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DS Photo Gallery: Strung Out and The Casualties – Boston, MA

Strung Out brought the US leg of tour in support of their ninth studio full-length, Songs Of Armor And Devotion, through Boston’s Brighton Music Hall last Sunday night. Boston circa 2019 can be a bit of a notoriously fickle market when it comes to punk rock, particularly when it comes to bands who stem from the Fat Wreck/Epitaph glory days. Those that were present at the what I’d call “respectably attended” and dimly-lit gig were in for a treat, because Strung Out circa 2019 still slay.

The Simi Valley icons kicked off their set with “Rebels And Saints,” the first track from Songs Of Armor And Devotion. As an ode to not only the band’s longevity but to the legion of fans that’ve stuck by them through the course of the last three decades, it seemed a pitch-perfect way to set a tone for the evening. What followed was a few dozen tracks from across the band’s storied career. Of course genre-defining albums like Twisted By Design and Suburban Teenage Wasteland Blues were well represented, but so to were (my personal favorite) Transmission.Alpha.Delta and the 2016 stand-alone single “Crows.” The encore even included their cover of the Ozzy classic “Bark At The Moon” that I think dates back to one of those Punk Goes Metal compilations from like twenty years ago. It was yours truly’s first time seeing Strung Out with new drummer RJ Shankle in the fold, and I can attest to the fact that he’s a rock-steady breath of high-energy fresh air in the mix, peppering the band’s set with blistering fill after blistering fill. Frontman Jason Cruz’s voice seemed a little strained, the result of leaving it all on stage for the last couple weeks of East Coast dates – and the last few decades if we’re being honest. The two-headed guitar monster that is Rob Ramos and Jake Kiley still shred just as heavily as ever, and Ramos’ harmonies serve as a great balance that smooths out Cruz’s rougher, visceral vocal edges. And bassist Chris Aiken…well, he’s become one of my favorite artists in this little scene for a reason; he was battling a few technical difficulties on this particular night, but still provided his steady, heavy undertones while bounding side-to-side the length of the stage for the duration of the band’s set.

Support on the duration of this run comes from none other than New York City street punk vets The Casualties. I don’t profess to be the biggest Casualties-style fan in the scene. That said, the band are just as earnest as ever, and it’s always good to see the leather jackets and liberty spikes come out for a night of revelry that’s becoming fewer and farther between in one of the most expensive (read as: least street punk) and gentrified places in the country.

Check out our photo rundown below. And mea culpa to local openers D-Sagawa; pre-show burrito run ran a little long, so we missed all but the last notes!



2nd Annual Red Rocks Beer Festival: Punk in Drublic

Beer/Music Fests are all the rage these days, but we’ve had a gaping hole in that department over the last year or so here in the US ever since punk legend Fat Mike and his trailblazing Punk in Drublic Fest was banished after making insensitive comments following the Las Vegas mass shooting. But things have blown over as they seem to do over time and the Festival has made it’s triumphant return to the States. We sent Anarchopunk down to snap some shots when the tour rolled through Red Rocks Amphitheater just outside of Denver and he didn’t disappoint (anyone other than his wife). Check out his write up and a full gallery below!



DS Photo Gallery: Benny and The No-Goods and The Mizzerables Host Joint Record Release Show

Reggie’s, a popular near Southside venue on S. State St. in Chicago, has two performance rooms: The Music Joint and the Rock Club. On Thursday August 27th, both sides of the venue were rocking with terrific punk music. Many of the attendees — including many of the performers it seemed — went from room to room and back. I was able to document both, as fortunately, the timing was such that there was not much overlap. Set up in one room occurred whilst performances occurred in the other.

The Music Joint, the smaller of the performance rooms, on this night hosted a two-in-one record release show. Benny and the No-Goods recently released its sophomore album, Nothing’s Cool, while The Mizzerables’ newest release is entitled, Whatever…This Sucks. In addition to a similar attitude, at least in terms of record names, the two groups have Joe Mizzi in common. Joe is, of course, the founder of The Mizzerables, as if that was not apparent by its name. He also plays guitar for Benny and the No-goods shows because in the studio, it is a one-man band. Shortly after their sets at Reggie’s, both Benny and Joe discussed with me how they felt the show went, their new: albums; and upcoming projects.

Meredith Goldberg (Dying Scene): How did you feel the show went? Joe pulled double duty of course. Both as frontman of his own band The Mizzerables and as second guitarist for Benny and the No-Goods live band.

