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Mom Fight Choke Artist Point Blank Agnostic Front
Brighton Bar 9/25/16
It was a very quiet Sunday night driving down residential streets to the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ. This was our first venture into Long Branch, a town made famous by the infamous haunted mansion and the tragic fire that burned it down in 1987. Sadly, it was one haunted attraction I never got to experience.
Unlike the mansion which was located on the pier, the Brighton Bar was along a neighborhood thoroughfare, relatively nondescript without exterior ornamentation or significant décor to mark it – inside it was pretty much like your typical suburban venue.
We rolled into the tailed end of what I believe was Mom Fight’s set. The brief impression was of raw vocals, new school hardcore with a slow drudgy sound and a rap/hip hop edge to it.
Choke Artist, a local NJ new school hardcore band followed next. Their style kind of epitomized the mid 90s new school era made infamous by the likes of Castle Heigh5ts and its faithful knuckle dragging crew (said with the utmost love and affection – ed.) “Speak of the Devil” defined their style, slowed down mid tempo hardcore with raw, in your face vocals. Tom (bassist) had this little dance thing going on, while Rich (vocals_ bobbed up and down as they pelted out the tunes. The set ended with “A Day Late and a Dollar Shorter”, which can be heard by visiting bandcamp.
Point Blank, from the boroughs of NYC, were up next Ken Wagner, who first made his presence known on stage a few years back with the Ken Wagner experience, a tribute band that covered the hardcore punk era of the early to mid 80s, is the front man – and if you never saw KWE, let me tell you, the raw energy and dramatic statesmanship carried over into Point Blank with a vengeance. Their profile describes them as “mixing early 80s style NYHC and punk with a new breed of aggressiveness’< which may indeed be true of Ken’s style of leaping onto the monitors, the amps and anywhere else he chooses, but musically I would characterize them as a melting pot of not only hardcore punk, but post hardcore, some garage, experimental and even a dash of Broadway show tunes (which is probably more due to Ken) – who at times can make it difficult to assimilate, let alone dance to, because they switch styles and tempos quite often during the same song.
The musicians playing behind the showman are Danny, the original bassist for the now legendry Underdog and a great guy, and newcomers Matt (guitar) and Shuffles (drums), and at times they act as a backdrop to Broadway Ken, as I like to call him. A lot of their songs are available on vinyl and can be heard on bandcamp as well, including “Survivor” and “Let Me Out,” both which they performed at Brighton. They are an unusually unique band in a hardcore sense and you might want to check them out and form your own opinion. Wassup, Danny!!!
With Agnostic Front about to get onstage, I expected twice the size crowd, which although there was a good representation was not as large as I have previously seen. Possibly it had much to do with the it being a Sunday night, coupled with the fact that they had played the Blackthorn in Queens on Friday and the Bowery Electric on Saturday – this being the third in a series of shows in close proximity to each other. I had spoken with Roger earlier in the night and he was quite ill at the time, but in true professional fashion was ready to go in. Craig, the guitarist from Slapshot is now playing with them in place of Joe Inhuman, along with old timers Mike Gallo (bass) and Pokey (drums).
The set opened with “Victim In Pain, “ followed in close proximity by “Your Mistake” and “Blind Justice.” Although clearly Roger was pushing himself, he still screamed out the words, as sweat poured over his traditional bandana and onto his forehead. The music still had that raw emotional feel to it, and that carried this band into the mid 80s. The crowd was going wild ad each favorite tune got trotted out. Vinny, or “Stigma” as his beloved fans call him, was hamming it up, raising his guitar exultantly over his head, joking and posturing between and even during songs. A lot of credit goes out to the strong presence of the three unsung musicians who hold the music together and put out some strong backing vocals as was apparent in songs such as “Fried or Foe” and “Unity.” What was also apparent was that whether the band wishes to acknowledge it or not, they have become synonymous with the early NY hardcore when shaved heads and street justice dominated the scene, and their catalogue of early songs have become anthemic to their fans.
