Children of Bodom, Swallow The Sun, and Wolfheart on the “Hexed Tour” at Reverb (Ep 90 + 91)

4/18/19 – Children of Bodom / Swallow The Sun / Wolfheart – Reverb Reading, PA.

After a hearty dinner at the nearby Pike Cafe and Bar, we made our way into the venue to catch the tail end of Summoner’s Circle‘s set.  Robes, makeup and doom.  Check.  Check. Check.  

Next was Wolfheart. Hot off of last year’s ‘Constellations of the Black Light’ the band came out with an energetic set, featuring a drummer who may or may not be the Energizer bunny.  This is the latest project (yet still rather long-running) of Tuomas Saukkonen.  The bass player frequently engaged the crowd and this was the point in the evening where the audience was beginning to congregate around the stage.

Wolfheart – Photo by Henry Chung

Swallow the Sun brought a more meditative and somber set.  The lights were mostly low and the more melancholy, less doomy material on their latest album, ‘When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light’ was an appropriate pairing for the set.  First single “Firelight” was featured along with “Under The Water” and “Stone Wings” the latter of which especially seemed like a crowd favorite.  To be honest, a lot of the crowd didn’t seem to know what to make of the set for the first few songs.  The evening’s consistently low vocal mic didn’t do anyone any favors though it improved slightly as the show progressed.  At a certain point, everyone seemed to wake up a bit and respond to the music with most people seeming to be on board by the end.  While half of the set was new, they ended with their traditional closer “Swallow (The Horror Pt. 1”).  

Swallow the Sun – Photo by Henry Chung

Our headliners, Children of Bodom came out and so did the red and especially purple lights which was appropriate for their latest album ‘Hexed.’  “Are You Dead Yet?” was a pounding way to begin the show

Children of Bodom – Photo by Henry Chung

Interestingly, the band had recently toured on their very earliest material, so a fair amount of that was in the set along with a lot from mid-period favorites ‘Are You Dead Yet?’ and ‘Hate Crew Deathroll.’  Of course there were the new songs, the perfect first single “Over Grass and Clover,” along with “The Road,” “Platitudes and Barren Words” and “Hecate’s Nightmare.”  These tracks reflect a lot of the best aspects of ‘Hexed’ which many are considering a bit of a return to form for the band, embracing some of their neoclassical roots while having some catchier tracks than the last few albums.  

Relatively new guitar player Daniel Freyberg proved himself to be a worthy additional as he held up his end of the deal with the songs.  Of course, everyone else in the band are longtime constants so no questions there.  Seeing keyboardist, Janne Wirman, in action was especially a treat as his tremendous dexterity and manipulation of the keys is truly the X-factor that helps to set the band apart.  All of this was done on his backup keyboard which, itself, had some faulty switches, as he explained at one point in the set.  

Children of Bodom – Photo by Henry Chung

One of my personal favorites “Bodom Beach Terror” was played early and the rarely heard “If You Want Peace…Prepare For War” lent a bit of extra speed and heaviness to the show. Really, the selection was very good to appease fans new and old.  Of course, with ten albums out, there are always going to be few songs that don’t make the cut for this go-round but, all things considered, everyone in attendance should have been, and seemed very thrilled.  We even had some late-show crowd surfing. 

The encore started with another of my favorites “Hate Me!” and ended with “Downfall.”

Children of Bodom – Photo by Henry Chung

This package was a really rare treat as to have three wildly different bands from Finland playing in a little B-market (maybe C-Market?) like Reading in a tremendous convergence of unlikely factors.  More than that, it was a great time.

Before the evening began, I had the pleasure of speaking with Janne from Children of Bodom.  Of course, we talked about ‘Hexed’ but we also dove into their studios, some glaring omissions from the album, barbecuing, their beer and quite a bit more.

Interview with Janne Wirman, keyboardist from Children of Bodom

Pick up Children of Bodom’s ‘Hexed’HERE

Right after that, I tracked down Mikko Kotamaki, vocalist from Swallow The Sun.  The interview was conducted right outside the venue which of course, featured a passing train, passing fans, and angry yellow jackets. Distractions aside, we spoke about his vocal evolution, other projects, Nick Cave, Paradise Lost, and quite a bit more.

Interview with Mikko Kotamaki, vocalist from Swallow The Sun

Pick up Swallow the Sun’s ‘When A Shadown is Forced Into The Light’HERE

You can pick up Hedonihil ‘I’HERE

Words / Interview by: JJ Ellis
Photos by: Henry Chung

Exclusive Interview: Goatwhore (Ep 89)

The 2018 edition of the Metal Alliance Tour which began on Halloween came to a close on November 30th in Easton, Pennsylvania at One Center Square.

For reasons to be explained later, I was unable to see any of the local openers and much of Gozu’s set. 

For that reason, let’s resume with The Great American Ghost which brought intensity to the stage and brought their energetic stage show to a crowd that was, admittedly, still filling in. 

The Great American Ghost – Photo by Henry Chung

Georgia’s Black Tusk was next up and by this point, the room was filling up.  Their rough and tumble brand of rock, most recently heard on their album ‘TCBT’ brought a different vibe to the show, highlighting the lineup’s variety.  Being a fan for some time, I knew a lot of the music but didn’t particularly have a clear picture of the band, especially in light of lineup changes.  Seeing all four of the band members contributing vocals was very cool and showed a wrinkle that many of their contemporaries can’t boast.

