Search Results for "Smoking Popes"

Chicago’s T1 Fest to feature Smoking Popes, 88 Fingers Louie, Brendan Kelly, Lillingtons & more

The inaugural T1 Fest will take place on Friday, November 8th and Saturday, November 9th at The Forge in Joliet, IL. All proceeds from the shows will go to the JDRF, (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) to assist in their fight against type 1 diabetes. Organizer Jim Costanzo felt compelled to establish the event after his family was affected by the disease. He explained, “My nephew Joey was diagnosed at the age of three and like so many others, we had no understanding of it, but we quickly learned that this is a very serious illness.” He continued, “Working with the JDRF to learn what lied ahead for him, we saw so many families that were not able to handle the financial burden of providing care for their child. We have since made it a goal to raise as much money as possible to assist the JDRF in their mission to raise awareness and find a cure for type 1 diabetes.”

Costanzo cited his experiences growing up in Chicago’s punk scene as motivation for coordinating this fest. When reflecting on those times, he said “What we found was a community, a scene where even as teenagers we could make a difference. Whether it was playing shows against racism or gathering coats for the homeless, we saw that through music change was possible. One day we were discussing ideas on how we could do our part and we thought it would be great to put on a benefit show like back in the day.”

After setting his idea in motion, Costanzo was able to assemble a lineup that features numerous noteworthy acts. Friday night is headlined by Flatfoot 56 with support from Brendan Kelly, (Lawrence Arms/Wandering Birds) The Brokedowns, and Andrew Thomas. Saturday’s festivities begin at 3:30 PM, with the following bands playing: The Smoking Popes, The Lillingtons, 88 Fingers Louie, Dan Vapid & The Cheats, Vandoliers, Kali Masi, The Reaganomics, and Cap Gun Heroes. Tickets for each individual night are available, as well as weekend passes, and can be purchased here.



DS Photo Gallery: Smoking Popes with The Ataris and Donaher from Once Ballroom in Somerville, MA

For the first time since the release of last year’s Into The Agony, the Smoking Popes made their way to Boston – well, Somerville really – last Monday night, setting up shop at the unique, 300-capacity former function hall that is Once Ballroom for the evening. With support from the run of shows coming from The Ataris and with locals Donaher getting the early-arriving crowd engaged, it was an evening that evoked all the best of the power-pop glory days of an earlier decade.

Hailing from the great State of New Hampshire – yours truly’s birthplace – Donaher are a four piece band that sadly I’d not seen before. They might be on the newer side – the band’s debut album, I Swear My Love Is True, was released in late 2017 on Dodgeball Records – but their sound is classic: catchy, melodic power-pop songs of love and heartbreak. It’s like if This Year’s Model-era  Elvis Costello and Road To Ruin-era Ramones had a kid, and that kid grew up on a steady diet of the Lemonheads and Mr. T Experience. Is that specific enough a reference? We think so; check out their sound for yourself right here.

The Ataris, who’re essentially the Kris Roe Travelling All-Stars at this point, were up next, assuming the primary support role on the duration of this run. The benefit of that approach is that Roe can assemble a dynamite backing lineup, which at this time consists of Mike Doherty on guitar, Montreal music scene vet Danny LaFlamme on bass and Dustin Phillips on drums. The band powered through all the hits, with Roe taking on a few tracks solo in the process. His guitar playing has often gone underrated, and trends toward being more ethereal and experimental than his pop-punk pedigree would imply, although his near-constant switching on and off of various loops and pedals was a tad mind-numbing at times. The crowd, while not quite at capacity, was still noticeably vocal and engaged throughout The Ataris’ set (prompting Popes’ frontman Josh Caterer to remark with a smile during his own band’s set that “I know you’re all here to see The Ataris, but thanks for sticking around”). Also, they played under a static red LED light, which is waaaaay over the head of yours truly’s photo taking and editing skills, thus the relative few shots in the gallery below.

