Like a wonderful mid-week oasis, I stepped into the Mercury Lounge on Wednesday 10/6 for a much needed respite from the chaos of life which somehow only seeing a live band with a camera in my hands can make right for me. On the bill were no wave art punks, Parlor Walls, and experimental indie rockers, Activity, neither of whom I had actually seen before, but both of whom I was highly anticipating and looking forward to.
I had been a fan of singer/guitarist Alyse Lamb’s earlier project, Eula, for some time but had yet to see Parlor Walls play because life somehow always got in the way (working nights will do that for you). I was very happy to break the missing streak and finally get to see them because Lamb is a powerhouse performer. She never stays still and translates the emotion of the songs into the movements of her body and in the way she plays guitar which is anything but “traditional.” Her guitar style is experimental through and through, and is perfectly augmented with drummer Chris Mulligan who adds not just percussion but also synths. All of these elements meld for compelling discordant and atmospheric dips into noise and controlled chaos, their no wave influences serving them well and their self descriptor of “trash jazz” a very apt one. They are a two piece but for this show added live bassist, Andy Kinsey, who brought a nice depth to the sound.
Their latest release Heavy Tongue came out in 2020 just prior to the pandemic and catches this range of musical feels. I have enjoyed it a lot, and now that I have seen them, I think an even better way to experience those songs is to see them performed live so I absolutely will be making it a priority to get out to more of their shows.
Parlor Walls at Mercury Lounge
Fresh off the release of their new single “Text the Dead,” Activity headlined the evening, which also served as a belated release event for their 2020 album, Unmask Whoever. The show was additionally a tour kickoff for a two week run they will be embarking on (with touring bassist, Bri DiGioia, filling in for regular bassist Zoë Browne on this run) and was their first show back since all hell broke loose with Covid, unfortunately right around the time they released their record last year (a story that happened to far too many great records by great bands).
According to their Bandcamp: Activity are an avant four-piece featuring Travis Johnson, and drummer Steve Levine, both from the band Grooms, bassist Zoë Browne from Field Mouse and guitarist Jess Rees from Russian Baths. Produced by engineer Jeff Berner of Psychic TV, their debut forms a casually menacing framework for lyrical themes of paranoia, exposed character flaws, and the broader human capacity for growth when an ugly truth is laid bare.
Activity at Mercury Lounge
Their music is very much in the indie range though with a definite and prominent experimental edge. The songs range from quiet, more serene finger picked passages and/or synth explorations, to louder more forceful turns with heavier guitar work and booming drums for straight ahead rock outs. But no matter the feel, everything was approached with a cool headed control, never reaching the point of frenzy or disarray. As someone who is used to being at a lot of punk shows and who listens to a fair amount of what amounts to musical pandemonium that very much does tip over the edge before it can pull itself back, Activity’s music is a change for me in terms of my norm, but absolutely a welcome one. I was impressed by this dynamic and their ability to be intense without ever spiraling away into unruliness.
I always love watching great drummers play and locking in with them and Activity’s set was a real treat for me in that regard. Levine’s drumming was of particular interest to me and I really loved his sensibilities, which had a firm rock undertone but for sure touched on a jazz feel, every fill a calculated addition rather than just something to insert at a more dramatic turn of the music.
Coming from mostly punk shows (in terms of watching tons of bands and playing in punk bands for years), it is very nice to take a look into a different way of making music, a place were complex and layered things are going on and it’s not just shouting over three chords (though there is certainly nothing wrong with that either!). Both of these bands have their own distinct sounds, but what I loved from each is that there is space for each instrument and feel to operate independently of each other to then weave back around together, creating a lush tapestry of sounds. I am going to need to explore this path more because I had a wonderful time watching these bands and studying the significant depth they had to offer.
Scroll down for more pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
I talk a lot in this blog about how much DIY means to me and that I will never walk away from it no matter what else happens in my life or the world; that is a 100% true statement that I fully stand behind. Through my work as a “venue grouch” and as a photographer, I get to be at shows in pretty decent sized venues regularly and I do love it, I really do and am always grateful to be able to shoot/work in those environments. I have also been fortunate in my time to play a few really nice bigger places too. But while all of that is cool and for sure definitely validating in it’s own way, there is nothing like being in a DIY spot- a basement, a warehouse, a backyard- and surrounding yourself with that energy.