Black Tusk – Photo by Henry Chung

Next was The Casualties, a very distinct punk act that dates all the way back to the 90s.  Their newest album ‘Written In Blood’ is certainly up to their usual high standard but I wasn’t aware that they had acquired a new frontman, David Rodriguez.  He contributed a ton of energy and, to be perfectly honest, they might have stolen the whole show.  The crowd was clearly pumped to see them, judging by the Casualties patches and punk attire in the crowd and the fact that the pit exploded during their set.  The set ended with Rodriguez somehow getting up to the second story of the venue and jumping down into the crowd where the audience (thankfully) caught him. 

The Casualties – Photo by Henry Chung

Finally, things got heavy and dark with the mighty Goatwhore headlining the show.  The set could be best described as unrelenting.  There were selections from newest album ‘Vengeful Ascension’ plus older favorites.  The songs varied from fast and pummeling to occasionally heavy and doomy.  This created the needed ebbs and flows for a dynamic set.  The rhythm section was tight but everything was led by the tasty riffs of Sammy Duet and the rasps and energetic stage presence of Ben Falgoust.  It was to be said, Falgoust spent a huge percentage of the set right up in the crowd’s face, slapping high-fives and fist bumps, really keeping the front row (at least) engaged.

Goatwhore – Photo by Henry Chung

As many would, presumably, hope, they ended the set with “FBS’.  There was no need for an encore as I think I can speak for many others, we were all spent.

Before the evening began, I was able to sit down with Ben to talk about all things Goatwhore.  It was also one of the relatively rare times I get to talk to someone on the last night of the tour and be able to get a true view of the tour with it being in hindsight.  We got into how to survive being the road demons that they are, the fact that this tour came on the heels of the previous tour being canceled, hot sauce, Queen and so much more.

Much respect to Ben for being such a cool guy to talk to and for the band existing and thriving for the last 20 years.

Pick up ‘Vengeful Ascension’ HERE

Exclusive Interview: Sinking Our Teeth In With Sharptooth (Ep 86)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be torn apart by a velociraptor?

I certainly hope not, that would be an odd and unpleasant thing to dwell on, wouldn’t it?

Perhaps the musical equivalent to this, though, would be experiencing Baltimore’s favorite co-ed hardcore band Sharptooth.

I spoke to their fiery frontwoman Lauren Kashan and we dove right into their full-length ‘Clever Girl’, Magic: the Gathering, dinosaurs, cruises and much more.

Words/ Interview: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

Exclusive Interview: Doll Skin (Ep 85)

With the overwhelming number of bands at Warped Tour and the limited time, it’s usually easiest to try to just stick with the handful that you’ve known for years. While that can be fine, it can also be rewarding to branch out a little bit and get a glimpse at the next generation.

Speaking to Sydney Dolezal from Doll Skin was a joy. Though they may be young, the Arizona band are all excellent musicians (thanks School of Rock!) and magnetic stage performers. Their set was the only one I was able to catch beginning to end with no interruptions (thanks busy and strangely spaced-out interview schedule!) but it was memorable.

We talk about their full-length ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’, having their faces in unexpected places, slam poetry and character tropes, hiding bodies, the perfect doll-themed music festival and their ties to eastern Pennsylvania.

Words/ Interview: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

The Gen-X Summer Tour With Buckcherry, Lit, and Alien Ant Farm at One Centre Square

Nostalgia is defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” When I first heard the announcement of the Gen-X Summer Tour, my first reaction was that this was just another nostalgia tour. Buckcherry, Lit, and Alien Ant Farm (no P.O.D. on this date, unfortunately) whose hits have been radio mainstays for the last 25 years are the definition of nostalgia in terms of modern radio rock.

While waiting outside of Easton’s One Center Square for doors to open, I was scanning the crowd and was delighted to see a mixed demographic. There were those who only knew Buckcherry via “Crazy Bitch,” and that might be the only song they know. Then there were those who weren’t even born when their first hit “Lit Up” first hit airwaves. Overall, I ended up in pleasant conversation with others about our own experiences with these artists.

Alien Ant Farm:

AlienAntFarm_OneCentreSquare_-_Easton-PA_©Henry_Chung 04
Alien Ant Farm – Photo by Henry Chung

Alien Ant Farm was the first act on the bill. While I was upstairs setting up my gear and checking out merch, I saw they had a stack of CD’s laying on a table. I ran into my friend Hailey who was working with the promoter tonight. I mentioned to her that I used to be a part of the band’s street team and handed out these exact CDs to people at shows so many years ago. Within the first few bars of “Movies,” I noticed I was laying there with my back pressed up against the barricade singing along without skipping a beat. I haven’t heard this song in over 17yrs and I knew every single word.

The band played a mostly from ‘ANThology’ but also touched upon ‘Up in the Attic’ and ‘truANT’ then ending their set with Micheal Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”

Lit:

Lit_OneCentreSquare_-_Easton-PA_©Henry_Chung 12
Lit – Photo by Henry Chung

Lit came out and opened with a cover of “American Girl” by Tom Petty before rolling right into “Four.” The band who proudly wore sunny California on its sleeve warmed the audience with their brightly colored pop rock.

Though the members might have a few extra greys in their beards, it’s clearly not slowing them down one bit as they hammed it up for the audience who loved every second of it.