Still touring in support of their seventh studio album, last year’s phenomenal Into The Agony, Chicago’s Smoking Popes plowed through a seventy-five-ish minute headline set that spanned the course of their two decade career. Into The Agony, as most of you should know, marked the return of drummer Mike Felumlee to the fold for the first time since 1997’s Destination Failure, and his presence behind the kit has been a noteworthy shot in the arm. The Popes’ lineup was a little altered on this run – Felumlee’s The Bigger Empty bandmate Reuben Baird is filling in for Mike Caterer on bass – but seeing and hearing Felumlee manning the kit behind the remaining brothers Caterer just seems right. I’ve seen the Popes a handful of times over the last couple of years, and this might have been the tightest, most energetic set yet. Whether it was on newer favorites like “Summer Down” or “Amanda My Love,” or classic staples like “Rubella” and “I Know You Love Me,” the band sound as fresh and vital as ever. Josh Caterer’s dulcet crooning has probably been the most well-known individual instrument over the course of the Popes’ career, but make no mistake about it: Josh and Eli Caterer are dual guitar heavyweights. As a wannabe guitar dork, it fills me with great joy to watch the two trade licks on the former’s gorgeous Fender Coronado and the latter’s even more gorgeous Strack Woodworking Jazzmaster clone.

Head below to see the full photo gallery from this night.

 



The Smoking Popes announce new West Coast tour dates with Direct Hit!

The Smoking Popes have announced a West Coast leg of their ‘Into The Agony Tour’. Direct Hit! will be the support, the dates are as follows:

2/20 SAN DIEGO @ SODA BAR
2/21 HOLLYWOOD @ THE ROXY
2/22 FULLERTON @ SLIDEBAR
2/23 SAN FRANCISCO @ BOTTOM OF THE HILL
2/24 SACRAMENTO @ HOLY DIVER
2/25 PORTLAND @ STAR THEATER
2/26 SEATTLE @ CORAZON

 

 



DS Staff Picks: Jay Stone’s Favorite Albums of 2018 (w/Spotify playlist)

Hey boys and girls, Jay Stone checking in with yet another year-end list. I’m the dopey one on the left up there. Anywho, as is par for the course, I put way more than ten albums on my “top ten” list, because rules are for squares or whatever. I tend to have a tough time coming up with a definitive number one, but my choice here has occupied that spot for the last eight months and never really got knocked off. A lot of the top half of the list is almost interchangeable based on my current mood, and might have even changed in the time between when I typed this list and when I actually published it. There’s a pretty extensive (fifty-ish song) Spotify playlist that features at least a couple tracks from each of these releases, so check it out and maybe find some new music! Check it all out below!



DS Photo Gallery: Jawbreaker, Naked Raygun; and Smoking Popes at Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL

Jawbreaker

Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom on the north side of the city played host to three heavy hitters Sunday November 4, 2018. The bill provided fans a bit of relief from near constant coverage running up to the midterm elections. There more than a few “I Voted” (early in those cases) wristbands, politically motivated t-shirts and buttons visible. But for the most part this show would promise a a time-out from the heavy 24 hours news cycle.

The crowd proved that they were among those undeterred by heavy rains. They were too interested in watching Jawbreaker, a beloved headliner returning to Chicago roughly a year after the city played host to the band’s reunion at Riot Fest 2017. There had been more than a little grumbling about the ticket prices for this show when it was first announced. However, it appeared those in attendance in short order decided that shelling out north of $40 was well worth it.  Surely seeing two groups of favorite sons, Naked Raygun and Smoking Popes from Chicago’s tight knit punk rock community helped.

Speaking of tight knit, this show did draw a strong representation of aforementioned community. Spotted in the crowd, but not a complete list by any means I’m sure, were members of Pegboy, The Bollweevils, Death and Memphis; and The Usuals.

Smoking Popes

The Smoking Popes launched into a set of both old tracks and new tunes from “Into The Agony,” the band’s first full length album in many years. Lead singer Josh Caterer dedicated “You Spoke To Me,” off their third album, 1997’s “Destination Failure,” to Jawbreaker, as the song was written about Blake Schwarzenbach himself. Caterer described how fortunate he felt to be on same bill as one of his musical inspirations.

