Lagwagon / Swingin' Utters / No Risk - Live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Lagwagon / Swingin' Utters / No Risk

Live in Philadelphia (2014)

live show

Riding high on the success of their latest LP releases this fall, California punk veterans and Fat Wreck Chords labelmates Lagwagon and Swingin' Utters stopped in Philadelphia, on December 4th, 2014, in the midst of their extensive North American tour. Despite widespread acclaim for Lagwagon's Hang (released October 28th) and Swingin' Utters' Fistful of Hollow (released November 11th), it was somewhat of a lackluster turnout at the Theatre of Living Arts on this quiet Thursday night, making for a low-key experience differentiating from the usual liveliness of the venue. However, though the crowd was a bit sparse and the pit struggled to maintain intensity, the show's four bands produced honest, heartfelt performances.

First up was South Jersey's No Risk, opening up the show with exceptional energy and attitude that really shook up the silence and warmed up the crowd with some solid songs of their own. With two lead vocalists propelling the band's loud, varied style, No Risk really showed their appreciation playing the gig as they blasted through their set that sounded reminiscent of the Bouncing Souls, Off With the Heads, and Descendents even. To be honest, No Risk seemed to be more of an appropriate opening act for Lagwagon and Swingin' Utters than their tourmates, This Legend.

Though the headliners' connection to This Legend is fairly obvious (signed to Cyber Tracks, owned by NOFX's El Hefe), musically the band was very pop-punky (two members were formerly in Yellowcard) that was a bit off-putting. Unlike No Risk, the songs of This Legend's set blurred together into one continuous droning love-lost proclamation. The band's one saving grace was the kickass drumming, that managed to cultivate interest despite lazy guitar work and cliche vocals.

Swingin' Utters upped the ante completely and brought their professionalism to the stage, even though their setlist was a bit all over the place. They played old songs and new, from the classics "Five Lessons Learned," "Windspitting Punk," "Pills and Smoke," and "Next in Line," as well as the title track from their new LP, closing their set with new song "Agonist." However there was little fervent reaction from the crowd, contributing to the band's subdued yet apparent frustration. Lead vocalist Johnny "Peebucks" Bonnel was very active and animated while singing (or listening while guitarist Darius Koski took vocal reins) but mentioned a couple of times between songs how they had to "suck it up" (whatever that meant) and how "nobody likes the new stuff" (which is a common comment from bands of their status). I could sense their disappointment in the vacancy of the venue but in spite of it all, Swingin' Utters put on a great show that left a lasting, memorable impression.

By the time Lagwagon took the stage, the TLA underwent a noticeable transformation. The crowd just about doubled on the floor and the stage became brighter-lit with a giant backdrop of the album artwork of Hang. They opened with two of the album's tracks- "Obsolete Absolute" and "Made of Broken Parts" before delving into their vault, hammering out songs such as "Violins," "Alien 8," and "Razor Burn." Lead vocalist Joey Cape commented on the unusually mellow vibe from the Philly crowd that made him a little nervous. "Coffee and Cigarettes"- introduced as a tribute to "lifer" drummer Dave Raun- was one of the performance's highlights, ending with guitarist Chris Flippin throwing his pick into the crowd (which he did several times throughout the night)- it landed on the floor right in front of my feet. I picked it up (duh) and it's one of the coolest show souvenirs I've ever acquired.

Lagwagon had a great chemistry onstage: making jokes about each other (and the lead singer of Creed, of course) and performing physically close to one another and in unison. It was really enjoyable to see a band with such a long history still genuinely enjoying each other's company in playing music together. After the encore, Cape returned alone to perform Hang's opening track "Burden of Proof," a slower, quieter song that transitioned right into the rest of the band joining in for the fast and loud "Reign." Lagwagon ended the night with the beloved "May 16" as the crowd displayed its most energetic and enthusiastic reaction.

It was weird to see the TLA not packed like it usually is, especially for such well-known punk acts as Swingin' Utters and Lagwagon. However, both bands sounded awesome and it was great to be able to see and hear them play live. It's easy to take for granted how much effort and talent that goes into a band in order for them to last as long as both Swingin' Utters and Lagwagon have endured. If you missed them on this tour, be sure to check out their latest releases- you won't be disappointed.