All posts by Brian

2017 Punk Rock Bowling Lineup Announced

The 2017 Punk Rock Bowling and Music Festival looks beyond amazing this year.  The lineup just dropped a couple weeks back, and I can not help but share it with everyone.

Heading into its 19th year, this lineup continues to impress the hell out of me.  Its easy to see why punk rockers all over the world have no problem traveling to Vegas for a 4-day weekend of punk rock debauchery.  The fun begins on May 26th and tickets are selling fast.

Under different circumstances, I probably would be trying to head out this year, but with another future punk rocker on the way, I will have to sit this one out.

If you’re even thinking of going, just go.  I have had tons of pals who have hit up this festival over the years and I have never heard one bad thing about it.

Iggy Pop
Bad Religion
Cock Sparrer (UK)
Pennywise
FIDLAR
Me First & The Gimme Gimmes
Choking Victim
The Adicts
Bouncing Souls
OFF!
Discharge (UK)
The Spits
The Dickies
The Interrupters
The Real McKenzies
Booze & Glory (UK)
Plague Vendor
Lions Law (France)
Drug Church
WolfPack (Australia)
Lost In Society
Mobina Galore (Canada)
Ten Can Riot
Roadside Bombs
New Trends (Australia)
The Quitters
Venomous Pinks

Book Review: Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Famous Anarchist Sellout – Laura Jane Grace with Dan Ozzi

I wasn’t always a fan of Against Me!  In fact, I was turned off by the idea of that band in the early 2000s.  I refused to listen to them.

This was due in part to a group of obsessed punk kids I sparingly partied with at Kent State who played them over and over nightly, declaring they were the greatest band of all time.  I never gave them a true chance.  I was just annoyed I guess.

It was not until I caught Against Me! live at a small club that I started to appreciate them and realized those little punk kids were actually on to something.  Soon after that show, I declared myself a fan.  I have been ever since.

For years, I would catch them live any chance I could and even was lucky enough to shoot some of their shows at Warped Tours and also at the House of Blues in Cleveland.  Being up close and personal while they played was always a treat for me as not only was I taking photos of a band I dug, but also really got to take in their stage presence.

Hell, Warren Oakes (Against Me!’s former drummer) used to smile directly at me every time I pointed my camera at him.  That right there was just great.

I thought Tom Gabel was the coolest and not only loved the band he started, but enjoyed his style and swagger.  I once tried to emulate him of sorts by buying shoes and black jeans like what he rocked. I still have the shoes today, but me in those black jeans are not anything anyone needs to see.

I had always hoped to catch him before or after a show where I could strike up a conversation with him and we would become fast friends.  It was a typical fan expectation that never happened and I’m not mad about it.   I am just grateful for the experiences I had being able to shoot Against Me! as they played songs I adored.

The last time I saw Tom Gabel play live, he had grown his hair long.  Never in a million years would I have guessed his reasoning behind that.  Soon after that show, Tom Gabel was gone, and Laura Jane Grace emerged.

Tranny: Confessions Of Punk Rock’s Most Famous Anarchist Sellout is an memoir by Laura Jane Grace, with help from Dan Ozzi, that tells the whole story.

Props to Grace for spilling her heart out to anyone curious to know about her life and all the shit she went thought to get there.  The book takes it all the way back to a young boy with a broken family, a kept away secret, years of rebellion, and of course the start of a band.  Throughout, Grace fought with coming to terms with a feeling embedded in her mind and made it a reality no matter how difficult the outcome would be for herself and others.  She also talked about how the anarchist DIY punk band sold out and the hell endured trying to make it big.

Reading about the life and times of Against Me! from Grace’s first person point of view was fascinating enough, but learning about her coming to terms with her gender dysphoria was even more interesting, especially while building up a band and touring the world.

I cannot imagine how tough it has to have been for her to hide all of the feelings and essentially have an affair with herself, secluding the truth from everyone she loved including her wife and bandmates.  With great detail, Grace shared memories of when she realized she felt she was a she and not a he.  This wasn’t something that just happened overnight.