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

Naked Raygun is routinely described as legendary. And despite any hesitation about that word from its founder and lead singer Jeff Pezzati, it is so frequently used one may come to believe that is actually part of the band’s name.

There had been rumors that due to heath and other concerns, this show would be Naked Raygun’s last live performance. Jeff Pezzati dispelled those rumors and assured me they will in fact continue playing live shows.

Naked Raygun

 

Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun

Bill Stephens, of Naked Raygun, in a lighthearted moment, sticks his tongue out at photographers shooting from the pit below.

Pierre Kezdy, Naked Raygun’s longest running bass player is presently battling cancer and was not in attendance on stage or in the crowd. But his spirit was nonetheless felt and it was seen, on one of the most popular items at Naked Raygun’s table: a t-shirt featuring a full-bodied portrait of Kezdy.

 

Naked Raygun                                                

 

Naked Raygun

 

Naked Raygun

 

Naked Raygun

 

 

Naked Raygun

Returning to Naked Raygun’s performance on this night, Pezzati’s bandmates, drummer Eric Spicer, Bill Stephens on guitar and bass player Fritz Doreza, in their respective roles matched Pezzati’s vocal strength and powered through almost two dozen songs. Highlights including “Home of the Brave, “Peacemaker,” “Vanilla Blue,” the perhaps fortuitously named “Treason,” on which Eli Caterer of The Smoking Popes guested on stage. And of course “Rat Patrol” with its frenzy inducing “Whoah oh oh oh oh oh.” 

Naked Raygun

Oh and a photographer’s note: After the first three songs were completed Pezzati glanced down into the photo pit when he noticed the security signaling for the shooters to leave the pit and indicated to them with “he stays, she stays…” and so on. When the security again signaled for us to leave, Pezzati once again took a moment to tells the security, “they stay.” This was not the first time, Pezzati has advised security that the photographers stay for the entire set. It’s always appreciated by those of us documenting the show.

Naked Raygun

 

Naked Raygun

 

Naked Raygun

 

Eli Caterer of Smoking Popes guests on a couple of Naked Raygun songs.

Jawbreaker’s reunion at Riot Fest 2017 whet their fans’ cravings for more shows. Headlining the annual festival weekend apparently also whet the band’s own appetite to play together more often. Jawbreaker kicked off its set with West Bay Invitational and filled it with some of its best songs, including “Jinx Removing,” “Chesterfield King,” “Kiss The Bottle,” and “Accident Prone.” Their energetic performance challenged the crowd to keep up.

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker 

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

By the end of the night, many the show attendees straggled out of the Uptown venue and up to the “L” red line platform just across the street, shoulders hunched with exhaustion and clothes soaking wet. But it was hard to tell if that was more due to the rain outside or sweat earned inside by leaning into a solid punk rock bill top to bottom, working to match the energy expelled by those on stage. Just your average Sunday night in Chicago, IL.

 

 



DS Exclusive: Josh Caterer on “Into The Agony,” Smoking Popes’ first ‘original lineup’ album in two decades

Sometimes when I conduct an interview with an artist I’m a fan of, I find it best to pull out a few noteworthy quotes, craft them into a story that I find interesting, and then allow the reader to click through to read our full conversation to provide some level of context. Usually, this finds me asking the subject a number of sort-of fleshed out questions and engaging in a conversation that goes somewhat as planned, and I can almost start to write part of the story in my head as we’re talking. I try to go in with more material than I need, and don’t always get to touch on all of it. But even by my own standards, I had a lot of questions for Josh Caterer.

I’ve been a fan of seminal Chicago band Smoking Popes for the last couple of decades, So when the opportunity presented itself to chat with the band’s songwriter, frontman and principle voice about their new album, Into The Agony, I jumped, even though it came with little in the way of lead time. Given that we’ve never spoken for Dying Scene before, there’s a lot of subject matter to mine: obviously I wanted to talk about the new album, because it’s stellar and upbeat and incredibly melancholy at the same time. And obviously I wanted to talk about the changes in band dynamics that came with founding drummer Mike Felumlee’s return to the band a couple years ago after a decade out of the fold. And about their sticking with Asian Man Records. And my daughter wanted to know if he actually ever broke his arm on stage. And I wanted to ask about issues of faith and politics and punk rock, particularly in the present sociopolitical climate in this country. And about the idea that Smoking Popes seem to exist at that curious intersection of “Bands That Are Immensely Influential Avenue” and “Bands That Are Wildly Underrated Boulevard.” And maybe even his thoughts on whether or not Smoking Popes were miscategorized as a “punk” band early on, particularly when held up against some of the more noteworthy alternative bands that they came through the ranks with. And while we did touch on a few of those things, a funny thing happened on the way to the Forum.