Given a lot of the pressure in New York City in general with people being on top of each other all the time, plus the ever tightening grip of gentrification, PLUS fallout from the Ghost Ship fire in 2016 causing more scrutiny by authorities, PLUS a global pandemic, A LOT has challenged the survival of DIY spots in New York in recent years. To be clear, I don’t mean the spirit of DIY or the culture itself because despite those things and other issues, it still finds ways to survive and adapt, it always does.
Fortunately there is a steady dive bar ecosystem here too that helps sustain us when actual DIY spaces can not and that has proven to be a godsend too. But despite every other challenge mentioned above (and many more), DIY spaces do still crop up that can last for varying lengths of time. Right now, as the pandemic is still here but life has returned to a new normal, there has appeared to be a unique period of more goodwill by neighbors and less enforcement by the NYPD which has loosened the stranglehold around DIY events a bit so more folks are taking advantage of that and DIY spots are becoming a viable thing again here. (For the moment at least, I sadly can’t trust that it will last long term so I’ll take whatever I can get now.)
One of those spots is Putnam Palace, a backyard space run by friends who are all involved in DIY either through being in bands or through other creative ventures closely aligned to the music scene. I’ve been to a few shows there in the past and this was their first show after a little bit of a break from the dog days of summer, and dare I say, one of the very first “hoodie weather” shows of the season. It was also an early Halloween party as well as a birthday celebration for Michelle LoBianco, a Brooklyn photographer and one of the hosts of the Putnam Palace shows. And as it turned out, several other people attending as well. Libra season was in full effect at this show!
First up, shadow monster started us out and got the party started in this spooky DIY oasis, hitting the stage with the best eye makeup of the day. I don’t know about anyone else, but I really found their signature brand of grunge angst perfect for the start of fall hoodie weather and the spooky season because all the dissonance of the guitar and mournful longing of the lyrics fit in so well with the cooling weather. I was also very happy to hear them debut a brand new song “Long Distance Runner.” This was apparently also their last full band show for a bit, so it appears the upcoming show on 10/19 (at Our Wicked Lady with Castle Black, Nuclear Family Fantasy, and Vangelism) will be a solo set from singer/guitarist Gillian Visco. Solo or not though, it is sure to be a powerhouse performance (one I will be sad to miss as I am committed to another event already that night).
shadow monster at Putnam Palace
Gal Fieri probably has gotten some of the most coverage in FTA lately because they have been playing out a lot as a brand new band. And as luck would have it, my schedule has unwittingly aligned with theirs and I’ve been able to be at their shows a lot. They were up second for this show and it was probably better they played earlier in the event since they were defintely the loudest band, especially when the distorted and huge riffs would kick in and blast out of the 4×10 bass cabinet; they surely had to be shaking the neighbor’s walls. I have mentioned before that I have bugged them about recording a few times now and this time I took matters into my own hands and made a voice recording of their set so I can at least have something to hold me over. I joked to them and said “I secretly bootlegged your set and now I’m telling you to your face” and also informed them I’d be putting the files on Limewire (ha!) so be on the lookout for those (again, ha!). They have several more shows left this month (check their Instagram linked above for details) and told me they plan to slow down a bit in November to work on more songs which is exciting news.
Gal Fieri at Putnam Palace
Frida Kill are another band I’ve seen play (or played with) a lot since shows have come back and I always have a great time at their shows. They took to the stage with the best costumes of the day (see pics below) and blasted through a set of their fun bouncy motorik garage tunes. And while I was a little bummed they didn’t play one of my favorites “Mujeres Con Mangos,” that was quickly soothed by the end of their set when they ripped into a cover of the Beastie Boys classic “Fight For Your Right” which featured rhythm guitarist Jeanette Moses (and FTA contributor) on lead vocals (after her other turn on the mic for “Dancing With My Demons”). The crowd cheered and sang along particularly to the most famous of the lyrics (about porno mags, obviously) and it was such a fun way to end the set. I admittedly am a little indifferent to Halloween (a pumpkin t shirt is the max level of effort I put in every year), but one thing I do really love about this season is all the rad covers/cover bands that happen so this was an awesome treat for me even if it was only one song (hint hint, do a full Beastie Boys set please).
