There’s few things I love more in this life than a killer house show. There’s just something about being in those intimate, most DIY of spaces that is like nothing else in the world for me. Vacant Company is a band that I first heard at another house show just about a year ago (see pics) and this is what I had to say then: Vacant Company…played a set that was nothing less than explosive from start to finish. They hail from Raleigh, NC (though their singer splits time between BK and Raleigh) and were unflinchingly political and beautifully intense. With hints of early Fugazi, and the clear influence of Slint in their sound, they also very much reminded me of that particular style of 90s post hardcore that had a bit of an artcore bent ala a band like Swing Kids. This band would have been right at home on Dischord in that era—hell they still would be today! And I still stand very much behind that assessment.
Ever since that first show I’ve been wanting to see them play again, but given that 3/4 of the band lives in another state, they don’t play in Brooklyn a lot. My schedule also tends to be pretty packed in advance and the show was only announced a week ahead of time which is usually a no go for me on such short lead time, but by some miracle, I magically had a window where I wasn’t working or otherwise committed to something else. Even in a week where big indie rock stars were in town aka Phoebe Bridgers—who yes, I did see play and yes, she absolutely does put on a great show—there was still nothing else I was more excited for than seeing Vacant Company.
Almost no one puts on a show as powerful as this band does, not even indie rock royalty (sorry Phoebes), and their set was just as incendiary as it had been the first time I saw them play. This time being even better given that I was very familiar with a lot of the songs already and with the added bonus of several new songs in the mix too. While I do wish I could see this band play regularly, I think part of what makes their shows so special is probably because there are long gaps in between when I can see them play so I savor it more and I find myself locked in in a way that I don’t always find myself with bands I get to see all the time. I got chills during the first song of their set, the blazing condemnation of our current society and the lasting toxicity of colonization, “Decolonize,” and that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the night. I was excited to hear a good amount of new material as well, and the band tells me that they are hoping to get into the studio this year to lay the tracks down. I’m very hopeful for that too.
Noise punk band, Gun, kicked off the show and they had been totally unfamiliar to me before the show. But bands like this are the exact reason I push myself to always make it on time to things because I always end up discovering the best new music that way. I very much enjoyed their noisy approach and the drummer nerd in me couldn’t help but marvel at their drummer who plays traditional grip which is a definite rarity for punk drummers and not something I usually see in someone who hits so hard! Afterwards we chatted for a few minutes and they told me about their jazz background which totally makes sense (I have a marching background which is why I used to play trad grip too) and I think really adds to the noisy quality of the band, with fills that a more rock oriented drummer without jazz training might not think to employ. In any case, I really dug this band and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them again, as well as hearing the new material they mentioned they are in the process of recording. They have a three song EP out currently that has been a nice holdover for the time being.
Thanks to the good fortune of working in music venues, I get to see A LOT of live music, almost every night of the week. It ranges widely on who/what I may see on any given night (pop or jazz or EDM or indie or hip hop or really anything under the sun if I’m working; generally punk or noise or indie if I’m going to a show for fun) and I always enjoy getting to check out new stuff on the job or getting access to a big show everyone is excited about. But while all of that is cool—I’m forever grateful for it, and would never take that for granted—I think it’s no surprise at all to anyone who reads this blog that my heart and soul is with the punk bands at the house show and it always will be.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
Looking for a good show in NYC? Well here you go! We’ve got a nice big list of what is going on this week, shows that we are excited about and want you to know about too, with plenty of live music from the local scene and national acts at bigger venues to choose from. This list is brought to you by yours truly along with our indefatigable live correspondent, Mike Borchardt, of the band Nihiloceros, who is in touch with the local Brooklyn/etc scene like no other. And we’ve got a sprinkling of live photos to get you in the mood for your show of choice too. Check back every Monday for updated listings on what is good for the week to come!
Punk Island is a free, all ages punk fest in NYC that has traditionally happened every June. The pandemic unfortunately kept the fest from happening since 2019, but this year the fest is back and slated for Saturday 7/23, in a new location, Maria Hernandez Park in Brooklyn. This will be the first year the fest will be held in Brooklyn—having previously been held on Staten Island, Governors Island, and most recently, Randall’s Island. The fest will be scaled down from previous years, with the organizers telling fans on their Facebook page “As a collective, we decided that we wanted to come back at a smaller scale and work our way up to what we once had pre-pandemic. We hope you understand and hope to see you in Brooklyn this summer.”
