Whether rightly or wrongly, I view myself as the standard bearer of hard, nasty and fierce music at the 'Org. At times, I am flanked by the shields of editors Joe Pelone and John Flynn. Sometimes, editors Bryne Yancey and Brian Schultz will act as pikemen. But overall, I feel as if it is my duty to keep the 'Org hard, fast and mean.
For example, on the evening of March 1, 2013, I was in my house, rolling around in a bed of Amebix, Crass, Rudimentary Peni and Sleep LPs, much in the way Scrooge McDuck enjoys his gold coins. Amidst my girlish giggles, a tiny green man with an oversized helmet appeared over my shoulder in a flash of smoke and introduced himself as "The Mediocre Mazoo." He said to me in a cheery voice, "A-bippity-snippity, my good fellow. Why, Waxahatchee are playing a record release show in a house in Philadelphia this very night! You should go!"
"Pfah!" I replied. "Mediocre Mazoo, that stuff is too soft for a real man like myself. Besides, I've got to listen to that rare demo cut of "Chain Reaction" for the 937th time. There might be something I missed hearing."
"A-tut-de-tut-tut" The Mediocre Mazoo shook his finger. "How can you claim to write for 'PunkNEWS', and I do emphasize the 'news' aspect my good boy, if the most recent music you listen to was recorded when Betamax was still a viable format? Like it or not, many of the punks of this day and age like the softer, more reflective stuff as much, if not more, than that constant dog barking that you listen to."
"Well," I flubbed, "You know there are hella girls waiting for my late night rendezvous. I simply don't have the time."
Perhaps to spare me my last shred of dignity, The Mediocre Mazoo motioned with his eyes towards my answering machine, the sole contents of which consisted of a message from Domino's Pizza informing me that my delivery order had been canceled "due to lack of interest."
Accepting that I had been bested, I fetched my coat. To be fair, at seven bucks, the price was right and like Bob Barker often urged, I came on down to the house show in West Philadelphia. As I drove my car towards my destination, The Mediocre Mazoo floated over my shoulder. I said to him during the drive, "I don't know why I'm listening to you, Mazoo. The last time I did, it did not turn out well. Old lady Flemmington shall never be the same." The Medicore Mazoo busied himself with my Mapquest directions.
Upon arriving at the door, I said to the fellow who was tending guard, "Why hello there, old bean. Would you kindly direct me to the box office? Ticketmaster did not seem to register my request for an electronic based credential." He gave me the most unusual look, so to end our interaction as quickly as possible, and before he did something basal, I simply dropped seven dollars into his money jug and said "One Waxahatchee, please." The look persisted as I made my way inside.
For a punk house, the furnishings were quite impressive. Not only did the house boast an impressive array of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles memorabilia, but it had a working "Golden Tee" arcade game as well as a disused '80s era pinball machine. Punk rock, pinball and TMNT! Xanadu, you are for shame!
The show opened with Cayetana. Composed of three young ladies, the band meshed together '90s alt rock with some more energetic, punk based tempos. At the core of the music, the band focused on melodies which often had the feeling of a certain rising, tempered by a metallic edge, which in its modulation, suggested the soft/rough contrast heard in post-punk. The vocals were equally interesting. A collection of mournful and reflective calling, the band sung in ways that suggested certain emotion, but never forced the concept of the song through over the top exposition. While the band could do some more to draw themselves out from like-minded individuals, they've clearly mastered the base of their sound, namely their strong hooks. With just a bit more emphasis on a unique style, they could create something timeless.
Next, Radiator Hospital took the floor to perform some uptempo garage-ish pop. As with so much underground East Coast lo-fi music, the band crammed words and words into their songs, giving the music a very flowy, dense feel. But the thickness of the words was surprisingly elevated by a very West Coast garage rock tempo and collection of simple, snappy riffs, that could have quite easily fit on a Ty Segall album. The lead vocalist, known simply as "Sam" had a most unusual singing voice: One part pre-war folk squawk, and one part '60s bubble gum rock, his words were as interesting as the music. Unusual voices are not for everyone, but his interesting tone elevated the music above other acts that deal in poppy riffage and strings of words. Something of a more meatier Max Levine Ensemble, Radiator Hospital have any number of directions that they can go in, and based on their unusual lyrics and delivery, it will probably be a unique one.