Frida Kill at Putnam Palace
The last time I saw Nevva play had been exactly one year to the day prior to this show. In the throws of the pandemic while live music was still very much thwarted and limited in the ways we could experience it, I saw them play an acoustic set on the sidewalk outside of OWL (there’s that DIY spirit for you again finding ways to survive). Sure that had been a fun way to see them, but really the best way to experience them is plugged in, “live and loud,” for the full level of their snark to really sink in. I had really missed them and was so glad to end the dry spell.
Their set was infectious and energetic, with some new songs in the mix along with most of the material from their stellar 2020 EP, Fer Sher. They also got into the covers game and wrapped things up with their rendition of “Dammit” by Blink 182 (which they sent out to Mark Hoppus who recently announced he is now cancer free). I may be grouchy and not really love pop punk, but even I couldn’t help but sing along to the “I guess this is growing up” line (the song and the album, Dude Ranch, came out in 1997 when I was still in high school so I admit I have a bit of a soft spot for it).
Nevva at Putnam Palace
And while we’re on the subject of Nevva, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that they put out one of my favorite songs of the last five years, their ridiculous (and ridiculously accurate) sneer fest “Boyfriend’s Band,” and I took great delight in yelling along “NO ONE GIVES A FUCK ABOUT YOUR BOYFRIEND’S BAND” as the song hit it’s crescendo. I also was equally delighted when they sent out their particularly sassy ode to (aka making playful fun of) sober vegans, “Sober Vegan” to me (full disclosure, yes I’m sober, but alas only a dairy free pescatarian at the moment. Maybe I’ll get back on track now after this though) because I certainly love a sarcastic song and poking fun lovingly at myself (once again, ha!).
“Boyfriend’s Band” official video
Was this a punk show in a backyard? Sure was and a damn good one at that. But above all, it had that special thing too that DIY events have in spades- a bond amongst friends and a chosen misfit family. Big shows are great, but they don’t have that feeling and how could they really? It is exactly that feeling of belonging and togetherness why I’m now a middle aged punk and still keep coming to these DIY shows after all these years, long after many other friends I’ve had along the way have “aged out” of it and moved on to other things. I’m glad that has worked fore them but it never could for me. I really feel there is no end in sight for me with engaging with this culture, and not a chance in hell of me even wanting there to be an end in sight either.
Scroll down to see pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
This just in! Nihiloceros have been crowned the hardest working band not just in Brooklyn, but on earth. And on top of that, they just released an incredible new EP, Self Destroy, that we loved here at FTA (read our review) and I personally have not been able to stop listening to. To celebrate, they recently held a release show at EWEL (aka Econolodge aka East Williamsburg Econolodge) a practice space turned DIY space, and the home of the popular streamer Bandnada. The lineup for this show was positively STACKED and featured two of my local faves, Gal Fieri, and Desert Sharks along with Kissed By An Animal who is a band that has been on my list for a while but I had yet to get out to see.
East Williamsburg Econolodge
Gal Fieri was up first to kick the night off. They are a brand new band who debuted just about two months ago and has hit the ground running, playing quite a bit lately around Bushwick and already cementing themselves as one of my local favorites. I’ve been lucky enough to catch a few of their shows now and I’m always that guy saying to them after their set “WHEN ARE YOU RECORDING?!” (thank you all for indulging me on that). I don’t mean to be too much of a nerd about it (though that is my entire “brand” and the “brand” of this blog, it is true), it’s just because I have really enjoyed their sound- quiet to loud dynamics, heavy bass riffs sans guitar, snarky as hell lyrics- so I am anxious to be able to jam them in FTA headquarters whenever the mood strikes.