A majority of the set leaned heavily on ‘A Place in the Sun’ while still touched on ‘The View From the Bottom’ as well as new tracks “Good Problem to Have” and “Someday Maybe” off of their new record ‘These Are the Days.’ Of course, their set had to end with “My Own Worst Enemy.” It’s pretty much mandatory, now.

Buckcherry:

Buckcherry_OneCentreSquare_-_Easton-PA_©Henry_Chung 02
Buckcherry – Photo by Henry Chung

The greatest memory I have of Buckcherry was that it was the show that Cory (Neostar co-founder) first crowd surfed.

Having been the longest-running band of the night, Buckcherry had a greater catalog to choose from. Despite picking select tracks off of each of their records, the band leaned heavily on ’15.’

A trend of the night was that each band played a cover song. Alien Ant Farm had “Smooth Criminal” (Micheal Jackson), Lit did “American Girl” (Tom Petty), and for Buckcherry, they did “Say Fuck It” (a clever twist of Icona Pop’s “I Love It”).

From the bands playing together on this tour, right down to the venue itself, it felt like everything has come full circle. One Center Square is basically a reincarnation of the once great Crocodile Rock Cafe in Allentown. It is utilized by the same promoter and is (mostly) staffed by many familiar faces. Despite all that has changed from venues, to band lineups, to musical directions, and popular trends, rock clearly isn’t going anywhere.

Words/ Photos: Henry Chung

Tour Dates:

06/28 @Summerfest– Harley Davidson – Milwaukee, WI 
06/29 @ Corbin Arena – Corbin, KY 
06/30 @ Stars and Stripes Festival FREE SHOW – Novi, MI 
07/03 @ Miramar Amphitheater – Miramar, FL 
07/05 @ The Stage on the Bay – Savannah. GA ^ 
07/06 @ The Beaver Bar – Murrels Inlet, SC 
07/07 @ Pier Six Pavillion – Baltimore, MD 
07/26 @ The Amphitheater at Bald Hill – Farmingville, NY 
07/27 @ The Palladium – Worcester, MA 
07/28 @ CURE Insurance Arena – Trenton, NJ 
07/30 @ Exhibition Hall – Watertown, NY
07/31 @ Mavricks Music Hall – Barrie, ON
08/03 @ Bluestem Amphitheater – Moorhead, MN
08/06 @ Iron Horse Saloon FREE SHOW – Sturgis, SD
08/09 @ Choctaw Casino & Resort FREE SHOW – Pocola, OK
08/10 @ Golden Nugget Casino – H20 – Lake Charles, LA
08/11 @ Griffin Music Hall – El Dorado, AR
08/12 @ Summers at the River – Nixa, MO
08/14 @ Stampede – Aurora, CO
08/17 @ The Northwoods Rock Rally – Glen Fora, WI
08/19 @ Providence Medical Center – Bonner Springs, KS
08/21 @ Concrete Street Pavilion – Corpus Christi, TX
8/22 @ HEB Center – Cedar Park, TX
08/24 @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music – Irving, TX
08/25 @ Speaking Rock Entertainment FREE SHOW – El Paso, TX
08/26 @ Smart Financial Centre at Sugarland – Sugar Land, TX
08/28 @ Abilene Civic Center – Abilene, TX
08/30 @ Tyson Events Center – Sioux City, IA
08/31 @ DuQuoin State Fair – DuQuoin, IL
09/01 @ Naperville Last Fling – Naperville, IL
09/03 @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre – St. Louis, MO *
09/06 @ BLK Live – Scottsdale, AZ
09/07 @ BLK Live – Scottsdale, AZ

^ No P.O.D.
*Pointfest Radio Show with Offspring, 311, and more

Exclusive Interview: Digging Deep with Buz McGrath of Unearth (Ep 84)

The last we heard from Unearth, they had put out ‘Watchers of Rule’ in 2014 and had done some touring. That seems par for the course but the landscape around them had shifted.

Most of their New England brethren had undergone some transitions: Killswitch Engage had reunited with their original singer and was starting to build back momentum, dusk fell on Shadows Fall and All That Remains charted a melodic-radio ready course that challenged their entire fanbase.

Unearth – Photo by Henry Chung

Unearth did some touring but really went silent in 2017. This was not a cause for concern, though, they just recharged their batteries and were quietly working on new material. This will see the light of day in fall of 2018 on Century Media Records in the form of a full-length called ‘Extinctions.’

I spoke to guitar wizard Buz McGrath about this, collaborating, challenging themselves, bowling, the legend of Jimmy Phipps and more. Interestingly enough, the band had an extremely small sampling of Warped Tour in the early 2000’s but had wanted to get back on for a full run ever since.

In just under the wire, boys.

Words/ Interview: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

Vans Warped Tour 2018: The End of an Era

For the last 24yrs, the Vans Warped Tour has been been the largest traveling music festival in the United States plus the longest-running touring music festival in North America. Criss-crossing through the US (and the occasional parts of the UK and Australia), It’s been nicknamed the “punk rock summer camp” for veteran bands and those trying to making a name for themselves. The tour is not one for the weak willed. The grueling Summer heat, the traveling, vehicle breakdowns, an ever changing daily schedule, and time away from loved ones would push those to their limits. But for a lot kids (and young adults like me), this tour was a place where you can be yourself and be one with your tribe.

The blow-up schedule for the Camden, NJ stop of the Vans Warped Tour 07/13/2018

This year would be considered the final cross-country run of the Vans Warped Tour. Despite what everyone else keeps thinking, the TOURING part is over but not the festival. Who knows what the future may hold for this Summertime staple.

