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DS Album Review: Hayley & The Crushers – “Modern Adult Kicks”

It’s summer in 2002 and it’s about to be golden hour while you lay on your bed staring at the ceiling. You are dwelling on some fight you had with your mom. Every friend you have is out having fun or on vacation- unreachable by phone and you’re swearing off each and every one of […]

It’s summer in 2002 and it’s about to be golden hour while you lay on your bed staring at the ceiling. You are dwelling on some fight you had with your mom. Every friend you have is out having fun or on vacation- unreachable by phone and you’re swearing off each and every one of them. Your last ditch effort of hope points to a Walkman and a bike while you ride the familiar streets of some suburban Midwestern town with headphones filled with relief.

Flash forward to 2022 after a pandemic and a half has washed over you and you’re still sitting with the same feeling of being grated by life, but you have time to step into the Crushverse and kick it with Hayley & the Crushers. Modern Adult Kicks is an album that houses singles released from 2021 and some fresh new tunes from the band and most have adult themes paired with power pop fun that are sure to ride with you from your morning coffee to a late-night vinyl dance sesh. By the way, this album comes in a limited edition blue raspberry for those vinyl aficionados.

Modern Adult Kicks starts off strong with the single “Taboo” which offers this hefty guitar riff as Hayley’s dark and devious voice coaxes you melodiously to the stranger side of power pop. You’re gonna follow her and you’re gonna love where it’s headed. In the 2nd verse, the first four lines are delivered such a mood of heavy desperation and need. You hear it in the annunciation of T’s and the beaks in guitar. “Taboo” connects this memory of that feeling while looking out of the window in The Lockdown of 2020. You wanted to go out, but you know it was taboo.

The album goes on to carry The Crushers’ more polished sound for your tender punk heart. The band has described this album as an example of “how to grow up without growing jaded.” Nothing could be more rightly said about it. The death of the ego really prevails in the sound of Hayley’s sharp guitar playing, lyrics, and titles of songs in this album. Songs like “She Drives”, “California Sober”, and “Overexposed” bring out this perfect mixture of sunny pop-tempo painting this scene of punks enjoying life knowing full well everything around them is burning (this is fine). Which is just the kind of macabre sense of fun that most of us who survived the past few years may need right now. Don’t worry for all you tough guys out there the album still houses the familiar punk sound echoing the frustration and need to thrash around that resides in most of us.

In her own words on Sound Digest, Hayley has written a little year in review which gives insight into what this album may mean to her. It is in this touching honesty as she writes about being a musician during the pandemic, getting her shit together, and driving to really refine her career as a musician. All the touring she wanted to do for the band’s last album which was released in 2020 never got to come to fruition. All that hard work and self-reflection came to be in March of 2021 when the band was signed by Josie Cotton to her record label Kitten Robot Records. The band got to work with Paul Roessler remotely as well as in person for Modern Adult Kicks and the album was mastered by Mass Giorgini (Squirtgun). The band is gearing up for a tour that begins September 23rs, 2022 and it is one that you may not want to miss out on.

Modern Adult Kicks is available for purchase

Tour Dates & Locations

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DS Band Spotlight: UK punks Bear Away make their debut with “A Drastic Tale Of Western Living”

A few days ago, I presented our Facebook followers with a simple task: Recommend some awesome bands to be featured on the next entry in Dying Scene’s Ten Underrated Bands You Should Be Listening To column. You guys came through big time, and now I have something like 200 fucking bands to sift through! What […]

A few days ago, I presented our Facebook followers with a simple task: Recommend some awesome bands to be featured on the next entry in Dying Scene’s Ten Underrated Bands You Should Be Listening To column. You guys came through big time, and now I have something like 200 fucking bands to sift through! What have I gotten myself into?! ?

Anyway, one of the bands that immediately grabbed my attention was Bear Away. Recommended by a reader named Kevin from Las Vegas, these guys have totally flown under my radar for the entirety of the three years they’ve been around. I took Kevin’s advice and checked out their brand new album A Drastic Tale of Western Living and I really liked what I heard! Don’t just take my word for it, listen for yourself below.

Haling from Scarborough, UK, the four piece Bear Away has a kinda fuzzy, melodic sound with a bit of a Midwest punk feel. A Drastic Tale… is a very solid debut effort that will serve as a great introduction to new listeners (like me!). No matter what corner of the world you’re in, you can probably grab a copy of this record. Brassneck and Engineer Records released it in the UK, with the following labels handling international distribution: Sell the Heart Records in North America, Shield Recordings in Europe, and Waterslide Records in Japan. So if you like what you hear, hit up one of those awesome labels! And tell ’em your friends at Dying Scene sent ya ?

  1. Hola! I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and finally got the courage to go
    ahead and give you a shout out from New Caney Texas!
    Just wanted to tell you keep up the fantastic work!

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DS Exclusive: Fine Dining (98 Mute, Eken Is Dead, etc.) releasing new album on Felony Records; check out their brand new music video!

Los Angeles punks Fine Dining have signed with the newly resurrected Felony Records to release their debut album No Reservations. The band consists of members from South Bay bands 98 Mute, Western Waste, NoBigDeal, and Eken Is Dead. Dying Scene is thrilled to bring you this exclusive premiere of their brand new single “Vacant Parts”. […]

Los Angeles punks Fine Dining have signed with the newly resurrected Felony Records to release their debut album No Reservations. The band consists of members from South Bay bands 98 Mute, Western Waste, NoBigDeal, and Eken Is Dead. Dying Scene is thrilled to bring you this exclusive premiere of their brand new single “Vacant Parts”. Go ahead, check out the music video for that bitch:

Fine Dining recorded No Reservations with the legendary Paul Miner (Death By Stereo, Adolescents, New Found Glory, etc.) at his own Buzzbomb Studios. The 12-song album is due out October 28th; you can get it on beautiful colored vinyl and/or CD here. There’s also an ultra-limited “Copper Smoke” color variant that’s exclusive to the Rare Punk Music Facebook Group. And, of course, the album will be on all your favorite streaming platforms as well.

On signing with Felony Records, guitarist Kevin Wells says, “It was a no brainer to go with Felony once we found out they were rising from their ashes. It was a long time coming, but we are stoked to be working with Felony. Ron McIntyre and the whole crew over at Felony really stepped up and I’m glad they made this happen. It’s nice to see smaller labels can still be active and affect change for bands in an ever growing corporate punk rock landscape.”