That funny thing, as it turned out, was Judy Garland.

In hindsight, had I been paying close enough attention, I should have seen it coming. A black and white picture of Garland serves as the focal piece of the cover art of Into The Agony, and the album’s halfway point is marked by a cover of “Get Happy,” a tune first popularized by Garland in the 1950 movie Summer Stock. But Garland’s presence on this album runs far, far deeper than that. It might be presumptuous to assume that most readers of Dying Scene are primarily aware of Garland due to her iconic performance as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the “child star” nature of the early part of her life, Garland would go on to have a career that spanned more than four decades, though she became a quintessentially tragic figure (much to her chagrin), long battling issues of an unstable home life, chaotic and at times abusive interpersonal relationships, alcoholism and substance addiction, mental health and more all while desperately trying to put on a brave, happy face and bring joy to the masses through her art.

Stylistic differences aside, that’s a profile ripe for exploration by a punk rock songwriter, especially one with a penchant for crafting poetic tales of love – albeit sometimes unrequited – and loss and hope and heartbreak all with a tremendous pop sensibility. Now rest assured Popes fans; Into The Agony is not a Judy Garland-themed rock opera, not by any stretch. While the idea of diving into the agony might be the central thread that ties the album together, it finds specific inspiration from issues that are both macro and micro, political and personal. There’s despair, for sure – these are desperate times – but there’s a trademark Smoking Popes sense of optimism present in droves, sometimes defiantly so.

With that as a bit of a teaser, I decided in this case to just let our conversation stand for itself, because I found it one of the most interesting chats I’ve had in the roughly 100 interviews I’ve run here at Dying Scene. It was challenging, thoughtful (and thought-provoking), funny, and a little melancholy. We talk about the specifics behind a few tracks, for sure, and also talk about the nervousness that comes with actually revealing the backstory to a song, thereby stripping the listener of the context they’ve provided to the song. And we of course talked a little about the band’s history and the renewed energy they’ve found since Felumlee rejoined the ranks. Head below to check out our full conversation with Josh Caterer. You can also head here to check out Into The Agony for yourself, and head here to see where you can catch the Popes on the road!



New Music: Smoking Popes debut “When You Want Something” from upcoming album “Into The Agony”

Chicago pop-punk veterans Smoking Popes are now officially streaming another new track from their upcoming album, Into the Agony. It’s called “When You Want Something,” and you can check it out here.

Into The Agony is set for release on October 12 via Asian Man Records. Pre-order it right here.

Into the Agony will be the band’s first studio LP since 2011’s This Is Only a Test, and their first with the original “Three Caterers and a Felumlee” line-up since 1998’s The Party’s Over.



Dying Scene Radio – Episode 10 – Band Spotlight: Allout Helter

Mira!! Mira!!! Los culeros are back with another installment of Dying Scene Radio! In this episode (number TEN?!?!) AP meets up with Denver based melodic hardcore stalwarts, Allout Helter to talk about their ten year anniversary celebration, the growing punk scene in The Mile High City and of course 80’s one-hit-wonders A-Ha. Not only that, the guys will also bring you all of the news you were probably too lazy to read and play some rad tunes from emerging artists that you were probably too lazy to discover! They do all the work for you! So, turn up the volume, kick back and stream  Episode 10 of Dying Scene Radio, below!



Smoking Popes announce November tour dates

Chicago’s Smoking Popes have announced a list of dates they will be visiting this November. The band will be touring in support of their new album Into the Agony which will be released on October 12 via Asian Man Records.

See the tour dates below.