Joe Mizzi: Aside from getting a scolding from afar by the Reggie’s staff for somewhat mockingly requesting the crowd to do some damage to the tables that were left surrounding the stage, I’d say it all went pretty well! I mean, Damian May, the singer of The Exceptions, one of my favorite ska bands from Detroit was there… so ya know. We got in and got out quick so people could go next door and see some little band called The Lillingtons, my wife tells me they’re a whole thing haha.

Benny NoGood: “This show was a great time. Joe (second guitarist in BATNG) had a record release for his main band, The Mizzerables, so we were a natural addition to the show. We opened the night to a solid crowd, and almost immediately, I broke a string, Justin had a problem with the DI box, Dom broke a bass drum pedal, and I knocked my mic stand over, so it was definitely a punk rock show. We had a great time, and the other bands on the bill were all amazing across both shows. Butchered (Chicago) just blew me away. Their intensity is just through the roof, and they’re a bunch of nice dudes. Saw tons of great friends who I don’t often get to hang with, too, so the vibe all night was just outstanding.

 


MG: Were you able to catch any of the bands playing on the other side of Reggie’s, in the Rock Club?
BNG: I’ve been friends with Mike from Amuse for a bit over a decade now, and I just love those guys. The Lillingtons were, of course, a big reason a lot of people were there, and they didn’t (do they ever?) disappoint.

JM: I didn’t watch that Lillingtons that night was selling records but saw them the next night haha.


MG: Is it true Benny that Benny and the No-Goods is a one-man band?

BNG: Yes, as far as recording goes, it’s a one-man show. both albums were just me, that may change on the next one, as the lineups seem to be pretty solidified at this point.

MG: Benny, please tell us how it came about that Joe joined the band as a live player at second guitar; as well as the other live band members

BNG: I put word out that I was trying to put together a Chicago-based lineup, and Joe was the first to volunteer. We’ve been friends for several years, and this was a good opportunity to hang out more and finally play music together. Justin was next and came with the recommendation of Mike Muse from Amuse. I’ve known Mike forever, so I trust his opinion, and it’s worked out great. Dom came on-board immediately following, and it’s just been great playing with these guys. They’re all such outstanding players and people.

MG: Joe, was it hard to pull double duty?
JM: Not hard and of course it’s fun to play on stage more!

MG: And Joe, please tell me about making The Mizzerables new record, “Whatever…This Sucks.”

JM: The album itself came together really quick. I’m a “bursty” writer where I’ll get a bunch of songs and then break for a while rather than write every day like a Tim Armstrong says he does. With this album I went back to basics and focused more on melody than fancy guitar parts or riffs and listened to a lot of music I grew up listening to while writing it. Some comparisons we’ve heard are Methadones, Green Day and Descendents which pretty much nails on the head what I was listening to.

We recorded the album with Dan from 88 Fingers Louie last year. Recording the album was with Dan was great and this record would not be what it is without him. However, we did it in January/February and it was brutally cold. When we started vocals, it was pretty rough on my voice with how dry it was. I was literally bringing gallon jugs of water to the studio and I would tear through at least one each day. Somewhat smartly though, we recorded different songs at different times of the day to take advantage of the added rasp from the dryness as the day went on and I think that really played well.

MG: Benny have you always been political as a musician and in your life? “Nothing’s Cool,” features a song called “Donnie” about Donald Trump.

BNG: With Donnie, I just really fucking hate that guy and what he’s done to decency, discourse, the environment, women, the LGBTQA community, standards of governance, our standing in the world, and so much more. Honestly, just fuck him. There’s not even a nice way to talk about him without speaking the vulgar truth, so fuck it I don’t hold back, and didn’t in the song, either. It’s basically a rundown of his disgusting proclivities.

Beyond that, I feel like the arts and music community has a responsibility to use our voice and platform, however small, to speak to power. I get, and appreciate, that some bands are just focused on making fun music, and I do that with this band, for the most part… that said, there is still the drive to speak out I also tend to include an environmental message on all of my releases, and this one is no different. I hide it in the context of our bombs and pollution and destruction of the environment waking Godzilla in my song “Gojira”, but the message is there, and is delivered pretty plainly.

MG: What’s up next for you both?

BNG: Just to continue playing shows and supporting the latest album. I will probably, if pattern follows, release another project in the spring/early summer of 2020. We’ll see where things stand then.Re

JM: Winter is upon us again so we will be playing shows locally and around the Midwest for the next few months.
We’ve done the winter tour before and boy, we don’t have luck with vehicles in the cold. And let’s just say we aren’t the most mechanical bunch. In the meantime, I’ve been posting a bunch of cover songs that inspired the album and I plan to do more with those over the winter. In the spring next year we plan to spread our wings so to speak. No details yet, but I’m sure we’ll blast dates all over the interwebs when we have them. And some breaking news, we have already started discussions about recording 2 or 3 more songs in the coming months. I think what we are going to do is pretty exciting and we’ll have more on it soon!

