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DS Photo Gallery: Against Me! Off With Their Heads, SPELLS, The Get Up Kids, among acts at Chicago’s Wicker Park Fest 2018

The 15th Anniversary Wicker Park Fest took place over the three blazing hot days of July 2018’s final weekend, the 27th-29th. The event is perhaps the most popular street festival in Chicago and surely the most popular on the north side of the city. Each year, it brings a wide variety of national and local musical acts to one of the city’s very diverse neighborhoods. This year the number of musical acts exceeded 40. Considering this also the neighborhood which is home to – or in close proximity to – such popular venues (and in the case of the now-closed Double Door, legendary) such as Subterranean, Hideout, the Empty Bottle, and Cobra Lounge.

SPELLS

WPF also attracts many, many dogs of all ages and breeds, mixed or otherwise. Far more than 40. Perhaps the most dog attended annual fest in the city. But as adorable as that it is, this is about the music and a photo gallery of just a few of the bands Dying Scene caught and shot. Head below to check out our shots from SPELLS, Against Me!, Off With Their Heads, The Brokedowns, The Get Up Kids, and more!



DS Photo Gallery: Apocalypse Hoboken; 88 Fingers Louie; The Bollweevils at Chop Shop Chicago

Apocalypse Hoboken headlined a three-night stand at Chicago’s Chop Shop, July 13-15, 2018. The weekend’s events were set in conjunction with the July 13, 2018 release of “Everybody’s Been Burned” on Underground Communique Records. UCR’s Bandcamp site describes the release as follows: “This is a collection of recordings not previously released on vinyl. The record and download contain 17 songs, and yes there are only 16 streaming.”

The final day of the band’s three-night run saw things changed up a bit. Their Sunday “Matinee” was more of a Sunday Family Fun Day, where the musicians had the opportunity to show their kids what their work was all about. The show was topped by several of the kids joining their parents on or near the stage for a rousing rendition of Three Dog Nights’ “Joy to the World,” led in unison by Apocalypse Hoboken’s Todd Pot, 88 Fingers Louie’s Denis Buckley; and The Bollweevils’ Daryl Wilson. Wilson, by the way, with his three young daughters by his side on the stage, the youngest dancing up a storm, appeared to be the only one of the trio of vocalists not requiring a lyric sheet. He had that down pat, perhaps having the most recent experience singing the tune over and over to his little girls?

I asked Todd Pot of Apocalypse Hoboken his thoughts on the weekend, how it came about and what the future has in store for the band. His response:

“Ok here goes….. We’d like to thank each and every person that made it out to our three-day celebration of a community that’s taken almost thirty years to build. The band is humbled beyond words. Since junior high Apocalypse Hoboken was my favorite band outta the suburbs of Chicago. I never in a million years thought I’d front my heroes band. Through the luck of seeing a flier back in 1993 that Apocalypse Hoboken was looking for a new lead singer, my life has never been the same. Fast forward to 2018. We have had a few reunion shows throughout the years but something just clicked with this most recent slew of shows. Older, wiser, and strangely enough with more to say. I think the boys in the band are on a stone cold mission. A mission that never really ended. The future looks bright and everybody is invited to the party. November third we will be returning to the Chop Shop with our comrades in Riff Sidekick Kato. The party has just begun. One by one we all are learning what it’s like to be pissed on. It could be worse. Right?”

It could be a lot worse. But it’s pretty good right now, and you can head below to check out our gallery from the Sunday show to demonstrate the fun Pot, his bandmates; and bill-mates are having these days.



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!



DS Photo Gallery: The Dead Milkmen Curate Show at House of Vans Chicago

The Dead Milkmen

House of Vans in Chicago hosted another installment in their periodic House Party series a couple of Thursdays ago (July 12th, if we’re being specific). As always, the events are 18+ and free by RSVP, and this one in particular featured a lineup centered around none other than Dead Milkmen! This provided a chance for Punk Rock Girls of all ages (and Punk Rock Boys as well) to once again sing along with the Philly legends. It was a very laid back time in a space that also doubles as an indoor/outdoor skate park. Attendees were treated to free t-shirts with show’s logo, venue tote bags and buckets full of water bottles to stave off dehydration in what was promised to be and indeed delivered a sweaty good time.

The Dead Milkmen, as you’re undoubtedly aware, hail from Philadelphia, where they got their start in 1983. They have been together on and off since then with the current line up of Joe Jack Talcum (Joe Genaro), Rodney Anonymous (Rodney Linderman), Dandrew Stevens (Dan Stevens); and Dean Clean (Dean Sabatino) having been in operation since 2004. The band hit the stage strong, starting with what is arguably one of their two most popular tunes, “Punk Rock Girl” riling the crowd up to a frenzy. Besides “Punk Rock Girl,” another highlight was “Bitchin’ Camaro” (the other of the arguably most popular tunes), while the whole setlist really consisted of hits including crowd favorites, like “Big Lizard In My Backyard,” “V.F.W.,” and “Tiny Town.”

And as an aside: perhaps the offstage highlight for me was when Joe Genaro and I explained dangerous toys and the reasons us kids from the ’60’s and ’70’s should not be alive, to a younger photographer. I always find that subject slightly amusing. Per this discussion I offered Jarts, Joe brought up Shrinky Dinks. If you are not familiar with either, I recommend looking them up. It was just one example of the band’s co-leader singer and guitarist spending the majority of the evening whilst not on stage, among the crowd, watching the supporting acts and amiably engaging in conversations with fans.

Support acts for this show were curated by the headliners themselves, and featured sets by Los Angeles’ Youth Code, Madison, Wisconsin’s Caustic, and Chicago’s own San Andreas Fault. Per Youth Code’s Facebook, the duo is “raw, punishing, industrious electronics built from the seeds of hardcore and early Wax Trax. Ryan William George and Sara Taylor blend chaos with catchy dance undertones to create a sonic fury paralleled to none.” San Andreas Fault, meanwhile (per their Bandcamp) are described as follows: “The surf-noir instrumental and narrative stylings of the San Andreas Fault began in 1999 in a Chicago steel plant. Founders Robert Spain and Pete Machine cataloged the sound of heartbreak with the 2003 CD “Encantada” and reunited in 2013″

The Dead Milkmen’s last release was their Welcome To The End Of The World EP, which was released last year. You can check out info on their upcoming hometown-adjacent show in Ardmore, PA, here. You can also catch Genaro at a few of his “Joe Jack Talcum” solo shows on the East Coast through September. Check out the details here.