Smoking Popes stream “Amanda My Love” off upcoming album “Into The Agony”

Chicago pop-punk veterans Smoking Popes are now officially streaming the first new song off their upcoming album Into the Agony set for release on October 12 via Asian Man Records.

Give “Amanda My Love” a listen below.

Into the Agony will be the band’s first studio LP since 2011’s This Is Only a Test.



Smoking Popes announce new album ‘Into the Agony’

Chicago pop-punk veterans Smoking Popes announced today via Instagram the title and release date of a new album. Into the Agony will be released on October 12 via Asian Man Records. We’ll keep you posted if/when the band ends up streaming a new track online.

Into the Agony will be the band’s first studio LP since 2011’s This Is Only a Test.



DS Photo Galley: Stoked For The Summer 2018 w/Bouncing Souls, Against Me!, Titus Andronicus, Smoking Popes and Tim Barry

For the third time in as many years, New Jersey punk rock stalwarts The Bouncing Souls threw their now-annual Stoked For The Summer blowout show last weekend on the outdoor, beachfront Summer Stage at the legendary Stone Pony in equally legendary Asbury Park. In spite of occurring in what’s theoretically an off-year for the band — their last full-length, Simplicity, was released in 2016 and the band are gearing up for their 30th anniversary next year — it also marked the largest Stoked For The Summer show to date, with well over 4000 people baking outdoors on the blacktop for the festivities.

Tim Barry kicked things off late in the afternoon in quintessential Tim Barry fashion. The Richmond, Virginia, native has long had ties to the Bouncing Souls/Chunksaah Records/Little Eden Studio family in Central Jersey, and as such was the perfect choice to get things rolling. Armed with only his trusty Martin acoustic (and an assist from longtime Souls merchandise manager/video production wizard Matthew Gere on harmonica), Barry blazed through an intense half-hour set that was heavy on songs with Garden State references (“Avoiding Catatonic Surrender,” “40 Miler,” the obvious choice “Little Eden”). Oh…and HE PLAYED AN AVAIL SONG WHICH IS NOT A THING THAT I EVER THOUGHT I’D SAY LET ALONE WITNESS IN PERSON okay, I’m better now.

The Smoking Popes were next out of the chute, fresh off a dozen-hour drive from their previous night’s show in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In spite of the road weariness, the band didn’t seem much worse for the wear, powering through a set that was heavy on crowd favorites like “Rubella” and “I Need You Around.” The Chicago quartet are still celebrating the 20th anniversary re-release of their iconic 1997 album Destination Failure, and have a brand new album mixed, mastered, and ready to go for release this coming fall. If what’s to come bears any resemblance to lead single “Someday I’ll Smile Again,” it’s bound to be an instant pop-punk classic.

Hailing from just up the GSP in Glen Rock, New Jersey, Titus Andronicus occupied the number three spot in the order. Though the Patrick Stickles-led quartet just released a new album, A Productive Cough, a few months back, the band’s half-hour set skipped that album in favor of the more “punk rock bangers” of the back catalog, especially 2015’s The Most Lamentable Tragedy. The band managed to cram a half-dozen songs into their half-hour set, which is not an easy task when you’re known for writing epic tracks about Civil War naval battles and whatnot. In a nod to probably the one artist that cemented Asbury Park’s place in the rock and roll pantheon, the set closed with a pretty stellar cover of Springsteen’s summer classic, “Glory Days.”

Batting clean-up were the inimitable Against Me!. It’s been barely a month since it was announced that former bass player Andrew Seward is now present bass player Andrew Seward once again, and this marked the biggest-scale show in the current lineup’s brief introductory run. I’ve never seen Against Me! – in any formation – be anything short of awe-inspiring, but this show seemed a notch or two above the norm, helped of course by the early evening sun actively setting directly behind the stage. The band’s set opened with scorching renditions “FuckMyLife666” and “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” both from their ground-breaking 2014 album of the same name, and never really let up steam at all for forty-five high energy minutes that featured a non-stop barrage of crowd surfers right from the beginning. This is only a brief run of shows for Against Me!, and Laura Jane Grace has got a solo album due out in the coming months, but the newly retooled AM! lineup being this solid – and seeming to genuinely be having this much fun – so soon is a welcome sign.