The set ended with “Crucified”, the old Iron Cross song which have long since made their own, followed by “Gotta Gotta Go” (a tribute to Raybeez of Warzone) and finally, “Blitzkrieg Bop” (and if you need me to tell you whose song that is, you better turn in all your punk points) – ending a really fun night out of town. -- wje
Miscegenator Two Man Advantage
Hanks Saloon 8/19/16
For those who have never been to Hanks Saloon, it is an anomaly sitting in the midst of downtown Brooklyn, at the intersection of Atlantic and Third Avenues – a black painted façade with stickers covering the doorway. Despite its rundown exterior and dive bar interior, it has a surprisingly decent sound and an actual stage, albeit on the small side.
As attending this was a last minute decision, we arrived too late to celebrate Jason’s birthday, only catching the last few minutes of their set. We were fortunately able to get to see Two Man…has it really been over 20 years since we first caught them at Deja One in Mineola, Long Island? Still full of that musical blend of pop, melodic punk and hard edged rock ‘n roll, the band burst onto the tiny stage in all their hockey regalia and face paint, jus t as their loyal band of followers would expect of them. Spag waved his way through the crowd like he was parting the red sea during the instrumental that has traditionally opened their set.
The set was a litany of the band’s catalogue of hits, a mixed bag of the early hockey themed poppier punk numbers in the style of Screeching Weasels, Ramones et al, and the more recent grittier faster hard edged tunes. Spag's vocals have become grittier too, offset by the more melodic voice of Skate. The band sang, drank and joked with their audience as the walls dripped sweat from the packed crowd and the hot August night beat down on the black walled interior. At one point during “Keeper Of the Cup” Spag threw himself across the room, landing belly up on the table, putting out a candle in one of the glass holders, somehow managing to not burn himself.
The audience was a mixed bag of all genres, much in the way Murphy’s Law has always brought a mixed crowd, and in both cases they all want to sing along to the tunes.
Spag kept referring to Jason Miscegenator’s birthday, making him come to the stage to “chugalug” a PBR, all the while the band was belting out such crowd favorites as “Keepers of the Cup”, “Bastard of the Ice”, “Dying Breed,’ and my all time favorite “I dreamed About Hockey”, as well as “Skating Down The Ice.” At one point Spag simulated garroting himself with the mic chord while standing on the bar, with no one missing a beat. Still a powerhouse to be reckoned with after all these years, they once again finished with “Commercial Break” (known to some as “Have A Beer With the Two Man”), which everyone most likely did..and even managed to squeeze in an encore. What more could anyone ask for? -- wje
Hounds Of Justice Wheezing Stumblers Room 237
8/16 Mother Pugs
Caught the tail end of Hounds of Justice from Staten Island. They had a very raw Screeching Weasels/Queers style with Kenny (singer/guitarist) sporting a Ramones t-shirt, just to drive that point home. From what I did hear, they had some catchy tunes that made me wish we had got there earlier.
The second band, the Wheezing Stumblers, were a three piece band from Buffalo. Had to give them props for playing a pretty lengthy set, since their drummer had a badly sprained thumb, which he kept icing in a cup of water between each song. I had done my homework, listening to them earlier on bandcamp, where the music was a pretty tight mixture of hardcore and rock, but at this particular show the sound was a bit on the sloppier side, which of course was understandable given the drummer’s condition.
The Wheezing Stumblers stoically plugged through their set with Mike (guitarist) prancing around the stage like a spastic spider while Joe (bassist) crouched down, posing like a demented Johnny Ramone. The music was more on the heavy rhythmic end; at times they played rapid fire hardcore so that their fingers appeared as a blur. The frenetic rhythmic style reminded me of early Bad Brains at times, high energy speed with distinctive vocals. The crowd’s response was a little on the lukewarm side, which they tried to combat by attempting to get a rise from them by shaming them, comparing them to Buffalo – but to no avail.
This was the Wheezing Stumblers first live gig in six years, as I learned after the show, and although they initially started out in Buffalo, they have made New York City their home.