DS Exclusive: Warped Tour Bids Adieu To Hartford For The Last Time (The Interrupters, This Wild Life, Falling In Reverse and more)

Yes, this is yet another Warped Tour story written by a white guy in his mid-thirties. Relax; I’ll spare you the twenty-five-hundred word rumination on the demise of the Warped Tour as it enters the home stretch of its twenty-fourth — and final — jaunt around North America. It’s not the same as it used to be and I’ve long been wildly out of touch with most of what’s popular there and, ultimately, none of that matters. Yours truly’s first excursion to Warped Tour took place a three-hour drive from my house at the Three County Fairgrounds in Northampton, MA, in 1997; a show that featured Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Pennywise and Blink-182 and Suicide Machines and Limp Bizkit and a sunburn the likes of which I’m still recovering from. I’ve made a total of eight trips to various different renditions of the Kevin Lyman-helmed annual punk rock summer camp over the years, and there’s no denying that the sheer scale and the popular music trends of the day have morphed a few times. And you can certainly make the argument that the corporate sponsorship bleedover has long since become “too much,” though I’d also present the case that a touring festival of this magnitude wouldn’t have lasted nearly a quarter-century without it.

What hasn’t changed since those early days, however, are the consumers that compose the core that turns out year-after-year; Warped Tour remains a rallying place for the misfits and weirdos and the punks and the metal kids and the hardcore kids to immerse themselves in a total sensory overload of punishing heat and loud music and art and food and more. Warped Tour could run for a hundred more years (much to Lyman’s chagrin) and that part would remain constant.

The touring lineup for Warped’s final run left more than a little to be desired in “the comment sections” of the internet, but you’d never know it from the gigantic crowd that showed up last Sunday in Hartford. The amphitheater portion of the Meadows Music Theatre – er, Dodge Music Theatre or Comcast Theatre or Xfinity Theatre or whatever we’re calling it nowadays – was packed to the gills all day, taking in main stage split in two to accommodate the Journeys Left Foot and Right Foot stages. It was far and away the most crowded I’ve seen in the four Warped Tour’s I’ve ventured to Hartford for. Truthfully, I was primarily there for The Interrupters. Fresh off the release of their third – and best – album, Fight The Good Fight (Hellcat Records), the quartet (with Reel Big Fish’s Billy Kottage filling in on keys and horns) are, without question, the most “old school Warped Tour” band of the newer school generation. A couple years back, they drew a decent crowd on the indoor stage at the 2016 Warped Tour; this year they had a huge, vocal fanbase out in full force and even whipped up a circle pit or two. Maybe the kids are alright after all.

We took in a handful of other events at the daylong festival. 3OH!3 played the Journeys Left Foot Stage just before The Interrupters, though we missed the “photo pit” portion of their frantic thirty-minute set. Epitaph Records’ duo This Wild Life manned the Right Foot stage immediately thereafter, and were a refreshing uptempo acoustic emo change of pace. Falling In Reverse played directly after The Interrupters and…well…made yours truly feel even older than he felt last time he saw Ronnie Radke and crew at Warped a few years ago. Also…there was a pretty sketchy wrestling ring set up on the midway of the festival grounds with several three-way matches (including the one pictured above with a guy in what we think is a crawfish jumpsuit) providing a different sort of entertainment for those who didn’t mind baking in the sun and basking in the glow of the Fried Dough food truck.

For our full photo gallery featuring primarily Interrupters shots, head below!



DS Photo Gallery: Supersuckers, Legendary Shack Shakers, Nuns of Brixton and more from Chicago’s Motoblot 2018

As promised in our feature on a recent Motoblot 2018 participating band, Mystery Actions, we present to you today a full photo gallery of some highlights from the weekend. If you’re not familiar with Motoblot, allow us to fill you in. Now in its fifth year, Motoblot is an annual vintage motorcycle and hot rod street rally that takes place at Chicago’s Cobra Lounge/All Rise Brewing. Hot rods and motorcycles might be the focal point of the weekend, but music is an ever-present force.

Dying Scene had our Doc Martens on the ground all weekend and captured photos of blistering performances from the likes of Supersuckers, The Legendary Shack Shakers, Mothership, Rotten Finko and the Convicts, Mystery Action, Hot Rod Walt and the Psycho-DeVilles, Wreckin’ Ball, and, of course, Nuns Of Brixton (the only Clash cover band that matters). Head below to check out our full photo gallery!

***Editor’s note: Hi gang, Jay Stone here. Meredith and I had been working through some technical glitches over the last few days to try to get these photos up. We got things (we think) buttoned up and had the post that you see here scheduled to run. And then came Wednesday morning’s news about Johnny Wilson, pictured above. For whatever dopey reason, I’d been out of the loop and and it didn’t quite click to me that he’d been playing drums in Nuns Of Brixton. Johnny meant a lot of a lot of people that he crossed paths with in this weird little scene of ours; sincerest condolences go out to all of his family and friends and bandmates.***



DS Photo Gallery: The Mighty Mighty Bosstones at The Regent Theater (Los Angeles, CA)

The best dressed band in punk rock graced the stage of The Regent Theater in Los Angeles nearly two weeks ago to play one of their most influential albums in its entirety. That’s right, friends, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, came to the West Coast to play Let’s Face It from front to back, in addition to a number of other classic tunes. The entire set clocked in at a little over 90 minutes – and it was 90 minutes full of infectious sing-alongs, camaraderie, and dancing. It was a night this crowd would not soon forget.

The opening bands, Buster Shuffle & Los Kung Fu Monkeys, brought a ton of energy and got the crowd ready for the main event. The Regent was packed full of fans, young and old alike, all waiting to hear all of the hits from one of the best ska-punk albums released in the 90s. The big surprise was original guitarist Nate Albert joining them on stage to play their biggest hit. If you’ve seen the Bosstones before, you know that “The Impression That I Get” is typically the closer – but on this night, the boys from Boston stayed true to the album order, making it the 4th song of the night. MMB came out swinging as they ripped through the track list, making this album feel as relevant today as it felt 20 years ago. Hearing Let’s Face It was worth the price of admission alone.

Lucky for us, they still had some tricks up their sleeves (suitcoats?). While their set at Punk Rock Bowling in May was pretty standard (lots of hits & crowd favorites, along with one new song), they took the opportunity to play a more eclectic set for this LA crowd, including a few tracks from their latest album, While We’re At It.

To sum it up, MMB never disappoint they put on an amazing show – the kind of show that makes you want to throw your arm around your neighbor at the show as you sing along at the top of your lungs. The Let’s Face It show in LA was no exception – I can’t wait for the next chance to be in the pit with them again!

Check out the full gallery from the show below!



DS Photo Gallery: Dave Hause and Northcote get classy at City Winery, Boston (6/5/18)

After what was, by all accounts, a pretty successful year on the road with a new band (The Mermaid) following the release of his latest solo album, the redemptive, triumphant Bury Me In Philly, Dave Hause had been planning on scaling things down a little bit for 2018, both to celebrate newly married life and to work on new material. As fate would have it, things don’t always go as plan. Hause and his band played a bunch of European shows with his longtime comrade Brian Fallon earlier this year, and he and his musical – and real-life – brother have played a handful of Canadian and, now, US shows alongside the likes of the Drew Thomson Foundation and, more recently, Northcote. The latter tour rolled through Boston’s somewhat newly-opened City Winery last Tuesday, where they plied their mostly-acoustic wares in front of a house that mostly packed the upscale venue in spite of relatively little advance fanfare.

