Shady Hawkins/Downtown Boys/Bad Canoes - Live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)

Shady Hawkins / Downtown Boys / Bad Canoes

Live in Philadelphia (2014)

live show

It was a fine summer eve on August 16th when I boarded the Broad Street Line in Center City and ventured out towards the Boot & Saddle for the very first time. The main reason for heading out that way was almost a knee—jerk decision to catch the Downtown Boys when I found out they were coming to Philadelphia. Having listened to their work ad nauseum since learning about them a little over a month prior, I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

I'd barely recognized any of the bands on the bill outside of Downtown Boys at the time, but that didn't quite concern me, considering with DB playing, I'd be in for a treat regardless. Despite both them and Shady Hawkins being billed as headliners of sorts for the night, believe me when I say that every single band performing at the Boot & Saddle that night was just as vital and enthralling as the next.

The night opened with NY's Aye Nako, whom I hadn't heard of before and really, really wish I had——a relatively poppy outfit, Aye Nako's sound held its own unique balance of The Muncie Girls mixed with Tribe 8. Granted, that may be painting them into a bit of a musical corner, but that's only a fraction of their sound——a thread among a much greater cloth of description. Simply put, these kids were great.

Second on the setlist was Philadelphia's own Bad Canoes. I was not too sure what to expect, as my knowledge of them thus far had only been summed up from seeing the name on a couple fliers. It wasn't until they had fully set up that I noticed the vocalist was none other than Marissa of the Screaming Females, which immediately told me I was in for something good. Hanging somewhere in the balance of what came off as rage crossed with childhood fantasy and shades of Le Tigre, Bad Canoes ripped the bloody roof down. Each musician held their own very well as Marissa stomped and wailed across the stage, belting out those incredible vocals that she's known for, and when she wasn't in the middle of a tune, she delivered BC's trademark quips with the occasional "Good job, Bad Canoes!" While I highly recommend checking out their work on Bandcamp, just listening to their recordings alone doesn't do enough justice to a band with one of the most intense stage performances I've ever had the good fortune of seeing. A true sight to behold.

While the first two acts had already made this show well worth the cover charge, it wasn't until the Downtown Boys hopped on stage that the roof was finally shredded to pieces. Having already fallen in love with their work via their Bandcamp page (seriously, buy all of their stuff right now), I could only hope for a show with intensity that matched their recordings, and boy, did those expectations get exceeded tenfold.

DB exhibited nothing but sheer energy throughout the entire set, and then some. Lead vocalist Victoria interluded each song with a powerful political statement, at times bouncing between an intelligent diatribe and a simple call for peace. Unlike so many punk outfits with hollow and generalized political messages (I'm looking at you, Ballzy), Victoria and the rest of the Downtown Boys stand behind their thoughtful, well—chosen words, reminding us all of what punk should truly be about when it tries to send a message.

That being said, the performances of the songs were nothing short of mindblowing. Sheer energy fizzing over the top of a burst wine bottle of political anger, packed with expert musicianship. A very soft comparison of the band would point all fingers immediately to a pissed—off version of the X—Ray Spex, but even that does the band next to no justice——these people have so much more packed into their presence and writing than a mere correlation to another punk band. Few things in this world will ever be as exhilarating as seeing them burn the house down with "Slumlord Sal" and their cover of Joy Division's "Disorder"——see these people immediately and support their cause. In simple terms, you'll be totally bummed if you don't.

Now, granted, the show could just as easily have ended there with a set as positively dynamite as the Downtown Boys, but alas, yet another remarkable band was to follow suit——a Brooklyn act known as Shady Hawkins. I'll be honest, I wasn't too sure what to expect, as I heard nothing of these fine folks prior to the show, but dear god did they put on a great show. Somewhere between the Husker Du—esque chords, pounding drums, and positively sensational vocals lie a unique craft of venom and simply excellent, tender—nerve songwriting. The performance was nothing short of enthralling, with a couple unexpected covers thrown in the mix. Normally, I'm not too big on cover songs, but SH including both Bratmobile and Sleater—Kinney renditions in their set was an opportunity I couldn't shy away from.

Unfortunately, I had to duck out of the show just before either Kominas or The Mighty Paradocs took stage, but I can assure you that if the preceding bands were any indication, they had to have been just as powerful as the rest of the set. It also must be mentioned that, while I normally have a strong distaste for electronic music, I have to give a hand to DJ Haram, a very talented woman who kept some pretty intricate music going on between sets for the night. She certainly is not without her fine abilities in having a sharp ear for strange, enticing beats. That being said, the night at the Boot & Saddle was a truly remarkable show and if you get the chance, catch any of these fine folks when they stop in your town. It's simply just worth it.