I do not wish to ruin anything for anyone who has not had the chance to read this book by going into great detail, but will say this:  Some of the stories are funny, some are haunting, and all are honest.

Memories with the Rancid, Blink 182, Har Mar Superstar, and even Marilyn Manson really kept the pages turning for me.  I smiled and even laughed out loud while reading some chapters while during others re-read sentences just to make sure I fully understood what had just happened.

It can’t be easy for a band who’s trying to make it big with the major labels while knowingly losing their fan base because of it.  Add on top of that a member who is struggling with their gender identification and at the brink of giving it all up,  I’m shocked the band didn’t just implode.

Fueled with drugs, depression, anger, and also love, Grace’s road to accepting herself was nothing short of futile.

It killed me to read how miserable she and the band were at times when they played in front of their fans, including me.  It never occurred to me the facade all of the band members put on for the sake of their fans.

The triumphant moment within this biography, when Gabel turned into Grace and started telling others the hidden secret, was built up so well thanks to Grace’s recollections and Ozzi’s sorting out the years worth of journal entries.

The epilogue might have been my favorite part of the book as all of my previous questions I had while reading finally were answered.  It was amazing to read that James Bowman was still happily around.   I learned what really happened to Oakes, where Andrew Seward went, and what they all really thought of Jay Weinberg.  I also found out what happened with the marriage and more importantly, what happened with their daughter.    The last few sentences in the memoir put the biggest smile on my face.

I learned a lot about Grace in the book.  I truly have a great about of respect for her in how brave she was to release this chronicle of her life.  I am sure this was not an easy thing to do, but sharing her story is inspiring to me and I am sure tons of other readers.

Everyone owes it to themselves to read Tranny.  It won’t hurt you, I promise.  In fact, it’s probably one of the most interesting stories I have ever read about someone.

Check It Out: Signals Midwest “Alchemy Hour” Video

I have had the pleasure of getting to know the dudes in Cleveland’s Signals Midwest for years now, so there is no reason why I would not be stoked on sharing their new music video for “Alchemy Hour”, a track off their latest release, At This Age.

Filmed by their pal Tommy Calderon, the video follows the band during their Fall 2016 tour.  Do not worry if you have noticed JR and Loren missing in some clips and Josh Voland as well as Ryan Williamson filling in when JR and Loren could not make some of the tour.  Just thought I should disclose that.  JV is good dude btw and carries leftovers with extreme pride.

At This Age was one of my top releases in 2016 and if you have not made yourself privy to it, you really should change that.

Check it out:

 

BHP Best of 2016

It’s that time of the year again folks.  Time to sit here and type out a list of bands that have impressed me one way or another.  I am not keeping to a set number as it would take me forever to narrow it down.

A sincere thanks to everyone who’s ever visited this site – seriously.  I know I tend to say that around the time I do my best of lists, but I really mean it.  I almost called it quits  earlier this year and reconsidered at the last minute.

This blog is very personal to me and even if more people find it while Googling how to fix their headphones, it is still fun to do.  If I can turn someone on to a new band just by one post, then my job is done.

With that said, I plan on sticking around for a while.

I am sure I will add a few more as they come to me in the next couple of weeks (as I always do [up to 3 edits now]), but for now, here’s the list of the albums that really caught my attention in 2016:

[EDIT:  The year is not over yet and I needed to throw in just a couple more…]


Chandeli’ers – Breaker
-This was the album that hit me in the right way.  It was fun across the board and sounded like the Clash meets Elvis Costello.  What more could you ask for?


Run The Jewels – RTJ3
-This album was not supposed to drop until 3 weeks into the new year, but El-P and Killer Mike decided to drop it on Christmas day for all to enjoy.  I can not stop listening to it.  I know I am not the only one either.