Fine Dining can be seen live October 7 at DiPiazza’s in Long Beach, October 28 in San Pedro at The Sardine, November 3 in Fullerton with Deviates and Chaser, and November 11 in Oceanside with Bad Cop/Bad Cop and many other bands for the Punk Rock Food Drive.

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DS Interview: Hanging Out With Deanna Belos/Sincere Engineer

Deanna Belos’ nom de plume et scène is Sincere Engineer, but sincere is also a great way to describe the human behind the guitar and voice. I recently did a photo shoot with the multi-hyphenate Midwesterner (singer, songwriter, guitar player and fun provider) as we rode Chicago’s Red and Green Lines, and took over parts […]

Deanna Belos’ nom de plume et scène is Sincere Engineer, but sincere is also a great way to describe the human behind the guitar and voice.

I recently did a photo shoot with the multi-hyphenate Midwesterner (singer, songwriter, guitar player and fun provider) as we rode Chicago’s Red and Green Lines, and took over parts of some CTA train platforms post-Riot Fest. This happened just days before Sincere Engineer embarked on a European tour. We later followed up with an interview in which she describes, among other things, the experience of being on stage, her creative process, and fun. That last word serves as a sort of mission statement for the Chicago native.

Deanna Belos starting playing the guitar at age 12. Her foray into music was due to the work of those who stood out to her when she was just a kid. She tells me,

The bands I watched while I was growing up inspired me a lot.”

Belos soon discovered her favorite band, the Lawrence Arms, by way of Alkaline Trio, which she also loves. Belos is proudly from the Windy City and this is reflected through her affection for the hometown punk scene and the musicians borne out of it. So many of those who inspired her have become good friends, including the lead singers of the aforementioned bands.

The year 2022 saw Sincere Engineer promoted to one of the Riot Fest main stages. She looks as comfortable on it as she does on smaller stages in smaller venues. Her band, composed of guitarist Kyle Geib, bass player Nick Arvanitis, and Adam Beck on drums, also seems right at home on the expansive stage.

I asked her how conscious she is of the crowd and her surroundings as she performs. Belos tells me,

“I’m usually amped by the time we get on stage. But leading up to it I’m always nervous and pacing.”

Her strategy for relieving that case of nervousness?

“I always try to look at the crowd and make sure everyone’s having fun…” adding, “but I always try to look straight ahead and focus on playing.”

There was no doubt the Riot Fest crowd was having fun as evidenced by how many partook in a Corndog Circle Pit [Video by Pray AFK]. This particular circle pit was an homage to the opening track, “Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7” off of Sincere Engineer’s debut album Rhombithian. Belos joyfully relates her reaction when she noticed it happening,

“I was able to see it from the stage, yes! It was super cool. I almost teared up at it. A fan started a Facebook event to coordinate the corn dog pit and it kinda took off from there.”

“Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7” is an infectious tune but it also showcases her signature “Raw, Lonely Punk.” I am not quoting Belos there but rather a certain late legendary, comedian whose visage is inked on her leg.

It was in 2017, after Belos replied to a user called @braverygravy “Lol, maybe @NormMacDonald will listen to it.” The one-time Saturday Night Live cast member and comedy icon tweeted back: “I have. What’s not to love. Raw, Lonely Punk.”

To this day, Belos uses a screenshot of that interaction as her Facebook cover image.

It’s not hard to see why her songs and especially “Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7” hits so many, famous or not, in the heart so strongly, and somewhat painfully:

“What am I supposed to do now?
What am I supposed to do now?
When you’re still not around
And you’re all I think about

When it comes to writing songs, it’s a melding of creative methods which works best for Belos.

“I continually write lyrics just in a document, but typically I’ll play guitar and just riff til something comes to me. If nothing comes to me I’ll use some previously written lyrics and try to puzzle them together to make a song.”

Belos’ humor is often in the form of self-deprecation, and she seems about as humble as any musician I’ve met. When pressed to list some of the qualities which help make her a great musician, this is about as boastful as she gets:

I think I can write a relatable song and that helps!

As to other parts of the life of a working professional musician, Belos returns to the same three-letter word so important to her.

“Favorite [part] is watching people have fun at our shows.”

With every favorite of that life, there are challenges as well.

“Hardest…touring probably. It’s fun and rewarding but it’s a hard endurance test haha.”

When it comes to Chicago venues at the top of her list, she has two.

Metro is my favorite venue to play in Chicago! And Empty Bottle is my favorite to see a show at.”

Belos is grateful for the experiences she has had as Sincere Engineer.

“We have been so fortunate to get to play with some of our favorite bands. Playing Metro with Alkaline Trio was surreal. Riot Fest too. Hometown shows are always the most fun.”

But she is also keenly aware that not all shows are equally great. She maintains a pretty positive outlook even after such shows.

“I try not to beat myself up too much about it, but make sure to try harder next time.”

Belos, asked which musicians inspire her, returns again to two of her long-time faves with whom she is now friends.

Brendan Kelly [Lawrence Arms, The Falcon] for his songwriting and stage banter. Matt Skiba for his song writing and being cool.”

While it seems, from her current success and increasing stardom as Sincere Engineer, that it must have been a foregone conclusion Belos would become a professional musician. However, she once considered going into the medical field. “Overbite” from Rhombithian describes how she disabused herself of that notion.

“I wanna give up
I wanna give up
I don’t wanna try no more
I wanna stop all these pathetic attempts and saving this shipwreck
Swim right out the door
Before it sinks with a fraction of what’s left of my dignity
I swept so many failed tests under carpets
Deep down I knew this is not what I wanted (not what I wanted)”

Sincere Engineer’s fan base is growing exponentially and no doubt many members of it are glad Belos abandoned attempts to place the initials D.D.S. after her name.

There is one part her life Belos did felt harder to abandon.

Per Belos,

“I was an animal care technician for laboratory animals. It was a tough decision and I’m still getting used to it. It still makes me nervous!”

Returning to the subject of the tour from which Sincere Engineer just returned, Belos happily indicates, it was a success and tells me

“The tour went really well! It was super fun to visit and play in a bunch of new places.”

Belos continues,

“It started in Ireland and ended in Germany. There were stops in England, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria along the way.”

Such a whirlwind tour left little time for anything more than playing a set at one venue and traveling to the next city or town to perform there. She informs me,

“We did get a little time to sightsee. Not a ton. We went to the Guinness Factory in Ireland, saw the Berlin Wall stuff in Germany. The rest was mostly just doing stuff around the venues we played at.”