As I made my way through the production halls of the BB&T Pavilion in Camden NJ, a moment of melancholy loomed over me. This is the last time I’ll be getting lost in these halls for Warped. All of the friends I have made over the years in production I might never see again after this. After a moment of clarity, I pushed onward and met up with my writer for my shot list. (NOTE: I was originally collaborating with another outlet but a lot of the interviews that were originally approved ended up being cancelled that morning so I decided to share the coverage here instead.)

Tonight Alive – Photo by Henry Chung

One of the first groups I shot was Tonight Alive. Us here at neostar//media have had a long history with with the band. Some of our first Warped interviews were with various members as they were on the rise. It’s still phenomenal to see how far their careers have soared over the years and they’ve always made time to hang out and talk to us whenever we’d run into each other at shows. This was their 4th time on the tour.

Nekrogoblikon – Photo by Henry Chung

The next group I saw was Nekrogoblikon. There’s been a buzz over the last few months about this band. The crowds were too massive for me to fight my way through so I hopped up on the Monster Energy truck to try and catch a wide shot. This was their first ever run on the Vans Warped Tour.

Wage War – Photo by Henry Chung

Next, I made my way through to catch Wage War. I believe they were on the previous year but I never got a chance to see them until I caught their set during the Self Help Fest last September. Their album ‘Deadweight’ was hands down one of my favorite records of last year. This was also their 2nd Warped Tour run.

Four Years Strong – Photo by Henry Chung

Next up was Four Years Strong. I wasn’t sure what to expect from FYS this summer. Probably a “hits” show since they’ve just released an acoustic record earlier this year Some of You Will Like This, Some of You Won’t so figured they’d just stick with fan-favorites (which they did.) This is their 6th year playing the Vans Warped Tour.

Crown the Empire – Photo by Henry Chung

The buzz around Crown the Empire has been the departure of co-vocalist Dave Escamilla with Andy Leo taking over full vocal duties. You can tell that there was just “something” missing from their performance but over all, I think Andy did a great job. It was almost impossible to get a still shot of him as he kept jumping around on stage. This was their 4th time on the Vans Warped Tour.

We the Kings – Photo by Henry Chung

We the Kings opened their set each day with the crowd singing along to Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” before going right into “Sad Song” and kept the crowd singing along throughout their half-hour set all the way into their closer “Check Yes Juliet.” This was their 6th time on the Vans Warped Tour.

The Amity Affliction – Photo by Henry Chung

Another Australian band that has been making waves this summer was The Amity Affliction. The band has been gearing up to release the sixth studio album, ‘Misery’. This was also their 3rd time on the Vans Warped Tour.

Simple Plan – Photo by Henry Chung

Playing their 12th run on the Vans Warped Tour, the Canadian pop-punk band Simple Plan was also celebrating their 20th anniversary as well.

Falling In Reverse – Photo by Henry Chung

Falling In Reverse are no strangers to the Vans Warped Tour. This will be their 6th time returning to the tour.

Every Time I Die – Photo by Henry Chung

I don’t know what else there is to say about Every Time I Die that hasn’t been said a million times before. They have become a Warped Tour staple over the years, they put on one of the best live shows, and their albums are phenomenal. This is Every Time I Die’s 9th run on the tour.

Hatebreed – Photo by Henry Chung

Hatebreed was a “special guest” on two of the East Coast dates of Vans Warped Tour. Today in Camden, NJ and tomorrow at Holmdel, NJ. In the previous year when I tried to photograph them, but a massive thunderstorm erupted over the skies above us causing us to seek shelter. This year, I finally get redemption. Within the first note, they did not let up. They tore right into old school fan-favorites. The majority of their set leaned more on the hardcore side of their catalog. This is the band’s 3rd time on the Vans Warped Tour.

Senses Fail – Photo by Henry Chung

Earlier this year, Senses Fail released their seventh album titled ‘If There is Light, It Will Find You.’ It was a deeply nostalgic and personal record written by vocalist and sole original member Buddy Nelson. The entire record harkens back to the sing-along feels of their landmark album ‘Let It Enfold You.’ But being around the same age as the singer, a lot of the songs on the new record felt uncomfortably too relatable. From growing up and getting older, dealing with the loss of close ones, and having kids. Just a few songs in, Buddy dedicates the song “Elevator to the Gallows” to his daughter Penelope (seen in the bottom corner along with his wife.) The main highlight of their set was the Nu Metal mashup of System Of A Down’s “Chop Suey”, Drowning Pool’s “Bodies”, Limp Bizkit’s “Break stuff” and Rage Against The Machine’s “Bulls On Parade” towards the end. This was their 6th year on the Vans Warped Tour.

Motionless In White – Photo by Henry Chung

We’re getting closer to the end now. Closing the Monster Energy White Lightning stage today is our very own Motionless In White. With the recent departure of  longtime bassist Devin “Ghost” Sola, they called in the help of the group’s former guitarist, TJ Bell to fill in for the duration of the tour. This is also the band’s 10th run on the Vans Warped Tour.

Twiztid – Photo by Henry Chung

Now officially finishing the night is Twiztid. I didn’t know what to expect from them. I’ve heard of them and have had friends been fans of them over the years but I knew absolutely nothing about them. But, their stage presence was a pleasant surprise. They came out onstage with a live drummer to be honest, hearing the clean drums with a backing track was a nice relief to the ears after eight straight hours of punishing breakdowns.

