Friday, August 23, 2013

My Return to New Brunswick's Court Tavern

It's hard to believe this was my first trip to the Court Tavern since its reopening.
I couldn't help but immediately recall how devastated I was upon hearing about its closing.
Though the Court was, by no means, something any architectural snob would soil themselves over. It's location served as both the center for a city that's continually produced new and inspiring acts and a middle ground for bands traveling between New York City and Philadelphia. Its resurgence reinstates that vital link.

As I made my way inside I noticed that the room to the left, one that was once cluttered with garbage had been turned into a comfortable lounge area with couches, video games and a foosball table. The bar area seemed cleaner, more welcoming and the walls featured gallery quality music photography and most noticeable was the absence of that old douche bag that would project the misery that was his life on everyone he collected money from on the way downstairs. It was indeed, a welcome return.

If my sixth grade math skills serve me right, this was my fifth time seeing Archie Alone.
The Essex County five piece plays a very impressive blend of Punk and Hardcore with emotional vocals and somewhat Metal tinged guitar leads and riffs. There's really not much
I can say that hasn't already been said. The band opened the night to a very sparse, yet intimate crowd. This was by far the smallest crowd I've seen them play to. From the first note it became more than evident that the size of the crowd, stage and venue bear little consequence on their performance. The band seems to gel just as much with the those in attendance as they do with each other. On this particular night I really felt the spirits in me and tried to move the crowd as close to the stage as possible. Even grabbing the bands unofficial sixth member Ana Dobrian to form a somewhat unofficial wall of death.
One that had me sent to the floor due to my own lack of balance and slight drunkeness. Overall, Archie Alone killed it. Setting the tone for the night and raising the bar pretty high for everyone else.
Archie Alone Band Camp

 It's been a long time since I've seen I Hope You Die, maybe two years. With two touring bands bailing out at the last minute, her own guitarist a no show and an audience whose majority was members of the bands that showed up that night. As Punk Rock as
Shannon Perez might be, her voice and song writing abilities go far beyond that rather confined description. That voice, depending on the emotion and angst of the song itself can range from dark and bluesy to sweet and angelic. Each song delivered with a warmth and emotive spirit that makes those in attendance feel as if they are a part of what she's experiencing at the time. One can only imagine the kind of stress she was under on this particular night. With two of the touring bands dropping off the bill, a sparce attendance and her own guitarist a no show. Others might begin to quickly unravel, a lot of people might falter, but not Shannon. She not only kept it together, she made it feel as if I Hope You Die was intended to be a duo.  I hope to see this band releasing new material and playing more shows.
I Hope You Die Facebook

Long Island's bluesy garage influenced three piece A New Bug were the perfect follow up to
I Hope You Die's style and approach. The bands testosterone fueled
"How You Guys Doing Tonight?" Rock N' Roll swagger led by frontman Eddie Lo on guitar and vox with the mysterious Nick Diaz on bass and the man of a thousand names
Michael Boulanger on drums was very appealing. Reminding me of acts such as
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, The Strokes and The Hives. They definitely added another layer to the night's diverse bill.
A New Bug Bandcamp

Closing the night was Feeny. The band featuring former/current members of the Far Away Boys (An impressive band I caught at the Court a few years back.) The three piece, who danced and remained front center for each of the bands that went before, took the stage with the same enthusiasm and energy they showed on the dance floor that night. Much like the Far Away Boys, Feeny play some impressive upbeat Pop Punk with just enough punch to keep the pit moving. It was a real pleasure to see how much these kids have grown musically since I last saw them . They've definitely kicked it up a notch. Though I'm personally unsure of The Far Away Boys future...Feeny undoubtedly made an excellent first impression.
Feeny  Facebook

As I was driving home I couldn't help but reflect on all the good times I've had in New Brunswick over the years. From the numerous basement shows to the celebratory nights at the Court Tavern. The town has been good to me musically. I'm hoping to be back there this week for my first basement show in maybe two years. I'm really looking forward to it.
James Damion

Talking to Drummer Tony "Detroit" Scandiffio Part II

In part I of my interview with Tony we talked about his time in the Hardcore bands Hogan's Heroes and O.S. 101. Two bands that had major impact on the 80's and 90's. In part II we talk about the very busy and sometimes confusing life as a musician. Since the first installment of this interview Tony has left I Hope You Die to better focus on his other myriad of projects. Thanks to Tony for filling in all the blanks. I'm hoping our paths will cross sooner than later. James Damion

James: Fast forward a few year where I met you in Denville. You're playing in two bands with mutual friend Shannon Perez. Tell me about
I Hope You Die and Strange Things Done in the Midnight Sun. How would you describe the two and how do they differ?