The early stages of a band are always so cool to watch because you can really see a group come into their own as they figure out their stage presence and how they function/write/etc together, so it has been fun seeing this at their shows as well. I’m also excited to see how their song writing progresses to see what they come up with next. Their sets now are still on the shorter side but that is to be expected when you’re new out of the gate. All of the current songs pack a punch, with the aforementioned bass riffs driving the sound and soulful vocals completing the package, and I definitely think they have a lot of really good things to come in their future. They are staying busy and have several shows over the course of October, check their Instagram for more details. (I also have plans to make a listicle of all of my favorite bands that are just bass/drums/vocals so I for sure want to include Gal Fieri once they have recordings.)
Gal Fieri at EWEL
Desert Sharks are absolutely one of my favorite bands and its always a good day when I get to go to one of their shows. They were back in action as a quartet again, with the recent addition of rhythm guitarist Cait Smith (formerly of No Honeymoon), and she fit in perfectly with the group, thickening up their sound with her crunchy Les Paul. Fresh off the release of two covers (read our reviews for “Voices Carry” and “20th Century Boy”), they have been out gigging again and have been hinting on social media at making a new record, to which I say emphatically, YES PLEASE!
They played a good amount of songs from their excellent 2019 album Baby’s Gold Death Stadium, and EWEL being a small space, it almost felt at times their sound was going to burst right through the walls, particularly when vocalist Stephanie Gunther would belt out one of their HUGE choruses. Just as I was thinking “will they play one of the covers?” they kicked into the opening notes of “Voices Carry,” taking the classic 80s new wave jam by the Aimee Mann fronted ‘Til Tuesday into fuzzed out grunge territory; it sounded even better live than on the recording. While the two covers they’ve released so far this year have definitely held me over, I am very anxious for new music from them and this show only strengthened that. They will be performing again 10/14 at The Broadway along with Substitute Scene label mates, No Kill for their album release.
Desert Sharks at EWEL
If you can find a band that is more energetic, supportive of everyone else in the music community, works harder, and has songs catchier than Nihiloceros, I’d love to hear about them but I’m really not sure that band exists. In fact I know they don’t. If you follow the band on social media, you’ll know they are always posting about other bands shows and you’ll often see singer/guitarist Mike Borchardt out and about taking pics at many other shows too. This boundless energy and support translates to their own shows too and you could tell this was very much a personal night for the band. Borchardt told me on the choice of venue “[EWEL] has been one of our favorite spots to do shows for a while. Run by great people. It always feels like family,” and that was obvious too in the choice of the supporting bands on the lineup.
From the moment the first notes rang out until Borchardt collapsed on the ground in sheer exuberance and exhaustion at the end of the set, there was no respite from the energetic onslaught filling the small space. Borchardt handles most lead vocals but is backed up a fair amount of the time by bassist Alex Hoffman (aka one of the most creative and clever bassist currently in Brooklyn), who does a few turns at lead as well. They hit a wide selection of their songs, both from the EP and not, and fired at nothing less than 200% for the entirety of their blistering set.
The band was also joined by co-collaborators on the record for the songs they worked on. Stephanie Gunther of Desert Sharks (who also plays in Murder Tag with Borchardt) came to the mic to sing “Odie” which features Hoffman on co-lead vox with her and the eventual weaving of all three vocalists together. (Gunther also contributed to the song “Baby Teeth” serving as co-writer and vocalist). Gillain Visco of shadow monster also contributed to two of the songs on the record, including lead single “iamananimal,” (as well as “Halfway Human”) and was there as well to sing with the band. Again, it was obvious that this night was very clearly a family and personal affair for the band.
They are currently taking as close to a hiatus as is possible for them aka they are laying a bit low for a few weeks as Borchardt travels and they do some press for the release. But they will be back on 10/23 for a performance for the Wavy Awards at Abrons Arts Center and on 10/30 for a Bands Do BK Halloween show.