On this particular tour, someone especially close to Belos’ heart stepped in to help her out when one of the band members sadly had to stay back in the States. Per Belos,

“My drummer Adam [Beck] couldn’t do the tour because of work. It was nice having Jeremy [Hansen, her long-time boyfriend] there and made me feel less homesick, and he’s such a great drummer and it was an honor to play with him. He played in the band Tricky Dick in the ’90’s.”

Belos was not the only member of the band thankful Hansen could help out. Kyle Geib describes him this way,

Jeremy was such a great candidate to step in on the European tour! We all love Jeremy.”

For Hansen, it was a blast as well. He tells me,

“It was lovely! Lots of fun. Shows were good. Hangs were good. Got to do some sightseeing. Doing it together was special.”

That’s the thing about Sincere Engineer. While it may be described as a solo project, Belos’ love and admiration for her friends, who double as her band members, is obvious, as is their love for her. This all adds up to…you guessed it…fun.

Belos now has a little breathing room to just kick back and relax at home. After an exciting and seemingly exhausting year, hopefully Belos will be able to enjoy the holidays with family and friends. Once 2023 hits though, she will be back onstage. First up, headlining at Bottom Lounge on January 14. Belos reports there are a couple of other events already inked on her 2023 calendar.

“And we’re doing Slam Dunk in the UK again and SBAM festival in Austria next May/June!”

Should be fun.

In what little time off from Sincere Engineer-related activities, Deanna Belos lists her favorite activities as “Bike riding, kayaking, plants.”

Please see below for images from my recent photoshoot with Deanna Belos, on September 23, 2022, and from her set at Riot Fest on September 16, 2022 in Chicago IL.

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DS Interview: LA Edwards on “Out Of The Heart Of Darkness,” touring with heavyweight artists, running Bitchin’ Sauce, and more!

If you’re like us, one of the positive things that came out of the Covid shutdown and the way artists had to alter the way that they connected with fans is that it gave us a chance to check out a bunch of new music that we might have slept on previously. Case in point: […]

If you’re like us, one of the positive things that came out of the Covid shutdown and the way artists had to alter the way that they connected with fans is that it gave us a chance to check out a bunch of new music that we might have slept on previously. Case in point: LA Edwards. It was a name I’d certainly heard before, but it wasn’t until an opening appearance on Lucero’s Virtual Block Party in late 2020 that I said “hey, these guys are pretty great!” There was a cool, mellow, Laurel Canyony vibe to the sound, filled with great guitars and even greater harmonies.

Now that the world has reopened and Covid is no longer a thing (lol), the band finally made their way to the Northeast, opening for Lucero on their somewhat abbreviated run late last year. While Lucero are certainly well-known for epic live performances of their own, LA Edwards did a formidable job setting a high bar. The band followed that tour with a western US run with The White Buffalo, and yesterday, they release their latest (and undoubtedly greatest) full-length album, Out Of The Heart Of Darkness. If you missed it, here’s our review. We traded emails with frontman Luke Edwards to talk about the new album, what it’s like touring with a bunch of live heavyweights, how you balance being a full-time musician and owning a wildly successful food company and more! You can listen to the new album below, then keep scrolling to check out our chat!

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): First and foremost, thanks for taking some time to answer some of our questions. You’ve bookended your touring year with runs in support of The White Buffalo and had a few festivals and a bit of an abbreviated run with Lucero in the mix earlier this year. How does 2022 stack up amongst the touring years in your career?

Luke “LA” Edwards: Thank you for having me!  It was great to be back out on the road for 22, including our first run overseas to Europe and the Uk.  22 was one of our busier years with about 4.5 months out.  We’re feeling good and road ready!

Speaking of The White Buffalo, I’ve been lucky enough to interview Jake a couple times over the years, and he has to be on the shortlist of the more intense and dynamic performers that I’ve ever had the privilege to shoot. Does knowing your playing in support of a powerhouse live act (whether it’s Jake or Lucero or Lucinda Williams, etc) motivate you and the crew because you know you have to bring your A-game every night?

Most definitely!  It’s always our goal to serve the audience, and supporting and watching such amazing artists nightly is a master class that we are very thankful for.  

Speaking of tour, you were on the road with the amazingly talented Amanda Shires when the world shut down a few years ago. What do you remember about that time, particularly trying to maneuver that first handful of shows as things were closing down? Did you have a lot of other stuff that had to get postponed or canceled the longer that shutdown lasted?

That was definitely a wild ride.  I remember we were in the Northwest and the shows kept getting thinner and thinner until we cancelled the run and headed home.  A fan in Vancouver wisely stated at our last show, “We’re going to remember this as the time before Covid”….

All musicians are making up for their last 2 years so it’s a good time to be a fan.  It’s not the most artist-friendly touring landscape with the high costs and competition of everyone being out making up for lost time.  

Okay, let’s switch gears to the new album! Congratulations on Out Of The Heart Of Darkness! I’ve been a fan of your songwriting and your sound for a while now, but I have to say that from the first listen, I think this is your best and most diverse work yet! I have to imagine this was a fun record to make. Songs like “Let It Out” and “Hi Rite Now!” and that bridge/outro on “Surrender” really seem to tap into the live energy of an LA Edwards show. Was that a focus this time out? 

Thank you!  We’re very proud of the record.  I wrote most of it after our Europe tour and was feeling pretty exhausted and hungover in every way possible.  Those shows were the biggest of our career and I think that desire to rock the big rooms probably played a subconscious role in the songwriting process.  

One of the things that I was most impressed with in finally getting to see the band live on that Lucero run in the Northeast was how much of a killer guitar band you are. It feels like you did let the guitars off the proverbial leash a little more this time out, as it seems like there are some newer and different sounds and textures on this record. Is there a battle between the songwriter part of your brain that wants to serve the song best and provide atmosphere for a song to breathe in, and the guitar player side of your brain that maybe just wants to shred sometimes? 

Love that!  Yes we do love to play guitar.  My brother Jay is the real shredder, I mainly like to play slide since I don’t practice scales and speed drills enough.  On the new material Jay is playing the majority of the lead guitar, which allows me to focus a bit more on singing/dancing/falling etc.  We steered away from “solos” and went more “lead” style for the guitars, which has always been my favorite kind of playing.  I wanted the guitar to come from a more melodic/songwriting approach, similar to George Harrison/David Lindley etc., so I think it allows shredding within the fairway of the song/melody.