Please check out photos from both shows at Reggie’s on this evening below!



DS Photo Gallery: Bad Religion and Dave Hause, Boston, MA

Any week that allows you to take in multiple shows on a headline tour featuring one of the most iconic punk rock bands of a generation is about the best kind of week you could ask for. And so it was last week when yours truly got to take in not one but two shows on Bad Religion‘s tour in support of their seventeenth (!?!?!) studio album, Age Of Unreason, which dropped back in May on Epitaph Records. If you check this site with any regularity, you’ll know that the first of those shows was the Roadblock Festival in East Providence, Rhode Island, an all-day, outdoor festival show that the iconic Bad Religion closed out. And while a great time was had by all that day, at least from a sentimental standpoint, there’s nothing quite like getting to see one of your favorite bands at a club on your own home turf. You see, a sixteen-year-old Jay Stone would attend his first punk rock show over April vacation of his junior year of high school. It was The Gray Race Tour, and it featured Bad Religion headlining with support from Dance Hall Crashers and Unwritten Law, and the local stop took place at Avalon Ballroom on Lansdowne Street in Boston, and while Avalon isn’t there anymore, it’s since been combined with a couple other local clubs and turned into the House Of Blues, and if you couldn’t guess where I’m going already, this particular show took place at House of Blues and so we’ve made a giant punk rock full circle.

Support on this leg of Bad Religion’s US tour came from Dave Hause and the Mermaid. We’ve obviously been big fans of Hause’s solo career over the last however-many years, and have seen him perform truly solo, accompanied by his brother, and fronting full four- and five-piece bands. So it was a bit of an unexpected surprise (that’s redundant, isn’t it?) to catch the band as one of only a couple shows they were playing as a trio, as Hause’s brother/co-writer/guitar hero Tim was on a scheduled vacation – millennials, man. As he has on each run for the last few years, Kevin Conroy joined on drums while Matt Olsson – normally a drummer whom you may have seen play with the likes of Brian Fallon or Frank Iero – assumed bass duties while the trio blazed through an uptempo set that, if you squinted just right, hearkened back to the early days of The Loved Ones. Hell, they even threw a “cover” of “Jane” in for good measure. While he obviously missed having his brother and right-hand-man on stage, Hause looked like he was having fun prowling the stage and filling in the missing sonic pieces.

Bad Religion hit the stage shortly after 9pm (quick aside – I know it’s passe to say because it’s not, like, supporting the local scene or whatever, but I’ll be damned if a doors-at-7, show-at-8, two-band weeknight bill isn’t the absolute bee’s knees) and immediately dove in to “Them And Us” which, of course, appears in its original form on the aforementioned Gray Race, which I’ll pretend forever was a shoutout to the symmetry yours truly pointed out above. This was my first Bad Religion show of the Jamie Miller On Drums era, and while I have long-since planted my flag atop the “the Brooks Wackerman Era Is The Best Bad Religion Era” hill…Miller can flat out play. He served as the proverbial gas pedal as the band powered through the corners of a twenty-seven-song set that featured songs from more than a dozen albums from the band’s legendary catalog. Brian Baker and Mike Dimkich took turns trading lead guitar licks, Jay Bentley bounded around stage providing thunderous basslines and copious oozin-aahs — talk about guys that look like they’re having fun at this stage of their careers — and Greg Graffin was, well, Greg Graffin. He’s one of the most iconic figures in the annals of punk rock history for a reason, pacing the stage as equal parts poet, professor, and punk rock choir leader. Graffin did spill the beans that next year, Bad Religion will mark their 40th anniversary with another lengthy tour and a book chronicling their legendary career, and it started dawning on me that if one were to try to compose a list of American rock acts that have been are as consistent and vital as Bad Religion have been since the dawn of the Ronald Reagan era, that list might include Bruce Springsteen and…um…hang on a sec…

Anyway, head below to check out our photo gallery from the evening!

 



DS Photo Gallery: Roadblock Festival w/Bad Religion, The Menzingers, The Old Firm Casuals and more!

The last weekend in July marked the maiden voyage of a new New England-based punk rock experience. It’s called the Roadblock Festival, and it took place outside at Bold Point Park in East Providence, which serves as Rhode Island’s largest outdoor concert venue and comes complete with views of the Narragansett Bay and the sunset over the state capital. It’s not the best run venue, but my personal feelings about staff communication deficiencies aside, it’s a pretty picturesque place to take in a punk rock show when the weather cooperates. This particular show featured a diverse lineup, food trucks, wrestling, and a late-arriving crowd that allowed show-goers the opportunity to spread out and seek a little shade from the midsummer sun.