If you’re not familiar with the City Winery concept, it can be a little bit of a shock to the system if you’re used to sweaty basement clubs or even mid-sized theater shows. To start, you take your seat at one of four rows of family-style tables run perpendicular to the spacious stage, and an ample, attentive waitstaff checks in with you regularly, ready to bring you everything to a $64 bottle of 2014 Pinot Noir from New Zealand to a variety of cheeses and charcuterie board served on an individual cutting board to, chicken coq au vin, the latter of which I thought existed only in places Anthony Bourdain traveled (rest in peace). In spite of the fact that you’re largely looking over your left or right shoulder depending on which side of the table you’re seated at, sight lines are pretty solid and the sound is crystal clear. This is not the rebirth of The Rat, my friends, but that’s okay, because sometimes you’re in your late-30s and have a day job and a kid and don’t want to get your ass kicked in a pit on a Tuesday night. (Plus, there’s perhaps some level of comedic value in seeing a room full of denin-jacketed punks eating roasted Brussles Sprouts singing along to “Dirty Fucker.”)

Anyway, the show’s promoters kept things lean. Northcote (Canadian singer/songwriter Matt Good – not to be confused Canadian singer/songwriter Matthew Good) kicked things off, appearing as a duo with the acoustic-wielding Good supported by longtime collaborator Steven McGillivray on the electric. Like many in the crowd (based on my informal poll), yours truly’s introduction to Northcote in a live setting was his opening slot on Hause’s 2014 tour in support of Devour, or the subsequent dates he played with Gaslight Anthem as they wound down the Get Hurt touring cycle. Good cuts an imposing figure, with the Viking-esque long red hair and beard to match somewhat offset by his denim-and-flannel attire. Good is a criminally underrated songwriter, having earned a good many stripes from a past life playing in punk and hardcore bands before branching out on his own. He’s also owner and operator of one of the premiere voices in all the scene, able to convey both tender sentiments and heart-breaking despair in a single bound. Case in point: Northcote closed his set with an ode to recently-departed Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison by covering the latter’s “My Backwards Walk.” The song is gut-wrenching in its original incarnation, but the gravity of the situation and the honesty in Good’s voice left barely a dry eye in the house.

The Brothers Hause followed, and dove right into a stripped-down rendition of Bury My In Philly‘s “Shaky Jesus.” We’ve obviously been pretty open about our love for Dave Hause’s post-Loved Ones career on these pages, but perhaps one of the most exciting, and unexpected, developments of the components there-in has been the emergence of his kid brother, Tim, as not only a perfect right-hand man, but a musical force in his own right. The same Tim that Dave reflected on wanting to spend more time with back on the 2011 track “Resolutions” has turned into a supremely talented guitar player (primarily adding electric textures to his brother’s acoustic rhythms), but split his time on the baby grand piano (told you it was a classy venue) and the mandolin as well, all while providing pitch perfect harmonies. Still riding the wave from their hometown Eagles’ Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots – on the eve of the now infamously canceled White House visit no less, the Hause brothers were in good, playful spirits for the duration of the set that drew not only from the elder Hause’s three solo albums, but his work with surf punk goofballs The All Brights and, of course, The Loved Ones. That good-nature was put to the test when a spontaneous, mid-set appearance by a background vacuum cleaner, ill-timed in the middle of perhaps Hause’s quietest stomach-punch of a song, “Bricks,” forced the consummate frontman to struggle to keep his composure. Once the vacuum cleaning portion of the evening’s festivities wound down, Hause also included an ode-to-a-departed-hero toward the end of his set, covering the late, great Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” though this one turned into a celebratory singalong as you might imagine.

Head below for our full photo gallery from the evening, and stay tuned for more from City Winery in the coming months, because we’re so fancy (you already know). But seriously; Cory Branan and Face To Face and Austin Lucas are playing in the near future, so we’ll be back for the Coq Au Vin soon!

 



DS Photo Gallery: Brian Fallon and the Howling Weather with Caitlin Rose at Royale in Boston (5/1/18)

When last we spoke with Brian Fallon (read that interview here), it was the morning after the first US tour date in support of his sophomore solo album, Sleepwalkers. With two full-length solo albums plus the Horrible Crowes catalog to draw from and backed by a retooled live band now known as The Howling Weather (longtime friend/collaborator Ian Perkins on guitar, Nick Salisbury on bass, Matt Olsson on drums), tour was off to a positive start. A month down the road, we caught the penultimate show of the Sleepwalkers US tour as it wound through Boston’s Royale nightclub last Tuesday night to finally take in the experience first-hand.

As she had for the last several weeks of the full-US tour, Nashville-based singer/songwriter Caitlin Rose kicked off the festivities on this particular evening. It’s probably not a stretch to assume that the bulk of the daily readers here at Dying Scene might not have Rose on their standard rotation, but we’re all also all about expanding musical horizons, so look her up. Backed by a three-piece band of her own, the silky-voiced Rose primarily plays a smooth blend of hypnotic alternative country and blues, like if Patsy Cline were fronting Mazzy Star. There’s a real soul to her voice when she opens up, giving tremendous depth to her forlorn stories.

Speaking of forlorn storytelling, Fallon kicked off his set with “Forget Me Not,” the lead single from Sleepwalkers. While the song – and the album in general – find Fallon in a more positive space than recent solo or even Gaslight work, there are still plenty of morbid undertones, the struggle against eternal pessimism. Ever the storyteller, Fallon spent a large chunk of time between the set’s second and third songs (“Red Lights” and “Come Wander With Me” polling the audience about a situation that was slated to come up the next night at the tour closer in New York City. Long story short; don’t bother sending Fallon direct messages through social media, and especially don’t propose to your significant other in a circle pit at a Fallon show.

Once the audience participation portion of the evening was over, Fallon and Co. got back to the rocking. The lion’s share of the set on the evening, as you’d imagine, was culled from Sleepwalkers and, to a lesser extent, its 2016 predecessor Painkillers, with a trifecta of songs (“Ladykiller,” “I Witnessed A Crime” and “Sugar”) from Fallon and Perkins’ 2011 The Horrible Crowes project thrown in for good measure. The set’s midway point featured a cover of the Derek And The Dominos classic “Bell Bottom Blues;” the song and its principal writer, Eric Clapton, have long been favorites of Fallon’s, so to hear him pull the song off live was a bit of a fanboy moment inside a fanboy moment. Going back to the Gaslight Anthem days, Fallon has typically opted to eschew encores, stating on numerous occasions that it seems like a waste of time and since you were going to play those songs anyway, just play those songs. As such, the remainder of the band left the stage after new, triumphant crowd favorite “Etta James,” leaving Fallon to man the piano for a solo version of “The ’59 Sound” that turned into an 1100-person singalong. Rose came back out and joined Fallon on a cover of the Dylan classic “Don’t Think Twice,” easily one of the saddest and yet razor-sharp post-relationship songs ever written, before Perkins, Salisbury and Olsson returned and brought the show to a rousing close with “If Your Prayers Don’t Get To Heaven.” This leg of tour has now officially wrapped up and Fallon’s got a little bit of a break before he and the Howling Weather head back across the pond for European festival season. Oh, and there’s the issue of the Gaslight Anthem’s ’59 Sound tenth anniversary shows this summer as well. But hopefully we’ll get Sleepwalkers – Round Two this fall, because a night out at a Brian Fallon show is about as fun and cathartic as a rock and roll show gets.