MakeWar "Developing A Theory Of Integrity"
MakeWar – Developing a Theory of Integrity
-Hands down one of my favorite surprise releases of the year.  This punk rock band has thrown together an album I will be listening to over and over for years to come.

joe-mcmahon
Joe McMahon – Another Life
-This is another one of my favorite albums this year.  McMahon shared with the world an outstanding collection of tunes that everyone needs to check out.  His solo material is a lot different from his Smoke or Fire days and that is not a bad thing at all.

Bob Mould
Bob Mould – Patch the Sky
-Mould recorded a masterpiece with Patch the Sky.  If you have not had the chance to listen to this album, you are missing out.  This album is perfect to listen to any day.

Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman – Ishkode! Ishkode!
-I am kicking myself for not putting this on my list initially.  Richman is one of the most prolific songwriters out there and put out quite the release.  I loved how song his songs were fun at times while others were just complex and reached across borders.  He really showcased his musical abilities on this release.  This guy has been writing music for longer than I have been alive and still is able to put out quality albums.

Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
-I have been a fan of this band for over 25 years now, so it only makes sense that this release made my list.  Oh, it also kicks so much ass.  Lou Barlow singing on it made it that much better.

All Dinosaurs
All Dinosaurs – Total Dissatisfaction
-Where do I even start with this one?  It’s like listening to the Bronx, but better, and from Cleveland.  I love this album so much that I literally just bought the LP from their bandcamp page.  No lie.

Useless ID
Useless ID – State is Burning
-This band will always be one of my favorites and this release continued to keep me a fan.  With a much more harder approach, they really killed it on this one.  I also adored the nod to the late Brandon Carlisle of Teenage Bottlerocket.

pulley
Pulley – No Change in the Weather 
This band was a huge favorite of mine in the late 90s and I thought they were done in the mid-2000s, but low and behold, they came back with an album that seemingly continued where they left off without missing a beat.  “Sometimes” is such a great track.

Beach Slang
Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
-James Alex (and former crew) have created a timeless album for music fans of all ages.  Catchy yet poignant, the album has been on a weekly rotation to my ears since the album dropped.  It may clock in at around 30 minutes, but it is a hell of a ride from start to finish.

Worship This! - Mint
Worship This! – Mint
-So what if these guys are my pals, their sophomore release blew me away.  I can not say enough good things about this album.  It is poppy, punky, and addictive.  More people need to check this album out as these Akron/Cleveland boys really know how to make sweet jams.  They are the next big thing in my mind and I love them all dearly.


Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate 
-Having one of my all time favorite bands release something new in 2016 was pretty rad.  Having one of my all time favorite bands stick to their sound from start to finish and have no indication of slowing down made it that much better.

Nothing
Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow
-I never thought I would like shoegazing.  To be honest, I really never knew what shoegaze was until I heard this album and I am still not quite sure.  Indie rock and neo-psychadelica mixed with plenty of distortion and emotion made for an album that I could not get out of my head for weeks.  That’s a good thing.

Mean Jeans
Mean Jeans – Tight New Dimension 
-Mean Jeans are probably one of the most underrated bands out there right now.  This album further proved that.  A modern-day Ramones-like banger.  I loved it.


Bouncing Souls – Simplicity 
-The Souls are like a fine cheese or wine to me.  With age, this band seems to just get better.  Their latest release was just full of punk rock fun.  When I started singing along to the first song during my first listen, I knew I was going to love this album and play it over and over.

Blink 182 - California
Blink 182 – California
-I can’t help it, I got sucked in to the new Blink and I know why…  Matt Skiba.  He was the perfect addition to reinvent this band.

The Avalanches
The Avalanches – Wildflower
-16 years after their debut, The Avalanches came back with an all new release that very well probably took all 16 years to create.  I know some of my pals were not digging this release fully, but I adored it.  It probably helps that the likes of Danny Brown and Biz Marke helped make this album what it is.

Arms Aloft
Arms Aloft – What a Time to be Barely Alive
This is the one album I really need to do a proper review on, but I keep getting sidetracked.  I listen to it all of the time and it is freaking amazing.  Punk rock from the 80s perfectly blended with punk rock from the mid 2000s is one way I can describe these fellows.  The music is infections, the lyrics are fun, and from what I hear the band is pretty cool too.  This kind of sounds like a review, but it is not.  This is just me telling y’all that this album was impressive.

