Reno Divorce/Submachine - Live at Savage Mountain Punk Fest (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Reno Divorce / Submachine

Live at Savage Mountain Punk Fest (2021)

live show

I must admit, I had never heard of Savage Mountain Punk Fest before 2021. And why would I have? Cumberland, Maryland is over 500 miles away, and an eight plus hour drive from my West Michigan home. It took Sloppy Seconds headlining the event for it to make a blip on my radar. After mostly sitting home (other than going to work, of course) for the last 20 months, a road trip seemed like a great idea.

The fest had a strong lineup beyond Sloppy too. Beatnik Termites, The Jasons, McRad, Submachine and The Cheats all jumped out at me as familiar names right away. Unfortunately, due to work commitments, we were unable to attend the opener on Thursday. That night featured Beatnik Termites, The Jasons, The Nuclears, McRad, Wayward Brigade and The Wasted. I was bummed to miss it.

SMPF was basically held in four sessions, with six bands playing in each. They were Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday matinee and Saturday night. You could buy tickets for individual sessions, or the whole weekend. We opted for Friday and Saturday night. (More on that later.) We rolled into town on Friday afternoon, with plenty of time to check into our hotel and chill a bit before the 8pm start time. I had done some research beforehand, and determined that I didn’t want to miss the bands playing early in the evening.

The fest was held in the basement of a bar called Mezzos. Upstairs was nice enough. It felt like an older bar you’d find in a bigger city, with a dark wood interior and casual seating. Downstairs on the other hand reminded me of a church basement. The stage was at the bottom of the stairs, on the end of the building that faced the road. There was a big window behind it so punks and gawkers alike could see the action from the sidewalk. The room was long and thin, with a relatively low ceiling, tile floors and a bar against one of the long walls that created a bit of a bottleneck during peak traffic. The bathrooms and a weird half moon shaped serving window were in the back, and there was a bonus L-shaped room in the back for the merch tables.

We met up with some friends from Baltimore upstairs for a couple of drinks before settling in downstairs in time to see The Lousekateers kick things off on Friday night. The New York trio led by singer/guitarist Ginger Val tore through a fun set of rough and tumble pop punk. Typhoid Rosie followed suit with a solid set with even more feminist overtones. The quintet is also from NY, and is fronted by one time comedian Rosie Rebel, who donned a Wonder Woman costume for the occasion. Both bands have recently dropped solid new albums.

Next up were a couple of old guy bands playing a more classic style of punk. Both bands were great, but my heroic consumption makes it hard for me to differentiate between The Downstrokes and Reckless Threat. You see, the beers at SMPF were cheap and even more plentiful. The Downstrokes were a quartet that included one of the festival founders. Reckless Threat were a trio all the way from from Knoxville, Tennessee. I know one of the two played a cover of the Ramones/Heartbreakers classic “Chinese Rock”.

I finally made my way up front for Submachine. They were everywhere in the ‘90s, and I saw them with NOFX on their Punk In Drublic tour, when NOFX was still playing halls. (Pretty much every punk album in the ‘90s thanks Alex from Submachine.) It had been 27 years since I had seen the Pittsburgh icons, and I wasn’t going to miss it. Plus, by this point I was drunk enough to dance. They were definitely the most aggressive band of the night, tearing through a set that teetered between punk and harcore. Looking older, but still sounding great, Submachine were definitely a highlight.

I must admit, I was not at all familiar with Reno Divorce before they were announced as the Friday night headliner. The Denver band certainly traveled the farthest to play at SMPF. The easiest way to describe their sound is Social Distortion-like. To me, that’s a big compliment. Their bluesy punk and roll stood in stark contrast to Submachine, but they did a fantastic job of closing out day two.

Reno Divorce did for the Dolly Parton classic “Jolene” what Social D did 30 years ago for “Ring of Fire”. Later on, Gerry, one of the organizers of the fest, joined the band for a spirited take on Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”. When RD was done, we were tired and drunk. My memory gets really hazy at this point, so we’ll pick up the action tomorrow.

Confessions of a merch whore: I think I bought almost all the vinyl that was available. I got the Reckless Threat The Heartbreak KIds LP (yellow), The Downstrokes 12” EP Fall in love with punk rock again (purple marble), and the Submachine People 7” and Kicker split 7” (both on black). Miraculously, they all made it back to the hotel with me.