I love going to DIY shows and that will never change. No matter how many times I see big artists in big venues, nothing feels quite like a DIY show in a tiny dive bar with no stage and a loveable cast of characters in the audience. (I had just shot Julien Baker at Beacon Theater three days prior to this night, so I’d just been in a huge venue with a positively massive stage. But also this turn of events was oddly probably fitting since she came from the DIY world herself.) I also love when I get to branch out to adjacent scenes to NYC either through playing shows myself or through shooting events.
In this case, I was in Valley Stream on Long Island which is actually geographically very close to the five boroughs and the music scene here, but unfortunately (mainly due to things like epic traffic for those with cars, and the expense and often inconvenience of the LIRR for those without) there isn’t always a ton of crossover of bands or fans from Long Island to Brooklyn and vice versa. Even though I am lucky enough to have a car myself, the infamous traffic makes it really difficult for me to get out there often, as much as I would like to be there more.
But as luck would have it, I did find myself able to get out to Long Island on a recent Friday night for a show featuring some stalwart DIY bands from the Long Island community, all of whom have been active in one form or another for years. Readers will also know that I really love a show that ranges sonically and has a wide gamut of styles; this one was absolutely perfect in that regard. From the hazy instrumental doom gaze of Blueblack, to the whip smart pop punk of Action Park, who were celebrating their album release and tour kickoff, it was a great show with plenty for everyone.
Action Park at Railroad Inn
Blueblack kicked things off and it had been a number of years since I had seen them, the unfortunate roadblocks I mentioned above often making it hard for me to get out to their shows. I was very happy to have ended this dry spell because I’ve really loved them for a while, ever since an old band of mine played with them in 2016. I have long been a fan of instrumental music and am always down for something dark, moody, and musically complex. The set was all of those things, with the measured and precise intensity that Blueblack has for their music; they know exactly where to push and pull to bring the maximum effect to the moment. And thanks to the lack of lighting, the band almost appeared to be in shadow as they played, but that perfectly suited the mood. They played material from throughout their catalog, hitting favorites like “Hawkwing” from 2016’s Destroy and that alone definitely made the trip out there worth it.
While Blueblack doesn’t really go firmly into metal territory to my ear, rather sticking more closely to the post hardcore side of things (which you’ll never hear me complain about), I’d still love to see them on a bill together with Pelican and Russian Circles. Those are two of my favorite bands and both are titans of the instrumental rock world. While both of those bands do tend to head more into the chuggy metal realm, it’s all still heavy and dark vibes so this theoretical bill with the three of these bands would really work well in terms of sonic moods and execution. I personally am going to start manifesting this to happen because I would be front and center at that show for sure.
Blueblack at Railroad Inn
Too Many Voices played next and I had been totally unfamiliar with them before they show. They had been described to me as “Revolution Summer mid 80s Dischord” melodic hardcore and I’d really say this was a spot on assessment. Their set was passionate and intense, with a clear nod to 80s bands like Rites of Spring, and they would have been right at home on a bill with any of the Revolution Summer bands.
I have said it before in the pages of this blog that pop punk is not my usual first choice and that is true. So if I am going to listen to a pop punk band or go to a show, it better be damn good to pique and hold my interest. Fortunately there is no worry about that with Action Park, and I’m a big fan. They bill themselves as “sad but rad,” and these guys are experts at the genre.
Onstage they are locked in perfectly with each other which makes for a really exciting performance. Offstage they are loveable and goofy, also sporting a fair bit of humor and cheek (which made for an interesting, but definitely fun time when we were doing a portrait session outside. I’ve never said “look at the camera!” so many times in a shoot before- ha!). And even though only their drummer was alive in the 80s, they also have plenty of love for the pop culture of that decade as their name and show outfits will attest. (Their name a reference to Action Park aka the infamously dangerous theme park in New Jersey that operated from the late 1970s until 1996.)
This being their release show, the excitement was palpable in the air and they hit the ground running from the very start of the first song and didn’t let up for a single moment throughout their set. Vocals are handled by three members of the band- guitarists Bobby DeQuillfeldt and Matt Riley along with bassist Vinny Carriero- and they all trade off on lead vocals while backing each other up when not on main singing duties which makes for a nice mix. They blazed relentlessly through a good portion of their excellent and super fun new record, You Must Be This Tall To Die (read our review), and also played a few new songs that are not on the record (hopefully an EP will hold us over before their next full length).
Action Park at Railroad Inn
The band was so welcoming to me, as a visitor to their scene, and I also know how hard they work to keep things going in a place where it’s not like Brooklyn where there are shows every night of the week and often a multitude of options to choose from each night too. It was obvious in how keyed in on the band the audience was that this was a tight knit group of friends supporting friends and I couldn’t help but be swept up in the comradery of the night. I’d love to see these guys aim for the stars and be on stage at the big punk festivals and touring consistently with big acts. They already have the heart as well as the energy and stage presence to be commanding in that sphere and I am absolutely manifesting that for them (along with my instrumental dream show mentioned above).
A fourth band, Two Man Advantage, closed out the night (they also share their drummer with Action Park), but sadly I wasn’t able to stay for their set. But hockey themed hardcore?? Sign me up! I do hope to catch them again at another time though.
I have an interesting life that largely revolves around live music and I feel so lucky for that. Sure it’s definitely true that getting to work/play/shoot/see shows in big venues is a really cool experience and I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve ever had to do all of those things in a large scale setting. But you can be sure that if there are DIY shows happening, particularly at a dive bar under the train tracks, I’m going to be there. And no matter what, I’ll never not want to be.
Scroll down for more pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
TOO MANY VOICES