Last, but most certainly not least, were the legendary Bouncing Souls. As I intimated above, the Souls have only played a handful of shows this year, but they certainly made up for lost time on this particular night. With the stage – and the crowd – filled with friends and family, the Jersey legends ripped into fan favorites “Hopeless Romantic,” “East Coast, Fuck You” and “The Gold Song” in rapid succession to kick off a set that extended well into the Asbury Park night. The perfect symbiotic relationship between crowd and band can be a tough thing to keep up for an extended time, but was readily on display for the duration of the Souls’ Herculean thirty-song set (a direct nod to their upcoming thirtieth anniversary?) on this particular night. I’ve said this before on other platforms, but I genuinely thought that the Souls sounded the best I’d ever heard them sound when I last saw them in Boston last November. That show, solid as it was, is now a distant second to this one. There’s obviously been a twin-like bond between Bryan Kienlen and Pete Steinkopf at the sonic core of the Souls for three decades, which translates into the two performing in lockstep and making it seem effortless in the process, giving frontman Greg Attonito the freedom to roam – both vocally and physically on stage – like a mad punk rock scientist giving a high-powered TED Talk. And it’s actually quite amazing how seemingly easily – at least from the audience perspective – that the newest Soul, drummer George Rebelo, has acclimated himself to the role, especially given that his “other band,” Hot Water Music, are not only still a living, breathing entity but left for a handful of European shows a day or so after this epic night.

While we’re waiting for what 30th anniversary hi-jinks the Souls might have coming down the ‘pike next year, have a gander at our pictures from Stoked For The Summer 2018 below!



Smoking Popes announce west coast tour with Bad Cop/Bad Cop

Chicago pop-punk veterans the Smoking Popes have announced they will be touring the west coast with Bad Cop/Bad Cop this spring. The tour is in honor of their third album Destination Failure‘s 20th anniversary. Check out the dates below to see if there’s a show near you.

Smoking Popes last released the Simmer Down EP in 2016.



DS Show Review: FEST 16 Gainesville – Day 3

As I soaked in all of the sights, sounds and smells of FEST 16 in days 1 and 2, I purposely tried to keep day 3 out of my mind.  Day 3 had some great bands that I couldn’t wait to check out, but I knew that getting to day 3 meant that FEST was coming to a close.

I don’t think I was the only one with the aforementioned sentiment, people were going after it hard Saturday night.  I could hear them outside singing and reveling into the wee hours.  I felt ok Sunday morning.  Got some food and coffee in me, and got ready to face the day.  T shirt game was not as important today as the forecast called for unseasonably cool temps.  High of 65 meant that I would don the only sweatshirt I brought.  It has the Chicago flag on the front of it, which prompted a shout of “Oh Calcutta!!” from an apparent Lawrence Arms fan.  After three nights of mayhem, we were delayed getting out the door.  I wanted to catch After the Fall, but we actually arrived too late for that and went straight to High Dive to catch Squirtgun doing a retrospective of all the bands they had been in.  If you don’t know Squirtgun, they are fronted by Mass Giorgini who is probably best known as owner and resident producer at Sonic Iguana.  Some major punk royalty has recorded at SI with Mass at the boards.  Squirtgun broke out some of those tunes in a solid set which included The Riverdales and Screeching Weasel.

Next we grabbed a bite at Harry’s Seafood Bar and Grille.  We could’ve heard Apologies I have none, but it was too cold to sit outside.  Sitting in a chain restaurant on Sunday afternoon did not do much to lift me out of the depression of FEST coming to an end.  After lunch, we cruised over to Bo Diddley to catch The Movielife.  I’ve been following these guys for a while and I real wanted to see them at Riot Fest, but a conflict messed that up.  Although they played in a tough spot, Sunday, Outdoors, afternoon, cool day, they represented.  Not my standout set of the FEST, but not bad.

