2014 Upstart Fest Portland, ME and Cambridge, MA. I Was There!

Oh lucky me! Two days of punk rock fun making both the Portland Maine date, and the Cambridge Massachusetts Date of this year’s nine date nine city traveling punk rock extravaganza the 2014 Upstart Fest.

2014 marks the 4th year for this event which assaults the Northeast annually hitting most major cities from Baltimore to Portland every year featuring up to 10 National, regional, and local bands per date.  The event brings punk rock joy to show goers all over the Northeast and giving a much needed break to smaller up and coming bands who rarely can land a larger tour or receive the promo, press and attention that Upstart Fest provides.  This year’s tour featured a total of 27 bands, of which I was able to see 17 of them during the two dates I attended… Saturday Oct 4th in Portland Maine at Geno’s Rock Club, and Sunday Oct 5th in Cambridge Massachusettes at TT The Bears Place…and it went something like this:

Day one, which was day 8 of the tour was opened by a very fun pop punk act local to Portland called Dead Man Ramsey who delivered a rousing set and pulled the one quarter full venue to the front of the stage with ease setting the mood nicely for the second band The Murder Weapon to jump up next and Kill It! With their solid Psychobilly sound and high energy performance the place was now primed for a night to remember. Next up was a new band for me called Stray Bullets who delivered a great Ska/Punk set that got everyone hopping & skanking in the pit. They were followed by one of my favorite live acts New Red Scare! This is a must see band. Front man Billy Gwynns on stage antics and theatrics are completely enthralling and got the crowd really revved up for Connecticut’s Two Fisted Law who mix old school hardcore with a bit of a country flair that I have never heard another band do before, this approach works really great for them and Portland responded with fist pumping and howls throughout their set. They were followed by Brooklyn NY’s The Sharp Lads who delivered a manic paced set of punk and roll that simply left everyone out of breath. Next in the lineup was L.A.’s Left Alone who dropped a great set of the Ska/Punk they are famous for but then to my surprise added a few rockabilly tunes in the middle that fit in seamlessly and allowed the crowd to catch their breath after the Sharp Lads set…But that brief respite did not last for next up was possibly the most dangerous band in the world…Svetlanas who made it over for Upstart Fest from “Big Mother Russia” as the pint sized terror Olga announced prior to her ripping into the now near capacity room with threats of making us bleed and how she would break us the crowd erupted into a frenzy with cries of “More! More!” as most of us who had never seen Svetlanas before were left wowed with mouths a gape at the ferocity and intensity of this woman. And if all of this was not enough they were followed by one of my favorite street punk bands The Virus who brought it home with a set full of anger and aggression playing every classic song we wanted to hear ending the show with the perfect cherry on top of a perfect night of punk rock…but wait, I got to do it all again the next day!

Day two, in Cambridge began with some disappointments after learning that The Obvious, and Trophy Lungs had dropped off the date, one cited for personal reasons and the other for illness, but none the less after the previous night’s show I was totally stoked to see all of these bands again. The lineup was pretty much the same with the exception of some time changes and the addition of Orphan Killbot a local Boston band who opened the show with a fun set that put everyone in the mood for one of my new favorite bands from the Portland show Stray Bullets who also hail from the Boston area and who’s local fans made it out in mass and helped shape the evening for the rest of the acts, all of which played the night before and once again delivered simply amazing if not devastatingly good sets to a full house of fans eager for more. That being said I will leave the musical descriptions to the previous night and go on to state that with all the many many hundreds of shows I have attended over the years I honestly don’t think I have ever seen a 10 band bill where each and every band gave one hundred percent of themselves, and where the spirit of true punk camaraderie shined as brightly as it did on these two nights. Upstart Fest I commend you! And I can’t wait till next year!

* all photo’s by Siro Soliani

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