So as sad it is that the tour is over. I try NOT to dwell too much on it. In the last two decades, I’ve felt that I have found an identity associated with the tour and the music it encompasses. I have watched as bands begin from playing small stages to filling arenas to becoming household names, from touring in broken down vans to becoming icons. The tour might be over but the music isn’t. If anything, it just opens up doors for others to start their own movement. Summers won’t be the same again after this but in the end, the music will continue.

Words and Photos by: Henry Chung

Exclusive Interview: The Lawrence Arms ‘Are the Champions of the World’ (Ep 82)

TLA : RCR Tour

A slightly chilly night in Lancaster, PA was the setting for The Lawrence Arms, Red City Radio, and Sincere Engineer as they came to the Chameleon Club as a part of the North East portion of their tour.

Sincere Engineer

Sincere Engineer (aka. Deanna Belos) sometimes plays with a full band, but at least for this tour, she was touring solo and acoustic. Her performance was largely in support of her debut LP Rhombithian which came out late last year. She also covered “My Friend Peter” by the Alkaline Trio with copious amounts of crowd participation. The future is bright for Sincere Engineer. Keep an ear out for her to be making some real noise in the future.

Red City Radio

Red_City_Radio_-_Chameleon_Club_©2018 Henry Chung 06
Red City Radio – Photo by Henry Chung

 

Red City Radio is the band that always seems to be playing when I’m there to interview a band. With that said, they lived up to the other times seeing them and brought the four(!) part vocal harmonies and guitar interplay to the party. Of course, there were some of the usual highlights “Two Out of Tree Ain’t Rad” and “Electricity” but they also introduced new material from their first release on Red Scare Industries an EP called Sky Tigers.

The Lawrence Arms

The_Lawrence_Arms_-_Chameleon_Club_©2018 Henry Chung 11
The Lawrence Arms – Photo by Henry Chung

After releasing their sort-of best of collection We Are The Champions of the World, one might think it would be appropriate for the Lawrence Arms to draw heavily from that for their live set.

Well, that’s exactly what they did. As such, this meant that they played a variety of their biggest songs, touching on all of their eras, much to the delight of the crowd. We got oldies like “Ramblin’ Boys of Pleasure,” “On With The Show,” “Right As Rain Pt 2” some ‘Oh Calcutta’ goodies “The Devil’s Takin’ Names” “Are You There Margaret? It’s Me, God” and some recent favorites (“You Are Here” “Seventeener”).

The_Lawrence_Arms_-_Chameleon_Club_©2018 Henry Chung 18
The Lawrence Arms – Photo by Henry Chung

They began their encore with “100 Resolutions” and by the time they walked off the stage for a final time, it was clear that the band has a lot left in the tank and a lot left to say.

The_Lawrence_Arms_-_Chameleon_Club_©2018 Henry Chung 22
The Lawrence Arms – Photo by Henry Chung

Would you expect anything less from the champions of the world?

Before all of that, I had the pleasure of sitting down with 2/3 of The Lawrence Arms: Brendan Kelly and Chris McCaughan. We dove deep into a lot of the thought process behind putting together their sort-of best of collection ‘We Are The Champions of the World’. Plus, we got some insight into where the band is at in life now and what their intentions are for the future.

Words/ Interview: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

 

Beach Slang Brings an Intoxicatingly Good Time at The Blast Furnace Room at ArtsQuest

The Blast Furnace Room at ArtsQuest is used for a ton of events, mostly comedy, but on some occasions, music events. On this particular evening, Friday December 1st, Beach Slang, Dave Hause and friends came to town.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Homeless Gospel Choir – Photo by Henry Chung

If you aren’t familiar, The Homeless Gospel Choir is a one-man acoustic project that plays like part Listener’s spoken word ramblings and part angry, stripped down punk. The set was full of protest songs, as boldly declared for nearly every song and autobiographical musings, many of which were humorous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Digger – Photo by Henry Chung

Local favorites Digger brought their triple vocal attack to the party and inspired a lot of nostalgia among many in the crowd who remembered the band from their 90’s heyday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Dave Hause and the Mermaid – Photo by Henry Chung

Dave Hause brought his band The Mermaid, still fairly fresh off of the release of ‘Bury Me In Philly.’ The album is a brighter, more upbeat and bolder effort from him, partially inspired by the newfound collaboration between he and his younger brother Tim. With 3 solo albums and of course two Loved Ones albums to theoretically cull from (no Loved Ones songs were played tonight), he has the material to put a very varied set together.

BuryMeInPhilly
Dave Hause – ‘Bury Me In Philly’ LP

Things began with the title track off his new album and dipped into his previous release for “Autism Vaccine Blues” and “We Could Be Kings.” To be honest, as a long time fan, the song selection was perfect as he got to nearly all of my personal favorites from his solo work. It’s also a surprising thing to note that his newest material easily got the biggest reactions. Their nearly 150 shows this year have sharpened the Mermaid into a very formidable band. Another highlight that they have been doing lately is a cover of Tom Petty’s “Won’t Back Down.” Hard to go wrong with that gem.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Beach Slang – Photo by Henry Chung

Beach Slang‘s frontman James Alex did his part to live up to the “Drunk Or Lust” title of the tour…well…at least the first part. By his own admission, he is usually intoxicated when he plays but never to the extent he was on this day. Alex was drinking what appeared to be a big gulp sized vodka and cranberry juice and some beers that were passed up to him. At first his voice seemed a little shot, perhaps from many weeks of touring. Then, after just a few songs, he found the right mix of grit and clarity, perhaps having become warmed up. Despite a few early minor mishaps, the set was fun and loose, frequently lapsing into micro-covers of 80’s and 90’s songs on a whim. As Alex pointed out, the band usually goes off course eventually in the set, but by the third song, he was happily taking requests from the audience. As an Allentown resident, he seemed thrilled to be home and even had the bass player FaceTime their manager in the middle of the set to show him the crowd and to remind him to have them play in Bethlehem again.