Keeping up with the reunion theme, Room 237 closed the night. This band was all about the image with their horror themed clothes and makeup, even to the extreme of having a drum kit that changed color and using horror samples on his kit. This five piece band with their flashy drums and ghoulish style played like they were posing for a horror video. I will give them props for image, but their blend of goth/industrial/punk with a dash of rap thrown in didn’t do it for me. In fact, they seemed incongruous amidst the other bands, playing in a divey bar (no offense, guys!) like Mother Pugs and might have felt more at home in the metal capital of Brooklyn, St. Vitus. Didn’t stay till the end so if there were pyrotechnics I can’t say…wje
Benefit Show for Dr. Know –
Maximum Penalty Antidote Cro-Mags Token Entry Breakdown
Tompkins Square Park – 7/23/16
In the baking heat of one of the hottest days of last summer, a benefit show was held in Tompkins Square Park for Dr. Know, guitarist of the Bad Brains. In recent years Gary Miller aka Dr. Know has been residing in the quiet community of Woodstock, NY and could be spotted behind the counter at Sun Frost, a vegetarian restaurant and grocery store. Then in the fall of 2015 he went into cardiac arrest and was put on life support for two weeks followed by intensive care and rehab, all of which entailed not only a long road to recovery, but extensive medical bills. A GoFundMe page was set up by Vaughn Lewis, the band’s manager, along with other fundraising campaigns, this concert being one of them. A booth was set up at the event and people were encouraged to make donations, which many did.
There was a huge crowd present in the park, to not only see some legendary bands like Token Entry, but also to show their support and love of such an influential person. Unfortunately, due to work constraints we had to miss a large part of the show, but were not only able to catch the last two bands.
A rejuvenated Token Entry were setting up as I took out my camera, setting up position on stage like I had been doing since 1981. The lineup of for this show was of course was Ernie on drums, with Johnny S., original bassist for the band, along with Timmy Chunks (vocals) and Jay (Warzone) on guitar. The music was as amazing as you could only expect from this band, bringing back long ago memories of the old days at A7 and the early CBGB matinees when they were on Saturdays (although at the time the band was called Gilligan’s Revenge). Timmy paced back and forth during the set, no longer a skinny shaved headed kid, he still had the energy and power of those early days. The set was a greatest hits medley, and even included a cover of Reagan Youth’s “Degenerated.” After the show I asked Ernie when we could see them again, but he wasn’t making any promises. So just cross your fingers guys!
At this point Dr. Know was assisted onto the stage, now an older statesman with his unmistakable gray massive dreads, he poured out his love and gratitude onto everyone - which the audience returned in kind. Afterward, Jeff Perlin and the Breakdown crew took over as the last band of the day. Jeff started off by saying that “the music wouldn’t exist today without the Bad Brains,” and kept referring to Dr. Know as a “living legend.”
In typical fashion, Jeff interspersed bits of dry humor between songs, poking fun of such things as tube socks. The music was fast and furious, including number such as “All I Ask’, “Your Problem”, “Label” and “You’ve Gotta Fight”. A gaggle of little kids were dancing and crowd surfing during their set. The next generation, perhaps??
It was a great afternoon of music, friendship and support – and hopefully we will see Dr. Know, “the living legend” , up there on the stage sometime in the near future…. wje
Narkoleptics Dischaka Scuzz Wad
Bushwick Public House July 2016
This was my first venture into the Bushwick Public House, and unfortunately was to be my last, as it seems for whatever the reason they discontinued punk shows after this one, which was too bad as it was an interesting place, albeit a very hipster one. Upstairs is a combo coffee and liquor bar and downstairs was where the bands played. The only real problem was the lack of any real ventilation. As it was an incredibly hot night to begin with, downstairs was like walking into a sauna – and I mean –absolutely not even the pretensions of an air conditioner or an industrial strength fan – I could only imagine how the bands held up under the hot lights, but at least no one expired that night…or maybe they did, and hence, the end of punk shows!!
The Narkoleptics opened, a fast paced three piece whose sound hit you like a wall of thrash and noise, which at the time I attributed to the bad acoustics, but since have come to realize is their signature sound. Their set was on the short side, or as Joe, their guitarist put it,” We don’t want to play longer than the audience can stand.”