Nihiloceros at EWEL
As mentioned, I had not yet seen Kissed By An Animal, which now that I have seen them bums me out a little bit for my past self, ha! “Energetic fuzzgaze,” are the first words that come to mind and they were the perfect closer for this night. They self describe as a “Brooklyn based four piece dedicated to playing fast and loud,” and yes loud and yes fast but fast like amped up shoegaze, not fast like a hardcore band. But this certainly is not a bad thing at all (and I actually would prefer it to a lot of hardcore), and the influences listed in their Spotify bio- The Misfits, The Cure, Dinosaur Jr, A Flock of Seagulls- all align here for a very delightful blend.
Another striking feature of the band is the intricate and colorful art work which is very integral to their albums of course, but also to their live show as they use animated projections during their set for whimsical and added effect. The band is described in fact in their bio as “the auditory counterpart to the universe of illustrator/musician Dima Drjuchin. Dima is known in the art world for this rich surreal scenes plucked from an alternate dimension existing exclusively in his own mind.” And indeed the images are surreal and the projections with the combination of a well loved smoke machine made for a very cool visual vibe all through their set. It has been a low key dream of mine to so intentionally incorporate visuals like this into a band I’m in, but so far it hasn’t happened yet. This inspired me a lot though so perhaps for my next project. As for their next outing, you can catch KBAA on 10/16 at Our Wicked Lady to celebrate A Very Special Episode’s record release.
Kissed By An Animal at EWEL
Thanks to my job working various roles in various NYC venues, as well as a photographer/blogger, I get to see a lot of bands and be at a show most nights of the week, oftentimes in big venues. That is a cool experience and I do value that I get that perspective too and I consider myself very lucky for all that I get to do no matter what realm I get to do it in. I wouldn’t trade this job/life for anything (because trust me there were other eras in my life where I had terrible jobs that left me very disconnected from all of this and I was miserable). But while all of that is pretty awesome to say “I got to do XYZ big show for work in a big venue” etc, there really is nothing like coming home to a DIY space. 100 shows in a large venue will never compare to just one in a small “ask a punk” DIY spot, or mean half as much, as standing shoulder to shoulder with friends and by extension, family. There is absolutely no comparison at all.
Scroll down to see pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)
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)
The punk rock road show hit the beautiful open air venue on the rooftop of Pier 17 this past week for a show complete with breathtaking views of the city and the Brooklyn Bridge. Energetic Celtic punks, Flogging Molly, co-headlined the show along with the legendary folk punk/alt rockers Violent Femmes, and were joined by a great opening lineup as well.
Hometown favorites Thick kicked things off for the early crowd, bringing their infectious, catchy songs to the stage. They received a warm response and I’m sure made a lot of new fans among the crowd. I remember seeing them just a few short years ago at the beloved (and now sadly gone) DIY space/dive bar, Don Pedro, and being rocked out of my socks, knowing that they were going to be a band that went far even then. It is very cool to see that that assessment was correct and seeing them playing stages like this.
This is their first tour back and in support of their outstanding 2020 debut full length, 5 Years Behind, which was released by Epitaph just days before the first wave of Covid lockdowns hit. So many bands had this happen to them, a great album came out and they were unable to play shows or tour around it, so I was doubly happy to see them back on stage in peak form despite every roadblock the last year and a half has thrown at musicians. I know it’s only going to be a matter of time before they are headlining stages of this size themselves.
I’ve been listening to these guys on and off since the 90s but I hadn’t even realized the lineup had changed so much recently. But it was all good and I was particularly happy about the addition of Reis as I really love Drive Like Jehu and Hot Snakes; I’ve also been known to jam quite a bit of Rocket From The Crypt in my day too. But even having listened to MFATGG for a long time, this was actually my first time seeing them play. Slawson is a commanding presence on stage and he shaked and shimmied all over while the rock solid band held the line behind him. They barreled through a slew of punk versions of everything from Dolly Parton (“Jolene”) to Judy Garland (“Somewhere Over The Rainbow”) along with more contemporary pop and punk numbers. I couldn’t help but chuckle every time someone in the crowd yelled “play a cover!” and had a great time during their set.
