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DS Show Review: Motoblot 2016 – featuring Flatfoot 56 and Naked Raygun

Eric MacMahon of Flatfoot 56 performs at Motoblot 2016

Two of Chicago’s most popular bands, both with  fervent U.S. and international fan bases, Flatfoot 56 and Naked Raygun, were among the many acts performing at Motoblot 2016. Both took the outdoor stage, set up outside of  Cobra Lounge, Saturday June 25th, with the legendary Naked Raygun headlining.The Flatfoot 56 set began with “Brother, Brother” from Toil, a song name seemingly appropriate for the southsiders’ recently slightly revised lineup. Two, not three, Bawinkel brothers, Tobin Bawinkel on lead vocals and guitar and Kyle Bawinkel on bass and vocals, remain as official members of the quintet. Drummer Justin Bawinkel exited the group to focus on his studies and fatherhood as he and his wife welcomed their first child within the last year. Conrad Allsworth is the new drummer. Eric McMahon (bagpipes, guitar), Brandon Good (mandolin, guitar) round out the line-up.

Tobin Bawinkel (L) and Kyle Bawinkel of Flatfoot 56

Flatfoot 56 are known for their high-energy, to the point of near exhaustion, sets. Some highlights of their Motoblot performance included : “The Rich, The Strong and The Poor” and “I Believe It”  both also from Toil; “Chinatown Jail Break,” from  Jungle of the Midwest Sea; and “We Grow Stronger” from Black Thorn.

Flatfoot 56 closed their set out the way they often do, with one of the classics hymns of which they have recorded covers. “I’ll Fly Away” has been described as one of the most recorded gospel songs and has been utilized by several different Christian denominations. And to some, as of yet unfamiliar with FF56, it might seem a curious choice to be covered by a punk band. Yet their version maintains the power;  and as with their version of  “Amazing Grace,” movingly transforms their always very active circle pit into a fellowship session akin to a Revival, with punks, skins and every other conceivable description of fan, regardless of  personal religious beliefs or lack thereof, joyously singing along in unity about life, love and the Hereafter.

Conrad Allsworth of Flatfoot 56

Upcoming for Flatfoot 56, per Tobin and Kyle: “We hit Atlas Studios to record a new album with Matt Allison. We are looking to track at least 14 songs. This will be the first full length album that will we will have written with our new drummer Conrad. It’s going to be an amazing record. We are also planning a west coast tour in September.”

Post-Punk legends Naked Raygun capped the night to a frenzied crowd. Pierre Kezdy, Jeff Pezzati, Eric Spicer, Bill Stephens, and Fritz Doreza gave the crowd what they wanted, classic songs such as “Vanilla Blue”, “Rat Patrol”, and “Home of the Brave”.

Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezzati. NR headlined Motoblot 2016 in Chicago

Naked Raygun, formed in 1981, has been cited as the primary inspiration for many bands to follow. Dave Grohl has famously recalled Naked Raygun as his first concert experience, at The Cubby Bear, and repaid them for their inspiration by having NR join Foo Fighters’ 2015 bill at a venue in close proximity to The Cubby Bear: Wrigley Field.

Jeff Pezzati of Naked Raygun

At numerous points during their set, Lead Singer Jeff Pezzati, stepped away from continuously stalking the stage and stepped halfway onto the barricade, which had been pulled close to the stage, to give the fans an assist on the vocals. This was especially effective on “Home of the Brave” and “Rat Patrol”, with the frenetic, swaying crowd, grasping for the mic, to join in on “Whoa oh oh oh oh oh, Whoa oh oh oh oh oh” on the latter song.

Bill Stephens and fellow members of Naked Raygun headlined Motoblot 2016 in Chicago,IL

In what was the easily the most fun moment of the strong set, Naked Raygun dedicated Coldbringer to their close friend Steev MF Custer and teasingly jumbled the name of Custer’s band, asking if it was Death IN Memphis? Death OR Memphis and various other possibilities.  Custer, who makes no secret of the fact that Naked Raygun is his all-time favorite group and inspiration, (and on at least one occasion stepped in on guitar  with Naked Raygun) was spotted grinning widely at the side of the stage, seemingly in partial disbelief. This moment was especially fun for the crowd as well, as many are also fans of Death and Memphis and present for their rollicking set just a few hours earlier. Naked Raygun is scheduled to headline at The Smooth Fox in Elgin, IL on Saturday July 23rd, with support by the Biscaynies, The Bungdoons, and The Usuals.

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Album Review: Flatfoot 56 – “Black Thorn”

black-thorn-cover1**The Album Reviews published on Dying Scene are written and submitted by regular users of the site.  These users are not professional music critics nor are they paid for what they write.  If you disagree with an album’s rating, feel free to voice your opinion and give it your own rating in the comments.  If you’d like to submit your own review do it here.

