For those of us of a certain age, The Hoodoo Gurus coming to the States is a BIG deal. Way back in 2019, the band announced that they would be visiting the US in late 2020, which would mark the first time they’d be hitting these shores in over a decade. Needless to say, that never happened. Ultimately, the group rescheduled and re-canceled a total of three times before they were finally able to kick off the tour last month in Florida. The good news was that during that wait, we fans were treated to a new release, Chariots Of Godslast year.
Originally formed in Perth, Australia back in 1981 by frontman, lead singer/guitarist David Faulkner, the band would go through a handful of lineup juggling before they finally hit the US for their first American tour in 1984. Their NYC area shows on that tour included one show at the fabled Chelsea club, Danceteria, another across the Hudson River at the even more iconic Maxwell’s in Hoboken, NJ as well as a late Sunday night gig at CBGB’s which had them erroneously billed at Goodoo Hurus. The band would eventually come back to the states in 1987 when they would play what was then called The Ritz (and now known as Webster Hall). The return to this venue did not go unnoticed by the band, as Faulkner was quick to point out very early on in their set that he—having settled for a bit in New York City in the mid 80’s—had some very fond memories of the room. One particular anecdote had Faulkner meeting (and partying rather heavily) with Joey Ramone in the balcony.
Faulkner’s stroll down his New York memory lane included his fandom way back when of the opening band, The Fleshtones. Of course The Fleshtones have been mainstays of the NY underground garage music scene since the early 80’s and I’ve seen them numerous times since those early days of playing basements and bars in the East Village. In all those shows, I can honestly say that they almost never disappoint. Between lead singer Peter Zaremba’s wild onstage antics along with guitarist/amateur on stage acrobat Keith Streng, the band’s opening set was almost as action packed and high energy as their shows back at Club 57 and Max’s were back in the day.
The Fleshtones at Webster Hall
Having been well primed for an evening of serious rock and roll by The Fleshtones, the mostly middle aged crowd were soon in for quite a treat. The Hoodoos took the stage promptly at 8:45pm and right from the get go ripped into “(Let’s All) Turn On” from their 1984 debut LP, Stoneage Romeo, then segued right into “Answered Prayers” off the newest album. And after just two songs it became quite clear to everyone in the room that these mid 60 year olds were not looking at this show or this tour in general as a nostalgia jaunt. Clearly they’d come to flat out rock and they’d come to show that they still had plenty left in the tank. It was sometime around this third or fourth song that Faulkner offered up an apology from the stage for having had to cancel the show so many times but they’d do their best to make up for the three year wait. Furthermore, I’m pretty sure the band hadn’t even played NYC since 2007, so the diehards had been waiting quite some time for their fix of Gurus.
Moving on through the set, the band went from song to song at a blistering pace. Playing songs from at least half of their albums, it was a wonderful cross section of a career loaded with high speed alternative rock. Interestingly, their first album and most recent LP were the two which were highlighted the most. Surprisingly, the band kicked into their US “hit,” “I Want You Back” rather early on in the set. Not surprisingly however, was that it was greeted with a raucous crowd sing along throughout the chorus and appeared to easily be the crowd favorite of the night.
Hoodoo Gurus at Webster Hall
The highlight song of the show for me had to have been “Bittersweet” from 1985’s Mars Needs Guitars. Coming later in the set, the trading off of lead vocals between Faulkner and guitarist Brad Shepherd along with Shepherd’s fantastic guitar solo made for a picture perfect moment. Their segue right into “I Was A Kamikaze Pilot” to close out the set had the crowd jumping up and down in virtual euphoria.
But as it soon became obvious, the band would not be done there. Coming out for what would be a four song encore, we were treated to “Death Ship” followed by a blistering version of “Like Wow” after which Faulkner began the intro to the next song, “What’s My Scene,” saying how Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles had sung on it then teased the audience that she was joining them…but then he laughed and said “just kidding.” What we did get was all of The Fleshtones joining the stage to dance, sing and parade about like a bunch of drunk ass hooligans. Granted, drunk ass hooligans who were having the times of their lives.
