HappyHappy/Sad2/Punk with a Camera - Live in Denton (Cover Artwork)

HappyHappy / Sad2 / Punk with a Camera

Live in Denton (2019)

live show

I made the three hour trek to Denton, Tx, just outside of Dallas, as I wanted to catch HappyHappy before he headed back to the Northern Wilderness of the Dakota’s. I knew it was going to be a long day, as I would be returning following the show, but for one of my favorite artists, it was almost worth it. Throw in Sad2 and Punk with a Camera and the decision was quite simple.

We arrived about a half hour before music was supposed to start. The venue was a very DIY spot; a garage converted into a make-shift venue with a small stage, and a mediocre sound system, but I was going for acoustic artists, so it couldn’t have been a better venue for what I was looking for which was an intimate chance to listen to some of my favorite Folk Punk artists, and my favorite film-making punk chronicler debuting a few new videos. It was clear within 10 minutes that I was the oldest person in the venue, but I tried not to let that affect my mood, and just made conversations, despite being near 20 years older than the next oldest person there.

Before the music started, I was introduced to Daymon, the sole true member of HappyHappy, and Makenna, the musician who added all of the layers to his most recent release. Both were extremely grateful for the review I had recently done, and even answered a few of my questions regarding choices that were made on the album, what was coming next, etc. I had gone to lunch with Brandon a.k.a. Punk with a Camera, a few hours prior to the show, and he quickly introduced me to some of the other bands that would be playing. I picked up the merch that I wanted, and threw it in the car so that the next several hours could be devoted to listening, and taking notes for the inevitable review I’d planned to write.

About 20 minutes after the music was supposed to start, a group of kids from Waco, Tx took the small stage and introduced themselves as The Makeshifts. It was a typical folk punk make-up: accordion, gut buster, steel guitar, and washboard. Needless to say I was excited. Unfortunately, I was just as quickly disappointed. The “bassist” playing the gut buster seemed to only know one note, and in such a small venue, it was blazingly obvious. Had it been in rhythm with the rest of the band, it might have been something I could overlook, but it was, and I’m being nice, pretty bad. Along the same line, the washboard player didn’t seem to understand the depth of sound that can be produced by such a simple instrument. He was using what looked like a screwdriver, and just tapping, rather than mixing the taps with scrapes, and providing a more fulfilling percussion. Not that fashion means anything to me, but he was also wearing a Phantom of the Opera type half-mask that I didn’t really get. Now, the guitar player/vocalist, was actually very impressive, and his accordion player supported his vision. It was gritty, dirty, fast, and fun, which was even more impressive knowing that they had no real support from the rhythm section. I’m not sure how many times these guys have played before, but if this was their first show, then there is a bit of a promising future, as all bands have to learn to play together. If they are veterans, and have somehow stayed off my radar, then it may be time to look at a line-up change.

Based solely on the guitar/vox/accordion, I’d take these guys from a 1/10 to a 4/10, but they have a ton of room to grow.

Sad2 took the stage shortly after. While most of the tour, it was Brandon playing solo, he had his back-up in Makenna for this show, which they announced was the first time in nearly a year they were playing as the duo that recorded their album Self Love/Self Hate. He started his set with “Don’t Know the Words”, which is one of his poppier songs, and very crowd oriented, as it is all about being on stage and forgetting your lyrics, which led to him playing the crowd by singling out listeners with one of the lines “Do you know my next line.” Definitely a fun way to start a set, but his more intimate songs were what I was looking forward to. Mid-Set he played “Toxic”, by far my favorite of his, and he ended with the slightly depressing “Age of 25”, chronicling of the death of someone very close to him who, based on the lyrics, took their own life before turning 25, or even 22. This one became somewhat of a sing-along with the crowd, which toned some of the pain of the lyrics down, but suicide is not usually a topic that inspires a crowd full of smiles. Brandon has a long way to go with his song writing, but he hits the nail on the head with about 50% of his songs, and as he played a short set, there were very few songs that didn’t captivate the crowd.