Lead organizer Antonio Rodriguez further elaborated saying “After the last two years, we are happy to announce that Punk Island is back!” going on to say “In an effort to renew and regrow our community, we are turning our focus over to a more streamlined music and zine festival. The day fest will feature two stages as well as a variety of zine vendors and workshops. This will be followed by a robust after party at nearby venue, Rubulad”
While the fest is smaller than in past years, there is still a wide variety of artists performing, with 31 acts on the bill. We have your very first look at the full lineup which will feature:
Punk Island is an all ages DIY punk fest/community in NYC that is very near and dear to my heart. I say this because I worked on the fest as an organizer for nearly six years before officially retiring from active involvement earlier this year. But while I may have stepped back from organizing, I’ll never be far away and am always down to support when I can.
The PI collective has been staging a series of benefit shows to help raise funds for the 2022 fest which will be happening on 7/23 in Maria Hernandez Park and I was able to catch the tail end of the latest one held at Wonderville the dive bar venue/video arcade in Bushwick. I ran from Market Hotel (where I had just shot Bass Drum of Death) and made it just in time to see the last three song of BLK VAPOR‘s set and I am very sorry I wasn’t there for more of it. Because even in three songs, they absolutely floored me with the intense sonic wave radiating out from the stage. As I said about them in our June picks for Bandcamp Friday: “There’s a lot to BLKVAPOR’S sound—emo, punk, noise—and it all coalesces into something that is uniquely them. This Baltimore based outfit also puts on an explosive and enthralling live performance and are without a doubt a band you need to be keeping your eyes and ears on.” I for one can’t wait to see this band play again.
The show was closed out by Ratas En Zelo, long time PI supporters and family. They always put on a set that gets the whole room moving and shaking, and not one person was able to stand still, dancing and singing along to every song. It was a fitting end to a really fun night, the summer time crescendo we all needed.
Rounding out the bill were acoustic singer songwriter Jo Mercado, and electro artist Ultra Deluxe, both of whom I unfortunately missed but will be keeping on my radar for sure to catch at a later date.
I hosted numerous Punk Island benefits myself over the years and as I always said at them “Help keep DIY culture alive and thriving in NYC,” there’s no better way to do so than through events like these and the main fest itself and by donating if you have the means. DIY always has and always will be what we make of it, so be sure to keep your attention focused on this vital organization and what they are doing.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos of Jo Mercado and Ultra Deluxe by Eamon McMullen; photos of Blk Vapor and Ratas En Zelo by Kate Hoos)
Fuzzy garage punk greats, Bass Drum of Death, are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut album GB City, which came out in 2011. As with many anniversary celebrations that were forced to be pushed back because of well…you know…things were delayed by a year. But they were finally able to hit the road in 2022 to properly honor the occasion and play the album in full, making for a raucous good time. I really loved that they played the album in order, because I’ve seen other anniversary album tours and I’ve been disappointed every time a band plays the songs in a random order and/or with other album tracks mixed in the middle. I do get the impetus to mix things up, but it just takes me out of the experience to not hear it in order because after all, isn’t that the point of playing the full album in the first place? And of course I want to hear other stuff too, but I am definitely a fan of playing through the album and adding in the other stuff after.
This was also my first time seeing the band play live, somehow always missing all of their pre-pandemic NYC shows. It was worth the wait though and they had the room in a sweat soaked frenzy from the first notes rang out til the final ounce of fuzz was wrung out of the chaos. After playing the entirety of GB City they hit other songs from their catalog, including my personal favorite “Lose My Mind,” from 2014’s Rip This. At the end of their set the crowd screamed for an encore but the band left the stage and that was as they say, that.
The evening was opened by Brooklyn locals, Dead Tooth, who were a perfect match sonically as well as energy wise. They got the crowd very riled up and ready for the main act, taking command of the room with their sax fueled garage jams.
At the end of the show the sweaty crowd happily slipped out into the night air which was somehow cooler than the air in the room, the perfect beginning to the long hot summer.
Setlist: Nerve Jamming, GB City, Get Found, Velvet Itch, High School Roaches, Spare Room, Young Pros, Heart Attack Kid, Leaves, I Could Never Be Yr Man, Religious Girls, Head Change, Just Business, Too Cold To Hold, Shattered Me, Lose My Mind, Crawling After You
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)