Celtic folklore cites the Black Thorn as being the most sinister and evil of all trees. When its’ leaves fall off nothing remains but a dark, twisted skeleton. On top of that, it is also the main ingredient found in the construction of the traditional Irish weapon, the shillelagh. Although, it may not be the reason they went with the title it is certainly a fitting description for the latest release from Chicago’s finest Celtic band, Flatfoot 56.

I was first introduced to this ragged, rabble-rousing crew when I heard their last album, “Jungle of the Midwest Sea”. From the haunting drums and bellowing sea shanties of the intro, ‘The Galley Slave’ you were launched directly into a punk-rock assault they entitled, ‘Carry ‘Em Out’. They had my number, I was hooked. How could you possibly top that?

Fast-forward a few years and with ‘The Galley Slave’ sitting high-atop my favorite album intros, across my plate comes, “Black Thorn”, an album that is promptly being released on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17th) of this year. Here we go… let’s see what they have in store.

This intro starts with the same emotion and darkness as the last but this time the haunting drums are replaced with a chilling mandolin and a few simple questions being asked, “Tired of the everyday grind? Want to get away from it all? Dream of a life of romantic adventure? And the answer is a strong response… ’We offer you The Escape’. From there you are thrown straight into the knuckles-up title-track, “Black Thorn”.

I firmly believe that this band needs an album strictly composed of intros. These are so intense at times it makes your hair stand up on end.

After you start to come down from the opening, “Black Thorn” continues to solider on like any good album should. The title-track is a hard and honest song with the harsh line, “If you forget…I’ll forget you”.  Soon to be followed by the song prominently featured in the album’s teaser-trailer released online, “Hourglass”.  An infectious fist-pumping mandolin-heavy song that talks about the struggle between finding the time for everything important in your life and all the while trying to escape the world’s hourglass.  A feeling I am sure anyone who is trying to make ends meet can relate with.

The tone is brought down to a more heartfelt level with, “Courage”.   Much like the Street Dogs one-time show closer, “Fighter”… “Courage” is a passionate homage to a beloved individual who has greatly affected your life in a positive and unbelievable way.  When front man, Tobin Bawinkel states, “…because of your example, you inspired me!”… We can all relate to that courage that has been bestowed on us from a loved one at some point in our lives. Myself included.  This song confirmed to me why they decided to work with Street Dogs’ member, Johnny Rioux at his legendary, Compound.  A very wise decision that has, lucky for us listeners, resulted in an outstanding album.  Not only by sound-quality but by content as well.

After you’re done drying your eyes from listening to “Courage” you’re pulled back into the ‘Braveheart’ circle-pit that the Ollie Mob (Flatfoot 56’ followers) use to destroy the enemy.  The song, “Smoke Blower”.   It’s fast, quick and straight to the neck. “House of Cards, House of Sticks…you’ll never shake my House of Bricks!” is routinely chanted by this relentless chorus of fire.

The bagpipes, although an important factor in their sound, aren’t as widely used in this album.  They have instead opted to highlight the mandolin, which is a good choice.  Why not mix it up a little?  It’s refreshing to hear an album that isn’t entirely bagpipe intros, heavy guitars and a Pogues or Dubliners cover every second song.

By this point, we scally-cap sporting hooligans are in our glory but if you’re strictly into the street-punk sound, you’re probably feeling left out.  Have no worries my angst-ridden friend, a short mandolin intro and your turn has now come with, “We Grow Stronger”.  It has the speed, the ‘whoa-ohs” and the unity inspired lyrics you were waiting for. You’re welcome.

Following this assault, we are eased-into a soon to be pub classic, “Son of Shame”.   No other song on this album could sound more Irish.  The toil and troubles of the world all compiled into one mandolin & bagpipe laced little ditty.   No sooner to be followed by my favorite track from the album, “Way of the Sun”.  Catchy, upbeat, well-written and with one of the greatest musical creations the world has ever heard, rolling drums!

Every song on this album is different than the next in some way, shape or form and coming from a Celtic-punk band that is refreshing. It is no wonder that FLATFOOT 56 has risen above the rest and gained the notoriety they so rightfully deserve. “Shiny Eyes” a love song that features female vocals (name unknown… sorry, I don’t have the liner notes) shows that this band has much more in them than just speed and pipes.

Directly after saying that, my foot goes straight into my mouth with, “Stampede”.  Ever wonder what it would feel like to literally be standing in the middle of a stampede with nothing but a wave of noise and pressure standing between you & your fate?  This song places you there.

“Won Me Over” the second of the new love-infused songs boasts the powerful line, “through your steady hand, I breathe new hope”.  As a man of recent marriage and one who is madly in love with his wife, I completely understand. Soon thereafter, “Born for This” reminds us all why we got into this music in the first place.  Straight-up punk rock.

The album ends off with the fast & furious, “Hot Head”.  A proper conclusion to a solid album from start to finish.  I expected a great listen from these Chicago boys and they gave me exactly what I asked for and more.  What else could a guy want?  Maybe that cheesy 80s’ band was right… every rose does have its’ thorn, but if Flatfoot 56 has anything to do with it, this time they’ll be black!

-Taron Cochrane

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