There are recurring themes of movement on a lot of your work but particularly on this album. Lots of references to the characters in your music traveling; sometimes they’re wandering, sometimes they’re escaping, or sometimes either returning home or, conversely, not being able to return home and having to move on. Why do you think that these are themes that resonate with you and, by extension, to your listeners?

Well we grew up in a military family so we never really settled down or had a childhood home, so that’s definitely in the DNA.  And then add becoming roving minstrels in a traveling band to the mix and you have homesick material covered.  I think a lot of people can relate to wanting to find their place.

A friend and frequent mention on the pages of Dying Scene over the years, Dave Hause, has increasingly collaborated with his younger brother Tim over the years and wrote an album called Blood Harmony that, in part, digs into that sort of cosmic sonic connection that siblings seem able to tap into that people without that family relationship can’t always. You’ve certainly played with some talented musicians not named Edwards in your time (shoutout to Alex Vo and Landon Pigg!!), but you and Jay and Jerry seem to have that “thing.” Is that a thing you’ve really explored and, if so, when did you realize that you had that sort of mutual musical language?

We grew up singing at church and listening to good harmony bands around the house, but we were mainly in crappy punk bands through high school.  We didn’t really fully dive into the harmonies till our late teens early 20s.  Once we did, we realized was uniquely our own and resonated with people on a deep, familial level.  Jay is classically trained so he has a lot of fun arranging weird, out of the box 3 part harmonies.  Aside from songwriting, it’s my favorite part of the whole deal.

I was surprised to see “The Crow” not listed on the tracklist for Out Of The Heart Of Darkness, in part because I’m a sucker for slide guitar and harmonica. What went into the decision to release that as a standalone single instead?

Well the Crow was actually recorded before “Blessings from Home” at Ten4 studio in Nashville in 2019.  We considered putting it on Blessings but it didn’t seem to fit anywhere sonically.  It’s a lot closer to the tones of the new record for sure, not really sure why we didn’t put it on there now that you mention it…maybe because it’s a few years older.

You’ve collaborated with the great Ron Blair pretty regularly at this point. On the list of surreal things that have happened in your time in the music industry, where does working with not just a Heartbreaker, but with the guy that Tom Petty himself called “always the best bass player in the room” rank?

We owe so much to Ron.  He’s our main mentor and a great sensei.  Having him enter the picture is definitely surreal and one of the most meaningful things to happen to us musically.  And he’s still the best bass player in the room!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the success of your “day job” as co-founder of Bitchin’ Sauce which – shameless plug – is finally available in my neck of the woods and is really unlike anything else I’ve ever had. If you were able to go back and talk to high school-aged Luke, which do you think he’d be more mindblown by: your success as a touring musician with a handful of albums on his own label imprint under Universal records, or your success as co-founder of an award-winning, vegan specialty food company?

Both are very surprising, but I never thought I’d be in the food biz!

Thanks again for taking the time to answer our long-winded questions. If there’s anything else you’d like Dying Scene readers to know, feel free to do so here! Best of luck with Out Of The Heart Of Darkness, and hopefully we’ll catch you on the road again in the new year!!

See you out there, cheers Jay!!

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DS Interview: Matt Goud aka Northcote on His New Record “Wholeheart”

Matt Goud, better known as Northcote, has a new full-length out now, done in true DIY fashion. Inspired by Indian devotional music and a renewed spirituality through nature, this record gives the listener a more stripped-down, raw sound than what may have been encountered in previous Northcote releases. As described by Goud in our interview, […]

Matt Goud, better known as Northcote, has a new full-length out now, done in true DIY fashion. Inspired by Indian devotional music and a renewed spirituality through nature, this record gives the listener a more stripped-down, raw sound than what may have been encountered in previous Northcote releases. As described by Goud in our interview, “there’s less of like guys playing a band, it’s more of almost like I performed the song live and then everyone jammed on top of it.”

You can almost feel the sporadic nature of the record, and can appreciate that even more than something so methodical and planned out. It plays right into the folk narrative of authenticity and simplicity. Although this record comes off less methodical than ones previous, the music in no way suffers. I found myself enjoying these tracks in a different way than I had previously when listening to full-band songs such as “Bitter End” or “How Can You Turn Around”.

Interviews like this are the reason I enjoy writing for Dying Scene so much. Matt Goud’s distinct blend of Americana and folk, paired with truthfully sincere lyrics that are almost therapeutic in nature have had probably the largest influence on both my songwriting and obsession with Americana music (I credit Northcote with leading me down a path to the likes of Tim Barry, Seth Anderson, Dan Andriano, and many others). Pairing this interview with the one I just did with Roger Harvey gives you a pretty solid look at how my music taste has started evolving as of late.
What made this interview even cooler were a couple of the coincidences that emerged right as we started talking. I noticed we were both wearing the same Bouncing Souls hoodie that I got down at Fest in October. I then mentioned having seen Northcote play with Dave Hause in Nashville at the historic Bluebird Cafe, Northcote’s only time playing here. He then held up a Bluebird Cafe mug from his trip here. Just a couple little coincidences that got our conversation rolling and assured me that this was going to be a good one.

Keep scrolling for a link to the brand-spanking-new record, a list of tour dates, and my super awesome chat with Matt about the new release, influences, hockey, and a whole bunch more cool shit. As always, thanks for making it this far. Cheers!

(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, thanks so much for sitting down with me. Before we get started man, I just want to say it’s really an honor getting to talk with you. You’ve been probably the most influential songwriter for me over the years and your music has helped me through a lot, specifically Hope is Made of Steel. I saw you back in, I wanna say 2018, it was that tour you did with Dave Hause where you came down to Nashville. You weren’t playing the date, it was at Bluebird Café, but you still got up and played a couple songs and that’s what first introduced me to your music. I’ve kind of followed along ever since.

Matt Goud (Northcote): Right on well that’s cool to hear. Weird coincidences right with the mug, I had no idea where you were based out of.

Actually I took my brother to that show, that was his first concert ever and we were sitting right side stage, had a great view. It was awesome. That’s still today one of my favorite shows ever. That was such a cool show.

That was a good trip, that was 2018 or 2019. I came down there, just maybe did a week or two. Sometimes he invites me to do that, where else did we play on that? One I remember going to is Richmond and maybe Boston was on that one too. That was fun, those are special times going to hang with Dave.

