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Riot Fest 2019 Day 2: Rise Against, Avail, Turnstile and Anthrax Bring the Hard to the Park; The Struts Evoke the Glam Rock 1970’s and The HU Combines New with Very Old

Words: Fredric Hall
Photos and Additional Words: Meredith Goldberg

Day two of Riot Fest 2019, the 15th Anniversary event, saw a bit of a change up. This was a bit slim on the punk side as the metal took over. Still, they were some standouts. You have Avail doing their “Over the James” album set. Honestly, there really is not that much to talk about. Singer Tim Barry mentioned it was his daughter’s birthday which got a collective “awww” from the already captivated crowd.

Avail

 

Avail

 

Anthrax

Anthrax started a few minutes early with a riff from Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell”, which totally caught me off guard. From there they went into their setlist which was voted by fans via their website. With the band donning Bulls jerseys they tore through all the hits, including “Caught in a Mosh”, “I am the Law” and their cover of “Got the Time”. No “Among the Living” though. Sorry. The did, however, end the set with “Indians” which really got the crowd in uproar. Granted, this isn’t really “punk” but, like I said it was slim pickings that day.

Turnstile

 

Turnstile

Turnstile provided for an especially high energy set under the bright middle afternoon sun. Numerous band members kept busy going airborne and hopping back and forth from stage to speakers. You got the feeling the band members would have like to be performing in the crowd and would be if not for the wide barricaded area/photo pit. Turnstile in a non-barricade venue must surely be mandatory to experience for anyone calling themselves fans of the group.

The Struts

Derby U.K.’s The Struts, with lead singer Luke Spiller, channeling the spirit of Freddie Mercury, took over the Rise Stage. A welcome dose of variety to complement the otherwise predominantly hard-core punk and metal heavy day. Spiller, in a red glittery outfit and thick black eyeliner; and bassist Jed Elliot clad in black leather pants and his leather shirt unbuttoned half way down his evoked 1970’s glam rock.

The Struts

 

The HU

For many Riot Fest attendees, The HU afforded them possibly their first introduction to what the band calls Hunnu Rock. The HU, from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, combine Mongolian throat singing with traditional instruments such as “The morin khuur (Mongolian: морин хуур), also known as the horsehead fiddle, is a traditional Mongolian bowed stringed instrument. It is one of the most important musical instruments of the Mongol people, and is considered a symbol of the Mongolian nation.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morin_khuur].

The HU
Senses Fail
Rise Against
Rise Against

The day ends with Rise Against headlining the evening. Singer Tim McIlarth mentioned he is from Douglas Park (where Riot Fest is held) which obviously get applause from the crowd before going into the hit “Savior” followed by “Prayer of the Refugee.”

Please check out our gallery of additional day 2 photos below!

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DS Exclusive: Riot Fest Kicks off 15th Anniversary Celebration with Jawbreaker, Rancid, Cock Sparrer (among others)

Words: Fredric Hall
Pics and additional words: Meredith Goldberg

Riot Fest’s 15th Anniversary event once again took place in Chicago’s Douglas Park, Sept 13th – 15th. A bit of morning rain on day one threatened to muddy the grounds and make for a messy fest. However, by the time the gates opened to attendees, the rain had subsided just a few random, very small soft spots in the ground and small patches of mud could be spotted throughout the park.

Violent Femmes
Anti-Flag

I don’t know what was going on at the Radicals Stage, but there were sound issue throughout the day. When Anti-Flag showed up, you could barely here Chris Parker’s bass and vocals. Despite this, the band blazed through their set, causing a nasty(in a good way) circle pit in process. Hell, as people were jumping up and down during “This is The End” a T-Rex showed up in the pit with spikes in its head, as you do. The band had the crowd by the throat, as most threw up the bird as “Police Brutality” blared out the speakers. With a brief intermission from a spokesperson from Amnesty International — the short of it is “Fuck Racism” — the band followed with “Press Corpse” who they dedicated to JBTV host Jerry Bryant who is currently battling cancer. And now the finale: the set ended with Parker and drummer Pat Thetic bringing their gear into the crowd and playing a few bars, closing out a raucous set.

