A new blog in about a week. How about that! Hopefully, I can keep up the pace a bit. I’m making an honest attempt to dig out from under the deluge of CD’s, LPs and 7”s. Some of the time, it’s a fruitless task because, let’s face it, much of what comes through my PO box is mediocre at best. Still, there are always gems in the pile and I’m not above actually buying some of the records you see reviewed here. One thing that sucks is I haven’t been able to upload pictures to this blog. But I figured I’d better get this published...
CHAOS AT THE POINTLESS FEST
It was time for my fourth annual mid-August visit to Philly for the Pointless Fest, that’s been happening the last several years at the Unitarian Church. This year’s lineup didn’t seem to be quite as strong, at first glance, yet having a chance to see No Hope For The Kids, from Denmark, plus a rare east coast appearance from Severed Head Of State and World Burns to Death was too good to pass up. I decided to depart on Friday, missing the Thursday show with Hellshock, NHFTK, Witch Hunt and others but, in all honesty, four days would have been too much. Besides, my cousin Andrew, who I usually stay with, was going to be out of town and I had to get a hotel room about half an hour west of Philly. That’s because it’s less expensive and I refuse to stay at one of those shit-ass motels in New Jersey.
The drive down wasn’t too bad, as I only hit a few traffic snarls. The hotel, in Wayne, PA, was easy to find and nice. Internet access, a pool and whirlpool across the hall—what more could I want? Not to sound like a snob but, at this point in my life, I really can’t sleep on floors. My arm goes numb, for one thing. Yeah, getting older. What can I say?
The drive into Philly for the first show kind of sucked ass but I did find a parking space close by, around the corner, without even having to circle the area one time. The “parking gods” were with me the entire weekend, in fact.
I managed to get to the church in time to see the Pissed Jeans—basically, the members of hardcore band Gate Crashers doing noisier, crazed-out rock. The vocalist had a total David Yow vibe and they had a thudding sound along the lines of those I used to listen too quite a bit in the early 90s. I hadn’t been blown away by their recordings before but seeing them live made me “get it.” They were followed by Government Warning, from Richmond and a last-minute replacement for Direct Control, with whom they share two members. Completely ripping hardcore punk. I got tired just watching Kenny charge back and forth across the stage, jamming the mike into the faces gathered along the front. They ended with a Vile (!) and Adolescents’ cover.
So after that back-to-back pillage, I went upstairs to record shop since World/Inferno Friendship Society were coming on and I wasn’t interested in their klezmer/ska/R&B/whatthefuck revue. It was a perfect time to hit the distros.
Let’s backtrack a bit. Before leaving for the fest, I’d heard about problems the night before with so-called “traveler punks” hanging round outside and causing problems. So much, in fact, that the fest almost got shut down. I wondered if I should even make the trip. For the Friday night show, the promoters hired FSU to do security—basically policing the area outside the venue to make sure people weren’t drinking. Things went fine for awhile until shit went down around the time W/IFS were playing. I didn’t even know about it until a fellow Bostonian told me about all the cop cars and helicopter that had shown up due to a melee in the alley near the venue involving punks, FSU and the cops. I didn’t see what happened and there have been several accounts. I’m going to provide a few and you can reach your own conclusions. Here’s the “official” statement from the promoter, Sean of R5 Productions, along with comments: http://www.r5productions.com/2006/08/pointless-fest-cancelation-refund.html#comments and that includes links to reports on Philly Indymedia, including a closeup of a young woman attacked by the cops. There’s also a news report from the Philly Metro: http://philly.metro.us/metro/local/article/Cops_punks_battle/3941.html.
Whatever happened, the end result was the fest was canceled for Saturday and Sunday. Bands who had traveled from overseas and around the country were screwed. So were people who had traveled to the show TO ATTEND, not hang outside and act like fucking morons. Fortunately, a semi-compromise was found by having a 21+ bar show at the Millcreek Tavern in West Philly. Not an ideal solution for the under 21 crowd and I’m not used to going to clubs/bars that allow smoking anymore but it was a pretty laid-back place and the show itself was pretty fucking great. Kylesa opened and while their set went on a bit long, “A 100° Heat Index” was a powerful conclusion. Thought Crime and Dismal ripped out some solid crusty punk. No Hope For The Kids were next and completely stole the show. I didn’t even realize they were coming on until I was walking in and heard “we’re No Hope For The Kids from Denmark.” Loud, melodic, memorable songs—that’s the key to their success. “Eyes Of War,” “Centuries Of War,” et al, stick in the head. The only things that sucked were the brevity of their set and some idiot in a red NHFTK shirt who stood on the stage in front of Kasper, the guitar player, for almost the whole set. At least I was on the side so I could see!
Severed Head of State were next. Pillaging, booming ugly-sounding hardcore, with Jack Control and Todd Burdette barking out the words. It’s good to see Jack back in action, after his stabbing earlier this year. He was back at the end of the show for a brief World Burns To Death set. Only new songs and only about half a dozen of them. On first listen, it seems as though the songs have more of a Japanese hardcore edge, as opposed to Scandinavian. In any case, the songs were fast and aggressive. In between the Jack sets, there was an oi covers band fronted by Mike McKee from Kill The Man Who Questions and Armalite. He affected a British accent and they treated the crowd to an assortment of Cock Sparrer (most of the songs), Blitz and Sham 69 material. Delirious sing-a-longs throughout. Mike was found outside after the set, slumped against a wall, saying he didn’t realize how hot it was going to be wearing a sweater vest.
