The Chats / Mean Jeans /Thick - live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Chats / Mean Jeans / Thick

live in Philadelphia (2022)

live show

“Thank you very much to 98 percent of you,” Chats frontman Eamon Sandwith spat from the microphone at the band’s May 8, 2022 show at Philly’s “Filmore.” Living up to its reputation, Philaly had been giving the band a rough ride for the evening. To be fair, as Sandwith stated, 98 percent of the people came to catch the buzz wave that is the Chats and have a good time. But, about two percent took the buzz as license to be a jackass and/or obnoxious… and that two percent affects the other 98 percent. Case in point- early on in the gig, Sandwith was whapped in the head with a water bottle, which visibly irritated him. A little later on, just after a heckler continued some non-sensical tirade, Sandwith looked right down at him and snapped a simple, “Fuck you!” After a brief pause, he added, “we’ve got loads more to play for ya!”

And indeed, the band did slam through 25 or 30 songs songs at very high velocity. That is, the Chats 2022 are almost a totally different band than the band that played the much smaller Kung Fu necktie in 2019. Back then, the band reveled in the “rock” side of punk rock and played wild and loose, at times referencing the blues-swing of Angus Young. That was not the band the audience saw at the Fillmore. Rather, the Chats bore a closer resemblance to late 80s Ramones than late 70s AC/DC. Each song was slammed out at mega-speed, with most tracks probably coming close to double speed to that of studio counterparts. While most Chats songs each have a unique identity, (as do Ramones tunes), the band opted for power in lieu of melody and cast out a nearly non-stop barrage of speed and power.

It was a tactical choice. Early hit “Smoko” was morphed from a bouncy joke track to nearly a hardcore rager. The band has now decided to pick power over bounciness and I can’t say it’s a bad choice. For instance, when they did play the aussie winking “AC/DC CD”, it was introduced as an “ode to the second best band ever.” They did not detail the first, but one assumes they meant either themselves in a James Brown style chest beat… or those four guys from Queens. And the way they hammered though, I’m thinking it was the later.

The band difference was even on their faces. While they were all smiles in 2019, in 2022, the scowl never left any of their faces. They weren’t there to have a good time, they were there to do battle. Plus, the perhaps more “gimmicky” aspects are gone- the mullets are snipped and the garish sunglasses and football/rugby jerseys are replaced with plain t-shirts and jeans. Also, the band’s Josh Price has been replaced with Josh Hardy. Matthew Boggis is still behind the skins.

So, who are they battling with? Sure, some of the audience members were jackasses, but I don’t think that’s the opposition. Rather, the band’s sudden rise in popularity was due in equal parts to their great song writing and quirky fashion choices… but that can be a double edged sword- just as something unique can get you noticed, it can also chain you to a single spot. I think the Chats are aware of that and are hellbent at breaking the chain by playing as fast and furious as they can. Even if that means fighting with their old selves, I think it’s the right choice. The band is evolving from novelty to innovative... all by borrowing plans from Bon, Angus, Joey, and Johnny.

Before the Chats, the Mean Jeans had their work cut out for them. The audience was not the typical Mean Jeans crowd. Instead of punkers, the audience was more college kids, frat boys, and people eager to see the buzz. But, now having rocked it for an astounding 16 years, the Mean Jeans knew just what to do.

Much like an opening stand up comic knows that you can’t falter for a second, the band came out and dashed from one song to the next. I’d even argue that they modified their sound slightly for the tour. Where they usually like to keep the Ramones bubble-gum bounce (and hidden melancholy) in their tunes, at the Philly show, somewhat like the chats, it was all about the raw power. “Stoned to the Bone” and “Nite Vision” were slammed out like the band was playing with jackhammers. It was loud and fast. Usually the band likes to throw around a few yuks between songs, but probably wisely, the jokey jokes were cut in lieu of more tuneage- and to keep the audience from acting up.

It was by far the loudest and fastest that I’ve seen the band out of my five times seeing them. In fact, they were playing with such force that the audience didn’t have time to get wise- they were too busy scuttling around the machine riffs and moshing away. That is, I’d say the majority of the audience didn’t know the Mean Jeans before seeing them, but the vast majority of the audience loved them, as evident by the rapturous applause the band got.

Despite the fact that the band was bent on a full power sound, the fundamental melody of the tracks did sneak through, as was especially evident by the four or so jingles they played from their amazing agit-prop Jingles LP (one of the greatest punk concept pieces of the last 30 years, I say). I’m pretty sure “Coors Light” got played, though I’m not sure because they were ripping down songs so fast. At any rate, just before the jingles section started, Billy jeans announced, “that concludes the pop-punk portion of our program. This is now the corporate jingles section.” People laughed before being pelted with 30 second bangers that are as tightly written as any Dangerhouse track you can name. I should also mention that with his newish long hear and trucker mustache combo, Jr. Jeans is now cosplaying as James Hetfield circa 1989. It’s a good look.

The fact is, the Mean Jeans are primed and playing with the enthusiasm of a new band, but the skill, style, and power of veterans. Interestingly, while the Ramones themselves were apparently bored with being the Ramones by 1992 (16 years in or so), Mean Jeans still have the pure fire. One always equates Mean Jeans with the Ramones in sound, but maybe in mentality Motorhead is a better comparison. Lemmy loved touring and playing live so much that he basically died on the road. I don’t know if Mean Jeans will die on the road, but they sure as hell are LIVING on the stage, let me tell you.

Opening act was Brooklyn’s Thick. I will first off say, that kudos to thick for taking a challenge head on and kudos to the Chats for bringing the band along. Thick are explicitly feminist and a lot of their songs deal with feminist issues. The crowd, meanwhile, seemed more bro-ey to me than your average punk crowd, and certainly more bro-ey than your average Thick crowd. The band didn’t care. Instead of going to battle with the crowd, the band won them over.

As soon as they took the stage, they announced, “this song is about bleeding. Two out of the three of us are on our periods.” From there, the band rocked out in a combination of straight ahead punk and 90s alt rock. The tunes were really good and, while a lot of bands might have a sort of angry, negative energy on stage, Thick seemed to be having a lot of fun, even if some of the songs were about negative topics. To that end, the crowd was won over by the third song or so. I wouldn’t be surprised if the band even opened up a mind or two, and I think they’ll be doing much more that in the future.