Tony: I remember you came to a show we had at the Court Tavern prior to the closing and reopening of the new one. We were involved with putting on local shows there for the sake of providing an opportunity for local and touring original bands.
I would say that with Strange Things Done in the Midnight Sun the main thing there is
John Mathews is the lead singer with a male voice being dominant in the forefront of the tunes and the female voice compliments, harmonizes etc.Whereas in I Hope You Die, the obvious difference is the lead vocal is the female voice. They're also dwell in two completely different genre with Strange Things... being Goth Punk and I Hope You die being more Power Pop meets Punk.

James: Has there ever come a time when you arrive early for a practice or a show and ask "Wait, what band am I playing in tonight?"

Tony: That's actually a funny question. For some time I would literally check what day it was. What time it was. Look around the room asking "Wait, what band is this?"
It's happened at practices and shows. (Laughs) It can definitely get confusing, being involved with so many different artists.

James: Though I've listened to the Extras, Inc. countless times. Due to geography,
I've yet to see you live. The band sounds more Rock and Roll than anything you've done.  Tell me about the band.

Tony: The Extras Inc. is a band that formed towards the end of 2003. The man responsible for the songwriting is Pete Jager who plays guitar and sings leads. He also plays bass in an instrumental Surf band called Ultra Torqued. Pete's a straight up great guy who's really easy to get along with. We've been friends since I was in O.S. 101 in the mid 90's. His band Dodgeball and O.S.101 practiced at the same studio in Asbury Park. Another important member of The Extras Inc. is the one and only Jason (Skiz) Skizlak. He's an awesome
bass player whose played in numerous bands such as Old Bat, Montagna, Mouth to Mouth, Bubble Gum, Sir Dove and more. Skiz has even played accordion with Weezer at MSG.

The Extras Inc. fully enjoy the freedom of not being genre specific. It's Rock, it's Punk, it's Folk. It's a whole lot of things. The only cover what we've released thus far. I really think this band can do it all. We even have jams the go all over the place. We even have an audible set up where, if needed, we can switch to plan B in the middle of a set where you wouldn't even recognize us musically. The band is content to exist, period. We're not the most motivated three piece but we bring our 'A' Game wherever we play and fully intend to keep doing so. Musically, it's a healthy work ethic. The only pressure we feel is the pressure we put on ourselves. And that's how we like it.

James: Now I'm hearing about a new band Sir Dove. How would you describe the bands sound and how does differ from the myriad of other projects you're involved in?

Tony: Sir Dove is a band that developed from a bunch of musician friends in
Monmouth County. Skiz (The Extras Inc.) sings, plays guitar and keyboards. Pat Veil, formerly of the Sex Zombies plays acoustic guitar and sings, Ben Ross on bass and vocals recorded and produced our record 'Stay Home'. He's also an amazing drummer , singer and songwriter who also plays in Intense Men, 117 and is involved with Nact Records. The band isn't motivated to change the world. We're just content playing as often as we want.
Our record has done well considering it's limited release. You can listen and download it for free Here. While we may be old, jaded punks that don't feel the need to do all the work for promoters and clubs. We are proud of our art and refuse to let anyone outside the band make the decisions for us. We're not the busiest of bands... But we're okay with that.

James: One of the things that help me to think there is hope for me yet is the fact that you're still skating after all these years? Do you have any favorite spots?

Tony: Skating? Yeah, I love to skate when I have time. My favorite local spot in Sayerville called JFK park. I also love to bowl there.

James: Is there ever a point in the day, week, month or year when Tony "Diesel" takes a break? What's your idea of down time?

Tony: Down time for me is usually well spent. I like to play guitar, garden, go to the beach, a show or simply lay in the hammock out back. Unfortunately I'm too busy to down time these days.

The Extras Inc.
Sir Dove

Monday, August 19, 2013

When it Counts, Archie Alone and One Fell Swoop Highlight a night of Local and Touring Bands at Montclair's Meatlocker

Not wanting to wait around I got to the Meatlocker at about 10:30, thus missing the opening band, whose name escapes me. As I entered the room local favorites Archie Alone were just launching into their set. If you're familiar with the blog and have read my show reviews Here, and Here or my review of their EP Here you'll know fully well how much I enjoy this Essex County band. Each time I've seen them perform live they've kind of upped that level with their all out performances. Nicole Mesce's passionate vocals and emotional delivery are nothing short of amazing. You can't help but feel the honesty and unflinching emotion of the music as she leaves everything on the dance floor. Add to that the incendiary guitar work of Cindy Ward  ....and an unrelenting rhythm section that lurks only inches away in the foreground and you have what is, without a doubt, one of New Jersey's rising powerhouses. The more familiar I get with their songs the better prepared I am when those notes, riffs and rhythms are just about to explode.
Archie Alone  Bandcamp

