A few days after seeing Against Me rock Buffalo, we took a trip across state lines to a tiny DIY venue called Basement Transmissions in Erie, PA. Five bands, no booze, but a hell of a good time. And on a Saturday, which is rare if you follow touring bands. I can count on one hand the times I’ve been lucky enough to go to a show on a weekend.
We left in the early afternoon giving time to do a bit of shopping, grab a bite to a eat and then find the place. It’s a relatively new venue, and I don’t go to Erie for shows very often, because frankly there aren’t any that I am interested in. Amie went to school here so she knows it better than I do. We ended up eating at Molly Brannigans, which was just a couple blocks from the venue, and happened to be where Amie had Starbucks for the first time in college. She’s now a card carrying gold member of the phenomenon that is Starbucks. The food was traditional Irish Pub food, so it was delicious. We have a habit of finding gems without looking too hard. We travel a lot and (still) enjoy each other’s company after almost ten years. So we can really go anywhere and have a good time, but if you’re in the area check out Molly Brannigans, it’ll be a good time whether you have a good company or flying solo.
Being unfamiliar with the venue. I figured getting there as doors opened would be fine. Waiting around is the worst. Didn’t quite work out. Getting people in took longer than expected and I could hear the first band say “I’m sorry for everyone outside, but we’ve got to start”. We got in at the tail end of the band’s first song and found a spot on the relatively empty floor. This band is the reason you get to shows early. Sometimes the opening acts are great, sometimes they aren’t, but, you show them the respect by showing up to see them if you’re able. My weird philosophy. One If By Land are a punk rock from Meadville, PA. Musically, I hear influences of Hot Water Music, Leatherface, The Weakerthans, and a more recent band, Worship This! They play the brand of punk rock that I enjoy the most. I’m still all over the place when it comes to genres, but I can always come back to the type of music One If By Land plays. They execute it so well for being a band with only one LP under their belt. The new songs they played sounded great and am looking forward to hearing what they do next.
If One If By Land are to be the second coming of Hot Water Music, then Oh No, It’s Mustard Gas are the new Less Than Jake. Third wave ska punk at it’s finest. I listened to a lot of it in high school. I find myself reaching for most first wave stuff when i want some ska, but Mustard Gas bring it like it’s 1997 all over again. They were fun, got some people skanking, and clearly were having a good time. Though it’s not my thing anymore, I’m glad to see bands like them still exist. It’s super accessible music that opens the door to dun-dun-dun, the Underground Network of music. Labels like No Idea, Asian Man, Matador, and Sub Pop have existed for decades and continue to churn out quality albums too many people haven’t heard. Oh No, It’s Mustard Gas will surely be someone’s local gateway band into the underground scene, and the world will be all the better for it.
After the Fall are a band I thought I would enjoy. They play fast punk rock, have a good vocalist, and have good lyrics. The problem is everything sounded the same to me. Every song whether they announced it being an old or new song was the exact same formula. They sounded good and clearly were putting effort into their show, but it was just a bland blur for their entire set. They had some fans with them that were clearly digging it. Maybe it was just me, and if I were to revisit them I’d enjoy it, but to me I got bored. To be fair, I was really excited to see the two bands after them. I very well could not have given them a fair shake. Don’t make my mistake and give them a chance.
Derek Zanetti aka The Homeless Gospel Choir is a one man band, and his live shows are an experience. I’ve seen him live about 5 times in the past year or so. He’s always upbeat and energetic. I’ve never seen him not smiling, which is infectious. His songs on the other hand speak of social issues on a macro and micro level. He needs to be seen live to be truly appreciated. He sings into the mic, away from the mic, whispers into the crowd, and changes lyrics on a whim…all within the same song sometimes. It’s captivating to watch him so effortlessly engage a crowd who most of the time have no prior knowledge of his music. A string broke after his first song, and while it was getting fixed told the crowd about his new book he’s writing about repressed memories. He previously wrote a book about existentialism, and after hearing about his new one, I’m looking forward to hearing it. He’s one of those people that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. I always walk away from one of his shows feeling like I’ve learned sometimes or look at things a little bit differently. Here’s a video of him playing live in Paris a few days after I saw him and sums up exactly what all he’s about. I encourage you to watch this all the way through, and then go buy a record.
Growing up Greg Graffin taught me about philosophy, Ian Mackaye taught me about ethics, and Anti-Flag taught me about social injustices. I researched the topics they spoke about and opened my eyes to the world. Anti-Flag was clearly the band everyone was waiting for at this show, and I don’t blame them. They’ve toured the world, but out so many great records, and now they’re playing a tiny DIY venue to a couple hundred people. It didn’t matter how many people were there it seemed though, they played their hearts out. I watch Chris #2 jumping off amps, screaming, and sweating. It’s clear they still care, and the world is better for it. It was a sweaty good time. You either love or hate them. I don’t really need to say anything about them other than their new record. “American Spring”, stands up to their old records. So if you’ve forgotten about them or thought they became irrelevant, check it out. They can still rock just as hard as the young guns.
I remember sometime last year I was watching Homeless Gospel Choir (who put out a record on A-F Records) in a basement bar with like 50 people in Pittsburgh and I stood next to Chris #2 and we were both singing along to Derek’s songs. I had idolized this guy since I was like 13 and now it’s over a decade later and we were singing along to a band whose record he put out. It’s great to see how much he cares about music. It’s people like the one’s at A-F Records that keep the punk scene alive.