After Movielife, we had some tough conflicts.  Mean Jeans, Toyguitar, Hiccup, and Ray Rocket (Teenage Bottlerocket).  My wife wanted to catch Ray, so we cruised over to Big Lou’s pizza for the show.  I grabbed a couple of beers to perk us up and we sat on the patio there sipping our brews as Ray got set up.  I’m so glad we caught this show, because he conveyed the hungover depressed malaise that everyone was feeling.  Ray asked us to bear with him as he had spent the previous night going door to door at Holiday Inn with The Dopamines.  Paint your own picture there.  As the cool breeze blew through, Ray gave us a solid but chill set, the perfect cure to what ailed us.  He played “Do you wanna go to Tijuana,” dedicated to his twin brother Brandon who passed away in 2015, and covered The Ramones “Pet Sematary.”

The Ray Rocket set definitely perked us up.  We cruised over to Tall Paul’s and caught some of Makewar’s set.  We bellied up to the bar and threw down some of their brewed-in-house craft beer.  The habanero-spiced pale ale stole the show.  It brought the heat!!  We had to cut out of Makewar to get a good spot for Smoking Popes.  Being from Chicago, my wife and I are both big Popes fans.  The Popes never disappoint.  They’ve been around a long time and they know what people want to hear.  They bring the hits one after the other.  They played my fave “No More Smiles” as well as “Megan,” “Paul,” “Rubella.”  One of the many highlights of this set was their cover of MC5’s “Ramblin’ Rose.”  And of course they played “Need You Around.”  When it came to playing Bo Diddley, some bands sounded better than others, but the Popes really rocked this stage.  Safe to say, this set was up there in the top 5 of FEST.

Iron Chic hit the Bo Diddley stage next, so we hung around for that.  IC had a very lively crowd and their brand of punk rock really got the people moving and singing along.  You could tell people were amped for this band.  We watched the set from afar, but we already had tickets to see them in Chicago in December, so we cut out to check some other sets.  We caught Kamikaze Girls at the Wooly.  I have no recollection of it.  I remember bouncing across the street to The Atlantic where Machinist! was playing.  I only caught the last song, wish I had seen more.  This mad dash ended at Rockey’s where we caught the last few songs from The Raging Nathans.  We must’ve been in the right place as a few dignitaries were on hand such as OWTH’s Ryan Young.

One of the reasons I broke the bank and travelled down to FEST this year was Superchunk.  I’ve seen them a handful of times; the first time in 1993.  At one point I remember thinking to myself, “I’m going to buy every Superchunk album that ever comes out.”  Well who knew they would put out like 40 records!?!  I don’t have them all, but I have a lot of them.  So we trekked over to Bo Diddley to catch Sunday’s headliner, Superchunk.  For one, they sounded great.  I’ll give them that.  They didn’t play the full 90 minutes, which was a bit of a bummer.  They also threw in some random tunes like “Hello Hawk” and “I Got Cut.”  Deep cuts aside, they also dropped some fan favorites like: “Slack Motherfucker, Sick to Move, Driveway to Driveway, Hyper Enough, Precision Auto, and Seed Toss.”  The ‘Chunk brought the goods and sent the main stage out in grand fashion.

The main stage might have been done, but we were not!  We popped over to The Wooly, grabbed a brew and caught Meat Wave.  Their new album, “The Incessant” is on my list of the best of 2017.  These guys rock the 3 piece like Alkaline Trio or Husker Du; although their sound is more like Big Black.  I’m definitely going to catch these guys again.  After MW, I made a fatal error.  I decided we should hit Durty Nelly’s to catch Dingus.  For one, I had the complete wrong band.  I guess there are two Dingus’s (Dingi?).  Unfortunately, the one I planned to see was recording an album in Belgium at the time.  I sat there for about a half hour completely confused.  When we came to our senses, I looked my wife in the eye and I could tell she was done.  40 shows over 3 days will tend to wear you out.  I was running on fumes as well.  We decided to call it quits.  I had hoped to catch Night Witch, Teen Agers, and Tiltwheel; but I will have to wait for them to come to town.

We survived FEST 16, and had an amazing time!  One thing is for sure, we will be marking our calendars for the lineup announcement for FEST 17.  We will be back!