Spike Slawson of Me First and the Gimme Gimmes
Violent Femmes are one of those bands that I just never remember a time when I wasn’t familiar with them. Ever since I got into alternative rock/punk (whatever word you want to ascribe really), they have always been there in my consciousness. It of course was first through their big hits, “Gone Daddy Gone,” and the legendary single “Blister In The Sun,” from their 1983 self titled debut that I first knew about them. I’m sure many people who discovered them in the 90s and later had these songs as an entry point too. I later explored deeper into that first record and their overall catalog when an old band did a cover of “Prove My Love,” and I got to know much more of their music.
Founding members Gordon Gano (guitar, lead vocals) and Brian Ritchie (bass, backing vocals) are still going strong as they head into the fifth decade of the band’s existence. They are now joined by newer members of the group, drummer John Sparrow (first drummer I have seen to play a barbecue grill!), and saxophonist/multi instrumentalist Blaise Garza (who over the course of the set played both the largest sax I’ve ever seen and the smallest). They played a wide ranging and really fun mix of songs from across their over 40 year career including the aforementioned hits “Blister In The Sun,” and “Gone Daddy Gone” along with the 1992 hit “American Music,” as well as delving into their newer music from their most recent album, Hotel Last Resort, which came out in 2019. It was a real treat to see these legends in action.
Gordon Gano and Blaise Garza of Violent Femmes
Flogging Molly came to the stage to close out the show and the crowd really picked up to a fever pitch then. This was the band’s first NYC show since 2019 and you could tell they were having the time of their lives being back in the Big Apple, a fact that frontman Dave King remarked on more than once. The fans were rowdy and excited, shouting along to every single song, with no shortage of crowd surfers keeping the folks up front busy along with the security crew.
King and the band worked the crowd and kept things dialed up to 110% intensity from start to finish. They ripped through a set packed with favorites like “Drunken Lullabies,” and “What’s Left of the Flag.” The fans were also treated to their very first single ever “Salty Dog,” as well a brand new as-of-yet unrecorded song “Croppy Boy.” They dedicated another favorite, “Float,” to the fans much to the delight of the crowd. When they played “If I Ever Leave This World Alive,” I couldn’t help but get tears in my eyes having gone through a tough personal loss just a day before the show; yes it was emotional, but it was right what I needed in that moment. And isn’t that really the true magic of punk and just any music in general? For the right song to come to you exactly as you need it? I do really think so.
The weather had started to shift late into Me First and the Gimme Gimmes’ set and held through Violent Femmes, but by time Flogging Molly got on stage, the rain began to appear (it is visible in some of the photos in fact) with King quipping in his delightful brogue “that’s how you know the Irish are here, it’s raining.” Fortunately the stage was completely covered and a heavy duty backdrop was quickly put in place to shield the band and equipment from any adverse affects (aka electrocution!). But the crowd didn’t seem to mind one bit, never losing an ounce of energy even as the rain got significantly heavier halfway through the set. I was up against the barrier so in just the right spot to stay mostly dry as the wind was blowing the rain into the back of the tarped off stage and blocking the first few rows of the crowd from the worst of it, even though we were standing under open sky and it was pouring on the rest of the audience.
Flogging Molly at Pier 17
Flogging Molly absolutely is a band that has worked so hard over the years to get to where they are now, but you can tell they never forgot their roots. They still play as though they are on a smaller stage and want to interact with their fans on a deeper level. King came to the edge of the stage repeatedly to point and interact with fans as best he could in the realm of a large stage with a security pit separating the band from the crowd. That didn’t phase him though and he even asked security guards to hand over guitar picks to young fans up front more than once. At the end of the night, as a recording played in the background, King danced on stage and looked delighted as the rest of the band waved goodbye gratefully to the audience and he again came over to the edge of the stage to connect with fans. A man standing next to me yelled “I got through cancer because of you!” and you could really see and feel how much that touched King to hear that. I always appreciate seeing bigger bands play these shows and still really try so hard to connect with their fans; it really means a lot to me.
And with that, I was off into the still rainy night. For a little while at least, I had not a care in the world as now I really was getting wet as I walked through the late night streets of Manhattan on my way home. This too is the magic of punk, to be able to take you out of whatever it is in the rest of your life that is unhappy or stressful and leave you with a smile on your face. I am forever grateful that I not only get nights like these, but that I get to call this my life.
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)