The third band was the real surprise of the night for me. Swearin', which include Allison Crutchfield, sister of Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield, opened with a massive, downtuned but energetic drone that could have come off of Rudimentary Peni's Death Church. Then suddenly, instead of descending into the Lovecraftian darkness, the band shot upward into a sunny pop-rock jangle. Throughout their set, the band retained a loose, noisy cadence, with the guitar, drums, and bass flying apart form each other only to snap back together. What made the band particularly interesting was their dual vocals, as well as their sense of dynamics. At times they were storing forward with heavy guitar lines while at others, they would pull back and float along in an airy cadence. They closed their set first with a upbeat positive sounding song only to suddenly throttle into a straight up hardcore thrasher. It was unexpected and awesome. This band is going in very interesting places.
Finally, Waxahatchee in full electrified four-piece form started their set. Featuring Katie Crutchfield, the band played a long set that extended past the hour. Similar to Swearin', Waxahatchee focused on modulating dynamics, but in a different sort. At times Katie was a piano-blues singer, cooing away as the band softly clicked behind her. At other times, the band jacked up their sound into choppy riffs, coming close to Nirvana territory. The performance came to a head when Crutchfield set down her instrument, took the mic, and did a massive, harder number where she jumped up and nearly got down on the floor, similar to early Poly Styrene. Later on in the show, the band pulled back on their sound and the Crutchfield sisters did a duet. Near the end, they pulled out into an extended drone, with shifting guitars and and clanging drums that eventually shattered very much in a way that resembled the self destruction of Joy Division. As both Crutchfields gain more experience, it seems they are both extending their skills as well as tightening up on their effects.
On my way out the door The Mediocre Mazoo said to me, "Well, what did you think?" I replied, "Well Mazoo, I must admit, though the music wasn't as hard as Neurosis, I was impressed by the range of sounds and textures the bands were able to create. I must submit and say that this mid-tempo stuff that the kids like so much does have more depth than I originally had given it credit for. Still, I would posit that it is the shifting of styles and cross-genre blending of Waxahatchee and Swearin' which made both bands so interesting and invigorating. As I have proposed before, the sharp boundaries between punk-sub-sub-sub genres needs to be erased. Not only will it lead to a stronger community, but more interesting art as a whole."
The Mediocre Mazoo agreed with me and we started driving home. For some reason, Mazoo seemed to want to converse at length about the economy of pre-Renaissance era Scandinavia. Though the topic was quite dry, I humored him. In fact, so engaged in his discourse was I that I have no recollection of driving home at all. In fact, only upon arriving at my driveway was I aware that we were traveling at all. Curiously the sun was out, meaning that I had driven for eight hours, even though the venue was a mere 30 minutes from my own domicile. Further, my odometer showed a gain of over 600 miles. Further, on the seat next to me was a battered cooler, the contents of which appeared to be human organs preserved by ice.
I looked for Mazoo, but he had vanished during my investigations without so much as an adieu. Stranger yet was when I stepped out of my car, I found that I was surrounded by a SWAT team pointing high powered rifles at me and commanding me to "get down on the ground."
-People were passing around a bottle of wine and sharing it to complete strangers without so much as a courtesy wipe. Ew! Mouth herpes is a thing that exists, you know.
-During the Waxahatchee set some guy was dancing quite intensely, and quite salaciously, with the wall.
-I visited the merch table and "Kate Crutchfield" asked me if I wanted to buy something. I said I did and selected her demo tape. She returned with it, though with a dejected look on her face. Most curious, I thought, that she should look sad for selling me her music. It was only when Swearin' took the stage that I realized that there were TWO Crutchfields and that I had purchased Kate's tape from Alison! How boorish of me! Doubtlessly like the Crutchfield parents had so many times before, I had chosen a favorite Crutchfield daughter directly in the presence of the disfavored child.
-Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know that you're more punx than I am, anonymous reader. I don't care, I own the Star Trek: The Next Generation DVD box set. There's nothing that you can say to hurt me now.
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