Beach Slang - Quiet Slang
Beach Slang – ‘[Quiet Slang]’ EP
Despite never seeing the band live before and them playing some of my favorites of the tracks I had heard on records early on, the excellence was sustained throughout the evening, inspiring me to revisit their discography. From the first time hearing the band, their debt to the Replacements was apparent. They paid their respects with a cover of “Bastards of the Young.”

There was no pretense of walking off stage and walking back on, they just KEPT PLAYING. Despite frequent pleas from the tour manager than they only had x number of minutes to go, they just kept going until about at or just after midnight.

Toward the end of the night, Alex informed everyone that they would be off from touring for the next few months and after playing the next night in Philadelphia, he was gong to hunker down at home and concentrate on writing a new record. He even went so far as to give out his email address and inviting people to be creative with him and to maybe see him around town at open mic nights trying out material.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Beach Slang – Photo by Henry Chung

It was a great night that went into overtime with two headlining-quality bands for the price of one in a really intimate setting.

Sounds like an intoxicatingly good time to me.

 

Words: JJ Ellis
Photos: Henry Chung

Warped Tour: The Roots and the Radicals

7/7/17

While the last few years of Warped Tour have, to varying degrees, seemed to course-correct the festival’s reputation for chasing the latest trends, 2017 may have hit a high water mark. While different regions had some bands jump on and off (West = Goldfinger, Midwest = The Suicide Machines, for examples), Camden’s lineup was certainly packed with a load of heavy-hitters. There was some of the expected fare for the younger crowd (Attila, New Years Day, Beartooth and personal favorite Dance Gavin Dance, among many others) but veteran acts may have outnumbered the newer ones, which is a shocking change.

Having different experiences at the show, we decided to share both JJ and Henry’s experiences here. Sometimes they’ve crossed streams, and sometimes they were at different parts of the venue.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Schedule_©2017_Henry_Chung 01
Photo by: Henry Chung

JJ: On a side note, this was my first time seeing the event at this location as Scranton is my usual location of choice. While that location has its advantages (my familiarity with the layout, easy and free parking, short lines to get in, and just a generally laid-back experience) this location had its own appeal. After getting the layout figured out (which did take a little while), the navigation here was easier than Scranton as stages were less spaced apart.

Henry: I’ve been to Camden a number of times. In fact, the first few Warped Tours were held at the parking lot of what was Wachovia Spectrum. I think they moved it to Camden back in ’97-’98 and have been setting up here ever since.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Badcop.Badcop_©2017_Henry_Chung 06
Photo by: Henry Chung

JJ: Anyway, after figuring out where the Hard Rock Stage was, I knew it was where I was going to largely camp out. I made it into the venue in time to see Bad Cop/Bad Cop, one of the bands I was most excited to see, take the stage. They plowed through their set which had a ton of new material from their just-released album Warriors. The new material really blended nicely with their older songs and, if anything, upped the intensity. If you didn’t pick up the CD at their merch tent for only $5, it’s time to start kicking yourself. As good as they are musically, they are even better as people.

Henry: Bad Cop/ Bad Cop was a band I definitely wanted to see. I’ve become a fan ever since seeing them play with Masked Intruder on the 25th Anniversary Fat Wreck Tour. I’ve even forced a few of my friends to watch their set and they loved every second of it!

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Silent.Planet_©2017_Henry_Chung 05
Photo by: Henry Chung

Henry: I headed out towards the Mutant North Stage to check out Silent Planet. They’ve been a band that has played a bunch of shows here locally for years but for every chance they were in town, I’d end up missing their sets. I was happy to see that they’ve blown up over the last few years.

JJ:  I wandered inside to the Skullcandy stage to see War On Women as they shouted their message of equality and making concerts safe spaces for everyone. This was followed by Save Ferris next door at the Journey’s Right Foot Stage (the stage placement is one bone I have to pick with this venue). Anyway, SF put on a tight, energetic performance that made everyone in the crowd move even if a lot of them weren’t even alive during the band’s initial run. Now THAT is how you come back bigger than ever. This seemed to an even peppier show than when I saw them in a club earlier in the year. After they finished, I had enough time to get my bearings and plan my next move which was right back to the Hard Rock Stage for….

Municipal Waste! I had never seen them before but it was everything I hoped for with maybe 15 songs being played in 25 minutes. You really get your money’s worth with them. It was nice to see drum-deity Dave Witte in person. A recent addition on second guitar, Nick Poulos really bolstered their attack and maybe it was because I was closer to his side of the stage, but his leads really were highlights of the set. It didn’t hurt that I was able give him a thumbs up and a fist bump later.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Memphis.May.Fire_©2017_Henry_Chung 01
Photo by: Henry Chung

Henry: Inside, to tried to cover Memphis May Fire. Literally ever since they’ve been appearing at Warped Tour, for some reason, they always end up playing inside. I hate shooting inside. It’s dark. Very dark.

