Being in a touring band affords one many things: pungent body odor, sleep deprivation, abject poverty, and seeing lots of bands. Since I’m still on the road with my band, Boilerman, I’m going to focus on the latter in an effort to keep a positive mental attitude for the rest of the trip (in all fairness, this tour has actually been great). To avoid dredging through a list of every band we’ve played with, I’ve decided to instead highlight the finest acts from each city since the last installment. That’s not to say other bands we played with weren’t good – we’ve actually had surprisingly excellent luck when it comes to not playing with terrible bands this trip – but these are the cream of the crop.
10/17 – New Hampshire: NOTCHES opened their set with a frantic, wild cover of BIKINI KILL’s “New Radio.” Did they mess up the ending of my favorite BIKINI KILL song? Yes. Did it matter? Absolutely not. They blazed into their next tune shamelessly. A lesser band would have let the stink of that botched cover linger unpleasantly, tarnishing the rest of their set, but not NOTCHES. The New Hampshire three piece churned through their brand of Superchunk meets youthful, vaguely dark pop punk with all the grit that should accompany the genre. Both the guitarist and the bassist, the latter of whom comes from the great band BILLY RAYGUN, share vocal duties and it makes for a much more dynamic and complex set of songs. They closed their set with “Detroit has a Skyline” by the mighty SUPERCHUNK and I was surprised to see the garage still standing at the song’s end.
10/19 – Willimantic, CT: SPIT-TAKE, the newest band featuring the excellent Katz brothers from bands like HEATS OF FORMATION, SOFX, and many more, opened this show up. By doing so, they preemptively stole the entire thing. I wasn’t sure what to expect as the members’ previous output has ranged from ambient, weird emo to more straight forward melodic punk, but this was a pleasant mix of both. The vocals remained pained and intense, but were dialed down appropriately when it was needed. The guitars were jangly and weaving, but the drums and bass set down a solid, consistent foundation over which the guitar could afford to get a little wild. Their songs also vary a lot in length which is a nice touch that solidifies SPIT-TAKE as a really interesting band to watch. Their demo tape was released at this show and I look very forward to giving it a listen.
10/20 – Long Island, NY: WARM NEEDLES were fresh off of their UK tour and it was clear they still had a bit of the tour tightness in them. This Long Island band plays a blend of No Idea style gritty pop punk that has some interesting twists and turns that serve to keep things interesting. I had heard some stuff by the band before and thought it was solid without being spectacular, but the live set changed my mind for the better. The drumming is ridiculously tight and controlled without going overboard on fills. The bass provides a good solid rhythm while still throwing in some melodic licks, and the guitar switched between classic pop punk chord progressions and commanding leads. WARM NEEDLES played a set of a reasonable length as well, something a lot of bands could stand to learn.
10/21 – Philadelphia, PA: When BAD SIDE set up, there was a palpable tension in the room. They struck their first note and the small living room of the house exploded immediately. It had been a long time since I had seen a band have such total control over a room for an entire set. The band blazed through its assault of intense, diverse hardcore punk as the vocalist snarled wildly into the microphone. The mic didn’t once leave its stand, a fact which somehow managed to make the singer’s presence more intimidating without being macho or overtly threatening. There was something almost eerie about BAD SIDE’s ability to completely charge the air and, by extension, the room around them with energy. People somersaulted, hung from rafters, climbed support beams, and shouted along. Bodies collided with and dove on top of other bodies. BAD SIDE’s recorded material is great, but seeing them live is a whole different experience – one that is unnerving, tense, and awe-inspiring.
There are a few more shows to go on this tour, so stay tuned for the action packed conclusion.