For traffic and parking-related reasons, we arrived shortly after our beloved Rebuilder took the stage. They band were playing with a bit of a retooled lineup; with co-frontman Craig Stanton out of town, Sal Ellington and bassist Daniel Carswell were joined by regular drummer Brandon Phillips on guitar and vocals and by Choke Up’s Harley Cox filling in on drums. It was a high-energy, well-received set that was certainly worthy of taking place later in the afternoon. They were followed out of the chute by a back-to-back pair of legendary acts: Cro-Mags and HR from Bad Brains. Technically speaking, the former was “Cro-Mags JM,” the John Joseph/AJ Novello version of the influential NYHC band. HR performed a half-hour set of punk-infused reggae songs with a band that was heavy and airtight in spite of a relative few shows under their collective belts.

Next up came Portland, Maine’s Roseview, a five piece post hardcore band who are, admittedly, not my speed. A band that are my speed, The Old Firm Casuals, came next. Making their first and only New England appearance as a four-piece – lead guitarist Gabe Gavriloff joined in the four-ish years since OFC were last here, the quartet overcame a handful of bizarre, REd Hot Chili Peppers-infused technical difficulties to buzzsaw a way through forty minute set of rock solid street punk rock-and roll. In one of the more interesting musical segues of the day, they were followed by Charly Bliss, the four-piece New York-based band who were wrapping up two successful months of world touring in support of their latest synth-pop-infused release, Young Enough.

The Menzingers played the event’s penultimate set as the sunlit portion of the day’s festivities came to an end. By that point, the bulk of the late-arriving crowd had finally descended upon Bold Point Park, and Philadelphia’s beloved sons were met with a barrage of crowd-surfers and thrown beer cans from the opening tones of their hour-long set. Bad Religion closed out the night in flawless fashion. I’m frequently left in awe that a band that’s been around literally as long as a band as I have as a person (editor’s note: I turn 40 next month) can sound just as vital and important and energetic as ever. This is punk rock, not the Beach Boys or a Grateful Dead cover band (both of whom would occupy this stage in the next week), yet on their recently-released Age Of Unreason full length, and more importantly in their live show, Bad Religion keep showing the rest of us how it’s done.

Head below to check out our full photo gallery.



DS Photo Gallery: Motoblot 2019 – with The Tossers, 88 Fingers Louie, The Crombies and more

Vice Tricks

The 6th Annual Motoblot Motorcycle and Hot Rod Street Rally took place June 20th to June 23rd 2019 in Chicago. According to Larry Fletcher, the event’s owner and producer, “the weekend was Awesome. We broke attendance records on Friday and Saturday. Estimated 20K for the weekend. Over 1000 bikes over the weekend. If it had to rain… We were stoked it held off to Sunday. Attendees had a blast regardless of the weather. MOTOBLOT continues to grow every year and the feedback is universally positive. Attendees say it is their favorite weekend of the year!”

Due to passport issues, Sham 69 had to dropout of their scheduled appearance at the event. Guttermouth was to tour with Sham 69 on its swing through the States this summer so the California punks also backed out of Motoblot weekend as well. Two Chicago based bands stepped in at the last minute. The”Crombies and 88 Fingers were total gamers and happy to jump in to help us out,” said Fletcher. As The Crombies lead singer Mike Park was recovering from gall bladder surgery, the band brought a life size cutout of Park to accompany a rotating group of singers, including some who spontaneously jumped on to the stage.

The Crombies.

Along with The Tossers, The Crombies; and 88 Fingers Louie, the weekend’s lineup included among others: Vice Tricks, Aweful, Super Sonic Space Rebels, Julia Haltigan & The Hooligans, The Detroit Cobras, The Krank Daddies, The Evictions, Slutter (all female Kiss Tribute band); and London Calling (“The Only The Clash Cover Band That Matters.”)

Please check out the gallery below from some of the best moments at Motoblot 2019.

 



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.

 



DS Photo Gallery: Craig Finn And The Uptown Controllers with Laura Stevenson, Boston, MA

The current leg of Craig Finn‘s tour in support of his latest solo album, I Need A New War, found the singer/songwriter (and The Hold Steady frontman) and his stellar backing band, The Uptown Controllers, landing at the Sinclair in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last Tuesday evening. It was a bit of an intimate affair – the presence of rows of chairs on the main floor was unexpected and limited the venue’s capacity from its normal SRO heights, but created a bit of a unique lounge/theater vibe in what is already the best room of its size (normal capacity is 525) within a hundred mile radius.