Head below to check out our full photo gallery from the evening.

 



DS Photo Gallery: The Lawrence Arms w/Red City Radio and Sincere Engineer (Cambridge, MA)

Over the course of a semi-llustrious career that’s spanned just shy of twenty years, it seems like The Lawrence Arms have played Boston somewhere around two dozen times anyway. And so it seems a little strange that this past Wednesday marked the trio’s first appearance in the area in over four years, since the tour for 2014’s Metropole. It also marked the first night of the twelve-date East Coast leg in support of their mammoth great-ish hits collection, We Are The Champions Of The World (released last Friday on Fat Wreck Chords). If there was any rust that had accrued after the three months of day jobs that the band had returned to since they last played together, it was shaken off pretty quickly. After taking the stage to the sounds of a polka rendition of the Queen classic that their recent release stole its name from, the trio ripped into “On With The Show” and “Alert The Audience,” in that order, from their 2003 full-length, The Greatest Story Ever Told and didn’t really let off the gas pedal for the next hour.

The crowd was engaged right from the rip as well, finally knocking yours truly from his spot at stage center about halfway through the hour long main set  out of fear of finally dropping my PBR-drenched camera into the pit once and for all. Chris McCaughan maintained his steady, workmanlike presence on stage right manning guitar and co-vocal duties. His stage left counterpart, Brendan Kelly, was not as noticeably *ahem* lubricated as his reputation had proceeded, though he nevertheless peacocked around the stage in his usual manner that’s equal parts tongue-in-cheek self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating. I feel like special mention needs to be made of Neil Hennessy. Hennessy’s drumming is wildly underappreciated in the scene-at-large (frequent “Henn-Ess-Y! Henn-Ess-Y!” or, in Boston’s case, “Neil! Neil! Neil!” chants notwithstanding). Hennessy is rock steady, proving that you can be a dynamic force without engaging in some of the self-flagellating over-playing that some of the better known punk rock drummers have made their forte. The band’s fourteen-song main set and two-song encore did feel a tad on the short side, but when you’re the champions of the world, people are cool with you leaving them wanting more. Let’s just not have that take four years this time around…we may not be here that long!

Direct support on the East and West Coast legs of the We Are The Champions Of The World tour comes from Red Scare Industries bands Red City Radio and Sincere Engineer. The Oklahoma-based foursome that is Red City Radio recently released their latest EP, SkyTigers, and it’s already solidified a spot on many year-end “Best Of…” lists. It’s a little sludgier and filled with more balls-out rock riffs than their normal, more punk-tinged fare. The new tracks were well-received by the audience, most of whom sounded already familiar with the bulk of the RCR catalog, although the weed-inspired “In The Meantime…” from their 2015 self-titled album finally got what would become a non-stop pit for the rest of the night to finally take shape.

Sincere Engineer exists in several forms but is primarily the brainchild/working moniker of Chicago’s Deanna Belos. She released her debut full-length late last year accompanied by a full band, and it landed like a welcome breath of fresh air; honest, raw and inspiring fresh air. Yet Belos grew her milk teeth writing and playing as a solo artist, with advice and inspiration from Kelly and from Red Scare Comrade-In-Charge Toby Jeg, and is on this tour accompanied only by her trusty Taylor acoustic guitar. Belos was outwardly nervous about the prospects of opening for her all-time favorite band on not one but two tours, but she wears her coy vulnerability as a badge of honor. she might cut a figure that’s equal parts demure and, in her own words, fragile, but Belos is a legit songwriting and perofming powerhouse, as evidenced by set closer “Corn Dog Sonnet No. 7.”

Head below for our full photo gallery!

 



DS Photo Gallery: Lucero Out-Heckle the Heckler in Hartford, CT (w/Jake La Botz)

After a couple of consecutive unfortunate show cancellations late last week, the good ship Lucero fired its well-traveled engines back up in Hartford, Connecticut, last Saturday, resuming a late winter tour that was initially paused on Thursday so that frontman Ben Nichols could fly to Arkansas for his grandmother’s funeral. The band had every intention of cancelling only that night’s show in Rhode Island and reconnecting in New Hampshire on Friday, only for Mother Nature to intervene in the form of a powerful winter storm that left Nichols unable to fly north and his bandmates rarely able to leave the confines of their tour bus for the better part of two days. The band finally reassembled as their full Voltron at the relatively new, 600-ish capacity Infinity Music Hall for what was by all accounts the band’s first headline gig in the capital of the Nutmeg State — we’re pretty sure they played Hartford on the Warped Tour in 2011 — which seems pretty remarkable for a band that’s spent twenty years earning a reputation as one of the hardest touring bands in the game. Much to the delight of all but one show-going knucklehead, the band seemed eager to get back into the swing of things as regularly as possible, making for a memorable, if slightly abridged, evening.

There was a time years ago when a Lucero show had the potential to go off the rails for a variety of reasons, many of which centered around the dysfunctional family dynamics that are present in any group of males working together, particularly when there’s alcohol involved. There’s less alcohol involved nowadays, meaning that a 2018-era Lucero live show has become less volatile but no less unpredictable for the band or the fans. No two sets are the same as Nichols calls shots that balance his instincts with feedback from an audience that’s generally rather lubricated in their own right, meaning his bandmates (Rick Steff on keys, John Stubblefield on bass, Brian Venable on guitar and Roy Berry on drums) have got to react on the fly. On this particular night, the Memphis-based quintet kicked their headline set off with crowd favorite “The Last Song” from their 2002 full-length, Tennessee. In this writer’s experience, this particular song has many times been reserved for later in the evening given the crescendo it builds to, so its early appearance was a welcome change of pace right off the bat. From there, things went in typical free-form fashion, with the band choosing to stick with the same album for the similarly crowd-pleasing singalong “Chain Link Fence” before taking the opportunity to showcase some brand new material. You see, Lucero have been hard at work on a follow-up to their last full-length, 2015’s All A Man Should Do, for a while now, and have slowly been working through some newer songs on stage in recent months (a trend that’s fallen by the wayside across the musical spectrum in the age of YouTube). Nichols’ pointing out that they were going to play a few new tracks, however, didn’t sit well with one particularly vocal gentleman at stage right who made his opinion rather well known early on.

The net result proved, for the young man, to be a fail of epic proportions, as a defiant Nichols led the band through four consecutive brand new songs – including the live debut of a song that seems to be called “Cover Me” which might be the strongest of an already strong bunch – until said young man made his way to the exit. The bulk of the crowd seemed mindful of the special nature of seeing so many new tracks played in order, heckler be damned. There seemed to be nary a hiccup, as the new tracks seem to fit naturally in the Lucero lexicon. I’ll shy away from specific spoilers except to say that “Cover Me” and “To My Dearest Wife” and “Everything Has Changed” sound like songs that were written by 2002 Lucero but performed by 2018 Lucero. Trust me, that’ll make sense when you hear them.

