Underground Network

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.




Tonight We’re Going To Give It 35%

The title is from probably my favorite Against Me! song. The song itself talks about the insecurity of not feeling like yourself. Like you’re the one that’s out of place in the current situation. Against Me! are one of my favorite bands of all time, and am glad to be part of the generation that watched them from the start and have been along for the ride. But, let’s step back a couple hours.

The Town Ballroom is a place I don’t really love to see shows at. It’s big and it’s easy to feel disconnected from the performer. But, that’s where the “big” bands play when they come to Buffalo, so I’ll live. Waiting in line I saw a lot of My Chemical Romance merch, a lot of eyeliner, and I almost thought I was at the wrong show. Then I remembered for some reason Frank Iero was the second act on the bill. I don’t know why I always get to shows early. I feel like I need to be there for everything. What really happens is a lot of standing around and waiting, then drinking to kill time. The Town Ballroom is not cheap. For tickets or booze.

Annie Girl and the Flight opened the show up. I listened to a few songs beforehand and first impression I got was Death Cab For Cutie. Which is cool for me, but for my wife, not so much. They sounded really good, but I can’t do the hushed vocal thing. I have poor hearing as it is, so quiet whispered vocals are a turn off. Music, vocals and lyrics all go together. It’s harder for me to listen to a band where I strongly dislike one of those aspects. I know some people who can ignore lyrics and enjoy the music, but that’s not me. One of the reasons I can’t respect someone who says Skrewdriver are really good once you get past the lyrics. Nothing about Annie Girl and the Flight was offensive to me, just not my cup of tea. They put on a good show and people seemed to dig them. Sweet deal.


Frank Iero and the Cellabration on the other hand reminded me that I am not 13 anymore, which I’m glad because high school sucked for the most part. The shrill screaming of teenage girls is painful and frankly embarrassing. Frank’s mere presence incited these night terrors. I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy, and you can’t control who likes your music a lot of the time, but man, that was a rough set to watch. They play a brand of generic emo-punk a la Frank’s former band. Don’t get me wrong, My Chemical Romance’s first album ,”I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love”, is an aggressive, yet catchy pop punk album with poetic lyrics. I have no shame in loving that album. However, Frank’s band wasn’t quite anything enough, but he had a room full of fans that thought otherwise, so what do I know?


Against Me! is a veteran punk band with over a decade under their belt. They know how to bring the rock and put on a show. Last time I saw them was in the same venue when “Searching For a Former Clarity” came out. That was a long time ago. The band simply brings it. Some of the songs were new, but they play with just as much fire as they ever have. The biggest thing I noticed between all the bands I saw tonight was how Against Me! commands the stage. Laura walked out wearing a shirt that said “There Is No Gender” and without a word until a sincere “thank you” near the end of the set, proceeded to let their music speak for them. They’ve always been that way, and that’s why I respect them so much. Every album is great. Even at their worst, they’re better than most. They played a great mix of songs. Nothing felt out of place, and nothing was left out. The fans have gotten older so it’s not quite as rowdy (though the teeny-boppers left over from Frank Iero’s set quickly dissipated after a song or two). Different strokes for different folks. They missed out on an iconic band that I believe will be looked back on as one of the greatest bands of my generation. I mean that as objectively as possible. I can’t stress enough how much you should listen to this band. If you’re new, start with “As the Eternal Cowboy” for their most accessible album, then move on to what I believe is their best album, “Searching For a Former Clarity”. From there you should be hooked, and it doesn’t matter where you go in their discography. They are The Clash of my generation. Doing what they want, how they want, and always playing meaningful, heartfelt songs that blur genre lines.



A Whirlwind Tour

I’ve been to a concert once a week for the past month. They’ve encompassed most of the music I listen to. All different types of bands, at all different levels in their career, in significantly different environments. It’s when you see this much you see what bands are good and who are really great. I try not to talk negatively when I speak out music because just because it’s not my thing means it might not be up someone else’s alley. I’m going to attempt to document my experiences at these shows in four separate entries as I know I’m too long winded to keep it to one, and it’s unfair to the bands to gloss over them for space reasons. There’s no character limit in this blog (if you’re familiar with this thing we do here you already know that).