After a few feeble attempts, I gave up and decided to try and catch The Ataris on the Hard Rock Stage.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-The.Ataris_©2017_Henry_Chung 02
Photo by: Henry Chung

Henry: It’s been ages since I’ve seen The Ataris live let alone listen to any releases beyond ‘So Long Astoria’ (sorry, ‘Welcome the Night’ just never did it for me.) The band had just released a new record and is selling it at Bad Cop/ Bad Cop’s tent. No doubt was I curious. One of the highlights of their set was when they finished with the Don Henley cover of “Boys of Summer” and they replaced the line “Out on the road today I saw a Black Flag sticker on a Cadillac” with “…Dickeys sticker on a Cadillac” in reference to the band that stirred up controversy earlier on the tour.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Sonic.Boom.Six_©2017_Henry_Chung 06
Photo by: Henry Chung

Henry: The entire point of Warped Tour is to check out the bands that you’ve never heard of. Going with that notion in mind, I decided to run back inside to check out a Manchester, UK band that was pitched to me called Sonic Boom Six. They had an upbeat ska sound that you can totally skank to (do people even know what “skank” even means anymore!?)

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Sick.Of.It.All_©2017_Henry_Chung 01
Photo by: Henry Chung

JJ: After walking around some more, I came back to the Hard Rock Stage to see Sick of It All and….wow. Being familiar with their recorded material forever but never seeing them, these guys may have won the MVP award for the day. Despite being in the game over thirty years, their energy is beyond compare. They have a tight, loud, massive sound live that the early records, for all of the quality of many songs, don’t really capture. It’s hard to imaging them being able to keep that intensity up for an hour, but maybe they can or maybe they just go all out and make the most of their 25 minutes. No matter what, it was impressive and I got to shake frontman Lou Koller’s hand afterward and express my gratitude.

Henry: I’ve been a huge Sick of it All fan ever since I picked up a copy of ‘Scratch the surface.’ It’s weird to think that I was 13yrs old when I bought that. But music has been a rather huge part of my life. The last time I saw them live was literally 20yrs ago at Warped Tour 1997.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Courage.My.Love_©2017_Henry_Chung 05
Photo by: Henry Chung

Henry: While walking around, I noticed my friend Sean up on the Full Sail University Stage with Courage My Love. I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been clueless to the fact that I’ve been conversing with Mercedes Arn-Horn off and on in FB comment threads for a while now. I’ve always just figured she was a friend-of-a-friend amongst my other music industry friends. It was actually rather cathartic to see her on stage performing with her band since I only knew her from chat threads.

JJ: I ventured over to the Journey’s Left Foot Stage (see what I mean about the layout?!) to see CKY. They are local favorites and the entire Margera family came out to introduce the band. After watching them on TV for years, it was a little bit of a thrill. Bam even came out late in the set to sing a G.G. Allen song. The real story is how the band has recalibrated with the departure of frontman Deron Miller. It’s Chad Ginsberg’s voice at the forefront and…the approach is different. Instead of Deron’s smooth croon, Chad has the vocal approach of a stoner-rock dude who just rode into town and is looking for a fight. After a few spins, the new album The Phoenix is a short and sweet tour of a lot of what the band does just with a slightly different approach. They only played one track off of that “Replaceable” but mostly stuck to tracks from Vol. 1 and Infiltrate. Destroy. Rebuild. Everything was enjoyable and the crowd was into it but the performance seemed a little listless. The band and their layers of sounds are probably best-suited to an intimate club.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-New.Years.Day_©2017_Henry_Chung 03
Photo by: Henry Chung

Henry: I killed a little bit of time right after CYK. I needed to reorganize myself after all the running around I’ve done. I managed to catch up with a few tour friends along the way. Most were complaining about their lack of sleep (something I knew too well after my short stint a few years back). I caught New Years Day‘s performance over at the Journey’s Left Foot Stage. It’s funny. I can recall a time before they became a household name, when the band would hang out in the press area simply out of boredom and would sit-in during interviews.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Adolescents_©2017_Henry_Chung 01
Photo by: Henry Chung

JJ: More wandering ensued before circling back to the Hard Rock Stage for the Adolescents. Even though they’ve been at it longer than I have been alive and influenced even the mighty Bad Religion, they were still sharp live. Sure, it’s basically Tony and Steve bolstered by some younger musicians, but those two were always the engine of the band anyway. They had a great new album last year (Manifest Density) and showed that they can keep going as long as they want.

Henry: The Adolescents were one of those bands I just wanted to be able to stand back and enjoy their set. I think the only song any of the younger crowds recognized was “Amoeba” made famous by Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 game that we all obsessed over.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-William.Control_©2017_Henry_Chung 01

Henry: Back inside, one of the acts I was looking very forward to was William Control. I’ve seen him perform a number of times and in different configurations. Starting off with “Monster” and “Kiss the Girl”, he addressed the crowd “I know a band with synths is probably the last thing you’d expect to see here today at Warped Tour. But think of us as a bit of repreive. First we’re going to romance you, and then when Beartooth comes out after us, they’re going to fuck you all in the ass!” According to a few old-school Warped attendees, William Control was one of the new acts that they saw and fell in love with. Also worth mentioning was that ‘Revelations: The Red EP’ just came out today and is available at their merch tent for only $5 and is worth every penny!