Most of the remainder of the set found the band calling on an ever-expanding number of audience favorites. “Texas & Tennessee,” “All Sewn Up,” “It Gets The Worst At Night,” “Nights Like These” and “On My Way Downtown” made requisite, raucous appearances. When he wasn’t at the mic, Nichols spent a greater-than-average amount of time pacing the stage, giving the impression of somebody who was working through a bit of a cathartic experience. Steff was his typically stoic, stabilizing self on stage left, and his stage-right bookend Venable’s understated leads seemed dialed in. I’ve said before on these pages that Berry is one of my favorite drummers to spend time watching, and that was still true on this evening. There’s in improvisational quality to his playing that’s in line with the rest of the set; just because you’ve heard him play “Tears Don’t Matter Much” a dozen times doesn’t mean you’ve ever heard him play it the same way more than once. Stubblefield left the stage at one point to get seasick over the side of the boat but somehow didn’t miss a beat holding down the low end (and that’s obviously not true, but it’s an inside joke that only he and probably mu wife will understand and I’m mostly just seeing if he’s reading this). The Nichols solo track “Loving,” penned for his filmmaker brother Mike’s film of the same name, seemed especially fitting as played on what happened to be the eve of an Oscars ceremony for which it was robed of even a nomination. “I Can’t Stand To Leave You” off 2012’s Women & Work was a personal favorite, as it’s the first time I’ve actually heard them play it.

But without question, no song was more poignant and heartfelt than “The War.” Accompanied my the multi-instrumentally talented Rick Steff on accordion, the song finds Nichols telling the stories of his World War II-veteran grandfather’s time as a member of the US Army. Many of those stories were told to Nichols over the years by the very grandmother whose funeral he had just returned from, giving the moment a special, albeit heavy, weight. Heckler aside, the only sour note of the evening was the venue’s hard 10:45pm curfew, meaning the band that’s capable of some fairly long sets had to cut things off at around 90 minutes or so. Nit-picking, I know.

Kicking the evening off at 8:00pm sharp was the mighty Jake La Botz. Very much the quintessential renaissance man, La Botz has been one of the more underrated folk-Americana songwriters in recent memory. He frequently tours solo, though this run opening for Lucero finds La Botz fronting a trio, with Brad Tucker (upright bass) and Phil Leone (drums) serving as the rhythm section, providing a bit of depth and foundation for La Botz’s soulful stories and imaginative guitar riffs to shine. If you’re not familiar with La Botz’s catalog, last year’s Sunnyside is as good a place as any to start, as the tracks featured were particularly well-received by the devout Lucero crowd.

Head below for our full photo gallery from the highly enjoyable evening!



DS Photo Gallery: Bundles Record Release Show w/Dan Webb +The Spiders, Birdwatching and Michael Kane + The Morning Afters

While those of us that make up your friendly neighborhood Dying Scene photography staff enjoy shooting punk rock shows of all shapes and sizes, there’s just something special about a bill at a small, cash-only club that’s stacked with kick ass local bands. Such was the case the weekend before last when one of our favorites, Bundles, celebrated the release of their debut full-length, Deaf Dogs. The album was released by Gunner Records earlier this month, just in time for the trio’s recent tour of Europe, and they threw themselves a barn-burner of a homecoming shindig at O’Brien’s in Boston’s legendary Allston neighborhood.

Kicking things off was Michael Kane & The Morning Afters. The foursome are based in Worcester, MA, which is roughly an hour from the city, but have long been staples of the local music scene in various capacities. When we last caught up with the foursome, they were on the big stage kicking off the third and final night of Street Dogs‘ annual Wreck The Halls festivities. While they might have axed the Bruce Springsteen cover from their set on this particular night, their unique blend of punk-infused rock-and-roll (think The Replacements) set the bar pretty high for what was to follow for the remainder of the evening. The infectious “Old Men Die In New Suits” from their 2017 Laughing At The Shape I’m In remains one of the catchier singalongs in the recent chapters of the local punk scene.

Birdwatching were up next, and are rather quickly becoming one of the most must-see bands in or around Boston. The threesome play a high-energy indie rock style that’s equal parts earnest and vulnerable. They dub themselves “nervous underdog pop,” and that seems to be pretty accurate, although perhaps not quite as accurate as how my ten-year-old sums up the sound of Birdwatching’s latest EP, Night Physics – “these guys are really good. They’re interesting, because they’re loud, but they’re not like RAH-RAH-RAH-RAH loud like a lot of other rock bands.”

Dan Webb and the Spiders were up third, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’re no doubt aware that the foursome have long been one of our favorite local acts. DWatS and Bundles put out a split 12-inch on Gunner Records a couple years ago and shared a bill at that album’s record release show at this very same venue, and so it made perfect sense to have the two team up on this night as well given how complimentary the bands sounds are. IT can be a bit tough to encapsulate the Spiders’ garage rock-based sound, as they can pull off gritty aggression and almost Beatlesian melodies interchangeably. I keep saying they’re one of the most underappreciated bands in the area, and I’m nowhere near alone in that mindset.

Which, of course, brings us to the guests of honor, the trio known as Bundles. Much like Michael Kane & the Morning Afters, we last caught Bundles on the big stage across town at Sinclair where they were kicking off the recent Hot Water Music show. Don’t get us wrong; we love watching local buds get cool opportunities like that, especially when their set goes over well, and we’ll always continue to root for more and more of those experiences. But seeing bands like Bundles damn near melt on stage at venues like Obie’s will forever be one of the more comforting things in a local scene that, like so many others, is becoming increasingly gentrified. We’ve seen Bundles and their finely-tuned quads a bunch over the years, and this is probably the most involved and vocal we’ve seen a crowd at a Bundles show, with nearly non-stop vocal involvement from audience members from start to finish, in spite of how very recently released the stellar Deaf Dogs was. Yet another notch on the bedpost in support of Boston being one of the best places for local independent music.

Head below to check out our full photo gallery, and pick up Deaf Dogs here.



DS Exclusive: SPELLS checking in the Chicago area

SPELLS, a self-described “vacation rock” quintet from Denver, CO, hit the greater Chicago area for a double shot of frenzied fun over the first weekend in February. Night one, on February 2, took place at Brauerhouse in Lombard, IL. SPELLS took the stage after several stand up comedians (including SPELLS singer Ben Roy) started the evening’s events. They shared the bill this night with The Bollweevils and Off With Their Heads.