Cock Sparrer

Before Cock Sparrer‘s came onstage, the already packed crowd was singing the chorus to “Take Em All”, so they were ready to get shit going. For the entire set, singer Colin McFaull had a bottle of Jack Daniels on stage, taking a occasional swig. They played all the hits: “Take Em All” of course, “A.U.” which really got the pumping and “Watch Your Back”. Though for the last one, McFaull missed his cue to go into the chorus, but it’s OK, he was probably tipsy from the Jack.

Pennywise

Like Anti-Flag earlier, Pennywise‘s set also had its fair share of audio problems. Mostly, Jim Lindberg’s vocals being barely audible during songs but fine by itself. They were the most interactive with the crowd of all the bands, with Jim asking the crowd what did they want them to cover and ending it saying, “We don’t know the songs by those bands”. But they did cover-or try to cover-a Sublime followed by a non-fucked up cover of “Minor Threat” by, um, Minor Threat. The whole cover song debacle ended with a sped up version of AC/DC’s “TNT” before going into their original song “Society”.

Rancid

Since they were playing at the same time, I had to leave the Descendents‘ set for Rancid‘s, but the few minutes I was there showed they still had it. Being Riot Fest regulars, they knew how to work a crowd. Not hard since most of their catalog is fast as hell, and starting the set with “Suburban Home” and “Everything Sucks” didn’t hurt either. Rancid’s set was equally energetic, with Tim Armstrong’s neckbeard and Lars Frederiksen’s skinhead look, they blazed through “Roots Radicals” and “Maxwell Murder,” which I didn’t think they’ll do.

Please check out our gallery of additional day 1 photos below:
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DS Exclusive: Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers Reflects on his Journey from Belfast to Chicago; and the role of Political Punk in the Era of Trump

Stiff Little Fingers, out of Belfast, Northern Ireland was amongst the first wave punk bands, and among those with a lasting impact. Their debut album, the seminal Inflammable Material celebrated its 40th Anniversary earlier this year.  The album features a trilogy of angry, political songs. S.L.F. founder and lead singer Jake Burns still has a bit of that same early anger in him and is hitting the road again as Stiff Little Fingers readies itself for another tour. The tour, entitled “40 Years of Inflammable Material,” celebrates the 40th Anniversary of the band’s debut album of the same title and they will be playing said record in its entirety. The first leg, well the US leg, takes them across the nation from October 1st in Phoenix, AZ and ending on the Flogging Molly Cruise with Burns’ friends and fellow Chicago residents in Pegboy.

Speaking of Chicago, Burns’ journey from his youth in his hometown of Belfast, Northern Ireland to his adopted home, the Windy City, was one of the subjects we recently discussed. Read the entire interview below.

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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!

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Introducing Chicago Pop-Punk Act: Tougher Than You Thought

I’m going to admit it, I miss Myspace. A whacky time for youthful exploration of the important stuff; cool bands, HTML code, and those weird bulletins that would kill you if you didn’t re-post them in 30 minutes. Listening to Tougher Than You Thought, feels a lot like this. They sprinkle in a little twenty-something heartache with a sound all their own. Their debut EP Check, Please has had me in my feels since the first time I heard it.

Their song “Open Book “ is the culmination of dope guitar riffs, catchy drumbeats, and lyrics that I would have probably used for a picture caption or two. Not to mention, the band members themselves have an extremely awesome back-story, according to their facebook “2 members of the band have parents who won the immigration lottery (1 in 900,000 odds) in their home countries”. This band is dynamic and worth a listen, check them out below. &Hearts;

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

Jawbreaker

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

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

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

Smoking Popes

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

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

 

Smoking Popes

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

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

Naked Raygun

 

Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun

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

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

 

Naked Raygun                                                

 

Naked Raygun

 

Naked Raygun

 

Naked Raygun

 

 

Naked Raygun

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

Naked Raygun

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

Naked Raygun

 

Naked Raygun

 

Naked Raygun

 

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

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

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker 

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

 

Jawbreaker

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

 

 

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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!

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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.”

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DS Photo Gallery: Riot Fest Chicago – Day One (Nine Inch Nails, X, Buzzcocks and more)

The weekend of September 15-17 saw the annual return of Riot Fest. Riot Fest 2017 was held for the 12th consecutive year in Chicago and for the third consecutive year in Douglas Park. Riot Fest saw an eclectic crowd turn out, including multiple generations of families. There were too many young punk fans, some just a few months old with mohawks and iconic band tees, to count. 