Oh yeah, that was the first time I got to see him, now I’ve seen him three or four times since. I actually just saw him a couple months ago across town at a different venue. So let’s go ahead and get started man, I really wanted to talk about the new record, out March 17. What was the meaning behind calling it Wholeheart?

The idea of the album art kind of came to me in a dream almost. I had a dream where I was sitting at kind of a campfire with a friend and there was a big scene around the dream where there were kids there, police officers and the president of the United States, my dad was there, and my grandparents who have passed away were there. And there was like a feel and we’re looking at the campfire, me and my friend, and the campfire was kind of like an atom or like a ball, like the earth almost. And just that oneness, the feeling I had of looking at that campfire made me think of whole heart. This also comes from the devotion I feel over the years from singing, it’s kind of what I’m trying to do in my music, the devotion to singing and practicing, meeting people, to give it your all.

You mentioned the artwork, do you do all your artwork for your singles and your full lengths?

Over the years my friend John Gerard has done the majority of the artwork: Hope is Made of Steel, the self-titled, Gather No Dust, Let Me Roar. This one though, a friend from town named Alex Murray was available. John just put out a book and said he was kind of busy at the time I was looking for a piece. Alex Murray did the artwork, we were on a recreation soccer team together.

Were these recorded near you in British Columbia?

The material was written in ‘21, recorded May 2022 and will be released March 2023. So a long process. It was made here in Vancouver Island with Colin Stewart at a place called the Hive, and they’re pretty famous for kind of fuzzy indie rock, they’re kind of the most well-known studio out here for that. Colin’s partner did Japandroids in the same studio, so there’s that West Coast kind of indie rock thing. That’s what he’s all about, he had never recorded a scream, like I have a guest vocalist from my favorite hardcore band on track 2, it’s called “Man Inside the Glass” and he had never recorded a hardcore scream. He had been making records for 20 years, that’s kind of funny, that was a fun day.

So on your website you talked about exploring Indian devotional and chant music with this new record. Can you kind of elaborate on that a little bit because I know nothing about Indian devotional music.

Me neither *laughs*. Well I set out to write these songs and I was writing in a similar way that I had always done, go with the verses and the chorus and try to come up with something catchy. Meanwhile, during the pandemic I had a bunch of changes in my life. I had found some spirituality that I had been missing for a few years and that was helping me feel a bit more relaxed and I just had a sense of calmness and easiness. Some of what I found was, I went to a cloud meditation class and the teacher gave one verse from the Bhagavad Gita, which is an Indian spiritual text, and she was teaching this verse and I was sitting there, this is my first time I’ve ever tried anything like that, and it was just word by word learning this chant. And I kind of got the hang of it and I would say it to myself and I noticed that when I’m going to play my guitar, I was doing more chanting than songwriting. And so it just kind of started to take over my jam time and so then it just blended together.

So you mentioned exploring Indian devotional chants, but you also mentioned this record bringing you back to your days of playing with Means.

Well this record is gonna be DIY for me, what I mean by that is just putting it out with help of friends and family, like no record label or booking agent or anything, and because of that, I’m not as concerned with the business of the album. I need to make some money to pay off the album, but other than that I don’t have my eye on a single or radio campaign you know. This is the first interview I’ve done about it actually. So I knew that going into the record because I was exploring some spiritual things and there’s some screaming on the record. It reminds me of a Means record called Sending You Strength. We had that whole record planned out before we went to the studio, I had the track listing planned out, the artwork, I had the transitions, there was a spoken word song I had, all the riffs, but I couldn’t really visualize it. With WholeHeart I really could visualize what I wanted to feel, what I wanted the vibe of the record to be. Before, I was more collaborative like with the drums, guitar solos, making it more Americana or something, which is great, I’m glad I got to try on that. But there’s no songs that are gonna be big in Nashville on this record.

I mean I’m not too fond of a lot of songs that are big in Nashville anyways *laughs*.

The dream I had to be a songwriter is kind of over, I’m really trying to be a singer you know. The chanting music has really brought a new facet to my singing which I could not see coming, it reminds me of hardcore screaming kind of too. The way it feels and my body, it’s like I’m tired after I do it.

That actually kind of relates to my next question, what do you think is the biggest difference with this new record? I mean your last record came out during COVID, there are several artists I’ve talked to where it’s kind of the same thing, where their new releases are post COVID and they talk about it being such a drastic difference because COVID was such a dark time and now it’s kind of back to normal. So would you say that that’s kind of the biggest difference between Let Me Roar and Wholeheart?

I think with Let Me Roar, we had a tour with the whole band like we had full drums, there was a full bass, we wanted to go and play in theaters and with the band. But we didn’t tour, so we made a concert movie with the band. This record, there isn’t really a band on the record you know all of the Northcote people helped me make it, everyone. It’s not DIY because everyone helped me out with it, but like Mike never played a snare drum or high hat, he played like a concert bass drum, a standup bass drum you know. A lot of the bass guitar was done on a Wurlitzer. So there’s less of like guys playing a band, it’s more of almost like I performed the song live and then everyone jammed on top of it. It’s kind of like if we were hanging out at your basement there and I was like ‘hey guys here’s the new song “Can’t Stay the Same”‘ and Mike grabbed the bass drum, and Steven grabbed the guitar, and Eric sat at the piano, it’s more like that.

You can almost appreciate music like that more sometimes because sometimes you hear that everything’s so planned and everything’s so methodical. You can sometimes appreciate being sporadic and just jamming over top of something. That’s awesome. So with your first two singles for this record, is there a type of theme? It seems the outdoors is kind of a main focus with the first two.

Oh cool, I’m just putting this together in my head because I’m not sure what I would say in an interview yet. But I will say that I live in Vancouver Island, and we had this thing during the pandemic here, it was a big protest about the logging industry. And there was like the police, and the protesters, and the logging industry, and the government. There was this big protest essentially about it. I went to one of the rallies and listened to an Indigenous speaker and he was saying something to encourage the crowd to kind of find their side of themselves which connects to nature. It wasn’t about the money or the cops or any of the politics, he encouraged the crowd to think about who you are, like where do you come, where were you born, and how would you fit in with nature and water and trees. I thought that was so profound because, as a white guy, I don’t always think of myself as like coming from nature. Indigenous people become one with the land almost, it’s really important to them. But me, I’m a farm kid from Saskatchewan, I don’t have that connection, I don’t feel like I know where I come from in that deep way. So I think a lot of the poetry on the record will have nature as an influence.