February 3, the second night of the weekend, at the smaller Liars Club on the north side of Chicago, was a benefit for a beloved member of the Chicago punk rock scene, photographer, Patti Hummel, who is presently battling cancer. Hummel’s daughter Ranae Hummel is the girlfriend of Off With Their Heads frontman Ryan Young. Young described to me how his friendship with the band and weekend bill with SPELLS came about:

Off With Their Heads plays Denver all the time. I met Ben through stand up comedy friends and interviewed him for Anxious and Angry. We hit it off and kept in touch. We played with SPELLS at a festival in Denver and I hit it off with the rest of the band as well. They have a vibe that’s great to set the tone for almost any show. I saw that and thought it would be cool to bring them on tour with OWTH and Iron Chic because I knew they would do just that: set the tone for a fun night. I had Ben come on the road with me for a week doing stand up on my last acoustic tour. Then I flew the whole band to Chicago to finish out the tour with us. I am helping them release a couple records in the near future as well, so I wanted to get them to Chicago so they could do their thing in front of some new people. Definitely one of my favorite bands.

To describe fans of the two more widely known bands, as impressed by the Denver quintet, would be more than a mild understatement. And there is good reason diehard fans of The Bollweevils immediately felt a connection to SPELLS. Both groups are fronted by singers who in perpetual motion and are simply unable to remain static or on the official stage space of whatever venue in which the bands are performing. (Daryl Wilson of The Bollweevils and Ben Roy aka “Little” Stevie Shithead of SPELLS). Instead, Roy spent the majority of his time on the floor. A few perilous moments involving the microphone cord snaking around the legs and more northerly body parts of the crowd members could slow down neither Roy, nor those in attendance. At some point, one begins to wonder about the viability of cordless microphones when it comes to performers like Wilson/Roy.

One particular new fan of the band, Arielle Cunnea, who as fiancee to Death and Memphis’ Steev MF Custer, is no novice in viewing rollicking frontmen, likened Roy’s performance style to an evangelist preacher having a seizure during a big tent revival. Roy’s reaction:

Hahahaha. I’ll definitely take that as a compliment. I’ve always believed that there is no fourth wall in performance. If you want to just hear something, stay home and listen to your records. You come to a show to be a part of something. To witness something. And, most definitely not, I will never match Doc’s jumping. But I have other attributes. For instance, I didn’t see Doc (Daryl Wilson) put his hands in anyone’s mouth. Huh? That’s something. He probably didn’t because he’s a doctor and he realizes how utterly unhealthy that is for both parties involved.”

But SPELLS, as with Bollweevils, is not a one-man band. Guitarist Chuck Coffey aka Charlie “Continental” Stimsell; Don Bersell aka Duke “Box” Standard on bass; Drummer Rob Burleson aka Peter “P” Bohner; and; Lauren Shugrue aka Ella Suga on backup vocals power the sets with nary a breather from any one of them.

Who is SPELLS? BTW, no, cap locks did not get stuck. The band, formed years before the present occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania moved to DC, presents their name in manner similar to some of the current President’s 3 am tweets. However, this is apparently where any similarities cease.

Singer Ben Roy and Guitarist Chuck Coffey took time to reflect on the weekend shows in Chicago and Lombard, the band’s history; and its future.
Chuck: “Although technically formed at the end of 2012 I tend to think of us as having started in 2013. Our first show was February 2013 with myself, Ben, Rob and Don. Lauren joined us by the fall of 2013.”

And while Roy is a well known within the standup comedy world, other bands members have varied occupations external to SPELLS.
Chuck: “Outside of the band I run a record label and DJ company called Snappy Little Numbers. It’s my little entertainment conglomerate! I also produce records and work part-time at a children’s hospital. Rob does graphic design, Don is an engineer and Lauren is a coder.

Though this weekend was SPELLS’ first time in Chicago as a group, Ben Roy had already developed an affection for the city, “I’ve been to Chicago quite a few times, but only for comedy. I’ve done Zanie’s a bunch of times. I love Chicago. Great city. Great people.” {Roy also performed stand up sets at both shows with fellow comedians as a part of Spare Parts West.}

Chuck Coffey,is well versed in the Second City’s storied punk rock history:
I know Chicago has a long and interesting history as far as punk and music in general goes. I’m a big fan of The Effigies, Articles Of Faith, Naked Raygun, Big Black, Pegboy, The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, The Bollweevils, 88 Fingers Louie, Slapstick, The Broadways. I could go on and on. Touch & Go stuff. I also really like some of the more recent bands like Negative Scanner, Heavy Times, Cococoma, Tyler Jon Tyler. I’m a HoZac and Trouble In Mind fan in general. Of course OWTH (duh! But maybe they’re from MN?). We’re also old friends with the gang in Planes Mistaken For Stars and Git Some. Most members at one point or another have called Chicago home and a few of them came from Peoria, which is just down the highway a few hours. I’m sure there are a million sub-scenes, etc. I first started coming here on tour in 1998. Did a few shows with various bands at the Fireside Bowl, some at The Needle House, then Ronny’s and now Liar’s Club.”

Ben: “I love it. I have a few friends that live here. Plus a number of my friends are from there. It’s always had such a great comedy and music scene. Probably because Ol’ Man Winter spends five months out of the year screwing you all over. Nothing better to do than create great art.

This weekend for SPELLS clearly left a deep and lasting impression.
Chuck: “Very aware of The Bollweevils. Definitely an all-time fave. It was so fun not just to see them, but get to know them a little bit as people. I feel like we hit it off and we’ll share the stage with them again fairly soon whether it’s in Denver or another trip to Chicago. As for Chicago, everyone we met this weekend was super nice and we had an excellent time. I’ve found that in our little world we gravitate towards people, bands, venues, spaces etc that support counter-culture whether it’s a big city like Chicago or a small town on the high plains. As a general impression, Chicago is still a great music town.
As a kicker, Coffey adds, “I’d also say the Comfort Suites in Schiller Park is a very nice place to take a nap!

Ben: “The weekend was so fucking great. We were all fans of The Bollweevils prior to this trip, so it was amazing getting to hang and chat with those dudes. Such a fun group of people. A similar energy to ours as well. Always up for a great time, easy going, all about bringing the show to the folks in the crowd. There’s nothing better than loving a band’s tunes and then finding out you love the people in it as much. Ditto Off With Their Heads. I got to know Ryan through his podcast ‘Anxious and Angry’, but I loved their albums before I even met them. So to get to know those guys and find out what great people they are behind the scenes is a blast. They’re like family to us now.”


Chuck Coffey and Ben Roy expressed praise for both Brauerhouse and Liar’s Club but note that the latter is perfectly suited to their particular performance style:

Chuck: “Brauerhouse was a lot of fun too, but Liar’s is more like the places we usually play. We’re just very fortunate to have some rad bands invite us to do some rad things.”

Ben: “Both kicked ass for different reasons. Staff was awesome at Brauerhouse. Lots of people. That’s always fun. But Liar’s Club as Chuck said is more our speed.

Coffey and Roy traced back for me their affinity for the cozier confines of Liar’s Club (about which Roy’s fellow comedian Bill Burr affection describes his night there in one of his monologues. Burr also named an episode of his animated series F is for Family “Liar’s Club.” The “reality” show Ghost Hunters also did an episode on Liar’s Club but perhaps better to leave that for another time).