And just like that, it was all over. I promise you that most of the crowd had that same feeling of “the time of their life” as they filed out of the club. I will be the first to admit that I purchased tickets for the show four years ago thinking that this might be the last chance I have of seeing them. It took them over a decade to make their way back here this time and who knows what is in store going forward for a rock and roll band composed of 65 year old dudes from Australia. But let me tell you, they did not put on a show that felt like a swan song. Hoodoo Gurus brought it and left it all on the stage and if this was the last time I get to see them, well, I got to see a banger. But I sure hope that’s not the case.
Scroll down for setlist, pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)
Setlist: (Let’s All) Turn On, Answered Prayers, Another Word, Out That Door, Be My Guru, Night Must Fall, Don’t Try To Save My Soul, Dig It Up, The Right Time, Chariot of the Gods, I Want You Back, Hayride to Hell, Miss Freelove ’69, Equinox, 1000 Miles Away, Come Anytime, Tojo, Poison Pen, Bittersweet, I Was a Kamikaze Pilot Encore: Death Ship, Like Wow- Wipeout, What’s My Scene, Leilani
This Is Not Croydon is a ska festival which started back in 2018 as the This Is Croydon Fest and was originally held at Neshaminy Creek Brewery in…wait for it, Croydon, PA. For reasons which I am not aware of, the festival was moved to Broken Goblet Brewery last year, in Bensalem, PA, hence the change in name to This Is Not Croydon Festival. This was my first time attending so I can not attest to what the original two were like but let me start off by saying Saturday’s #4 was everything I had hoped for and then some. The folks at Broken Goblet, along with the other festival sponsors, put on a fantastic day of ska music, craft beer, food trucks as well as a abundance of outside craft vendors and not to mention more band merch than one’s bank account should responsibly support, but nonetheless, us merch junkies did our best to accommodate.
I arrived at Broken Goblet shortly after noon to find a sizable crowd of ska-heads mulling about the brewery and its surroundings. With ample parking out back I was able to check in without a hitch and proceeded into the main brewery building where the stage and main bar were situated. Through an adjoining door was the actual brewery with its brew tanks and what not which you passed through in order to get to yet another room where the bands were busy moving in to set up their merch stands. Out front was a deck area with plenty of tables and seating to accommodate the food trucks and outdoor beer tent. It was out here that there was also another large tent which housed the rather opulent number of outside craft merchants, t-shirt vendors, as well as a copious amount of new and used record bins for all to peruse.
The first band, Hans Gruber and The Die Hards took the stage promptly at 1pm with lead singer and trombone player Kurt Armstrong immediately stripping down to nothing but his boxer briefs. For a band that was starting things off as early as these Austin, TX folk were, they wasted no time whatsoever in getting the extremely stoked crowd up and skanking. With their brand of outlandish punk/ska they plowed through a set of songs mostly from their most recent album, With A Vengeance, that not only prompted an early afternoon circle pit but more amazingly a circle pit surrounding a game of band sponsored Twister to boot. Nonetheless, Gruber and The Die Hards not only set the tone for the day, but they set that tone to an extremely high level.
Title Holder, a band out of Queens, New York had the unenviable task of having to follow the spectacle which was Hans Gruber and the ska/pop-punk band took the ball and ran with it. While their style was not as frenetic, they still managed to have the crowd jumping and skanking virtually from start to finish of their set.
Next up was New Jersey’s own The Upfux. They lean much heavier on the punk end of the ska/punk spectrum and proceeded to play a loud, energetic and raucous set of tunes mostly from their LP, Coastal Collapse, which came out last year on Bad Time Records. I would be remiss if I did not say that Bad Time Records is very much in the forefront of responsibility for SKA’s most recent resurgence.