That kind of really intrigues me because that’s kind of the type of journey I’ve had the past 2-3 years. I was living in and going to school in a small town in East Tennessee, a lot of nature around, and I kind of started finding that spirituality in nature. So I wanted to kind of talk about your upbringing a little bit. With you growing up in a small town, what music were you introduced that kind of led to you being in Means and ultimately brought you to where you are now with your unique blend of kind of Americana folk music?

I’m the oldest sibling, but I did have older friends who introduced me to punk rock and hardcore, that was probably grade 8, grade 7. You know the first time I heard Nirvana and NOFX, I remember I was in grade 6 and I rode in a car with some older kids, we were going to a hockey school, that’s the first time I heard NOFX and Nirvana and the fast drumming of NOFX that blew my mind. So it kind of went from there I mean I always liked kinda pissed off political punk quite a bit, but I like Christian hardcore stuff too. Christian rock, I like that. I mean I grew up in that culture and I would say when Means got going, we were all pretty devout, we were all from devout families of faith, but we all wanted to play music with everybody and being from Canada there wasn’t a big Christian hardcore scene. So we just grew up playing with everybody, my favorite tours were with Shai Hulud and Misery Signals. Then when Means broke up, going into country music or Americana music, it was kind of a hard transition because a lot of my influences were indie rock, but my simple, more folky songs seemed to get a better response. So I think as I went along my songs got a bit more simple.

I was interested to hear your answer because it’s kind of a weird transition, going from Christian hardcore to what you’re doing now.

Yeah what else can I tell you about that … well I mean coming out of the hardcore scene, I knew that Means did well, like I was happy and I loved that band so much. But when the band was over, I wanted to see what it was like in different genres, like we never played in the bar, we never played with indie rock bands, we were way too heavy. So it was a challenge at first and it was a novelty too to play in coffee shops and bars. Then once I got a few tours, then I started having fun, like meeting people and drinking and getting into the bar scene, then I started getting to travel around the world and it kind of got rolling. And now I’m back at the start.

Currently, I think I read in your bio you work as a mental health worker?


The reason I ask that is because, for me your music is very therapeutic. Hope is Made of Steel, that record helped me through a really rough time right after I discovered your music, after seeing you live. With your music, is that kind of a goal, is it kind of therapeutic to help people or is it more of a reflection of personal experience, is it maybe a mix of both?

I think it’s therapeutic to help. I mean I don’t know what it’s like on the other side of my music, like sometimes when my songs come on in the car, like if my wife is playing it or something, I feel embarrassed and I switch the track. But making the songs, the process of writing them or whatever, I think it’s helping me, this is what I like to do to and it’s a part of my identity. This is how I spend my time. I’m not trying to be any therapy thing, I was trying to get a hit song so I could buy a condo *laughs*. So somewhere in between that yeah.

Are you still currently a hockey broadcaster now?

This is the first year I’ve got to do that and it’s hilarious, it’s for the University of Victoria.

Gotcha, so do you have an NHL team you root for, are you a Canucks guy?

I cheer for Edmonton, because I grew up in Saskatchewan so I grew up pretty close to Minot, North Dakota. So that’s the zone right that I’m from, or Bismarck, that’s like 3 hours, 4 hours away. So you could cheer for Winnipeg, Calgary, or Edmonton, those were the close teams.

I’m happy hearing that because I’m a Blues guy, I’m from Saint Louis, so Winnipeg is no good and then Vancouver knocked us out a couple years ago, one of my buddies is a big Vancouver guy so he was rubbing in my face and everything.

So we’re kind of winding down here, something I always like to ask with songwriting in general, for you do lyrics come first or does music come first? Something I kind of always struggle with in my own songwriting is finding what’s gonna come first.

I think the answer for me is kind of like music with one line. Oftentimes when I journal, what I journal won’t make it into the song, but it’ll give me a start. Like “Can’t Stay the Same,” that was kind of just like a thing I would just write down, I just had it in my head. And so it took me a while to find the right music, but once I found that, the chorus opened up and the song opened up. So I would say music usually with one word or a line.

That’s a new one, I haven’t heard that one yet. So you said you weren’t able to tour at all for Let Me Roar, I mean it was during the height of COVID. Do you have a bunch of dates scheduled to do some support for the record, or do you have something in the works for that?

I do, yeah. I’m self-booking shows in Western Canada, so I’m just gonna run out from Vancouver Island back home to Saskatchewan, turn around and then come back. So it’s just 14 days, then from there I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I would love to go overseas again maybe, but I’m just trying to get one tour under my belt because of booking it myself. Once I get that going then maybe I will see how it goes.

Well I can’t wait to see what happens. That about covers everything I think. Lastly, I guess I’ll ask where does the name Northcote come from?

It kind of means the North shelter. At the time I was living in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, which is an Arctic town. It kind of was inspired by a poem about just a shelter, like a birdhouse, inspired by that. I have a lot of birdhouse and I just like the Northcote thing. Of course, now I like it because of an actual coat, like now when I think about the name, sometimes write it C-O-A-T because I’ve been made fun of enough times. Some of my friends called me Cote. And then I met the singer Craig from The Hold Steady and he told me I should lower a giant coat from the ceiling when I go on stage *laughs*. Like lower a giant coat and just put it on before I do my Americana classics. So it was inspired by where I was living at the time and I liked shelter part.

That’s awesome. Well we’re about out of time on this call, this really was so awesome getting to chat with you. Have a good one and we’ll talk soon.

Thanks so much Nathan.


