Bong Mountain vs. Murder Party! - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Bong Mountain vs. Murder Party!

Live in Grand Rapids (2017)

live show

I had no intention of reviewing the Sunday funday matinee on January 8th at the Tip Top Deluxe Bar and Grill in snowy Grand Rapids, MI. I generally don’t cover ‘local’ shows, even if Bong Mountain seems to be getting some national attention. I did however have every intention of going to the show. It was a benefit for local punk fan Tyler Dykema, who is in need of a wheelchair accessible van. He’s a longtime supporter of the GR scene and even puts out a good old fashioned paper music zine called Skitchin’. Two of my very favorite local bands were playing, plus a couple more who seem bound to become favorites. The main event of the (early) evening promised to be a battleset between Bong Mountain and Murder Party!, and I was at least a little curious to see what that was all about. Once I was at the show, it was obvious that it was going to be something special.

I got there in time to catch most of the opener The Scants’ half hour set, and the bar was already crowded.. The Scants are a newer, younger GR based trio who play classic punk, just the way I like it. This was my second time seeing them and I’m definitely into it. They have a promising sounding EP coming out shortly. Next up was Westside Rebellion, another newer band that I’d been looking forward to seeing for the first time. WSR is hardcore supergroup of sorts made up of guys from established local acts including Murder Party!, Holy Warheads and solo artist Dead Eye Zack. They only played for 15 or 20 minutes, but did not disappoint. It was catchy, shout along hardcore with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. They even threw in a cover of the early GG Allin classic “Don’t Talk to Me”. Their debut EP is due next month and I’m excited to hear it. At one point I noticed a little girl who couldn’t have been more than about 7 standing on a chair near the front of the stage. She was pumping her tiny fist in the air and screaming along with Westside Rebellion’s “Fist Fight”. I felt like such a poser.

Next up was another band I hadn’t seen, No/Breaks. They’re a hardcore quartet from Coldwater, Michigan, a small city on the Indiana border. The stage is really low at the Tip Top, and I couldn’t see who was singing. When I worked my way up front, I found that the singer was in a wheelchair. That certainly didn’t stop him from spitting out his angry, hostile lyrics. I thoroughly enjoyed it and picked up their album. When No/Breaks was done a surprise guest hit the stage, another newer band called The Bloody Lips. It’s the new project of Kole and Taylor, the bassist and guitarist of now defunct local favorites The Lippies. They’ve traded roles this time around, but the band is again female fronted. That’s about where the similarities end. The Bloody Lips are aggressive hardcore and don’t seem interested in the gender politics of the members’ previous group. They played one raging song that lasted one minute. Their performance was dedicated to the guest of honor, as their previous show had been in an inaccessible DIY space. I’ve seen these guys (and gal) twice now (for a total of about 11 minutes), and I’m stoked about what they’re doing.

At this point it was announced that the bar was at capacity. It was officially a sellout. While it’s not a huge room, it was still an impressive feat for a locals only bill. The beer was flowing and spirits were as high as any show I can remember. It should be noted that not only is the Tip Top’s stage short, but it’s also small. When Bong Mountain and Murder Party! started setting up at the same time, it was a bit of a cluster. The plan was that the bands would trade songs back and forth in an obviously friendly competition. Trash was talked. Battle lines were drawn. War parties were formed. Seven men were crowded around a tiny stage and obscured behind a wall of humanity.

Murder Party! launched the first offensive, although I don’t remember which song they played. Bong Mountain counterattacked with another song that I also don’t recall. (I hadn’t planned a review, so I didn’t have my little notebook with me.) It didn’t matter which song they played. I knew them all. Most of the crowd seemed to know them all. At first, one band played while the other stood there awkwardly bobbing their collective heads. Then something changed. The bands started helping each other out with their songs. Mostly just vocals at first, but eventually guitar, bass and drums got into the act too. Things got loud. It was sloppy but joyous. The bands were having so much fun that it was impossible not to rub off on the already boisterous audience. Back and forth they went in a war that clearly ended in a tie. Everybody won. (Except for maybe Van Halen. Both bands butchered “Panama” as an encore.)

So after watching bands for more than 25 years, this was my first battleset. I wish I could find the words to describe how wonderful this show was. More importantly, I wish I could describe how much fun it was. The comradery was undeniable. Old friends were reunited and new friends were made effortlessly. Not only did the bands play for free, but some of them donated their merch sales too. I doubt enough money was made to buy a new van, but I’m sure it was a good start. I was reminded that the scene is still capable of amazing things when it unites behind a common cause. This was everything that is great about a local punk show. Maybe I’m getting old and soft, or maybe it was the PBR, but it really warmed my cold, black heart.