Faintest Idea who was up next was probably my biggest surprise of the day. I’d only listened to a couple of songs of theirs on a Spotify sampler that the festival had put together prior to Saturday, but what I’d previously listened to by no means prepared me for the set of jumpy, rebellious, anger infused party music. They were easily the closest band of the day to the Two Tone Ska to which I grew up on. Their brand of brass infused topical Brit ska/punk clearly owed quite a bit to the likes of bands like The Specials, Madness and Bad Manners in both sound as well as politics. They managed to slam their way through their set of politically themed tunes with just the right combination of fury and fun. I was completely bowled over by these UK rude boys and girl (alto saxophonist Katie).
Following Faintest Idea was none other than New Jersey ska stalwarts Hub City Stompers. Formed in New Brunswick, NJ out of the ashes of Inspector 7, The Stompers have been going strong for two decades now. Having seen them numerous times over that time, you can always expect lead singer/toaster/rapper and general raconteur Rev Sinister and his merry crew of Stompers to provide you with a skankin’ good time. Saturday afternoon was certainly no exception as they had the circle pit in full speed action for their entire jet fueled set. Of particular note (and enjoyment) was when they broke into “Philly, What The Fuck?” their hilarious rant over the atrociously (in)famous Philly accent.
And just like that, we were at the halfway mark for the day’s musical mayhem. Next up was another Bad Time Records artist, hometown heroes, Catbite. Unfortunately, guitarist Tim Hildebrand found himself experiencing tech issues while he was setting up. After numerous attempts at various fixes, while the crowd didn’t seem to mind the delay one bit, you could see Hildebrand get more and more frustrated by the technical difficulties. It finally came down to having to swap out his pedal board and thanks to Rod Gorgeous from Hub City Stompers for saving the day and lending his pedal board.
The delay suited Catbite just fine as they ultimately put on a set which best be described aptly as feral. First of all, Hildebrand, being the ultimate pro that he is, put the frustrations immediately behind himself and came out firing on all cylinders on guitar. Singer Brittany Luna was a ball of energy as she sang and danced all over like a whirling dervish and the always boundless Kenny Malloy on keys was even more ramped up than usual, leaping up and down behind the keys like an olympic high jumper. As an added treat the band brought Vic Ruggerio from The Slackers for some guest vocals on a cover version of The Silencer’s “Policeman”. When all was said and done, Catbite, as they always do, had the crowd delirious for 45 minutes.
Catch 22, another New Brunswick, NJ ska band was up next. Dating back to the late 90’s Catch 22 do not play all that often anymore and as such were a treat to have on the Not Croydon bill. With founding member and former lead vocalist,tom Kalnoky having left the band a long time ago to form Streetlight Manifesto, the bulk of the singing duties have fallen on Ryan Eldrid who is also the band’s saxophonist and trumpeter, Chris Greer. Anyway, Ryan and Chris led the band on a siege like 11 song set which opened with 2003’s instrumental “Lemont’s Lament” and ended with the swinging up tempo “It takes Some Time. ”And in between these two chestnuts, we were treated to a bouncy and buoyant cross section of the band’s (and the crowd’s) favorites.
Following Catch 22 was the Against All Authority which formed in the early 90’s as a politically charged ska/punk band ingrained in the DIY ethos. Over time the band gradually moved more to the punk side of things, slowly getting away from the ska leanings they’d started off with. Saturday night had AAA welcoming their ska roots back into the fold with the help of Fin Leavell on trombone and baritone sax as well as Marshall Wildley on trumpet. With the help of the horn section, guitarist Joe Koontz and bassist Danny Lore led the band on a tour de force of a set that had the crowd singing and shouting the words to virtually every song. Blasting their way through what turned out to be an 18 song set performed at breakneck speed, AAA ultimately had the crowd pretty much going ballistic by the time they forged their way through set closer “Walking Revolution” from 1996’s Destroy What Destroys You.