The infinitely-talented Laura Stevenson was the opener for this brief run of shows. Armed with only a guitar, the minimalist performance allowed Stevenson’s deadliest weapon – her voice – to shine. It’s a voice that can seemingly effortlessly wander from fragile to ferocious; haunting but with a sweetness to it that makes for a powerful and sometimes funny and occasionally awkward-but-in-a-good-way start to the evening. (Oh, an she opened with “Lay Back, Arms Out,” and that might be my favorite Laura Stevenson song so that was awesome).

Finn and his band took the stage next – shoutout to two-band bills on a weeknight, by the way – and by the time they did most of the floor’s seats were occupied and a few stragglers had filled in standing room spots around the edges. It was one of the first few shows that this particular group had played as a six-piece (Parker Shper whose name is somehow not misspelled on keys, Stuart Bogie on sax and clarinet among other things, James Richardson on guitar, Will Berman on bass and Falcon Valdez on drums with the occasional pop-up appearance by Stevenson on vocals) but as consummate veterans of around a collected 700 other bands over the last twenty years, the parts seemed to fit together magically already, which is no easy task; the muted tones and subtle layers provide a lot of room for the potential stepping-on of toes between musicians, but there wasn’t much of that at all to the naked ear.

Finn occasionally played guitar, but his preeminent role in these full-band solo shows is that of storyteller. Sure it’s a rock show, but in many ways what Finn and the Uptown Controllers are conveying feels more than a little bit like a night at the theater. Through his work with The Hold Steady, Finn has long made a history of telling stories as a songwriter that eschew the traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-repeat structures. His solo storytelling, particularly on the most recent trio of albums (2015’s Faith In The Future, 2017’s We All Want The Same Things and this year’s stellar I Need A New War), ups that ante, and in a live performance, Finn doesn’t just tell stories with his lyrics but with his actual performance, tying songs together, explaining characters in a way that really inserts them into all of our lives.

Head below to scroll through our full photo gallery from the evening!

 



Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco & Music Festival (Fiddler’s Green Amphitheater, Denver)

It seems like there’s more and more beer/music festivals popping up these days. Sabroso Craft Beer & music Festival sets itself apart from the herd by adding a pinch of Latin flair to the mix. Not only are there taco and burrito trucks, there’s full on luchador wrestling matches boot! If that’s not enough, there’s also a ton of rad bands who take the stage once everyone’s bellies have been filled with comida y cerveza! At the Denver stop, we were treated to quite a few heavyweight acts including Bad Religion, |Strung Out Black Flag and The Offspring and none of them disappointed. Check out the full write up and gallery, below!



DS Photo Gallery: Lucero Family Block Party 2019 (w/Austin Lucas, Will Hoge, Ben Abney and Blackberry Smoke)

If you’re a fan and follower of Lucero, you’re no doubt aware that the chance for inclement weather surrounding the band’s Family Block Party, an annual day-long outdoor festival held at Minglewood Hall in their hometown of Memphis, Tennesee, is generally somewhere in the neighborhood of 100%. In fact, the trend dates back to pre-Block Party years, when they held a similarly themed Family Picnic in frontman Ben Nichols’ birthplace of Little Rock, Arkansas. And so it was no surprise when a daily check of the weather forecast last week devolved from “hey, this doesn’t look too bad,” to “oh well, bring a poncho” to “oh my god, we might get a tornado” in the lead-up to Saturday’s festivities. And while no tornadoes touched down in Memphis (the closest did, however, make a deadly appearance a couple hour drive down the road into Mississippi), Saturday did bring with it a deluge and thunderstorm of nearly Biblical proportions, causing more than a few game-time decisions, a bunch of mad merch-table dashes, and an altered venue and lineup that made for perhaps the most unique – and most classically-Lucero – Block Party to date.

Local musician Ben Abney and his band, The Hurts, were due to kick off festivities in the mid-afternoon on the stage set up in Minglewood Hall’s adjacent parking lot amidst the myriad merch tents and craft beer and food vendors, and they did just that to a crowd that was admittedly thin as a result of weather-phobic late arrivers that may or may not have included yours truly. It was from here that all hell proceeded to break proverbially loose, as the rain continued to fall harder and harder and was accompanied by frequent local thunder and lightning. There are rules surrounding lightning strikes and electrical equipment, and I’m not going to pretend to be enough of an electrical engineer to understand them. What I do know is that there was a stage full of instruments and backline equipment and the venue’s main PA and soundboard equipment were sitting in the middle of a parking lot that was rapidly turning into a pond. All of it, due to the severity of the storm, was untouchable. So as the vendors and merch crews broke down their displays and lugged everything inside at breakneck speed, the actual “show” people came to see had stalled out; more tickets had been sold than the 1600 capacity indoor venue could accommodate, and there was no real sound equipment from which to hear anybody anyway, so the next ninety-or-so minutes consisted of a club’s worth of people wondering what, exactly, would happen next.