But before I talk about each show I want to touch on the idea of the album. I own a lot of records and have listened to even more. Music can be whatever a band wants it to be. One instrument to an orchestra. Well produced or more raw sounding. Peformed in public or confined to the recorded audio. Every band is different, but every band wants to be heard.

Seeing music live is addicting. That rush of adrenaline and personal interaction with the music is as close to those of us not as musically inclined can get without performing it ourselves. I don’t do roller-coasters, the thought of sky diving terrifies me, and bungee jumping is out of the question no matter how much money is involved. So, this is where I get those goose-bump inducing hits of euphoria. I don’t go as often as I’d like. Partially due to money, but more because of time. Traveling at least two hours one way to see a show consistently wears you down. I love to drive, and often drive four-plus hours at a time for work, but after a long day come midnight I’m beat. And then, I drive two hours home. I realize I’m getting old. I can’t eat the stuff I used to without feeling terrible the rest of the day. I can’t stay up as late anymore. Some of it’s mental, but certainly some of it is in physical aspect of aging.

To sum this up, go out and do something. Do whatever you want, whatever fuels you, but do it now. (Thanks Shia Lebeouf for inspiring us all) You may not get to do it again. Life happens, and it doesn’t always tell you when it’s going to happen.

I Wanna Be…Me

The struggle of acceptance is something we’ve all dealt with either on a micro or macro level. It may be internal or external, but it’s the same nevertheless. I will never quite understand how it is so difficult for some to accept others who live different lifestyles than them. I’m thankful I found punk music at an early age. Not only was it a space for me to feel comfortable being me, I met other people who felt the same way. This struggle we shared was a way to bond.

Songs like “I Wanna Be A Homosexual” by Screeching Weasel exemplify what I love about punk music. It’s offensive to those close minded, but has an important underlying message. Lyrics can be interpreted different, but I feel the song at it’s core isn’t about homosexuality at all. It’s about being brave enough to be the individual you want to be, and a big “fuck you” to those who tell you should be anything else. Here are the lyrics to the song:

“I’ve got a little lisp, and I’ve been working on my limp wrist.
Women are a drag, I think I wanna be a faggot, man.
A mincing ninny, prancing fairy, merry little queen.
A Bruce Labruce wet dream, a Nancy Boy with wings.

I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be

Shock the middle class, take it up your punk rock ass.
You rub your little thing, when you see phony dykes in Penthouse magazine.
So what’s the difference Mr. Cream Rinse, you just need a man.
A beefy leather fag, to take you out in drag oh yeah.

I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be, I wanna be a homosexual.
I wanna be

Call me a faggot, call me a butt loving, fudge packing queer.
But I don’t care ’cause it’s the straight in straight-edge,
that makes me wanna drink a beer and be a pansy, and be a homo.

Shock the middle class, take it up your punk rock ass.
You rub your puny thing, when you see studs with tight jeans pass you on the street.
Who wears short shorts? You wear short shorts.
You’re so full of shit
Why don’t you admit that you don’t have the balls to be a queer.”

The last line resonates the most with me. The hypocrisy of people amazes me. The more people spread the positivity of accepting each other the more it will change over time. Things don’t change immediately, but keeping a positive mental attitude with encourage others to do the same. I know I haven’t said anything groundbreaking, but felt like it needed to be said. Plus the song rocks pretty hard. So listen to it, and give a high five to stranger.


Waxahatchee is a band I had heard of years ago but never bothered with. Maybe it was the name. Maybe I just wasn’t a fan on first listen. I was perusing the list of new monthly releases (as I do on a weekly basis) and saw the band name pop up again. Don’t make my mistake. This band is good.