By the time The Slackers took the stage, the sun had already set outside and the rains had started to fall. None of which mattered one iota as Vic Ruggerio, Glen Pine, Dave Hillyard and crew stormed the stage and kicked things off with “Wasted Days” from their 2001 album of the same name. From here the band took the crowd on a lover’s rock, reggae and rock steady tinged trip through their catalog. With Ruggerio’s throaty croon and Pine’s campy ‘bone playing, The Slackers were in classic Slackers mode even before Hillyard took over the mic for his funky and jumpy rendition of “The Fool,” a little romp done in the first wave ska style which he’d recorded years ago with David Hillyard and The Rocksteady Seven.
Capping off what was already a fantastic day and evening of music was none other than California ska/funk icons, Fishbone. What can I possibly say about Angelo Moore and the rest of Fishbone? They pioneered the west coast ska movement of the late 80’s/early 90’s and took it into the realms of funk and jazz like no other band could ever imagine. Its been a long time since I’d seen the band and to put it bluntly, Moore et al are no spring chickens. The idea that they might still be capable of putting on the frenetic crazed shows of years gone by was really not on the table. But with the band kicking off their set with their seminal debut hit “Party At Ground Zero,” I immediately started pondering the idea that just maybe the boys were indeed capable of pulling it off. With a career spanning set which included such stalwarts as “Ma And Pa,” “Everday Sunshine,” “Bonin’ in Da Boneyard” and “Skankin’ To The Beat,” Angelo and crew proved they still had it. Were they as crazed as years gone by? Of course not. Who amongst us (that are still breathing) are? But none the less, they can still bring it.
And I’ve got to add that as much as the older stuff was fantastic to hear again, it was the new song “All We Have Is Now” that really brought a smile to my face. After all, it’s always refreshing to see one of those bands which were so meaningful to you back in the day show signs in this present day that they’re still viable, that they’re still relevant, that they’re much more than just a nostalgia act. Fishbone proved to be all of that and more.
When all was said and done, Not Croydon Fest 4 was a resounding success. It did a fantastic job of mixing the old school with the young guns in the ska world. It pulled that all off within the confines of organizing and running a festival with just the right amount of peripheral attractions to make things interesting without creating a distraction to what was the main attraction…the music. Way to go Broken Goblet and everyone else involved. I’ve already marked next year off on my calendar for This Is Not Croydon Fest 5 (4/20/24 by the way😉🍃💨).
Scroll down for pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)
As hard as it is to believe, Laura Stevenson’s achingly beautiful and personal album, Wheel, is ten years old this year and to celebrate the anniversary of its release, she hit the road on what has become the norm for her and her band, a handful of hit and run weekend mini tours. Last weekend was Boston and New York. This coming weekend is Philly and DC, with a West Coast swing through LA, San Fransisco, Portland and Seattle coming in the last weekend of April, and lastly, a small rust belt jaunt in May where they’ll hit Chicago, Grand Rapids and Pittsburgh.
Even though I was fortunate enough to have caught Laura and her band just last month when she was part of The Screaming Female Garden Party Festival, I am not one to pass on one of her shows, especially a special one to commemorate such an incredible album as Wheel. The show at Brooklyn Made started off with a solo set from Katie Malco, a British singer songwriter whom Stevenson toured the UK with last Fall. Armed with only her upside down Fender Jazzmaster, her wonderful voice, a sharp wit and a handful of terrific tunes, Malco treated the already crowded room to a great opening set.
Following Malco was none other than Kayleigh Goldsworthy whose career I’ve been following since I first saw her some dozen years ago when she popped up on Chuck Ragan’s Revival Tour. Since then I’ve seen her more times than I can count, be it just her and her guitar at a sleazy old man’s dive bar on the Lower East Side or as a support act for Frank Turner or Craig Finn or Dave Hause (who she’s also served as a member of his band, The Mermaid). She’s also played in Frank Iero’s band as well as helping out many of her Philly friends like Petal or Anika Pyle whenever they need vocal, keyboard or fiddle support. But this show at Brooklyn Made was the first time I’d had the opportunity to see her front her own band and the experience did not disappoint in the least. With a band consisting of former members of her first high school band, she ripped through a half hour set of songs mostly from her 2022 LP, Learning To Be Happy.