4/13 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Vancouver @ 8:00pm, Vancouver, BC, Canada

4/14 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Vancouver @ 8:00pm, Chinatown De Vancouver, BC, Canada

4/15 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Kelowna @ 8:30pm, Kelowna, BC, Canada

4/16 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Penticton @ 8:00pm, Penticton, BC, Canada

4/17 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Nelson @ 7:00pm, Nelson, BC, Canada

4/18 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Calgary @ 8:00pm, Calgary, AB, Canada

4/19 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Lethbridge @ 7:30pm, Lethbridge, AB, Canada

4/20 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Regina @ 8:00pm, Regina, SK, Canada

4/21 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Saskatoon @ 8:00pm, Saskatoon, SK, Canada

4/22 Wholeheart Album Release Tour Edmonton @ 5:00pm, Edmonton, AB, Canada

4/27 Wholeheart Album Release Show Victoria Lucky Bar @ 7:00pm, Victoria, BC, Canada

4/28 Vancouver Island Tour with Vince Vaccaro @ 7:30pm, Duncan, BC, Canada

5/6 Vancouver Island Tour with Vince Vaccaro @ 7:00pm, Tofino, BC, Canada

5/11 Vancouver Island Tour with Vince Vaccaro @ 7:00pm, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada

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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 & Show Review: Punk Rock Tacos 33 / Surf Candy / Mulva / Of Wolves / x.Oracles.x / Radar Waves / Squared Off/ Downhill Runner / The Turdles / Nahuales Underground (Cemitas Poblanas – Villa Park, Il 8/12/2023)

Located in the Chicago ‘burb of Villa Park. Punk Rock Tacos provides a place for music. They expand themselves to friend venues at the core of the Chicago punk scene. After 2 years of putting on shows it became a record label. A website featuring all of the bands will be launching soon. On the […]

Mulva with Max the punk rock dog

Located in the Chicago ‘burb of Villa Park. Punk Rock Tacos provides a place for music. They expand themselves to friend venues at the core of the Chicago punk scene. After 2 years of putting on shows it became a record label. A website featuring all of the bands will be launching soon. On the site, each band has its own Big Cartel store where the band handles their own orders and money. “In these times, we need to fall somewhere between LABEL-DIY. It’s still nice to group up and have organization, but we are not a label that owns everyone’s music.” They continue to book top local and touring talent. Overall, a memorable experience was had with the bands and crowd. A great old-school punk show vibe. Very pleasant, courteous, and friendly staff, great food. Very accommodating and I highly suggest seeing shows at this venue.

The day at Punk Rock Tacos 33 kicked off with Surf Candy from the Chicago sub-burbs. Surf Candy is a three-piece Noisy Hard Rock band bringing a taste of Grunge and noise rock. Ian Young (guitar/vocals), Seb Schlau (bass) and Andy Hartmanowski (drums) brought a great sense of energy and played most of the songs off their debut E.P. Surf Candy. Check out more photos below!

Next up was the band Mulva from Milwaukee/Chicago. The band consists of Mike Muse (vocals/guitar), Justin Schenck (bass/vocals) and Jeff Coyl (drums). All veterans of the Midwest scene with punk pedigrees. They bring a strong sense of catchy hook-laden energy and humor to their live show. Their set consisted of songs off their E.P.s I Cant Wake Up/ The Prequel Trilogy. Check out more photos below!”

The tempo changed for the day when Of Wolves hit the stage with their blend of crusty punk, sludge, post-hardcore & gritty stoner doom. Steve Wolves (guitar/vocals), Ivan Wolves (bass/backing vocals) and Tom Wolves (drums/backing vocals) brought some thunder that day. Songs from their album Balance and a few others turned the volume to 11 and let it rip. Check out more photos below!

x.Oracles.x with their blend of Chicago-style Punk Rock/Blues brought a great vibe to the day. Members Ms. Lynch (vocals), Bonezz (drums), The Sausage King of Chicago (bass) and Rev. Dracula (guitar/vocals) played a great set with a definite nod towards First Wave New York punk/New Wave stripped down to the blues. Fresh off their new release on Punk Rock Tacos Records Gitcha, Gitcha and an incredible cover of “Psycho Killer” they made more than a few new fans that day. Check out more photos below!

From the Western Burbs, Radar Waves‘ Charlie Thornton (guitar/vocals), Rob Wash (bass/vocals), and Mikey Cervenka (drums) had a fun and upbeat set of Trash Rock with a wide variety of influences on display coming together to create a unique energy filled set filled with songs from their various releases including the latest “Everybody’s Bitchin'”.

Chicago Punk Rock veterans Squared Off brought a solid lineup of classic punk rock with an old-school working man’s vibe. Tony (guitars/vocals), Hoser (guitar/vocals), Nomi (bass/vocals) and Fabian (drums) ran through a set of new and familiar songs from their deep catalog. Their cover of “Safety Dance” was on point with a lot of crowd participation. Always a fun band to see.

Downhill Runner took the stage just as the sun was setting for the day and it was perfect timing for the Three-piece Punk/Alternative band on Punk Rock Tacos Records. Brian Matejk (drums), Jim Burchinal (guitar) and Daniel Fredrick played a great set of songs from their album Rebel Radio.

Next up was The Turdles from Elgin, Il. Josh Holbrook (vocals), Dave Cherek (bass), Dan Cuchiara (guitar), Brian Stream (drums) came on and rocked the stage with songs from their releases Just Another Turd In The Toilet (2023) and Party Pooper (2022). With their infectious dirty Punk/Boogie they brought they got the crowd moving. I look forward to seeing them again.

Closing out the night was Nahuales Underground a five-piece band that brought it with their brand of rock, punk, metal with their songs that are about social revolution, love and political ideas. Loco Dub (vocals/guitar), Ish Echeverria (bass), Chente Echeverria (lead guitar/vocals), Javi Pantoja (percussionist) and Memo Hernandez (drums) played an excellent infused set that had the crowd dancing along.

Head below to check out slideshows from each of the bands on the fun and eclectic lineup!

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DS Photo Gallery: The Hold Steady bring their 20th-anniversary celebration to Boston’s Roadrunner…with Dinosaur Jr.!

There’s a thing that happens when you grow up in a music-appreciating household and then you reach middle school or junior high or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods and discover a new band or a scene that becomes YOURS. They’re generally a generation or so older than you – or […]

There’s a thing that happens when you grow up in a music-appreciating household and then you reach middle school or junior high or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods and discover a new band or a scene that becomes YOURS. They’re generally a generation or so older than you – or at least 10-ish years or so but it just SEEMS like a generation when you’re 13. They’re not your parents’ music – and in fact are probably a rebellion to your parents’ music – and they aren’t little kid music or cheesy pop music, but they become YOURS and they teach you about life and growing up and all sorts of things that seem so cool and almost mystical when you’re a youngster and they serve as the riverbed for whatever scene’s waters you end up dipping your toes into.