Waxahatchee’s 2015 release of “Ivy Tripp” is full of music. Atmospheric ballads, playful indie pop songs, and in your face rockers. It’s refreshing to hear a diverse album. Every song is different. “Breathless” opens the album with synths laid and Katie Crutchfield’s unique voice over what can only be described as TV static. The song sounds completely different from everything else on the album, but that’s what makes it so great. It’s a perfect introduction to Katie’s voice which I compare to a cross between Natalie Merchant and Alanis Morrisette. It’s immediately unique, but warm and inviting. Her lyrics speak of this feeling of being lost.

“If I was foolish I would chase
A feeling I long ago let fade
And we could be good for days

You take what you want
You wear it out
I’m not trying to be a rose
You see me how
I wish I was
But I’m not trying to be seen”
– “Breathless”

The two following songs, “Under A Rock” and “Poison” are indie rockers that demonstrate what Waxahatchee are best at. “La Loose” is probably my favorite song on the album. Everything just comes together so well. They dial back the guitars and crank up the organ (am I the only one who feel the organ is the most under represented instrument?).

“My thoughtful consort
When the stars are holding court
We will be in another world
Where my clarity’s restored
And this charming picture of
Hysteria in love
It could fade or wrinkle up
I don’t hold faith in much
I know that I feel more than you do
I selfishly want you here to stick to”
– “La Loose”

Katie is the definition of a song writer and comes from a punk background in Plan-It-X Records. This mentality encourages artists create art how they want and simple what will sell. Take a look at the Plan-It-X Records release list sometime and see how many amazing records they were part of. Those records don’t have sales that other artists have, but are just as worthy of your attention. Just because the masses won’t bother with it doesn’t mean you have to miss out on something great. This is really the only reason I write this thing in the first place. Sharing music that I enjoy that effects me and passing it on to someone else who might need it.

“Ivy Tripp” continues on this path of the first four songs. There’s some experimental songs and then some straight indie rock songs that keep the album moving. This album is the equivalent of an exhale after a long day.I went for a walk last night with my wife and my dog while listening to this album. It just sounds so refreshing to listen to from start to finish.

I encourage anyone who appreciates song writing or indie rock in general to check this out.

Bury Your Burdens In the Ground

Folk music. Alright, those you got past those two words pay attention to the next three words. William Elliott Whitmore. This man changed what I thought about folk music. His voice is other worldly. People don’t sing like him anymore. We are talking Sam Cooke level of singing here, but a completely different genre of music. I’ve met William and seen him play live and the way he captures the attention of an entire room is mesmerizing. His 2011 album, “Field Songs” has been in constant rotation since it came out.

I don’t know if his 2015 effort, “Radium Death”, is going to top it, but it’s going to come close. It’s similar in style of modern folk music with soulful vocals, but some of the songs feature a full band. It’s great to hear the songs fleshed out and be all that they can be. I love the intimate nature of acoustic songs, but I’m glad William isn’t pigeonholing himself into a one man band.

“Civilizations” speaks of wanting to live in the moment without distraction. Much of his songs talk of this idealistic lifestyle. As technology advances it has become harder to appreciate what naturally occurs around us. This is part of the reason I think folk music has a sense of magic to it. The working man is something that is taken for granted these days. I have been guilty of it myself. Not appreciating how the things I use and purchase on a daily basis are made.

People often even take for granted how their newspaper gets to them. The struggle newspaper carriers go through to deliver a product in the middle of the night in sometimes absurd conditions. It’s not a job on the same level as mail delivery. Take the time to thank the people who provide you services. Even that cashier giving you that coffee in the morning. It makes a difference, trust me.

“Trouble in Your Heart” follows “Civilizations” and is another subject William often visits. Hardship is something we all experience. There’s probably a million songs about it, and there will be a million more. Love and pain are two things that are easiest to write about in the sense that we feel the emotions all the time. However, when William Elliott Whitmore sings about hardship and encourages the listener to get through theirs, you believe him. He’s not a therapist. There’s not some crazy psychological metaphor in his songs, but there’s a friendly voice telling you it’s going to be alright. Sometimes, that’s all someone needs to make their day a little better. And sometimes, just sometimes, that’s all someone needs to save their life.