Kayleigh Goldsworthy at Brooklyn Made
Stevenson and her band took the stage at Brooklyn Made at roughly 10:45 to the absolute delight of the adoring and completely packed room of fans. Not surprisingly, the set commenced with the opening track from Wheel, “Renée,” a song about Stevenson’s love for her step mom. With Goldsworthy providing support on violin along with Shawn Alpay on cello, the song sounded as sweet and as touching as it was meant to.
Stevenson has stated numerous times since the original recording and release of Wheel, the album itself is kind of all over the place stylistically, something which was done intentionally. And although she has expressed issues in the past with the actual sequencing of the album, she pretty much stuck with that same sequencing for much of the show with one change later on in the set. Following the mellow and poignant “Renee” came the bouncy rock and roll number “Triangle,” which despite its upbeat tempo is a rather dark song loosely based on the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire which took place in a sweatshop in lower Manhattan in 1911 and which Stevenson became fixated on while recording the album during a bout of insomnia.
Next up was another rocker, “Runner,” which is the first song from the album which deals directly with Stevenson’s bouts of depression which she has been very vocal and open about throughout her career. Later on in the show she would dedicate “Journey To The Center Of The Earth” to her dad who happened to be there that night. In this introductory dedication she went on to say that she wrote the song while she was holed up in a small apartment in Long Beach, Long Island during a dark period where she would only leave the apartment to go to a nearby Baskin-Robbins for ice cream. One time she left her phone at said Baskin-Robbins and the person who found it called “Dad” to let them know that they had their son or daughter’s phone at the Baskin Robbins in Long Beach.
Stevenson and her band, which includes the aforementioned Goldsworthy and Alpay (who in addition to strings also provided keyboards and guitar) along with Stevenson’s husband Mike Campbell on bass and Sammi Niss on drums ripped through each of Wheel’s songs with the ups and downs, the slow ones and the fast ones performed with the same keen precision as on the album playing the songs with a sense of familiarity and genuine feel for and love of the music.
As I mentioned earlier, there was only one change to the album sequencing, and that was to accommodate Stevenson playing acoustic guitar on “The Hole” and “The Move” back to back without having to switch back and forth with her electric. And I have to say that her fingerpicking on “The Hole” was absolutely fantastic. Not something that we usually see from her, her style and chops were quite wonderful (not to mention Goldsworthy’s terrific fiddle fills).
Laura Stevenson at Brooklyn Made
It was around this point in the evening that she glanced down at the time and gave out a loud yelp, “Oh my god, its 11:30! I haven’t been up this late in I don’t know how long!” To which Campbell gave a triumphant head nod of agreement. She caught that head nod and responded with a quick “I guess we’re not gonna make it to tomorrow’s Easter egg hunt on time” which got quite the laugh from the crowd.
Continuing on with the rest of the album, it was very obvious that the music on Wheel meant quite a lot to Stevenson, as she mentioned many times throughout the evening little vignettes of what she was going through when this or that song was written or recorded. When the band finished up with the final notes of album closer and title track, “Wheel,” I don’t think that anyone in the room would have been disappointed with things if indeed that was the end of the performance, but this was not the case at all as we were treated to another half dozen non Wheel songs, one of which received some of the biggest ovations of the night; “Living Room, NY” from 2019’s The Big Freeze was greeted with a thunderous reaction. That was followed by another Big Freeze song, “Big Deep” to finish off the heartfelt night. And just like that, shortly after midnight on Easter morning Laura Stevenson sauntered off stage and the packed crowd inched their way towards the exits, each and every one of them content and happy with the performance they’d just had the opportunity to witness.