Yonkers One Fell Swoop continued the bi-state vibe with an amazing set that really kept those in attendance on their feet. Before the show I found myself lurking by the merch table wondering what the band would offer musically. What I got was a shot of adrenaline and a double dose of five hour energy that had me listening to their EP "The House Leaks" all  the way home. Overall, I found the bands mix of anthemic punk and melodic Hardcore to be quite uplifting.
 One Fell Swoop  Bandcamp

Scoutmaster Jack followed with a set that was both energetic and animated. Though their stage presence reminded me of so many of the intense Hardcore acts I've seen over the years. (The pointing, attacking the mic like a vandal, the over testosterone guitarist who launches in the air like a caffeine fueled monster.) The bands music seemed somewhat tame in comparison. Not really my thing musically but with influences ranging from Blink 182 to New Found Glory and Yellowcard, it doesn't suprise me in the least. To each their own, right? Regardless, they put on a good show and looked good for the camera.
Scoutmaster Jack  Bandcamp

As When it Counts began their set I was in the midst of trying to find my wallet within the various compartments and sub compartments of my camera bag. Being the unorganized goof I tend to be I often find myself forgetting where I put things. After running to the car to find it on the passenger seat I decided to run back to see just what these kids from Staten Island had to offer. Though the band didn't make an immediate mark on me I felt myself being won over by this Staten Island band. They ended the night on a high note, their songs still fresh in my ears by the time I made it to the Lincoln Tunnel.
When it Counts  Bandcamp

I've always felt that the intimacy level at the Meatlocker was compromised by the owners videotaping of the shows. Maybe I'd consider it less invasive if his choice of cameras wasn't the size of a 1970's boom box, or if the giant light that accompanies it didn't blind me when it was turned on the audience like that of an LAPD helicopter routing out a gang of Crips or Bloods out on a killing rampage. This time out I witnessed a first at both the Meatlocker and when I think of it, any other show I've ever attended. An older and somewhat out of place photographer had a set of two studio lights fitted with soft boxes at stage left at the far right corner of the stage. "It helps to illuminate the entire stage." he exhaled like a true rocket scientist. I asked him for a card in order to later see his results but he evaded me saying "I have many cards." By then the douche chills began running up and down my spine like a winter wind. Quickly and without haste I removed myself from the conversation. Be careful out there. Big Brother is definitely watching.

For as much as I piss and moan about this place. The venue does a great job of booking both local talent and touring bands. They also keep the prices low. Add to that a Dunkin' Donuts, Pizza, a liquor store, available parking all within a block of the place. You've got all the god damned ambiance you need. Until the next time, mind your pee's and eat your meat.
James Damion

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Explosion Theory - S/T EP

New York City's Explosion Theory is a three piece featuring Maurice Vega,
Peter Harrison McWhinney and
Dino Sex. Each formerly of the long running indie rock band Accidental Tribe.
While separately performing in acts such as NYHC's
Under Pressure and alongside the legendary G.G. Allin.
The band features elements of Rock, Jazz, the Blues and yes, Hardcore.

The seven song EP opens on a high note with the instrumental 'Looking in from the Outside' highlighted by it's lush leads and funky jazz inspired rhythms. It serves as a welcome mat as to what's to come.
'Interference' follows taking the listener out of their comfort zone with it's hardcore assault. Mixing highly elevated musicianship with primitive Bad Brains meets Cro-mags vocals.
The closing track and personal favorite'Over' features Jae Monroe of thE influential NYC Punk band A.P.P.L.E. on vocals. Thus perfectly closing out one of the most surprisingly inspiring records of the year.

What makes Explosion Theory really stand out is their musicianship and song crafting ability that allows them to fuse so many different styles of music without ever coming off as muddled or confusing. It's a genre-defying style that can be both an advantage and a detriment depending on how you look at it. For me personally, Explosion Theory is Hardcore for the musician minded Hardcore fan. James Damion

Explosion Theory  Get it Here

Vasudeva - Life in Cycles

Musically, Vasudeva bring to mind local acts such as
Pilots in Orbit and in particular
Boxed Wine while lacking any of the angst and nerdy qualities that make those acts so appealing. Though there are a lot of good things happening here, without vocals or any dialogue, one can't help but begin to feel they're listening to the same song continuously. 'Life in Cycles' at times made me think of standing on the platform waiting for that light at the end of the tunnel that never seems to come.
Though Vasudeva does fine musically, it lacked those high points that most listeners anticipate. Instead the entire 'Life in Cycles' comes off sounding like Vesudeva on life support.
James Damion

Vasudeva  Bandcamp

One Fell Swoop - The House Leaks

I've only been to Yonkers once or twice in my life that I know of. My one and only memory of the area comes from an 80's Lotto commercial featuring a group of so and so's talking up the dollar and a dream theory. Each person playing to the camera as they proudly announce where there from. The one memory that stands out is the half witted construction worker says "Yonkers" in an accent I'd best describe as "Stoner".