Day 1, held on September 15th, saw, per usual, a wide variety of acts. As with every previous year, legends and veterans gained the headlining spots and the most attention. In this case, the top billed act for Day 1 of Riot Fest, was Nine Inch Nails

NIN also remains relevant for the prolific film and television scoring work that lead singer Trent Reznor and his collaborator Atticus Ross outside of the group. The duo won the 2011 Oscar for the Score for the film The Social Network. Their work for the currently being broadcast and critically acclaimed 10 part PBS documentary by Ken Burns/Lynn Novick “The Vietnam War” is receiving equal acclaim to the reception of the documentary itself.

The NIN set also demonstrated that the group is as electric as ever. Classics such as “Closer” and “Head Like a Hole” had the large crowd at a fever pitch. However, capping the set; and the night out with  “Hurt” was an emotional gut punch. It has always been a powerful song, but as covered by Johnny Cash, that emotional shot to the heart was upgraded several notches, especially as performed in the video accompanying it. Johnny would lose his beloved June Carter Cash just three months after the filming of the video, and he followed her 4 months later.  It seemed on this night that NIN was not merely playing one of their own best tunes, but rather, they were also singing it in tribute to one of our most beloved, acclaimed and greatest singer-songwriters. Again, an absolute emotional gut punch and shot to the heart. Not something many people would immediately associate with or expect from what started out as a punk rock festival, at least those with little knowledge of this music.

Also, per usual, several veteran acts played one of their albums in full. On day 1, X did the honors with their classic album, “Los Angeles.”  Singer Exene Cervanka wore a black t-shirt emblazoned with her surname on the back and the Los Angeles Dodger log on the front. But a good portion of the crowd (made up of both citizens of the Chicago area, as well as fans who traveled in from other states and other nations) surely appreciated it when she donned a black baseball cap (with a slightly altered color-wise version of) the iconic 4 stars from the City of Chicago flag. X also proved they still have the chops and the songs are still highly adored by their fans. 

One of the most powerful sets was that of Saul Williams. He repeatedly challenged the crowd to face truths about the turbulent times brought on in large part by the current occupiers of the White House and Congressional majority party. He made it known, though perhaps not stated outright, that he was about speaking truth to power; and that words of condemnation are not enough,. His message remains that music is meant to spark change. Williams also repeatedly sent out calls to action with his oft-repeated refrain of “Your punk ain’t punk if you don’t smash Fascists.”

Other day 1 acts demonstrated quite the contrary to Riot Fest’s official and self-deprecating motto “Riot Fest Sucks,”  They included legends such as Buzzcocks and Ministry; and newer groups: The Hotelier, Death From Above; and The Story So Far.

It may be popular to hate on musical fests, including Riot Fest; something as noted above, at which the organizers playful wink. However, perhaps the only thing that truly sucked about day 1 was the blazing heat. It reached into the at least the mid to high 80’s but felt even hotter for those making their ways from stage to stage and the carnival areas. Head below to see our full photo gallery from Day 1 of Riot Fest Chicago, and stay tuned for coverage from Days 2 and 3 soon!

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DS Photo Gallery: Pegboy, The Crombies and The Beer Nuts at Chicago’s Motoblot 2017

Motoblot 2017 was held at Cobra Lounge/All Rise Brewing again this year, June 23-25th. This is the 4th year since the event evolved from the decade long Mods vs Rockers Chicago. Motoblot celebrates motorculture, especially inspired by that of 1960’s Great Britain, per festival assistant Nick Goodwin, a self-described petrol-head. Co-Founder Lawrence R. Fletcher estimated the total weekend attendance at 12,000. He told me it was their biggest year to date. “The weather was fabulous and I am sure Sean (McKeough) something to do with it.”

Sean McKeough, who joined founders Fletcher and Martin Cimek, as a partner the 2nd year of Motoblot, and was also the co-founder of Riot Fest and owner of Cobra Lounge, passed away last November.This year’s event was another chance to celebrate his life. A patch reading “McQ,” as McKeough was affectionally known, adorned Motoblot shirts worn by organizers and staffers. Saturday evening, before that night’s headliners kicked off their set, a group of bagpipers played, as friends and family gathered around and revved McKeough’s collection of motorcycles for what was described as one last time.