Scroll down for setlist, fan shot videos, pics of the show (photos by Ray Rusinak)
Setlist: Renée, Triangle, Runner, Every Tense, Bells & Whistles, Sink Swim, The Hole, The Move, Eleonora, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Telluride, L-DOPA, The Wheel, Moving Cars, State, Caretaker, Tom Sawyer/You Know Where You Can Find Me, Living Room NY, Big Deep
In years past, I have always managed to make it to a show here or there, but this year I made an effort to clear my schedule and decided to do the full fest and check out as much as humanly possible. What that ended up entailing was a total of 47 sets over the course of five days. Of those 47, I ended up seeing one band three times (Plattenbau) and five others twice (Noah & The Loners, Ghum, Adwaith, J3alous, and The Pleasure Majenta). In total, I got to see bands from Calgary, Wales, Texas, Toronto, Berlin, Manchester, Sheffield, San Francisco, London, Copenhagen, Modena (Italy), New Jersey, Vancouver (BC), Athens, Ridgewood, Brooklyn, Dublin, Singapore, Hamilton (Ontario), Birmingham (UK), Vermont, Belfast, and Oslo. Needless to say, come Sunday evening, my legs were shot, my back was aching and my head was swimming in a pool of magical musical memories. What a whirlwind experience for sure. What follows is a day by day breakdown of my time at the fest.
Day One – Wednesday, March 8th
After doing some listening to as many of the bands prior to the festival as possible, I had a rough idea of what I wanted to see, schedules permitting and most importantly, sets starting and ending on time. I started off my festivities with Brooklyn’s very own Punchlove who were the opening act on Kanine Records’s 20th anniversary showcase at Mercury Lounge. With the half hour the band had to perform, the group offered up an enjoyably rousing set of shoegaze noise much to the enjoyment of the crowd which grew steadily as the set went along. Following their set, I walked around the block to Arlene’s Grocery to catch Athens, GA’s duo Monsoon. With guitarist/vocalist Siena Chandler’s effervescent stage presence, the duo provided the crowd at Arlene’s an energetic and passionate set of indie rock.
From Arlene’s, I headed on over to Berlin for back to back sets from Copenhagen’s Gäy and Boontown, NJ’s High. Before I go any further, I need to say that one of the greatest things about New Colossus is that all of the shows are within easy walking distance of one another making it quite easy to jump from one venue to another (provided that the sets were all on time as scheduled, to which they pretty much were all weekend long). Anyway, the set I got to check out from Gäy was my first true surprise of the evening and festival in general. Playing a brand of rock and roll which brought to mind the “pub rock” of mid 70’s UK, lead singer and guitarist Asger Overgaard and the rest of the band put on a fun filled raucous set (it seems like the band might have brought along its own little entourage of friends and fellow partiers for the show) which made me yearn for seeing them in some neighborhood pub back in their native Denmark. Following up was the shoegaze band out of New Jersey, High. Admittedly the segue to a sludgy shoegaze band after the rocking of Gäy was a bit awkward at first but High managed to pull it off without a hitch.
Once High had completed their heavy set, I was off to Piano’s Showroom for the synth pop group out of Oslo, Yndling. Now granted, synth pop isn’t exactly my thing, but front person and Yndling mastermind Silje presented the crowd to a groovy set of pleasant jams. Brooklyn’s very own Picture Show was next up at Pianos and they proceeded to treat the adoring audience to quite a wild and wacky set of live tunes as well as pre-recorded beats. FInishing off the evening, I planned to spend the rest of the night firmly planted front of stage at Berlin for a pair of local bands, Two-Man Giant Squid from Brooklyn and Asbury Park’s Teenage Halloween. Despite the silly name, Two-Man Giant Squid put on a seriously outrageous set which completely won over the legion of fans there to dance and scream along with them. Closing my night out was everyone’s favorite pop punk band from the Jersey Shore, Teenage Halloween. Their split 7” with Homeless Gospel Choir was a favorite release of mine from 2022 so I was quite stoked to be catching them live after having missed them too many times in the recent past. Luk Henderiks and crew did not disappoint as the band put on a scorching hot show with a handful of new unreleased songs along with the “hits” from the 7” as well as their two previously released full lengths.