If you need an album to relax to or just need to feel a little better. Listen to “Radium Death” or “Field Songs” by William Elliott Whitmore. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to “Bury Your Burdens in the Ground” when I get stressed out. I always feel better after listening to just a few of his songs. You can’t help but be entranced by his positivity through the pain he speaks of. He’s a simple man with a simple message. No matter what happens in your life, it will be alright, and you’ll get through it.

I’ll let the music speak for itself.



Your Life In America

To set the setting, it’s roughly 9 o’clock in the morning on a Saturday. The longest I’ve slept in weeks by far. It’s been rough at work as of late with most of my mornings between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning and getting awoken in the few hours that I do finally get time to get some rest. My wife is at the gym. The dog on the floor at my feet. The cats cannot be located, but we all know that cats do not exist in this universe. Rather they drift between multiple parallel universes a la Interstellar. Oh wait, they’ve appeared as I wrote that sentence. They know I’ve outed their secret lives. I may not live through the weekend.

I’ve been feeling kinda down and out as of late. It’s never just one thing, just how life stacks jenga pieces of adversities in front of you. Finding a way to navigate moving these pieces around to succeed without letting them tumble upon you is the very essence of life. Life is a constant surge emotions. Happy ones, sad ones, pleasurable ones, painful ones, etc. People generally feel equal amounts of all of them throughout their life.

So why do I go on about this? Let’s talk about Ceremony’s new album, “The L-Shaped Man.” Lead Singer Ross Farrar recently went through a divorce. This seems to be the soundtrack of him moving that jenga piece out of the way. It’s an honest, heartfelt, cathartic piece of music about loss and regaining one’s composure. Well I made it this far without saying it sounds a lot like Joy Division. I’m not going to dwell on it, but their band name comes from a Joy Division song. I don’t know why everyone is so surprised they really like that band. Ceremony started out as a fast hardcore band that I’ve followed for years. They’ve always implemented new ideas into each new album evolving naturally. They don’t sound like Joy Division. They sound like Ceremony who wanted to make a dark post-punk record.

I’ve noticed they were the hardcore band people listen to if they don’t listen to hardcore. I can tell you I like them so much is because they don’t sound like every other hardcore band. Even in their early days when they wrote 30 second to minute long hardcore bursts, they did it well. There’s subtleties in hardcore music to pick up on if you want to appreciate it.

But they’ve grew into a band I think they’ve wanted to be. Their previous album, “Zoo”, sounded like a band wanting to try something new musically but for some reason didn’t fully commit. I think it suffered because of this, even if it still had some really great songs on it. “The L-Shaped Man” is going to piss off a lot of their fans. But they’ve been doing it for years, so I don’t think it will bother them. I imagine being an artist being constantly told what type of art you should be making would grow tiresome and make you not want to create it anymore. Thankfully, Ceremony said fuck it and made a great album.

“Hibernation” opens up the album as a slurred-sung piano interlude that sounds like the inner monologue of someone. The phrase, “You have to get through this…get through it all” is repeated setting the tone of the album. “Exit Fears” starts out as the first song with a full band. That driving bass lead and softer guitar playing is reminiscent of Joy Division. Ross has always been a very blunt and to the point lyricist, but his delivery adds all the emotion that the words need. When you have a distinct voice like he has, why bother wasting ink? “Bleeder” is so catchy and screaming to be a hit radio single. At least it should be. “The Separation” is a lost hit single from the 80s. The entire album is just hit after hit. If you enjoy post punk music or miss 80s music that wasn’t Journey you’ll enjoy “The L-Shaped Man”.

The album sounds fresh. Ceremony have found their niche. People love Joy Division so much is because they weren’t songs, they were experiences to listen to. As this album grows on me I’m sure I will feel the same way.