Dischaka took the stage next with some really good fast paced punk tunes, in a style reminiscent of such bands as Violent Society or the early Casualties. When they introduced a new song about cop killers their audience went wild,moshing up the place while he singer did some bopping and pogoing action on the non-existent stage. The action reminded high paced through the short set, a relentless onslaught of punk music.
There was some confusion s to the order of the last two bands which I believe wound up with Scuzz going before Wad, which turned out to be a blessing, for us at least as Scuzz was by far the best band of the night. Hailing from Albany, they played some mean ass, fast and raw hardcore punk. Their singer, Dillon, spent the majority of their set in the pit, moving from side to side, circling, stalking the perimeter, and at times charging through the crowd like a bull, bashing into the unsuspecting who weren’t paying attention. Their sound was relentless, giving DRI a run for their money. If you haven’t had a chance to see them, I recommend seeking out their vinyl. They will also be playing March 14th at Lucky 13.
Wad, the last band was very dramatic. Their singer’s mannerisms reminded me of Ron Grimaldi of Deathcycle. The crowd was manic at this point, forcing the singer to retreat back to the “stage”. They had a kind of erratic sound and that, combined with the fact that I was sweating from the heat, got me heading back upstairs halfway through their set.
It is really a shame that there aren’t more shows, because it is a pleasant change to have a venue showcase bands that aren’t the same recycled ones week after week.
The Mugs Cruiser Moral Panic Bowhead Channel 3
The Grand Victory May 13th
We arrived as Moral Panic were beginning their set. They were a basic rock ‘n roll garage band circa mid to late 90s circa The Continental, complete with generic wardrobe and limited (if any) stage presence. Some of their songs had a few catchy hooks, and the audience seemed to shake their hips to them, but frankly, I was bored and looked forward to their exiting the stage.
Bowhead, fronted by Davey Gunner, singer of Kraut fame, was up next. First, let me say, if you were looking for a Kraut clone you weren’t going to find it here. If, Broken, the band Davy was prior to Bowhead, was post hardcore, Bowhead took the music one step further, in some ways reminiscent stylistically of mid 90s bands like Silent Majority. Davy still has a very dynamic, powerful stage presence, although his vocals have deepened with age, and, at times are more gritty, but not as much as singers like the late Lemmy. He knows how to engage the audience, spicing up the songs with verbal quips, as he pogoed and bounced around on the stage. At times it was hard to make out the words, as the acoustics in Grand Victory leave a lot to be desired, particularly if you are not too familiar with the band. Bowhead did manage to cover a few Kraut tunes such as “This IS Your Last Chance”, “World War III” and ending with “Bogus.” I loved Kraut and still consider them a great band from the early NYHC years, and during those songs missed the signature guitar playing of Doug Holland. Bowhead is a new direction for Mr. Gunner and I think people should give them a chance, instead of looking backwards.
And with those words, we segued into Channel 3, who, from the moment they seized the stage, the room was filled with an energy and vibrancy that was missing from the whole night. Seeing them in 2016 was like seeing them in 1983, only we were all a bit older. Their songs are timeless, not a dud in the bunch. Mike (vox) spent a lot of time between hits cracking self-deprecating jokes about age, particularly with regard to certain pertinent numbers. They dedicated one song to the late great John Stabb (Government Issue) who is much missed. (He was a really great, personable human being whose loss is deeply felt – ed.) Highlights of CH3’s set included “Catholic Boy”, “I’ve Got A Gun” and “You Make Me Feel Cheap”, and really, just about everything else.
The last time I saw Channel 3 was before CBs closed, so it was a real treat to see them alive and well and rocking out. On a more personal note, this was the first in years, and exactly one year from my surgery, that I was able to dance and totally enjoyed those moments at the Grand Victory, moshing it up as the rapport between band and audience became one. Three cheers for Channel 3 and the conclusion of a great evening that left me with a smile on my face.
As a final note, bands like Channel 3 bring out a wide array of people, both old and new faces. At this show I was reacquainted with Andrew, an old friend who worked with us on the very first issues of Guillotine. In 1982 we used to hang out at my old apartment in Jackson Heights on Friday nights listening to all the new records. After all these years, “hats off to you, mate!”