TWO-MAN GIANT SQUID
Day Two – Thursday, March 9th
Going into day two on Thursday, I wasn’t 100% sure what I would be getting myself into. Of the five days scheduled, truth be told I knew the least about the bands I’d be catching on day two. As it turned out, it would turn out to be an epic night of newfound music. I got to Berlin in time for the opening set of the Dedstrange Records party which would be taking over the space that evening. For those who aren’t aware, Dedstrange is the new label operated by A Place To Bury Strangers’ and Death By Audio’s Oliver Ackerman who himself would be a fixture in the crowd throughout the upcoming days.
Opening the evening up was Kamikaze Nurse from Vancouver, BC. Coming at the crowd head-on with the band’s mix of noise/post-punk/shoegaze, I made an immediate mental note to try to catch another one of their sets later in the weekend. (Unfortunately, this would not come to fruition for me.) After Kamikaze’s set was over, I headed “uptown” to Heaven Can Wait to catch a couple of sets there. I got there in time to catch most of boy wonder, a one man band from Toronto consisting of Ryan (who, in case you were wondering, is not Drake’s producer). Anyhow, his set was fun in a novelty kind of way. Next up was Shred Flintstone from across the Hudson in Jersey City. I didn’t know much about this band and with that name, I wondered if I might be getting another novelty act. I guessed wrong, as Shred, the nom du plum of guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Dan Barrecchia proved to be a very proficient punk garage band that filled the room with loud hooky tunes. Finishing up my stay over at Heaven Can Wait was the main reason I was in the building to begin with, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, Wynona Bleach. Fronted by lead singer Melyssa Shannon, Wynona bills themselves as alternative crunchy popgaze and this certainly works as a pretty good description of what this band delivers.
The next band that I planned on seeing wasn’t scheduled to go on until 11 back at Berlin so there wasno need to rush to get there. Arriving at Berlin shortly before 10, I was shocked to find the club absolutely packed and I mean shoulder to shoulder, can’t move an inch JAMMED. On stage was a band I wasn’t familiar with but even though I couldn’t see the stage or the performers, it was obvious they had the crowd in quite a frenzy. Anyhow, I pushed and squeezed myself toward the standing area to the left of the stage and giving my phone a quick glance, I saw that the band on stage was one called Plattenbau from Berlin. I ultimately got a bit closer to the stage in order to witness what was going on up there and it was pretty close to sheer crazed bedlam. Their lead singer, Lewis Lloyd, was all over the tiny stage, climbing on top of amps, jumping into the crowd, writhing and dancing like a manic contortionist. In any event, Plattenbau’s performance had just shattered the ceiling for best set thus far. The music itself—a dark, synth heavy, kraut rock post punk noise explosion—was a combination of disturbing rage and ecstatic glee. I knew immediately that if they were playing again, I would have to adjust my plans to see them again.
I felt bad for whatever band had to come on stage following that spectacle, but little did I know that next up was another band from Berlin and another Dedstrange recording artist Jealous (or J3alous, depending on where you’re looking). Jealous is led by vocalist/guitarist Paz Bonafil and bassist/vocalist, Dane Joe. Well let me just say that if Plattenbau had left any doors still on their hinges after their set, Jealous hit the stage and proceeded to blow those doors right out of there. They were absolute fire and a little bit of brimstone to boot. Their set was loud, abrasive, raucous, sexy, and generally out of control. Exactly how rock and roll should be. I now had a second band that I needed to make room to see once again that weekend.
Which brings me to my final band of night two, THUS LOVE. One doesn’t usually think of shoegaze when they think of Vermont, but THUS LOVE does and they do it quite well as a matter of fact. Admittedly, through no fault of their own their set suffered in the energy department following the chaotic sets from Plattenbau and Jealous, with their brand of sludgy drony guitar heavy shoegaze, but that’s who they are and they are quite honestly great at it. And just like that day two (for me at least) was in the books. With Friday’s shows starting at noon, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of sleep on the horizon so fingers were definitely crossed that the BQE would be smooth sailing back to Staten Island.