Chuck: “The first few shows we played in Denver either had no stage or a single step-up stage. When we booked our first show at a venue with a taller stage, Rob figured Ben wasn’t gonna stay on the stage so why should the rest of us? It’s so fun being on the floor and having more of an interaction with our friends and the people that are nice enough to come see us. It’s just become our thing in Denver. On the road, that’s more difficult to control. I think we approach every show the same way in that we totally try to blow the roof off the joint, but audience proximity does make a difference. There’s such a shared energy when playing on the floor or small stage in a small room. That’s what I felt at Liar’s and I think we all felt that.”

Ben: ”Flat out, I don’t like being on big stages. I want everyone to be a part of the show in one way or another. Plus they point the lights directly into your face. I want to feel people’s sweat and breath and shit. Once the attention is turned to them, I want to see the fear in their eyes change to a smile or anger or intensity or whatever. That means they’re present. It’s easy to become complacent as an audience member when a band is separated from you.

Daryl Wilson, a veteran in the punk rock scene, was not completely unfamiliar with Ben Roy prior to sharing the bill recently. “Those who can’t is brilliant! Even has my buddy Kyle Kinane. Perfect!

Taking a brief detour from SPELLS to note, “Those Who Can’t,” on truTV, is awaiting the airing of its 3rd season. The show, which has received strong reviews and a bit of a cult following, centers on three less than fully inspirational teachers at fictional Denver, CO school, Smoot High. Ben Roy, is one of the creators of the show with Andrew Orvedahl and Adam Cayton-Holland, his fellow founding members of Denver Comedy troupe The Grawlix. Roy portrays Billy Shoemaker, a terminally angry yet somewhat idealist history teacher with full sleeves of ink and a punk rock past. In avoiding a lazy trope, Shoemaker is not considered the cool teacher. Or rather the cooler of the teachers to the extent that any of them are considered at all cool. Spoiler for those yet unfamiliar with the show, the only member of the trio considered at all cool, is Spanish teacher Loren Payton, and only from the perspective of their boss, the always trying to look on the bright side, Principal Geoffrey Quinn (Rory Scovel).

Reflecting on the weekend with SPELLS, and in particular fellow frontman Ben Roy, Daryl Wilson told me:
Ben is a guy after my own heart! I had a great time watching him performing and experiencing the fun, in your face, raw energy of his presence. He is funny as funny can be, and I loved chatting and laughing with him.”
Wilson elaborates, “Playing with SPELLS was like hanging with our brothers and sisters in arms. They know how to have fun and truly enjoy the experience of playing live. They know that a show is about putting on a show, not just playing great music. And they play some catchy fucking tunes!

Speaking of tunes: “Catchy fucking tunes” is a solid descriptor. But whilst the music sounds upbeat, inducing both toe-tapping and head-bopping, the lyrics often, in a great tradition of punk rock, belie something a bit darker:
One example can be heard in the lyrics to a song that can easily be adopted as a fist-pumping anthem or a mission statement of sorts, “80% is Good Enough.”

“Now I live my life by a certain set
Of principles, they aren’t hard to get
I only work till I’m certain you’re pleased
And leave the rest for all the “get-aheads
……
Lying awake and I’m racing fast
Cause I worked so hard that they own me
8 out of 10, and I gave enough
Why fill mine up when it’s clear your cup is constantly overflowing?
80% seems good enough…”

Asked to describe the genesis of this particular song:
Chuck, “We were adamantly against perfectionism, mostly because people don’t notice so why drive ourselves crazy trying to be perfect? Don would just casually say “80%” whenever completing a task. Fast-forward to SPELLS and it was something Don and I still rolled with. I asked Ben to write lyrics to the title “If 80% Is Good Enough For Me, Then It’s Definitely Good Enough For You” which then got shortened to “80% Is Good Enough” and it became our band mantra. We’re all on board with it. There are times when 110% is called for and times when 0% is called for. It all balances out to 80% being good enough most of the time.”

Coffey continues: “Pick Me Up”, “Bustin’ Out” and “I Don’t Feel At All” are some of my more serious lyrics and “Pick Me Up” happens to be one of our poppiest songs. I like the balance we seem to have between light and dark lyrically. We even have some darker sounding songs musically, but they don’t seem to stay in the set too long. They’re still fun to play though.

SPELLS’songwriting,however, is collaborative:
Chuck: “The typical approach to songwriting in SPELLS is for me to come up with the music first on guitar. I might have an idea for vocals, I might not. I’ll usually record a demo and send it off to Ben for vocals. He comes up with most of the lyrics but I pitch in here and there. While that’s happening, I jam on the tune with Rob. Although I often have a structure in mind I’m never opposed to trying different things. Sometimes I’ll skip the initial demo in favor of working a song out with Rob first. Once Rob and I have the song down, we do another demo to send back to Ben so he can finalize his vocals. Don and Lauren then come in and learn the song. It has to pass Don’s final edit, he has a good ear for the little things we miss. Lauren and I lock down our final spots for additional vocals and then the song is done. It takes the whole band to make the song what it becomes. Ben has also written some music lately and some of our newer tunes have more room for Lauren to sing. I’d like to think the band keeps evolving, even if we’re not inventing anything groundbreaking…As for the content of our songs, Ben is actually a pretty serious lyricist. He tackles a variety of topics and I think he does it well. “Forget About Virginia,” “Asphalt Navajo,” I’ll Leave Before June;”and “Deceiver” are some examples. Although he’s written a couple sets of upbeat lyrics, most of the tongue-in-cheek lyrics come from me. “Jet Set,” “Big Boring Meeting; and “She Wants To Die Before I Do” come to mind. I’ve done a couple sets of serious lyrics, but by and large I’m not too serious a person. Sometimes I’ll just have a song title I like, a line I like, or a chant I’ve spelled out and Ben will run with it. That’s how “S-P-E-L-L-S Spells SPELLS (SPELLS Rules)” came about. I just enjoy creating and sharing.”

Ben: “I definitely tend to write more serious content. But I’ve always done that. I started playing in my first band at fourteen or fifteen, and it was always an outlet for whatever dogshit I was going through. I’ve never lost it. This was the first band I’ve been in that had this laid back, party type vibe to it. But I just kept doing what I’ve always been doing and mixing that with Chuck’s aesthetic. Although, don’t let Chuck fool you. Chuck writes a bunch of horrifically sad songs. See “Pick Me Up” and “Bustin’ Out”.

Roy’s description of “laid back party vibes” as well as one of the group’s mainstays: coordinated outfits worn by members (more on that in short order) leads to wondering if there is concern that SPELLS might be written off as another band with another schtick, Coffey expresses no reservations.

Being described as a party band doesn’t bother me. I think it just means we’re fun. We’re having fun when we’re playing and if it’s fun for other people in the room that’s awesome. I’m really not worried about people understanding us one way or the other. I have no expectations. I think if someone gets anything from our music that’s cool. It could be a fun vibe, it could be relating to a lyric, whatever. I’d like to think we’re all pretty independent, progressive people and it shows in how we live our lives more than the kind of band we are.