Unfortunately, I had to run as the band was starting to launch into “Beautiful Monster” as blessthefall was about to start at the other end of the venue.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-blessthefall_©2017_Henry_Chung 06
Photo by: Henry Chung

Henry: After fighting my way through hordes of Warped attendees, I finally made my way to the Mutant North Stage. The sun was starting to set and “golden hour” was upon us. As the band took the stage, frontman Beau Bokan sprayed the crowd with a bottle of Monster’s Mutant soda. I managed to dodge most of the spray but my camera wasn’t so lucky.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Silverstein_©2017_Henry_Chung 05
Photo by: Henry Chung

JJ: After this, I made my way over to the Mutant South stage to catch a little of Silverstein’s set. They had gotten a shipment of their new album Dead Reflection in a week early (it was officially released on July 14th) and were selling it at their merch tent. Don’t tell anyone. A few songs in, Beefcake The Mighty “killed” Billy Hamilton and took over on bass for a few songs. I wasn’t able to stick around long because….

Strung Out took the stage at the Hard Rock Stage! I’ve been crossing paths with them a lot over the last few years and as always, good stuff. Vocalist Jason Cruz’s voice sounded stronger than it had the last few times I had seen them and they can really do no wrong in my book.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Silverstein_©2017_Henry_Chung 07
Photo by: Henry Chung

Henry: By the time Silverstein came on, I was beat. JJ took off to catch Strung Out right after GWAR’s Beefcake The Mighty “killed” Billy Hamilton but missed when him on bass for “Retrograde” and “Still Dreaming.”

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-storm_©2017_Henry_Chung 01
Photo by: Henry Chung

JJ: It was at this point in the day with clouds threatening and giving way to sun for so many hours before, that the rain finally delivered on its threat. A drizzle became a full downpour with gusty winds creating havoc as I tried in vain to put on my poncho. If it was just me, I wouldn’t have minded, but I had signed merch with me and was already down a backpack and pair of earplugs that evening. It was with a heavy heart that I had to miss the band’s last song as I ran inside for shelter to dry myself and assess the damage. Once solving this and realizing my poncho was torn and therefore mostly useless, I looked out to see the rain even heavier than before. It must have been an experience for those at the Mutant Stages who saw Hatebreed and GWAR through that.

Warped_2017-Camden.NJ-Hatebreed_©2017_Henry_Chung 01
Photo by: Henry Chung

Henry: I was caught in the rain during Hatebreed and GWAR. I tried to photograph Hatebreed’s set but by the time they took the stage, the clouds overhead looked like it was nightfall to my left and a hint of daylight to my right. I watched as production staff tried to keep the stage together as strong gusts of wind kept knocking over scrims. When the band rolled into “I Will Be Heard”, I guess I was too distracted singing along up front and shooting that I then realized it was just me and another photographer still standing enduring the rain. I bailed out by their third song “Looking Down the Barrel of Today” and watched as production hastily tried to cover up speakers as the onslaught gifted us with a torrential downpour.

JJ: I waited it out inside at the Skullcandy Stage again and was happy to realize this detour brought me right to the Street Dogs, one of the bands I wanted to see anyway. They burned through some familiar numbers including a cover of Joe Strummer’s “Coma Girl”. The crowd in front of their stage which included me, was modest but frontman Mike McColgan worked hard to win everyone over. In fact, he worked so hard, he spent just as much time if not more so in front of the crowd waiting in front of the Journey’s Right Foot Stage next door. They may have been there for Never Shout Never but they got a healthy dose of Street Dogs and I could see a lot of people in that crowd also really into it.

After the Street Dogs closed up shop, I headed back outside one last time to happily see the rain had ended. I took the walk back to the Hard Rock Stage one final time and was able to see all of Anti Flag.

There was something appropriate about them closing things out, especially given the state of the world.

Henry: I had to make a choice. Go see Anti-Flag, or stay and see GWAR. I decided to stay and watch GWAR. Words just aren’t enough to describe their clash of comedy theater/ rock show. It’s one that everyone has to experience first-hand to comprehend it. I was to tell someone that I had a great time getting blasted in the face by Blothar’s four penis’s, I’m pretty sure I’d be met with confusion and disgust. Still worth it!

JJ: All in all, it was an odd experience for me not being consumed by press and only able to get a sampling of performances. This is the exact experience a normal Warped Concert-goer would have and while different, was nearly equally enjoyable. I had already interviewed most of the bands I was there to see (in some cases multiple times) anyway, so with a few elusive exceptions, I was fairly up to date with a lot of them, anyway.

Henry: It was a marathon for me to try and cover as many acts as possible. But overall I was happy to see fans young and old showing up and actually having a good time together. I watched as men in their late-40’s/ early-50’s throwdown in a circle pit with kids half their age during Sick of it All. I saw concert goers in their mid-30’s develop a love for new acts. Acts that they’d never be exposed to on their own accord if it weren’t for the comradery and unity expressed throughout this tour. I saw numerous collaborations on stage that made me scratch my head (Big D and the Kids Table with American Authors, GWAR and Silverstein were the two big ones that came to mind) but they’ve made it all work.

JJ: Let’s also applaud the tour itself as it managed to strike an impressive balance of old and new which should make it a viable, relevant festival for even more years to come.

Written by: JJ Ellis and Henry Chung
Photos by: the unstoppable Henry Chung