Day Three, part one – Friday Afternoon, March 10th
Coming into day three, I knew I was in for a long one. My day would start with London’s Noah and The Loners at Berlin at noon and end at Mercury Lounge sometime around midnight with fellow London band, Ghum. In between the plan was for 13 bands at four separate venues. What exactly was I getting myself into?
Noah and The Loners just might have been the youngest of the bands which I got to see during the course of New Colossus, with all four band members clocking in at age 18 (or less). For their set at Berlin, it took the band a couple of tunes to work out the butterflies, but once they eased into their comfort zone, the band ROCKED! Make no mistake, if you’re a fan of loud, snotty Brit punk rock in the vein of fill in the bank with virtually any UK band from 1977/78, then you will love Noah and The Loners. They bill themselves as the punk sound of Gen Z and hands down these kids, Noah Lonergan (vox & guitar), Amber Welsh (bass & vox), Joe Boyle (guitar) and Noah Riley (drums) rock hard and loud with fun filled punk rock that also packs some powerful messages addressing topics that mean everything to the teens not only of the UK but worldwide. Topics like teen love, toxic masculinity, transphobia, racism, political corruption, and climate change were all addressed and shouted down within the Loner’s set. These kids are a band to which attention should be paid.
Following Noah would be Lauren Lakis, a dream pop outfit out of Austin, TX and Los Angeles. Lauren and her band offered up a nice nine song set which was highlighted by a screeching and soaring version of their just released single, “Take My Hand.” After their set, I quickly rushed over to Pianos to catch Bonnie Trash’s dark and brooding set in the Showroom. I would then catch electronica pop collective, Dirty Freud upstairs at Pianos who offered up an interesting and eclectic set. Then it was back downstairs to the showroom for Toronto psych rock band, Kali Horse, and after that was a quick jaunt back to Berlin for what would be three straight bands.
The first act, Singaporean pop band, Sobs, who put on a good set of sugary pop music. Next up would be one of my more anticipated bands of the weekend, Adwaith, from the town of Camarthen, Wales. Prior to listening to these women, I had never realized that the fine people of Wales had their own language, Welsh, which is completely different from the English which I always thought was their native tongue; you learn something new everyday! [Ed. Note: Welsh is a Celtic language spoken throughout Wales. Stay tuned for our upcoming interview with Adwaith.] The band, consisting of Gwenllian Anthony (bass/vocals), Hollie Singer (vocals/guitar) and Heledd Owen (drums), play a bouncy very danceable fun version of post-punk and all of their lyrics are sung in Welsh.
Their set at Berlin consisted of nine songs most of which were from their stellar 2022 release on Libertino Records, Bato Mato. Seeing the three members of Adwaith have an absolute blast on the tiny Berlin stage in the middle of the afternoon on a dreary mid March New York afternoon was certainly a sight to behold and no sooner was their fantastic set completed, then I was already looking forward to catching their second set of the festival the next afternoon. Dublin band, Silverbacks, had the unenviable task of having to follow Adwaith and they killed it with their eight song set of post punk anthems. With the polyrhythms of The Talking Heads crossed with the guitar dialogs of Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd from Television, Silverbacks totally won me over.
To close out the afternoon portion on Friday, I headed back to Pianos Showroom for two more bands before I would grab some dinner. The first of two was UK rock and roller The Silver Lines. Formed a couple of years ago by the Ravenscroft brothers, Dan and Joe, these dudes know how to rock. They had the midday crowd at Pianos jumping all over the place throughout their super energetic set. And finishing the afternoon off was the art rock band from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Heaven For Real. With their bouncy infectious rhythms, they had the crowd swaying and grooving throughout their set and proved to be almost the perfect band to close out the afternoon. And just like that I was halfway through my Friday music marathon. But before things were to continue, I was going to enjoy a well deserved pastrami sandwich from world famous neighborhood deli, Katz’s.