On The Cinder/The Functional Citizens - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

On The Cinder / The Functional Citizens

Live in Grand Rapids (2019)

live show

I’ve been doing this for quite a while now. (By “this”, I mean sitting in judgement of bands who are better and/or more successful than any band I was ever in.) I don’t really have to go looking for things to review. People find me. I get sent enough CDs (and occasionally records) to keep me busy. This, however, was a first. A touring band that I was aware of, but not really familiar with, asked me if I would review their local live show. Honestly, it caught me off guard. I foolishly said I would do it, as long as my schedule was clear. If I would have been prepared, I would have had some high demands. Like half of their drink tickets or naked pictures of their moms or something.

Anyway, after I agreed, I felt a slight sense of panic. What if the band played overly slick pop punk? Or worse yet, folk punk? Or worst of all, ska? A quick jump over to Youtube put my mind at ease. On The Cinder play an aggressive, but melodic style of punk, and seemed like something I could get into. The Buffalo, NY based trio had been on the road for nearly a month, and the Grand Rapids date was the last stop on their tour.

That’s how I ended up at 741 on the Westside of Grand Rapids on Saturday, February 23rd. I know some of the guys who run 741, and had been looking for an excuse to write about it anyway. It had been a dive bar for years under a different name, but now it’s our dive bar. They have live music, mostly metal and punk, every Friday and Saturday and there’s never a cover. (I didn’t even have to demand to be put on the guest list!) It helped ease my pain that the bill was stacked with great local bands.

Due to a miserable dining experience, we missed the first band, The Scants. I’ve written a bit about these young guys recently, and really enjoy their classic punk sound. I was definitely a little bummed that we were late. The GR based trio just put out a new album called First Class Hacks. I recently reviewed it and gave it a big thumbs up. You should check it out.

Next up was a quartet from Fort Wayne, IN that I wasn’t familiar with called Nifty Skullet. Despite their unfortunate name, these guys were a lot of fun. They kind of reminded me of Angry Samoans or the early stuff by The Queers. It was super catchy, with stupid words and shout along choruses. Nifty Skullet was a good combination of drunk, horny, funny and dumb. (Aren’t we all!) I hope they make it back to town soon.

The Functional Citizens are another band that I was familiar with. I recently reviewed the Kalamazoo, MI trio’s new album Game Night, and would recommend it. Live, their sound reminds me a lot of Face To Face, without all the angst. Most of The Functional Citizens’ songs are either about working in an office or various geek culture stuff. It’s good meat and potatoes punk from sweaty, sturdy, Midwestern boys.

Despite Grand Rapids and Buffalo being nearly 400 miles apart, everyone at 741 seemed to know the guys from On The Cinder personally. There definitely seems to be a strong connection between the band and the city. The respectable crowd mostly gathered up front when they hit the stage, and the dancing picked up in intensity. On The Cinder rewarded the eager audience with a set of fast paced, melodic punk. If they were tired from almost a month on the road, you never would have known it. They were energetic and in high spirits, and had the tightness of a band that had been playing every night. I’m sorry that I didn’t discover these guys earlier.

The band that I figured would open the show, Alien Dogs, actually came on last. I was only able to catch about 10 minutes before our Uber (my teenage son) showed up at 1am. Alien Dogs are a GR trio of really young guys who are cranking out some pretty impressive old school punk. They’re definitely a band to watch. If we’re being honest, five bands is too many for us old guys. I was already out way past my bedtime.

I generally only review live shows for bigger bands. I often choose which shows I go to based on whether or not I think people want to read about them. The irony is, I almost always have more fun at smaller shows. There’s really nothing better than being involved in your local scene, and getting to know the people who make your favorite music. Unlike some bigger shows, I never regret going to small gigs. So, thanks to On The Cinder for making sure I didn’t spend Saturday night on the couch.

(The triumphant return of) Confessions of a merch whore: I picked up On The Cinder’s 2016 debut LP The Fight Against Ourselves on clear blue vinyl, and a T-shirt too. I also got the new Scants CD, and a CD and can cooler from Nifty Skullet.