What happened next could have been…well…ugly. The bars were open and the food was located outside and across the parking lot from the venue. Couple that with a lack of discernible information about how things were going to proceed and you had an equation that could have gone rather poorly. Slowly but surely, however, the night turned pretty special. The Mighty Souls Brass Band, who’d been slated to make a few between-set appearances strolling through the outdoor grounds, brought their New Orleans-via-Memphis brass sound indoors to help keep the crowd fired up on the music at hand. Finally, Austin Lucas, who’d been slated to play the outdoor stage next up, accompanied by a full band, grabbed an acoustic guitar, made his way to the front of the stage area in the main concert hall at Minglewood, and belted out a handful of tunes not only unplugged but un-mic’d, accompanied by only the crowd that had started to gather once they realized something was happening. It’s worth mentioning that Lucas had played a full-band show in the UK the night before, hopped a flight back to the States, and made it to Memphis about an hour before he was supposed to play. Had the show gone as planned, his performance would have been impressive; as it turned out given the circumstances, it was downright Herculean.

While Lucas was playing on the floor, the venue’s staff was plugging in mics and lights on the stage in an effort to make the best with what they had around them. Lucero’s lead guitar player Brian Venable took the stage and filled in the faithful that, while they still couldn’t access the sound equipment that was still outside the venue, there’d be stripped down sets from the shows performers on the big stage for the rest of the night. What would have been an outdoor Family Block Party was now going to be, essentially, an indoor Family Lock In. Lucero frontman Ben Nichols kicked things off by running through a few tracks on his own before calling Lucas back out where they shared vocal duties on the Lucas-requested Lucero track “Slow Dancing.” Lucas then played another of his own songs, the title track from his latest album Immortal Americans.

Will Hoge followed with his unique brand of rabble-rousing, country-tinged songwriter fair. Hoge is a Tennessee native who’s made a living challenging not only the status quo in Nashville, but challenging a series of long-held cultural beliefs about just what it means to be a white man living in the Bible Belt. Hoge has been called the “Tennessee Troublemaker” for good reason, making a career out of asking difficult and sometimes uncomfortable questions of his listeners. While he was also supposed to play with a full band on the big outdoor stage, getting the chance to see him on just acoustic guitar gave his handful of songs a little extra poignancy. Charlie Starr of Georgia rock band Blackberry Smoke followed. His band were due to be main support for this episode of the Lucero Family Block Party, but the above-mentioned circumstances found Starr also playing solo acoustic style on the indoor stage. While Blackberry Smoke’s normal sound is steeped in modern Allman Brothers/Skynyrd Southern grooves, hearing Starr play solo and unaccompanied gave more of a Laurel Canyon/Neil Young vibe to the festivities. Ben Abney also returned for a bit of an encore, getting the opportunity to play on a stage that was A) dry and B) in front of hundreds of people unlike his full-band, rain-soaked set earlier in the day. Abney has a punk rocker’s past, and as a solo artist has got a penchant for writing tear-jerking soul-filled folk songs, all of which were perfect for a Lucero crowd.

Introduced by Lucero bass player/”spirit animal” John C. Stubblefield, Ben Nichols took the stage again for what would be the event’s headline set, a bit of a seat-of-your-pants ninety-ish minute set that included both Nichols’ solo work and a bunch of Lucero staples. The set kicked off with Nichols accompanied by his trusty sidekick Rick Steff on accordion for songs like “Nights Like These,” “Davy Brown,” and the gut-wrenching “Darby’s Song,” the latter of which I don’t think I’d heard live before. Nichols brought out Mighty Souls’ Jason Yasinsky (trombone) and Jim Spake (saxophone) – the latter of who appeared as the centerpiece of Lucero’s horn section for a number of years – for a handful of tracks that included “Sixes & Sevens,” “On My Way Downtown” and “Can’t You Hear Them Howl.” Nichols leaned heavily on audience requests as the night progressed, and frequently made mention of his respect for the audience for hanging in there in spite of the less-than-ideal circumstances that the weather created. And so while those in attendance didn’t have the opportunity to catch some of their favorite full bands outside under the Memphis sky, those that stuck it out were eventual witness to an event that was uniquely special in its own right.

Check out our full photo rundown below!