The band One Fell Swoop instantly erased that memory with the stellar six song EP 'The House Leaks'. Mixing elements of Punk, Screamo and Pop Punk with plenty of melody and harmony.
The bands fervently sung dual vocals and screamed anthems are highlighted with excellent breaks and chord changes throughout. Adding layer upon layer of praise worthy excellence to each track. One Fell Swoop's 'The House Leaks' serves as proof that big things can indeed come in small packages. Download the EP and see for yourself.
James Damion

One Fell Swoop  Bandcamp

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Vexed - 2013 Demo

Growing up in Queens,
New York it felt as if there was a new Hardcore band forming on every corner and crevice of the apartments and
semi-attached houses within the (718) area code. As much as the Lower East Side was credited for the early days of Hardcore, Queens bore more than it's share of bands throughout the 80's, 90's and beyond.

Vexed make a very good first impression on the ears.
The six song demo opens with a good old "intro bust" kind of instrumental which indicates that Vexed offers something different and interesting musically. 'Twenty Six' follows, introducing the vocals of
John Ramos who you might recognize as the guitarist of brothers of the borough No Dice.
Ramos does an excellent job handling the singing duties, bringing to mind Leeway's
Eddie Sutton. Vexed's mid paced and sometimes stop/start style is well conceived and successfully achieved. There are some really interested riffs and some rather sick rhythms throughout. The band even manage to  throw in some excellent choruses and gang vocals for good measure. Vexed seem to have set themselves up for the future. It should be interesting watching this band make their way up the ladder. James Damion

Friday, August 9, 2013

High Card - Demo 2013

Though I could find very little information about the fresh out the deck Hardcore act
High Card, I found myself drawn to this digital only release whose cover and design reminded me so much of the cassette demos that once cluttered my shelves and filled the shoe boxes under my bed.
On High Card's debut the
Long Island four piece come off sounding more like seasoned veterans than rookies looking to make a roster spot. Just as the demo's cover harkins back to decades past, the bands sound brings to mind the  NYHC's bands Outburst and Long Islanders Kill Your Idols.
Impressive vocals and chainsaw guitar leads with a dose of reverb and distortion with an up front percussion help introduce the band as future players on the NYHC scene and at time help retrieve memories of my Sunday's at CBGB's. Hopefully we'll learn more about
High Card in the near future. Judging from their demo, the future looks to be stacked in their favor. Only time will tell. James Damion

Get it Here  Bandcamp
High Card  Facebook

Volatile Substance - Soak My Blood in Gasoline, Bathe Myself in Fire

As far as new bands go, Oakland California's
Volatile Substance is about as new as they get. Having formed in June of 2013 the band quickly recorded their four song demo
'Soak My Body in Gasoline, Bathe Myself in Fire' less than two weeks later.
Volatile Substance seem as determined as a terminal patient given just months to live on their hastily recorded demo 'Soak My Blood in Gasoline, Bathe Myself in Fire."
Volatile Substance unleash four songs of very fast, raw and mediocre Thrash Hardcore that's thankfully over and forgotten in just under the six minute mark. Though there are some pretty cool leads and broody rhythms within, the vocals are at most unbearable.

Perhaps with a little more seasoning and a more paced approach Volatile Substance could have had better results. Unfortunately, this demo didn't do much to warrant further listening or investigation.
James Damion

Volatile Substance  Facebook

Recreant - S/T LP

When asking Tampa's
Andy Stern of the Feral Babies if he would refer me to any of the up and coming Florida acts worth checking out, he almost immediately put me on to the Sunshine State's swampy Recreant.

