Mischief Brew - live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Mischief Brew

live in Philadelphia (2015)

live show

The dreaded Philadelphia heat (actually more of a dreaded humidity) had rolled into Philadelphia on May 30, 2015, just in time for the double record release show for Mischief Brew’s This is Not for Children. In some ways, the increased temperature was a fitting harbinger for the album, which contemplates the concept of heat as both a necessary and destructive force. Also, there was air conditioning in the Boot and Saddle so no one really cared.

Amusingly, the early show, which was all ages, served the benefit of both the young and old. Multiple youngins had shown up to the no-booze gig to see the band. But, also, some adults, who most likely usually had to sit out gigs due to small children at home, had brought their youths with them to enjoy the gig. The result was an entirely mixed audience that ran from ages 8 to 68.

Opening act Teenage Bigfoot kicked off the show. A local pop-punk band, the played heavily with the sweet tune, raspy vocal dynamic. The band blasted through a bouncy 25 minute set, already exhibiting an understanding if classic pop-punk song structure. The band seems to be growing towards something unique, so it’s good that they’re kicking out the jams.

Next, the divisive Juicy Karkass took the stage. A crust-punk rapper, Juicy Karkass shouts out Run-DMC style rhymes over modern loops while twisting in homage to punk rock and indie in his lyrics. The fact is, Juicy Karkass won me over at the gig. Wisely, he seems to be fully aware of just how ridiculous the premise of his music is, and embraces that. At least he’s trying to do something different- another generic D-beat band we do not need. Additionally, Juicy Karkass’ skills as an emcee are improving . He’ll probably never be Nas, but more importantly, he’s learning how to make his crusty-croak fit in with the modern Hip Hop beat behind him, so that while it’s not exactly Hip Hop (though it might be punk under some definitions- including my own) he’s making a convincing, fluid genre Clash. Plus, he expertly worked in Smiths references right next to Leftover Crash references right next to Sublime references without making it seem like he was trying to be clever (take note, other rappers in the punk scene…) Juicy Karkass certainly isn’t for everyone, but you have to give him credit, the Philly crowd “got it.” Honestly, that’s more than most bands can say.

Around five in the afternoon, Mischief Brew took the stage for their set. Dividing the tunes fairly equally between their classic jams and the newest stuff, the band seemed to make the early a set a demonstration of the band’s history. Of course, the band’s classic tunes like “Roll me through the gates of hell” and “Children play wit matches” (a nice nod to the all ages show) swung with the modern power that the band has really developed over the past few years. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- for all the people that only want a pure acoustic Mischief Brew, your priorities are misplaced. Electric Mischief Brew has the power of Thin Lizzy, but has the strange ability to keep the sensitive in their delivery despite rocking like Phil Lynott or Angus Young and that’s a rare gift indeed.

The new tunes from This is Not for Children vibrated with a hard charging energy. While, many Mischief Brew songs make their trade in a sort of swinging crescendo, live, the new songs seem to built from a more iron chassis, blasting out of the gate and staying that way for the entire duration. However, one should note that “O, Pennsyltucky,” does have that rising and falling, sloppy grace of what most people consider the trademark Mischief Brew sound. While playing the newer tunes, the band seemed to be saying that heart-on-the-sleeve delivery is one way to communicate a message, but, a straight-up battering ram says something, too.

A two hour break was between the first and second gigs. The audience changed dramatically during the time frame. The families where gone, the bar got packed, and the booze began to flow. Even the bar itself, which seemed a little out-of-sorts in the daylight, was now a darkened, noisy, revelatory venue. I can’t call it a dive, because it’s not. It’s a nice place, with good food and friendly bartenders. I mean really, why roll around in a cesspit if you don’t have to?

The second show opened with The Regressives, who include punk veteran Early Gates. The band blasted though about twelve tunes in the classic punk fashion- three chords, two minutes, and gang choruses. The songs were energetic, snappy, and at least partially indebted to The Clash. Heck, the band even covered “White man in Hammersmith Palais” after cheekily introducing it as a ska song. The band isn’t reinventing the wheel, but they’re certainly taking it out for a well done spin.

Mischief Brew took the stage for their second set, and like the audience and the bar, they also were dramatically different. What I am saying is that they obviously had a taste of the sauce to loosen up.

Also, unlike the earlier set, the band focused heavily on the new album and played a majority of the songs from it. Most interestingly, was that the new songs had transformed from early in the evening. Now, the new songs had more swing and a more malleable cadence. Almost as if they were in a different persona (ala David Bowie) the band played the earlier songs as of they were mid 80’s English Anarcho-punks, a non-stop onslaught of bristling energy, while the evening versions found the songs more in the vein of West Coast punk. The songs swung down low and rumbled the floor in the beginning and as the band snapped through them, they flew apart at the end exploding into a mass of punk fireworks.

The result was quite dramatic. First, the band is talented enough to play with the concept of rendition. Second, as always, Mischief Brew songs are so strong at their core that no matter how you play them, their inherent character shines through. Third, where, in the earlier set the new songs stood in contrast to the old ones, in the second set, all of the band’s songs, new and old, sound as if they were written in one manic session. During the evening, World/Inferno Friendship Society’s Rebecca Schlappin joined the band and added her violin skills to a few songs, giving them a sort of worldly perspective.

The fact is, these new songs are different from the old songs, which are, of course, different fro the old-old songs, which is what keeps the band exciting and daring. But, no matter how you slice this bread, the band’s inherent style shines through no matter what. I am reminded of bands like the Melvins, Fucked Up, Wire, and a few other luminaries. These kinds of bands, Mischief Brew, included, are the kinds of bands that matter. What they are is in their DNA, and a little thing like tempo, or decibel level, or lyrical style is really just a nice dressing used to present an inherently profound, inherently complex, inherently exciting, message.