 



DS Photo Gallery: The Interrupters with Masked Intruder & Rat Boy (The Ogden Theater, Denver)

For me, Friday April 5th 2019 was a night of excitement, curiosity and comfort. Ska superstars, The Interrupters were here in The Mile High and having seen them perform many times before, there’s s sense of comfort and familiarity that I feel every time I catch one of their live performances. On the flip side of that coin, I had never had the chance to see the legendary antics of Fat Wreck alum Masked Intruder before. Many fables have been told of their highly interactive and massively entertaining sets, the lore alone enough to pique my interest. So, I was more excited than I normally am for a show, just to add this specific feather to my cap. I also had some curiosity mixed in as the opening act, Rat Boy was in from the UK and other than knowing that Tim Timebomb had taken the young act under his wing, I knew nothing about them. INTRIGUE!! So, I grabbed my trusty Nikon and headed down to The Ogden Theatre to the punk rock shooooow! Check out the full review and gallery below!



DS Photo Gallery: Dave Hause and the Mermaid with Weakened Friends – Boston, MA

In the days leading up to last Friday’s release of his latest solo album, Kick, Dave Hause and his stellar backing band, The Mermaid, played a small series of sold-out club shows scattered around the country. The shows seemed to serve a dual role involving equal parts getting people fired up for the pending release, and testing the touring waters as a parent for the first time (Hause’s wife recently gave birth to twin boys). If Boston show #2 back on Saturday, April 6th, was any indication, both of those roles seemed to result in overwhelming success.

Hause and the Mermaid, with a lineup on this run consisting of Hause’s younger brother/writing partner Tim on guitar, the immensely talented Kayleigh Goldsworthy on a keys and violin and guitar and I might be missing one, Kevin Conroy on drums and Frank Iero/Brian Fallon drummer Matt Olsson on bass) took the stage at Great Scott by storm on this night, kicking their set off with “Autism Vaccine Blues” from his stellar 2013 release Devour. Hause and I have spoken at length about the importance of that album generally and that song specifically to yours truly over the last handful of years, so for selfish reasons, I’d like to think the set started that way on purpose, though in the larger sense, it did seem to set an uptempo tone for the evening that never really wavered from that point on. The set featured a serviceable number of tracks from each of Hause’s three prior solo releases; it’s worth mentioning that his 2011 debut Resolutions sometimes gets overlooked in the wake of the releases of Devour and Bury Me In Philly in the years that followed, but this night’s full-band workups of “C’Mon Kid” and the title track are just as poignant and cathartic as ever. As you might imagine, the set also consisted of a healthy dose of Kick, an album that the vast majority of the audience had yet to hear in its entirety, though tracks like “The Ditch” and “Saboteurs” have already become seeming crowd favorites. A particularly meaningful moment in the evening came when the Kick track “Bearing Down,” inspired by the death of Hause friend and Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison, was followed immediately by the singalong-heavy “The Shine,” a song that Hutchison shared vocal duties for on Devour.

Opening duties for the back-to-back Boston shows were perfectly executed by Portland, Maine’s Weakened Friends. The trio channel everything that was right about 90s alternative music and its more recent stylistic revival. The guitar-heavy buzzsaw attack and guttural vocals evoke Dinosaur Jr. or Sleater-Kinney but with catchy, pop-driven hooks that would make Veruca Salt or early Smashing Pumpkins fans wistfully nostalgic. If you haven’t checked out their 2018 full-length debut, Common Blah, yet, you should really do yourself the favor.

Head below to check out our full photo rundown.



DS Exclusive: Strange 90’s – A Benefit for Jerry Bryant of JBTV

Friday, March 8th, on the North side of Chicago, almost but not quite directly across the street from Wrigley Field saw a night all about love. Love for Jerry Bryant, love for his creation, JBTV, which ranks the longest running music television program in the US. And by extension love for all those fighting or have fought cancer. Love this night was expressed by two words, “Fuck Cancer.” A chant repeated multiple times throughout one of the city’s most famous music venues, Metro.

Jerry Bryant founded JBTV in 1984 and since that time has been awarded Billboard Music Awards for “Best Local/Regional Alternative Modern Rock Show,” as well as numerous Emmy Awards. Performances are taped in front of a live audience and then broadcast. Green Day and Chicago’s own Smashing Pumpkins were among the countless acts who gained some initial exposure on JBTV. In fact, the latter band made its very first television appearance on JBTV.