Upon listening to the sludgy brilliance of the LP's opener 'Rick Scott is an Evil Robot'
I felt as if I was being introduced to a south of Savannah version of Kylesa. That may have been true but with the overall diversity and excellence of the seven songs that followed, I heard influences and reminders of acts such as Portraits of the Past, Reversal of Man and Dillinger Escape Plan. All of these while really getting the feel for a band that is just as comfortable and at home in it's own sound.
Songs such as the epic  'For all the Grief You've Caused us, You should Slit our Throats',
the punishing 'After the Apple' and the chaotic 'Modern Day F Word' help to make this an inspiring release. Thanks to Andy for putting me on to this. Your good taste in music should be noted. James Damion

.Recreant  Bandcamp
Recreant  Facebook


Tri-State are  a bit of an indie rock throw back  band from Essex County, New Jersey. The band define their influences as Guided by Voices, Wilco, Pavement, early REM, Feelies etc...and man do I hear small touches of everyone of those bands in Tri-States sound, which in this case is not a bad thing. I actually find it refreshing to hear a current band reviving the 90's indie sound and steering clear of the whole Brooklyn Hipster thing that has been going on in recent years.

If you're a fan of any of the bands stated influences, or are a fan of bands who are obviously playing music because they love playing music ( yes, I can feel the love for what the band is doing coming through their songs) then I think you should give Tri-State a listen immediately...Dave G.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Poor Lily - Vuxola

Poor Lily's second album Vuxola  is one hell of a non-stop Minutemen meets Dead Kennedys  punk rock roller coaster ride that I want to ride over and over again.  Everything about this album is spot on, from the quick frantic pace of the songs right down to the incredibly energetic D Boon meets Jello Biafra vocal delivery that is driven right to the edge of the cliff without ever going over.

In my opinion Vuxola stands on it's own as one of the most energetic and downright frantic and engaging records to come down the pike in some time. Please give these guys a listen and purchase a CD asap...Dave G.

Poor Lily 

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Night of Vodka and Pure Hell on the Lower East Side

I'm really lucky to have a wife who not only supports and even encourages me to indulge in my passion for going out to see and enjoy live music. On this occasion we shortened up our trip to Long Island City in order for me to make it to the lower east side's Fat Baby to catch 70's Afro Punk icons Pure Hell. As I arrived at 112 Rivington I was greeted by my buddy and fellow photographer Jason House.

Dead Serious opened and played with just as much, if not more intensity and energy as they displayed at the Meatlocker the week before. Playing closer to their Brooklyn home base and to a crowd that might have been more familiar with the band gave the band an invisible home town advantage and overall shine. The band packs a lot of intense and unbridled energy into their set. The bands reach extended much further from the small stage with singer Ryan Bland and guitarist Rikk Koncicki taking their act to the dance floor with purpose, making sure everyone knew that this was a punk show and that no matter what the local real estate investment group was calling it this week, it is still the lower east side to many of us.

Brooklyn's World War IX followed with their fun core style of high energy punk. As the bands set progressed from song to song I found myself becoming more and more gravitated to their infectious sound. While the early moments had me thinking of them as somewhat as gimmicky mid level fun punks, I became more and more drawn to their style as they reminded me of some of the early punk bands like The Vandals and The Adolescents that initially helped launch my addiction to punk rock. Before I left the show I was given the bands CD 'Off the Wagon' along with a thirty six page illustrated comic book 'World War IX Presents; Earaches and Eyesores.' Not a bad haul if you ask me.

Cranking up both the skill and energy level while keeping the Brooklyn vibe alive and loud were the Dead Tricks. Now I won't say for sure if the name alludes to played out magic tricks or dead hookers...I expect the latter, I'll leave the final conclusion up to the reader. The bands set which often took the band from the stage to the dance floor was a pure adrenaline rush that had me on my toes for the entire length of there performance. The Dead Tricks display a dirty form of roll on the floor New York Dolls meets The Dead Boys at a hammer fight with Jersey City's Wyldlife style of punk rock that every punk rock fan needs to witness. Featuring all the balls out swagger and debauchery or Punk Rock N' Roll these guys (and one stunningly beautiful female on bass) really hit me in all the right places. This is the band you always wanted to party with.

 Having missed Death's (another recently unearthed Afro Punk band from the 70's) I was dead set on catching Pure Hell's set. Though I had Death's 'For The Whole World to See..." to pour salt in the wounds caused by missing their much talked about set. All I knew of Pure Hell came from my friend Jason. Perhaps due to that and the hype and the legendary status a lot of reformed bands get, my expectations were pretty high, but as the band played through their stop and start set with a singer who at times brought to mind a current version of the Bad Brains H. R. I found myself feeling a bit underwhelmed. And though there were some serious moments where I felt the power of this deservingly praised act, it resembled more of a flicker than a flame.

A stellar night of music and new friends. Fat Baby is by far one of the best places to catch music in NYC. I look forward to any and all opportunities to catch more shows there in the future. 
Thanks to Jason for alerting me to the show. See you in the pit. James Damion