He and Makenna’s performance was a solid, and really got the crowd ready for what was to come. A solid 7 out of 10, if not a little higher.

Next were Filthy Arsenal. While not a band on my regular rotation, I had seen a few of their videos, and listened to a few songs here and there, but they never really grabbed me with their recorded material. Their live show may have changed my opinion. While their standard washboard player was not available, the fill-in did a wonderful job of keeping the band tight. The definite stars were the ukelele player and Yoe whose raspy, gritty vocals are reminiscent of some of the early NYHC bands. I didn’t know any of their songs, but I found myself extremely entertained, none-the-less, and what could have been the set that got this old man starting to yawn, they kept me awake, energized, and excited for the headliners that were mere moments away.

Based on performance, musicality, and sheer surprise of talent, I’d score these guys a 6 or a 7 as well.

Following the surprise of the night was the film portion of the evening. Punk with a Camera debuted a new short film chronicling the pains of being a band and having to shill your merch directly after a show. It was quite entertaining, despite being different than what he traditionally does. Alongside the short film were a few of his more popular videos, including Ceschi Ramos, Escape from the Zoo, and two new videos for Rob Taxpayer of the Taxpayers, and a session with the Homeless Gospel Choir. I’m quite sure there were a couple other videos, but those were the highlights for me.

I’d give the debut of his videos a solid 6.5. It blended well with the night as a whole, and while I’ve seen some of his better videos, the ones he chose spoke to the crowd that was there, so it was not only appropriate, but probably a solid marketing choice.

Finally, Daymon/HappyHappy took the stage, and quickly went into a flurry of some of his biggest songs. A few songs in, he told the crowd he needed to sit down (which terrified me that maybe he had been drinking too much and the show would end early). Almost immediately after sitting he launched into “Father”, possibly his most personal song from the self titled album, and within moments the crowd was singing along. Tears were definitely falling from both musician and fans alike. Near the end of the song, POP, and a string broke. Stunned, he looked around at what to do, having gone from a deep emotional state into panic. He pointed to a guitar two feet away from him and said “Can I use this?” The crowd repeated asking whose guitar it was and if it could be used, while Daymon started in on some comedic banter: “DIY or die? Am I right?” A few moments later, someone from the crowd said “He said yes!” and the show was back on.

Picking up the new guitar, he went right back to where he left off and finished his song, as if nothing had happened. He stood back up and played a few songs from his new album, and shockingly the crowd sang along to near all of them, despite the album being only a few weeks old. After noting the time, he said “I’ve got one song left” and almost immediately corrected himself, looking to an 8 year old boy who had requested his song “27 Wagons” before the set started, and said, “Well, we can try that one before my last song, but I don’t know the words, will you join me on stage and help me sing?” The crowd cheered along, and the spry 8 year old said, “You should have asked me an hour ago, I’m too tired now!” It brought a wave of energy through the crowd, and he quickly launched into the song.

Every person in the crowd sang near every word of the first verse, chorus, and began doing the same in the second verse, including that very tired 8 year old boy, when as if by destiny, POP, another string broke. Once again shocked, Daymon looked around, and about 3 feet away was another guitar. “One set, three guitars… now that’s DIY!” The crowd quickly approved and Daymon grabbed the third guitar, apologizing to the little boy that he wouldn’t be able to finish his favorite song, and launched into his final tune “Zozobra”, the title track of his newest album.

Despite the technical difficulties, the show was a brilliant success. Easily in my top 10 favorite sets I’ve ever watched. A solid 9.5 out of 10 to end the night. It would have honestly been a lower score if all of the mishaps hadn’t occurred, and he hadn’t been roasted on stage by the young kid who was up way later than he wanted to be, all to see this brilliant lyricist bring his lyrics to life on stage.

I left, energized, near 1AM, and made the three hour trek back home, very happy(happy) with my choice.