Signals Midwest
Signals Midwest – At This Age
-This is their third release and probably their most tied together, mature material I have heard them create.  They have pushed their limits from a one time local band and are more or less prepping themselves for what’s next to come.  I am proud of these dudes.

Arilss Nancy
Arliss Nancy – Greater Divides
-This band really should be at Lucero levels by now.  They are exceptional at what they do and it can be heard throughout their latest release.

har-mar-superstar
Har Mar Superstar – Best Summer Ever
-Har Mar continues to put out incredible material with each release.  This man is so talented that he drops albums that cover various genres and avoids any and all gimmicky sounds.

NOFX
NOFX – First Ditch Effort
-After all this band has been though, it only makes sense that they dropped a more personal album.  It took me a couple of listens to truly appreciate.  Don’t worry, it’s still crass at times as well as hilarious, but man, that Tony Sly tribute song will put tears in your eyes.

Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar – The Astral We
-This Cleveland hardcore band is just that…  This album was insane yet intelligent, and I loved every moment of it.

the-falcon-gather-up-the-chaps
The Falcon – Gather Up the Chaps
-I love that Dave Hause was on this album.  I love that he had to play ska riffs knowing how much he hates ska because Brendan Kelly decided it was a good idea.  This album was far from serious and a good time all around.

NOTE: I promise you, Red Scare did not pay me for putting so many albums on this list.  They just had a hell of a year with releases…  Toby, I take plastic btw.

I wanted to throw a couple of EPs on here as well:

Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman & Tommy Larkins – That’s All We Need at Our Party
Blue Arrow Records and the creative vinyl masters Wax Merge teamed up to put out an insane variant of this 7″.  I was lucky enough to score #100 out of 100.  It’s a thing of beauty plus the tunes on it kick ass.  I love me some Jonathan Richman.  I am sure there are a few left, so snag one if you can.

Throw Shade
Throw Shade – Self-Titled
-I have talented friends who make beautiful music.  This EP is absolute proof.


Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events
-I really did not know what to expect from Reznor and crew with this EP seeing how I just lost interest in their material for the last 10 years.  Man, was I pleasantly surprised.  This EP brought me back to 90s NIN and I can not wait for their full-length to drop in 2017.

bracket
Bracket – The Last Page
-At just over 70 minutes, this is one long-ass song and it’s amazing.  The track keeps it together for the listener and takes them on a punk rock voyage.  My first listed was distracted thanks to my paying gig, but my second listen with headphones on was incredible.

Finally, I know this is a best of list, but it would not be right if I did not make mention of this:

RIP Dag House…
Dag HouseIt goes without saying, sometimes you find yourself in the right situations by chance.  Thanks to an amazing batch of pals who kept Dag House going for years.  Not everyone gets to experience basement shows, and some of that could be by choice, but goddamn, if you are a music fan, basement shows are the best shows.  Dag House threw together a hell of a rager for their last show, and I was happy to be a part of it.  Thanks for the memories Dag.

2016 was a crazy year.  If you’ve made it this far in my post, thanks for sticking around and being so rad.  It is people like you and the bands above that keep me doing what I do.  Be well.

Book Review: NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories

NOFXI distinctively remember the first time I heard NOFX in the 90s.

I was a friend’s house who told me there was a band I had to hear and before asking who, he immediately played NOFX for me.  The very second that music hit my ears, I turned into a fan.

I loved their crass style and catchy songs to the point I went out that same day and bought a handful of NOFX cassettes where I proceeded to memorize all of the songs.  I would listen to I Heard They Suck Live daily and even unsuccessfully looked for a pair of NOFX shorts as seen on White Trash, Two Heebs, and Bean album cover.

In 1996, I got to see NOFX for the first time live at a Warped Tour that was held on a gravel parking lot.  There is so much to this story I do not care to get into, but it was pretty much the day that I knew I would be a fan forever.