On Saturday, I had the pleasure of spending the day with a bunch of cool people and we went to a fair/flea market at a park in West Philly and then I went record shopping with my friends Jason and Lila. On the way, we drove past an incredible art installation called the Magic Gardens. It’s hard to describe. A landscape of concrete, glass, metal and found objects. The best way to check it out is at their site. http://www.philadelphiasmagicgardens.org/history.html.
So, all in all, it wasn’t a bad trip but it certainly ended up a nightmare for many of the people involved. Putting the terms aside—crusty, traveler, whatever—an asshole is an asshole and I don’t care WHAT they’re wearing. In all honesty, though, I was looking forward to at least some time away from the spiked/studded population...
DROGUES-No Facts That Don’t Fit (Waxbrain, CD)
Allan from Giant Haystacks mentioned that this Bay Area band were friends of theirs and the Drogues are cut from the same post-punk cloth. A heavy-duty Minutemen/Gang of Four influence. “Transport Devices,” in fact, channels D. Boon’s vocal delivery. As with those bands, there’s political content but not the type that hits you over the head. It’s subtler and often personalized. Sparse and minimal yet with busy instrumental interplay, as the sharp guitar duels with bass-lines darting in and out and shifting drum patterns. “Something’s Receding” takes a poppier turn. These guys really are a post punk band, in the traditional sense of the word, and that’s meant to be complimentary. (http://www.thedrogues.com/)
GOVERNMENT WARNING-No Moderation (Feral Ward, LP)
Smokin’ hardcore from Richmond’s Government Warning, following an earlier 7”. Fast? Check. Memorable songs? Check. Some similarities to Direct Control, with whom they share a few members on different instruments (Brandon plays drums and Mike plays guitar here). One difference is Kenny’s snottier ranting vocals and perhaps more of a west-coast feel, especially for the mid-tempo “Fat Nation” and “Sick Of Home.” right down to Brandon’s drumming. Descriptions, descriptions. Just play it loud and it’ll hook ‘ya real quick. (http://www.feralward.com/)
OUTBREAK-Failure (Bridge Nine, CD)
Wow, this is a rager. It’s an outbreak (arrgh!) of blazing fast hardcore punk with breakdowns that, thankfully, don’t break out the chug. That’s right, PUNK. The production is clean and gives it a modern ambiance, yet Outbreak do a good job of combining early 80s and late 80s hardcore influences. I’d still rather hear a rougher/raw production for hardcore, but the band’s power comes blasting through. The best band from Maine since, uh, the Pinkerton Thugs? (PO Box 99052, Boston, MA 02199, http://www.bridge9.com/)
REDUCERS SF-Raise Your Hackles (TKO, CD)
The latest collection of tuneful, pubby punk rock from the Reducers. Hearty, grizzled vocals, pealing and buzzing guitars with a punchy approach. Sounds good on paper, sounds good on the CD paper, although it’s a little slick-sounding. They get it right for “Hired Hand,” with a gigantic hook and not-too-cheesy whoooahs. Overall, hitting a middle ground. (8941 Atlanta Ave., Huntington Beach, CA 92646, http://www.tkorecords.com/)
RETCHING RED-Scarlet Whore Of War (Rodent Popsicle, CD)
The same amount of agitation as on Retching Red’s first album. In case you forgot, the band includes Cinder Block, formerly of Tilt and Cyco Loco (Mike to his friends) from Oppressed Logic. Cinder has malice in her voice, although a bit of the old croon occasionally pops through. Mainly a fast tempo, although “Blue Kid Trapped In A Red State” is somewhat slower and has the classic west coast punk sound. Ms. Block expresses quite a bit of what I feel lately. Speaking as someone who gets tired of whiny kids, “Stop Breeding” has me going “fuck yeah!” “Lying Sacks Of Shit” deals with such vile beings as Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, et al and it’s a favorite expression. Pulverizing. (PO Box 1143, Allston, MA 02134, http://www.rodentpopsicle.com/)
RUNNAMUCKS-Inferno (Six Weeks, CD)
The Runnamucks move away from their thrash sound to a mid-tempo harder-rocking sound meets punk, having added a new drummer and lead guitarist (the App brothers, Daniel and Bryan) along the way. There isn’t metallic bluster, even with the lead lines. The guitar tone remains pretty much the same. The standout track here is the fired-up boogie rocker “Untouchable.” If they come up with more songs like that next time around, I won’t have any reservations about the transition at all. It’s taken awhile for me to get into this album yet there’s definitely been an improvement in the playing—especially the drumming. Also, after having seen some of these songs live, “Inferno” has definitely grown on me. (225 Lincoln Ave., Cotati, CA 94931, http://www.sixweeksrecords.com/)