On August 20, 2018, JBTV announced that its founder, Bryant, had been diagnosed with Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer. The diagnosis was followed by six months of chemotherapy. And so there was never any doubt that there soon would be a benefit for Jerry Bryant and this one was a joyous celebration of the man who has done so much for music. The MC for the night was Lauren O’Neil, Q101 personality. It was a night to give him thanks. Another chant heard throughout the night was “Jerry, Jerry.” And when the guest of honor took to the stage, he spent the majority off his time urging everyone to take care of their health, get their tests done and most importantly stay positive in the face of a cancer diagnosis.

Bryant urged everyone in attendance to make sure that last action was taken. He did spent his entire time on stage with a huge smile and as JBTV President Michael Harnett told me by email a few days after the show, “Jerry was thrilled by the turnout and the support of the Chicago Music community.” Harnett added his own take on the night, “It was a great evening and event, very pleased.” JBTV’s partner in making this night such a success was the event, Charity Bomb. Harnett of JBTV credited Charity Bomb with having “…produced the great event.”

A few days after the show I spoke with Charity Bomb founder Matthew Leone by email. In 2010, Leone, bass player for Madina Lake, was brutally assaulted in Chicago near his bandmate/twin brother Nathan’s apartment while attempting to help a woman being beaten by her husband. He suffered brain swelling, a broken jaw, a broken nose and a fractured skull, and was in and out of consciousness for several days. His attacker was later acquitted of the resulting attempted murder charge in a bench trial. Leone described the founding of Charity Bomb. “We launched Charity Bomb because I was severely injured a few years back was the recipient of the same magnitude of love and that we were able to procure for Jerry. In my case, the Smashing Pumpkins stepped up and did a benefit show at the Metro for me.”

The brothers Leone and their Madina Lake bandmates also performed at the benefit, and he also related to me the genesis of this particular event. “Greg from Kill Hannah contacted me and asked for help. This occasion exemplifies our purpose for existing, so it was in immediate yes. It should also be stated that Chicago is a very supportive scene. Everyone in the room was either friends or fondly aware of each other.”

After the benefit for Matthew Leone’s recovery, he was inspired to keep it going. “Subsequently we devoted our lives to giving back for that wonderful experience. We have done several shows in Los Angeles and have five in the calendar for a variety of causes and constituents. Namely our Strange 80s annual benefit for mental health sufferers in the music realm.”

Head below to check out our photos and rundown of the truly memorable night.



DS Exclusive: The Toasters and Malafacha at Beat Kitchen (Chicago) Gallery

Legendary ska band The Toasters, with support from Chicago’s Malafacha, hit Beat Kitchen on February 28, 2019. The Toasters, founded in 1981, are one of the first wave of American Ska bands.

At the Beat Kitchen, The Toasters line up include frontman Robert “Bucket” Hingley; Tim Karns on bass; Grillbert Covarrubias on trombone; drummer Boris Maninvelt (Upsessions Holland); Deals Olan on saxophone (Out of Control Army MX); Buford O. Sullivan on trombone (ex-Scofflaws). 

Check out the full review and all the pics below.



DS Photo Gallery: Sammy Kay in Chicago with Seth Anderson and 6’10 (Flatfoot 56)

New Jersey’s Sammy Kay, with support from Canada’s Seth Anderson; Chicago’s own 6’10, (as well as J.D. Wright),  recently headlined an all acoustic night at G-Man Tavern in the Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago. Saturday, February 23rd was a packed night for good shows across the Windy City but Kay kept the smaller but very enthusiastic crowd certain they made a great choice. He gave his fans and friends gathered there a loose and compelling performance, punctuating his set with a few references to a rough few years and how far he’s come back.

Kay kicked off the set with a cover of the classic Tommy James & The Shondells tune (and covered by pop singer Tiffany as well) “I Think We’re Alone Now.”  The rest of his set included “Wanderlust.” “Reservoir,” “Who Shot the Shot,” “Mary Swore To Me,” “Forever and a Day,” “Love Letters,” “Highs and Lows,” “Sweet Cecilia,” “Silver Dollar,” “Forgotten Ones,” “Saints and Sinners;” and “You Oughta Know.”

After the show, Kay described the tour to me: “the tour was nothing short of amazing. Every show was just killer. We got to play with so many talented folks, throughout the punk/folk/Americana scenes. It was nothing short of smiles every day, and laughs all night.”

Back to the event crowded Chicago evening: Kay himself acknowledged that cornucopia of punk rock choices as he half-joked during his set about checking his Twitter account for a response from Bob Mould. Mould was performing at Metro Chicago next door. Kay had, through social media, invited Mould to join him on a tune after Mould was done headlining at the larger venue. Alas, Sammy Kay broke the news that he “Never got to meet Bob Mould, but we’ll settle for Eddie “The Eagle” Belfour hangs in Dallas!”

Check out the full review and photos below.