Last Spring, NOFX released a tell all (and  mean tell all) autobiography titled NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories.  With help from Jeff Alulis, the band all took turns telling stories of how they all came to be without holding back anything.

Chapter one started with a confession of the drinking of urine.  From there, the autobiography was everything  expected from to hear from the boys, but there was so much more that I was not ready for including the personal hardships, the suicides, and especially the murders that were revealed.

I loved how the book was split into various chapters by previous and current members.  Sometimes the chapters complimented one another’s recollections, while others were random for a moment and then touched back on something else said.  Where they were not exactly in chronological order, they followed suit enough where I never was trying to connect the dots.  It was almost like I was just hanging out with everyone in a room listening to random stories.

The content was funny, serious, and scary as hell at times.  Where a lot of the band spoke on the good times being in NOFX and touring the world, a lot was spent talking about severe drug abuse and the insane adventures they were involved in.  Reading various memories from original members and current members really encompassed all angles on the story of NOFX.

I loved reading about the bands they saw as kids and the bands they toured with.  Hearing them talk about Rancid and the Offspring signing to major labels while they held their own was interesting.  I was shocked to even learn that NOFX almost signed to a major label but collectively changed their minds and did things their way.

Of course the part where they all talked about playing at Eric Melvin’s aunt and uncle’s house in Aurora, OH stuck with me.  I grew up next to that city and wished to hell I could have seen them play outside in a suburban neighborhood.  Truth is, I was probably a bit too young then, but the best part about this story is that I actually became friend’s with Melvin’s cousin.  She introduced me to his parents once (if you’re reading this, hi Suzanne!)

Reading about Smelly’s heroin addiction and how he eventually overcame it was just intense.  At first, his stories were humorous and chaotic, but soon became almost uncomfortable to read, especially the ones he told as a full blown junkie who hit rock bottom.  One of his stores that had me laughing out loud though was about a stolen van and a kid who turned out to be Billie Joe Armstrong.  When the pieces came together a few chapters later, I lost it.

Fat Mike kept things unfiltered and entertaining.  I know more about his sex life now than I ever cared to, but I made sure I read all of it.  I was mostly surprised to read that he was not the biggest embarrassment early on (sans his singing).  It is crazy to have finished this book knowing that shortly after its release, he decided to chill out on things and go for treatment all because of his pal Tony Sly.  Fat Mike say seem like an a-hole on stage, but he is a family man and a loyal friend.  I really enjoyed reading his story from start to finish.

El Hefe had me cracking up many times with his stories, mostly when he first started the band, but the one thing in the book that I will never forget was the photo he shared with himself and Tori Amos.  If you read the book, I am hoping you know exactly what I am talking about.  I also appreciated learning how he grew up and became the man he is today.

The fact that the band members dropped their own moments of truth to one another in print for the first time just made this book so much more real to me.  Kept promises were broken and made public because they needed to heard and the autobiography was the perfect place to release.  The admissions clearly would open up healed wounds, but were probably never meant to be hidden forever.

Reading how they went from learning about punk rock at an adolescent age to becoming one of the most prolific bands in the punk rock community and beyond was just perfect.  Sadly, the road they traveled for 30 years to get there was not a smooth ride and not easy to read at times.  I especially appreciated not only learning about NOFX, but also other avenues by the band including Smelly’s motocross company, Melvin’s coffee shop, and El Hefe’s hot mess of a nightclub.

You really don’t need to be a fan of NOFX or punk rock for that matter to enjoy this book.  Their stories in this book will suck you in and Jeff Alulis did a great job putting it into print.

Granted it took me a little longer to finish this book than I wanted to, I will tell you that I read almost half of it in just two nights as I could not put it down.  I can honestly say I finished the last chapter with a smile on my face and even a bigger appreciation for the band who I’ve been a fan of now for over 20 years.

If you are just looking for a group of dudes telling you true stories from a punk rock, drug fueled life, NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories is a must read.  For the record, you will learn about the bathtub and it is a little nastier than you might think.