Now to the fashion “statement” from the band:

Chuck: “Rob and I decided from day one we wanted to have matching outfits. We were heavily influenced by 50’s & 60’srock ‘n’ roll and R & B acts. So many classic groups had matching outfits, especially the girl groups of Motown. We also happen to love Rocket From The Crypt so that’s a more recent example. Ben and Don were cool with the idea. We were a little haphazard with our outfits to start with, but once Lauren hopped on board we got more coordinated. We do wear Loudmouth clothing during most of our shows. They have fun patterns that offer more than just matching by a single color or cut. It’s technically golf-wear, but we don’t care… Lauren, Rob and Ben watch for sales and send links out to everyone. Once we agree, we order our sizes and that’s that.

Coffey muses that Loudmouth might have reason to offer a sponsorship deal: “They have yet to sponsor us which is too bad. They would totally have the small-band-no-one-has-ever-heard-of market locked up with us.

Ben: “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I’m not quite sure how that pertains to this question or our band for that matter, but you’ll figure it out. Make it work or something.“

So, what are some of the immediate plans for SPELLS?

Chuck: “We just released a new 7” EP called “Big Boring Meeting”. In July we’ll be releasing an LP called “Loose Change, Vol. 1”. It will have our out-of-print cassettes and digital-only releases on vinyl for the first time and all the songs have been remastered. It’s sort of a time capsule of our first two years as a band. Nobody asked for it, but they’re gonna get it anyways.”

Coffey also provided further information on Snappy Little Numbers which he started in 2011 and of which he lists his title as “Head Honcho”. They are presently working on several releases, “the latest of which will be our 37th and counting. We are distributed exclusively by Recess Ops.

Ben: “We’re going to be doing some sporadic shows all over the place this year. Keep an eye out on our web page {https://www.spellsrules.com/ } for it.”

Chuck: “SPELLS is playing Denver in March, May and July. Nothing planned after that but that will change. Rob and I are the rhythm section for Andy Thomas’ Dust Heart and play the occasional show with him. I play bass with some buds in a band called Bad Year too. I’ll be producing albums for Friends Of Cesar Romero and Cheap Perfume this spring and summer respectively while continuing to release records through Snappy Little Numbers. Gonna do some DJing too. Rob is going to Mexico soon, Don is going to DC for the summer and Lauren just bought a house.

Ben: “Bunch of stand up. Follow me on Twitter (@benroy00) and Facebook to follow.

SPELLS music can be found spellsrules.com, spellsrules.bandcamp.com, snappylittlenumbers.bandcamp.com, snappylittlenumbers.storenvy.com, snappylittlenumbers.blogspot.com.


Returning back around to “Those Who Can’t.” I was actually aware of this show for about a year prior to see SPELLS at Liars, having stumbled upon it while it streamed on HULU in addition to its home of truTV.
In addition to what was already noted above, I would be remiss if I did not ask Ben Roy about any similarities which may exist between himself and Billy Shoemaker.

Ben: “I would say my character on “Those Who Can’t” is a very cartoonish version of my real self. I tend to be a pandora’s box of emotions. I’m not that extreme, but I’ve been known to oscillate between angry, crying, laughing, and calm in far too short of time frames. I’m just an emotional person and that comes out in that character. And that’s already happening, even while I’m in a band. At least for my family. I never played organized sports or anything, so I don’t have tales of glory from the playing field. So I torture my wife and son with stories of shows I played; over and over and over again.
“Those Who Can’t” Season 3 air date on truTV is yet to be announced but the first two seasons can be found at truTV.com in addition to various cable providers’ OnDemand packages as well as at ITunes, Amazon; and Sling.

SPELLS left in their wake in Chicago, many new fans of both their music and new fans of “Those Who Can’t;” as well as numerous new friends.

And both SPELLS and The Bollweevils are taking away from the weekend an excitement for sharing future bills. So when might SPELLS return to the Windy City?

Chuck: “Whenever Ryan Young or Daryl Wilson tells us we’re coming back.

Ben: “Or Pegboy!!! Or any other rad Chicago band. But I’ll be back soon to tell jokes. I love coming there to make the funny.”

The two men also describe what makes their music scene in Denver so special and encourage some of their new Chicago fans and friends to soon visit the Mile High City. They also have plenty of recommendations for first timers to Denver:

Chuck: “Denver is large enough to have a few different punk scenes. There are dive bars, all ages clubs and DIY spaces for all sorts of different sounds and people. It’s not uncommon for some bands to span scenes, but by and large people and bands tend to move towards one scene more than the others. We’re in more of the dive bar scene as far as being a band goes. We play and will continue to play in other venues, but we’re most at home in the dive bars. If you’re a first time visitor to Denver and you like punk (or other forms of independent music) you could see shows at the Hi-Dive, Three Kings and Larimer Lounge (bars); The Marquis (all ages club); Club Scum and 1010 Workshop (DIY spaces). You could check out records at Wax Trax, Mutiny, Black & Read and Chain Reaction. Mutiny is also a great place for coffee and books. There are a bunch of other places, but those would be my personal starting points.”

Ben: “Check out these kick-ass Denver bands: Dirty Few, Bud Bronson and the Good Timers, Cheap Perfume, Allot Helter, Colfax Speed Queen, Fathers, Native Daughters, Pale Horse/Pale Rider, The Velveteers, Dressy Bessy, Itchy-O, Plastic Daggers, Lawsuit Models, Black Dots… Man, I could go on and on and on. So much amazing music in the scene. Come party with us.

Wilson: “I felt like we knew these guys forever. Just naturally drawn to them all and had easy conversation. Can’t wait to hang with them again and destroy some stages. Pure fun.”



DS Exclusive: My Year in Photos 2017 (Meredith Goldberg)

2017 provided me many great opportunities to document the punk rock scene. Most especially, the punk rock scene in my adopted city of Chicago. For my compilation of my favorite images of 2017, I am including a mix of my faves from both veterans bands well known nationally and even internationally; and upstart groups grinding out their place in the punk rock world. I also am including images both published here, heretofore not featured in any online or hard copy publications. These were exciting and compelling shows. If you see any of these bands (hover over pictures in the gallery to catch the names) coming through your city, town; or general area I suggest checking them out! Check out the full gallery below!



DS Exclusive: 2017 A Year in Pictures (AnarchoPunk – Los Angeles)

2017 was an awfully busy year for me! I shot four festivals and an uncountable amount of local shows here in The City of Angeles. But for as frantic as it was there was also some pretty big payoffs. My year was filled with multiple life goals like getting to shoot Rancid, Bad Religion and Propagandhi all for the first time. And through it all, I got to meet tons of great folks, all of which deserve thanks in one way or another but would take too much time to acknowledge here. So, I’ll instead just say thanks to the incredible bands that allowed me to take their pictures while most likely being uncomfortably close to them! Keep up all of the great work and I can’t wait to see you all again in 2018! Check out my personal favorite shots from almost every set I shot this year, below!

*For more pics, follow Dying Scene and my personal page over at Instagram!