For those paying attention, punk rock that is actually not “dead” has been keeping a strong purchase in the region. We’ve really seen a resurgence the last few years of bands getting national attention for making earnest working-class tunes that matter.
From Poughkeepsie’s Meridian to Kingston’s Americana-influenced punkers Nightmares for a Week to the critically acclaimed pop punk of the Capital Region’s State Champs (who sound a lot like early New Found Glory to my ears), there are bands keeping it real. While it may not be the most in-vogue genre these days compared to electro or flavor of the month indie bands with animal names (the inspired Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper notwithstanding), punk has proven it is here to stay.
Sure, you can hear ready made slick punk riffs in TV jingles these days. Many bands would easily cash out if there was a lot of money to be had. Most of those bands can be spotted with bad combed-over bangs and pandering to teenage girls with disposable income, the last great White Whale of a target demographic for actual album sales that hasn’t been killed yet through streaming and downloading. We may be decades from the Sex Pistols and Ramones or even ’80s hardcore, but the oversimplification of “punk’s dead” is really stupid. It spits on a whole slew of bands out there creating a counterculture and humping gear venue to venue. Vets like Left Coast metallic-tinged melodic punks Strung Out, for example, have been making killer records from 1989 to this very year, through many changing trends. Throw on their 2007 release Black Hawks Over Los Angeles and it’ll rally your spirits no matter what year it is if you have a pulse.
The resurgence of vinyl culture (reported recently in the Kingston Times) has been a boon for the underground. Bands can actually make some money again to survive via supporters who care about craft and presentation. Independent labels which have adjusted business models to these times can often do well, despite grim industry projections.
Albany’s After the Fall formed in 2000 and have since molded their sound into a refined, technical showcasing of melodic hardcore and speedy skatepunk on releases across labels like Paper + Plastick, Mightier Than Sword, Shield and more. Their 2010 Eradication album is as close as you can find to a recent East Coast classic in modern punk. The band have recently signed with my favorite hardcore label Bridge 9, home of acts from the female-fronted indie-leaning Lemuria and political punks War On Women (a.k.a. kind of the best band in the world) to crust violence band Hierophant or scream-along buzz-building band Expire. After the Fall’s older “Patroon Island” track details a bad van crash where their gear was smashed and they could have died. It includes the great lyrics, “We risked five lives that night/just to play another shitty show.”
New Noise Magazine, one of the I dare humbly say best punk and metal mags in the world (which I helped start), just streamed After the Fall’s newest track “Reflection”. The album Dedication that it comes from is dedicated to original bassist and friend Brian J. Peters, who passed away on October 1, 2013. Dedication comes out May 12 via Bridge 9 Records and continues the bands gritty style. The first tune sounds kind of like the early superfast emo punk of Saves the Day with much more throaty vocals.
Looking for another punk band to be super-excited about? The Red Owls! Nobody even knows about them really yet. It’s a brand-new group featuring Kingston scene veteran Sean Paul Pillsworth. Sean Paul has carved a name for himself in beloved bands ranging from pop punks Jerk Magnet to the emo band Anadivine to his most recent project, the aforementioned Nightmares for a Week. The Red Owls is a return to Sean Paul’s more pop-punk roots and features outstanding vocal harmonizing plus energized performances fans will flip over. Justin Meyer of Anadivine fame is even playing drums with Pillsworth again, along with John Collura of The Ataris’ So Long, Astoria-era fame. The Red Owls have finished their first EP “Do You Feel Any Better” for release this year.
“The band came about when I asked around to a few old friends about playing the music we grew up on and grew up making,” Pillsworth explains. “It’s always been a goal [for me] to get back to that genre after all of these experiences. Now having made this EP and having it be mixed at Bill Stevenson’s Blasting room studios I am very excited. We plan on releasing the EP soon so we’ll be keeping people posted via Facebook. As far as Nightmares we always have something brewing so stay tuned. Right now, though, as far as live shows, The Red Owls are a little more of a priority. Hopefully we’ll jump on some shows with After The Fall! Seeing how those guys held down this scene for over a decade!”
Anybody who wants to get their bowl on should catch my new punk/metal/alt rock fusion band GET OUT. at Pins For Pets 2 at Saugerties Bowlers Club on Saturday, April 4. The show is a benefit for the SPCA put together by Janis Sunshine and features a diverse array of rock acts. This is my newest band’s first gig and we are excited. Also on the bill are post-hardcore band Flourish, The Hand Carved Squirrels and Bombmob Electrodub. It’s just $5 and starts at 8 p.m., so do your furry friends a favor (and I mean actual animals, not “furries” who dress in animal mascot suits and then have sex). Actually, if you want to do that during the show I personally won’t mind, but you might get kicked out of the bowling alley.