But then there’s another thing that happens when you’re in, say, your mid-twenties and you discover a new band. They’re still maybe a handful of years older than you, and they somehow take the musical influences of your parents – which really weren’t that bad or worthy of rebelling against at all – and some of those musical influences from the first bands that you fell in love with and it becomes something that’s new and different and it impacts you on a personal level because they provide a roadmap for a lot of the things that you have been through and will go through in this thing called “adulthood,” and so you have similar experiences and reference points. For the duration of my adulthood, the alpha and the omega of that latter phenomenon has consisted of two bands (with, coincidentally, an overlapping band member in their collective history): Lucero and The Hold Steady. The former celebrated their 25th birthday last month, and the latter are in the midst of celebrating two decades as a band throughout this year with a series of one-offs and weekenders at a variety of locations both at home and abroad.

The two- and three- and four-day weekender that’s been part and parcel of the last half-dozen years of The Hold Steady’s touring schedule was eschewed for the Boston stop on this particular “run.” Instead, the six-piece (frontman and occasional guitarist Craig Finn, dueling lead guitarists Tad Kubler and Steve Selvidge, keyboard/multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay, bass player Galen Polivka and drummer Bobby Drake) chose to use this stop for what I’m pretty sure is their largest one-day area headliner to date. It was held at the sparkly new Roadrunner music hall in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood (more specifically in the newly-christened Boston Landing neighborhood, which is also home to the sparkly-new practice facilities for the Bruins and the Celtics and a sparkly-new and giant New Balance flagship building). The sweet part of the city it’s not, necessarily; but obvious grievances about gentrification and the loss of smaller and especially independent music venues in a theoretically world-class music city aside…Roadrunner is a pretty sweet venue. Still, that’s all a topic for another time.

Set to the musical backdrop of the thematically-appropriate Boston classic, “Rock And Roll Band,” the band took to the stage at Roadrunner at about quarter-til-ten and, after a brief introduction, ripped right into the opening chords of “Constructive Summer” from their 2008 album Stay Positive, which happens to be the album that vaulted THS into my own personal stratosphere. The song and its theme of hope and of collective positivity served as an ideal segue into the festivities that would come over the next hour-and-forty-five-minutes or so. Two dozen songs followed, representing seven of the band’s nine studio albums – no love for the underrated duo of hiatus bookend albums, Heaven Is Whenever (2010) and Teeth Dreams (2014) on this particular night.

It would be a little too on-the-nose to say that a Hold Steady headlining performance is what a resurrection feels like, but I’m not sure the fact that the reference is on-the-nose makes it untrue. When the band launches into the familiar opening notes of longtime crowd favorites like “Sequestered In Memphis” or “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” or “Massive Nights,” the crowd takes on a celebratory, almost spiritual tone, a sort of mutual catharsis, really. Enigmatic Craig Finn leads the show in his traditional, chaotic manner that evokes notes of both a hardcore band frontman and an exuberant preacher leading the flock during a Sunday sermon. Nicolay and Kubler flank the stage adorned in shirts and ties and jackets and, in the former’s case, a bowler hat that I can only describe as “spiffy.” Selvidge and Polivka both ooze a sort of rock and roll that combines 70s swagger with mid-Gen X shrug. Bobby Drake is about as rock-steady and, for my money, underrated as you can get behind the drum set in this scene, effortlessly bracing the changing tempos and swirling guitars and keys and extended, celebratory jams.

The Hold Steady released their ninth album, The Price Of Progress, earlier this year, and the new tracks that found their respective ways into the setlist for this gig were equally well-received, particularly “Carlos Is Crying,” which is a song that I think I called “the most Hold Steadyish song on the record” when I reviewed the album back in March. While I’d certainly call The Hold Steady a rock-and-roll band for lack of a better and more finely-tuned descriptor, it’s easy to tell that many of the bands members grew up on the punk rock and hardcore scenes of the 1980s (and not just when Mosh Pit Josh assumes co-frontman duties for the breakdown of “Stay Positive,” the main set’s penultimate song).

The four-song encore was a compilation of a bunch of old-school THS songs that continued the revelatory nature of the evening. Lead guitarist (co-lead guitarist?) Tad Kubler brought out the double-neck Gibson SG that you see pictured there on the right for “Lord, I’m Discouraged” and the first verse of “Banging Camp” before trading it out for his more traditional 345. “Chips Ahoy” and of course “Killer Parties” closed out the evening, the latter with an extended jam that seemed to indicate a reluctance to actually leave the stage and bring the celebration to a close. On this night, as with on many nights dating back over the course of the last twenty years, we were, indeed, all the Hold Steady.

Massachusetts’-own alternative rock legends Dinosaur Jr. served played a 75-minute direct support set. THS frontman Craig Finn, who was notably raised in Minnesota but was born a stone’s throw from Roadrunner at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and returned to the area for four years as a student at Boston College in nearby Brookline, told a story of mountain biking down to Newbury comics to by Dino’s 1991 classic Green Mind the day it came out, so it made perfect sense for the local trio to play an extended support spot on such an occasion. The trio opened with “Thumb” from that very same Green Mind album and proceeded to steamroll through a sixteen-song set that represented most-if-not-all corners of their nearly 40-year career as a band. A Dinosaur Jr. set really is a sonic assault in the best possible way, a tsunami of sound emanating from frontman J Mascis’ wall of Marshall full stack cabinets adorned in vintage Marshall Super Bass and Hiwatt heads.

Somehow Lou Barlow’s ‘lead bass’ attack still finds a way to carve out its own space in the mix, which is no easy feat. Murph’s razor-sharp drumming provides at least a semblance of structure to the whole onslaught, particularly useful during Mascis’ epic, fuzzed-out solo wanderings. Getting J and Lou to switch instruments and have the latter take over both guitar and lead vocal duties for “Garden” from 2021’s Sweep It Into Space was a particular highlight of the three songs that the four or five of us in the spacious photo pit got to shoot to kick off the set. A later highlight occurred when the trio was joined by Scott Helland on bass for a “cover” of the Deep Wound song “Training Ground.” For the uninitiated, Deep Wound was a pre-Dino (so, very early 80s) western Massachusetts hardcore band that featured Mascis on drums, Barlow on guitar, Helland on bass and Charlie Nakajima on vocals.

Apologies go out to Come, the local alternative rock icons who played the role of lead opener on the three-band bill on this night. Due to a combination of Mother’s Day festivities, traffic, and being unfamiliar with the area, we missed the photo-pit portion of the band’s set. Check out more shots from the Dino and THS sets below!

The Hold Steady Slideshow!

Dinosaur Jr. Slideshow!

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