The floors were slicked with sweat June 23 at Philadelphia’s First Unitarian Church. The show being held had missed the worst heat of the week by a few days, but it was still hot ‘n’ moist, forcing concertgoers to hit the streets in between sets. But with a lineup this stacked with up-and-comers (Spraynard, Iron Chic and local legends (the Orphans, Plow United), sweating a bit wasn’t much of a problem.
Spraynard kicked off the night with some Latterman-indebted punk jams. While a lot slower than the other acts on the bill, it was clear Spraynard had benefited from its elders’ influence and the still growing crowd loved them. Still, it was the last night of a three-month tour for the band, and it showed. The members were all out of stories and jokes, and seemed unfocused when it came time to choose which songs to play. When they did bother to play, Spraynard was pretty solid, but the awkward pauses and scarcity of songs got the night off to an awkward start.
Good thing Iron Chic came in to clean up a bit. While Spraynard received a warm reception, kids didn’t start going off until Iron Chic began playing their anthemic throat-shredders. The last time I saw guitarist/vocalist Phil Douglas, he criticized people who crowd surf and stage dive. He did it again tonight, but no one seemed to catch on. Douglas tried to keep it generally positive anyway, and the Chic played a tight, rocking 30 minutes. Bodies clambered on top of bodies for set-ender “Time Keeps On Slipping into the (Cosmic) Future,” but I can’t fault anyone for doing that. The outro to that song is so perfect it drives people mad.
Erik Peterson makes his punk rock living with Mischief Brew these days, but his old band the Orphans came out to support their West Chester neighbors in Plow United. Arguably the most hardcore of the acts, the Orphans plowed through one 60-second song after another, peppering transitions with stories about their shared history with Plowed United along the way. While the Orphans were a little on the sloppy side (even flubbing some starts and lyrics), they still kept the audience in a tizzy, as a large circle pit (relative to the size of the Church’s basement anyway) opened up.
But even the Orphans got a mild reception compared to what happened when Plow United came out. Lyrics and bodies filled the air as West Chester’s once and future best band played a surprisingly diverse set. Plow United apparently aren’t content to let their reunion turn into a nostalgia act, instead trotting out a series of covers (Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Flag of Democracy, Descendents) and three new songs from their upcoming full-length [SPOILER ALERT: They are super fast]. Yeah, they drew from some of the best material collected on the Sleepwalk retrospective ("Last Call," "Spindle" "Reason," "Attn: Asshole Re: Records"), but there were so many random turns thrown in that the night got truly intriguing.
Not that Plow United didn’t have problems. Brian McGee’s voice sounded shot, although he was able to power through the set. A couple of the songs came off as a little too loose, slow or both. But the enthusiasm was there, both for the band and the fans.
Plow United seemed intent on sharing their history, past and present, with the fans. They talked about what Flag of Democracy was up to now (ballet recitals!) and how excited they were to do a split with Spraynard. This culminated in the finale, when they brought out drummer Sean Rule’s son, George Jr., to sing set ender “World According to Me.” It was adorably sloppy, as there’s something stirring in hearing a small child shout out lines like “At least I’ll die believing!”