The music was the centerpiece of the festival. Saturday’s lineup included, among others, three Chicago based bands with varied styles and devoted following inside the city and out: The Crombies; The Beer Nuts; and Pegboy. The Crombies’ performed mostly covers of 2 Tone classics with a few originals sprinkled in. Their rollicking set transformed the parking lot in front of the stage into a dance floor. Among the highlights were “English Civil War” (The Clash); “Lip Up Fatty” (Bad Manners ) and “Monkey Man” (Maytals via The Specials); The Crombies’ original “It’s Not You”; and a reworked version of “Mad at the World” originally written by lead singer Mike Park for his former band Deal’s Gone Bad. The set also included: “Plastic Gangsters” by The 4-Skins; “Hooligans” by the Wailers “Hey, Little Rich Girl” by Roddie Radiation and The Specials, “Wash Wash” by Prince Buster, Gangsters by The Specials; “It’s You” by Toots and the Maytals, “Blood and Fire” by Niney the Observer; “Little Bitch” by the Specials.

The Beer Nuts is described in their Facebook fan page as “Chicago’s most notorious party band.” and advises fans to “Bring a raincoat and Silly String for a night of maximum rock and roll and random sex with strangers.” The band’s mission statement could read simply, “fun” but the group is composed of veterans of Chicago’s punk scene, including: Joe Kelly (Ministry), Herb Rosen (Rights of the Accused; as well as the founder and owner of Chicago’s Liar’s Club), Leanne Murray (Pig Face), Louis Svitek (Ministry), Mike O’Connell (ROTA). At Motoblot, official members of Beer Nuts were joined by others including Vee Sonnets (The Crombies; The Sonnets); Dave Simon (Deal’s Gone Bad; The Crombies; Anger); and Scott Lucas (Local H; Scott Lucas and the Married Men). Beer Nuts shows consist of such songs as “Who’s Got The Yea Yo,” “Blow Me For Beer,” “Woke Up Tied Up” and “Pro Vag.” If you’re interested in neither having fun nor getting doused from flying cups of brew, and continuously flowing bongs, it’s best you head to the rear of the venue or festival grounds to wait for party’s end. And if you are documenting the show or for any other reasons have gear, take cue from the sight of the plastic covered speakers on stage and protect your equipment.

Headliner/Chicago legends, Pegboy gave what seemed to be one of their most highly energetic shows of late. Lead singer Larry Damore, dispensed with the guessing game familiar to Pegboy fans in recent years— at which song would he sit down on stage (and on occasion take his own pulse)? At about the second song he joked to the crowd that they would just get it over with. Damore would return to that position throughout the set, at times dangling his legs over the side of the stage, or lying flat on his back. However, he also repeatedly jumped off, or, slid himself off, the stage to pace in and sing from the photo pit. Numerous times he returned to the makeshift barricade to sing at and within the crowd and, on at least one occasion, surf above it. The barricade held Damore, the photographers scrambling for shots; and the crowd, though it was in continuous sway throughout the set.

“Skinny” Mike Thompson roamed furiously over much of the stage, slinging his bass up and bowing low, in seeming perpetual motion. His bass work; and Joe Haggerty’s ferocious drumming, along with Joe’s brother,  guitarist John Haggerty’s propulsive playing provided the hyperdrive heartbeat to Damore’s gritty and growling vocals.Their setlist did not disappoint, including “Strong Reaction” near the start and closing out with “Hardlight.” The group propelled through others such as “Superstar”, “Through My Fingers,” “Field of Darkness”; and the song Damore joked was responsible for making him independently wealthy, that is, “Revolver,” Pegboy’s driving cover of the Mission of Burma classic “That’s When I reach for my Revolver.” The rest of the set included: “Still Uneasy,” “Not What I Want,” “Locomotivelung,” “Witnessed,” “Fade Away,” “Time Again,” “Never A Question,” “Dangermare,” “Walk On By,” and “Line Up.”

Full Gallery Below!

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