Direct Hit/The Bloody Lips - Live in Grand Rapids (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Direct Hit / The Bloody Lips

Live in Grand Rapids (2019)

live show

It took 12 years, but Direct Hit finally made the trip around Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to Grand Rapids. Nick Woods, Devon Kay and the rest were joined by a full and varied slate of local punk bands on Friday, August 30th at the Pyramid Scheme in downtown GR. The show seemed like a good way to kick off the long Labor Day weekend, even if I struggled to rip myself away from the couch. Ultimately, my spirits were buoyed by the promise of sleeping in on Monday.

I showed up fashionably late, but was still able to catch most of the first band’s set. Abner was making their live debut, and definitely seemed to win the already mostly friendly crowd over. I know bassist/vocalist Blake from his time in now defunct local punk/hardcore favorites The Scants. Abner plays that kind of shouty, aggressive pop punk that old guys like me don’t have much of a reference point for. There were bits of grunge and hardcore too. The songs were definitely catchy, and the young trio shows a ton of promise. On a side note, Abner has a female drummer. I know we’re not supposed to use the term “female fronted”, but how about “female backed”? I look forward to hearing more from these kids.

Boob Sweat is another trio, this time featuring female vocalist/bassist Kate. This was a slightly different lineup than the one I saw earlier this year, and was much tighter musically. I would describe their music as feminist pop punk, not entirely unlike The Lippies. Like The Lippies, the songs can turn from poppy and sweet to angry and combative on a dime. Case in point, when Kate screams “touch me again and I’ll fucking kill you” repeatedly at the end of one song. By contrast, Boob Sweat’s revved up version of Avril Levign’s “Complicated” is a sugar coated pop earworm.

Boob Sweat certainly has a political agenda. (When Kate was talking about safe spaces, all I could think about was how it was safe inside, but I parked in the hood and was going to have to run the gauntlet on the way back to my car.) It might not be my agenda, but I applaud punk with a message. This show drew a much younger crowd than most that I go to. For better or worse, this punk scene looks almost nothing like the one I grew up in. Earlier this year, I thought Boob Sweat were charming but ramshackle. Now I’m finding them to be much more polished. Fortunately, not too polished. They’re very young and only going to get better. The sky’s the limit for Boob Sweat.

Speaking of ramshackle, The Bloody Lips were up next. They’re pals of mine, and I’ve seen them a ton of times over the last couple of years. Unlike Boob Sweat, these guys and girl have almost no commercial potential. I’m pretty sure they’re OK with that. They were formed by Kole and Taylor from The Lippies in the wake of that band’s breakup. (They’ve since reunited.) Imagine The Lippies as a hardcore band with no political agenda. That might be impossible, but BL were very much an attempt to do something radically different than The Lippies. Singer Krystal has a delivery that is almost unmatched in its hostility. The Bloody Lips split up for a while too, but recently reformed with drummer Athen, who also plays for Boob Sweat. Are you starting to get a feel for how insular the GR scene is yet?

When Krystal went down into the crowd to sing, she almost disappeared. Her snarl did not. Men two or three times her size pushed and shoved all around her, but she didn’t seem even slightly fazed. They were the most aggressive band of the evening, but being in The Lippies/Red Scare family indirectly connects them to Direct Hit. Toward the end, Taylor joined Krystal on the floor for my favorite Bloody Lips song, “Abandon Me”. They blasted through their typical short set, but then did something I’ve never seen them do. Kole took over on vocals and they did a fun cover of Operation Ivy’s “Knowledge”. I was a little surprised by how many of the kids seemed to know Op Ivy. I guess it shows what I know.

Direct Hit finally took the stage about 10:30. As they went to start their very first song, the drummer kicked a hole in the bass drum. It was a bad omen, and the band left the stage to regroup. A few minutes later they emerged with Athen’s bass drum. (He was sort of responsible for 75% of the drumming.) This time things went off without a hitch. They tore through a bunch of classics including “Snickers or Reese’s” and “The World is Ending (No One Cares)”. Their most recent LP, Crown of Nothing (2018), was also well represented with “Altered States”, “Welcome to Heaven” and “Something We Won’t Talk About”. I’ve been a fan of Direct Hit’s live show for a few years now, and I’m finally starting to come around to their albums.

A lot of the kids were there to see the openers, and the crowd had thinned out by the bitter end. Those of us who stayed were treated to a solid 40 minute set, filled with DH’s signature humor and propulsive hybrid of hardcore and pop punk. It had been a slow late summer for punk shows in GR, and it was nice to see so many people out and about. Despite a general lack of shows, there were actually a handful of them over Labor Day weekend. I specifically chose this one to catch up with some old friends. It was definitely worth getting out of the house for.