophomore album, White Tiger, last week, it should probably come as no surprise that even though I live in Massachusetts and the official record release show occurred on a Friday in New Jersey, I was going to be there. And I was! My “forever-plus-one” and I hopped in the car, dropped our teenager off at her grandparents’ house, and made our way to Crossroads in Garwood, NJ, a club that has become a sort of home-away-from-home for us the last half-dozen years or so. (Really, if you live in the greater NYC area, you should make it a point to go to Crossroads for dinner and a show. You won’t regret it.)

Felons were the first band out of the gate on this evening. Astute followers of the New Jersey music scene will no doubt remember Zak Ferentz from Ferentz and the Felons. The Hudson County street folker retooled his band during quarantine lockdown. Now known simply as Felons, the band still features Ferentz on acoustic guitar and vocals, but he’s backed by a bass player and, well, I don’t have nearly enough knowledge of electronic music to have even the foggiest idea to know what Plantcham was playing on stage right, but I know that it combined for a really cool and weird and interesting sound. Sort of acoustic folk punk meets drone synth with all sorts of samples in the mix. Ferentz at one point introduced a song as being “about doing too many psychadelics” and I’d say that sounds about right. Check the video for “Sheep’s Wool” here for a pretty accurate example.


Brooklyn’s Early Riser were next up, and I have to say, I’m really, really glad I finally got the chance to see them. For the uninitiated, it’s safe to say that Early Riser continue the evening’s theme of bands that are tough to confine to a specific genre box. The sound is centered around Kiri Oliver’s playful vocals and small body Martin acoustic with additional texture provided by Heidi Vanderlee on cello and Nicole Nussbaum on bass. Drums are handled by none other than Mikey Erg, and all members provide harmonies. It’s like posi folk punk power-pop and it inspired a random and unexpected dance break in the crowd!


Much like yours truly, Lenny Lashley made the trip down from Massachusetts. Accompanied by frequent collaborator, the multi-talented Cody Nilsen on pedal steel, Lenny occupied the night’s direct support slot. I think Lenny is the artist I’ve seen most since Covid started a couple years ago because I tend not to wander too far away from home now, so it was fun to actually see him play a road game. Lashley bounced between acoustic (a 1937 Martin reissue, I believe) and electric (a tele-style Nacho Guitar if you’re into that sort of thing) and, while he’s got a massive catalog, stuck to songs mostly from his solo repertoire, including a few tracks from his upcoming album Five Great Egrets (more on that later). Lashley and Mercy Union frontman Jared Hart go back to the days when the former welcomed the latter’s old band, The Scandals, to Boston many years ago, so it’s been fun to watch the connection continue across state lines well over a decade later.

Which brings us, of course, to the Mercy Union portion of the evening. Hart and the gang (Rocky Catanese on guitar and occasional lead vocals, Nick Jorgensen on bass and backing vocals, recent recruit byt familiar face Matt Olsson on drums) fired up the margarita machine and fired straight into “1988,” “The Void” and lead single “Prussian Blue,” the three tracks that open White Tiger and set its sonic tone. The new material was, naturally, pretty well received from the home crowd, most of whom had clearly been listening to the album on repeat for at least the duration of release day if not, in some special cases, considerably longer. The 16-song set was heavy on White Tiger, naturally, with a few songs from their debut album, The Quarry, a couple reworked Hart solo songs, and a completely on-brand singalong cover of Goo Goo Dolls classic “Black Balloon” for good measure.


It was apparent from the earliest notes of their set that the band wore not only loaded for bear, but were having fun in the process. It is obviously a bit of a daunting task to put out an album on your own label two-and-a-half years into a global pandemic, and then to host a record release show at a well-respected club in your backyard (a club that, coincidentally, yours truly traveled to for a Scandals record release show a bunch of years ago). The night was full of smiles and gratitude and shoutouts and guest appearances on gang vocals, proving that while the sound may have branched out from traditional punk rock, the vibe and the ethos once you’re inside the four walls of a sweaty club remains every bit the same.


Look below for photo slideshows from each set of the night. You can still order Mercy Union’s White Tiger here or get it wherever you buy your digital music!


MERCY UNION