DS Photo Gallery: Smoking Popes, Chris Farren and The Bigger Empty, Cambridge, MA (10/21/17)

With all but a few rare exceptions, punk rock afternoon matinee shows have become a thing of the past in the metropolitan Boston area. This isn’t the time or place to really drill down to the core of that issue, but is both the time and place to point out than when they do happen, they can still be pretty magical. Due to a chain of scheduling miscues, last Saturday’s Smoking Popes headline show that was supposed to take place in the smaller, friendlier confines upstairs at Cambridge’s Middle East got bumped to the more cavernous space downstairs at the same venue…BUT Propagandhi was already booked to play the same space that night, so as a result, the Popes got bumped earlier. Like, way earlier. Like, “doors at noontime” earlier. The net result was a feel that had a bit of a throwback vibe for the slightly older-than-average crowd to revel in the ’90s pop punk goodness.

The Bigger Empty kicked off the show well before the early afternoon NFL games did the same. The five-piece hail from outside Chicago and are centered around frontman and songwriter Mike Felumlee, obviously pulling double-duty as drummer for the Popes. Together, the five-piece ripped through about a dozen up-tempo melodic rock tracks, most notably “Take My Heart With You,” which both appears on the band’s “Lakes & Oceans Volume 1 – Michigan” EP (La Escalera Records) and perhaps more recognizably as the introductory music to Felumlee’s Live From The Rock Room web series of live performances that he tapes from his basement. For what was basically a late morning show in their native time zone, Felumlee and keyboardist Amanda Moudry’s harmonies were tight, and the poppy energy provided by bassist Ruben Baird and new drummer Steve Lopez (who flew in from Texas and had no rehearsal time with the band) pushed the gas pedal beyond where it tops out on album format. Smoking Popes guitarist Eli Caterer filled in on guitar as well with very limited rehearsal time himself, so for a band that was hypothetically working through the kinks in real time on stage, there really weren’t very many kinks to work out. We know Mike keeps himself busy, but it’d be great to see The Bigger Empty on the touring circuit regularly!

Chris Farren served as main support, and played another perfect set. We last caught Farren a couple years ago when he was on the road with Dave Hause and Rocky Votolato, and to say that the Chris Farren live show has progressed in that amount of time is to completely understate the issue; his 2017 self is virtually a different species altogether. I’ve struggled with combining the right collection of words to encapsulate what it means to witness Farren live; there’s glitter and lights and lasers and mirror balls and pre-recorded samples and guitar loops and a gold microphone. I guess it’s like if a unicorn were playing pop-infused guitar rock on a rainbow. As an artist, it’s both inspiring and a little nerve-wracking to watch, but he had the still-filling-up crowd actually draw closer to the stage, many of them singing along at full volume.

Which brings us to the Popes. By the time the pop-punk icons took the stage, the crowd had filled out respectably. The brothers’ Caterer might not bring their show to the northeast all too often in later years, but when they to, they most definitely still bring it. Within the scene, Smoking Popes have long been considered in influential, important band, but I always got the sense that they just missed blowing up wider, for a variety of reasons most of which we won’t go into now, but one of which was that they were a pop punk band who was more than a pop punk band. “Need You Around” and “Rubella” and “Let’s Hear It For Love” had that midwestern punk rock vibe that made them at home among the likes of Alkaline Trio or Screeching Weasel but would just as easily have been at home on the alternative rock radio waves at the time. The music now sounds just as earnest and important as it did nearly a quarter-century ago. And so it was with eager anticipation that not only did the band announce they were working on new material AND hoped to have something out within the year BUT that they were also going to play one of those new tracks. It’s a song that serves as sociopolitical commentary that is, according to frontman Josh Caterer, based loosely on Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax and let the record show that this song seriously needs to see the light of day very, very, very soon. That one of the newer tracks in an afternoon of tight, high-energy pop punk sounds might have been the tightest and most inspiring of the occasion was an unexpected positive sign that we’re going to be following the sound for a lot longer.

Head below for our full photo gallery. (And seriously…there’s something to be said for getting home from a punk rock show at four in the afternoon. Let’s do this more often, yeah Boston?)