For those of you who are not familiar with the owners of Gooddog music, the journey down to their store in Lancaster Is really worth it. Always a force in whatever local music is happening, whether it be making their store the venue for the last two bands at the Utica Show (for details, read the 07/12 review), stocking The Fat Tones CD, setting up this show, or even just by showing up to local concerts, Shellee and Tom are definitely forces in the local scene. On this day, they put together this concert, which puts together The Charlestons, The Freedom Fries, The Scamps, and The Compressionists. Beside the 20 or so minute rainout midway through The Freedom Fries’ set and a problem with one of the later bands, the show went off without a hitch.
Set to start at 6 (and which concert ever starts at the time its supposed to?), The Charlestons actually get to playing at about 6:40. One immediately noticeable thing with the sound this night is the high level of the bass guitar – something that is usually only high enough to be heard at the most rare of moments. The overall sound of The Charlestons is increased due to the presence of a solid PA during all of their set, which bolsters the guitars to a much higher level without unnecessary distortion. While Evan is continually getting into the music, either moving around or doing some other ambulatory action, both Shawn and Peter Cottontail seem much more focused on their music. The mixture of technicality and pure punk rock bravado works well; keeping the beat going almost as steady as an metronome (the bass and the drums keeping the beat), while Evan’s guitar work has a humanity to it – he messes up, he knows it, and it is okay. Even in the moments when he does hit that rare off-chord, the music doesn’t suffer, and stays away from that over-produced sound that plagues many an up-and-coming band.
As for the songs in specific, we start to notice an experimentation to The Charlestons that just was not present during the prior concerts which they played alive. “Kelly” has a new sound, almost sounding re-arranged at places, and it works. “The Jerk” goes back into the band’s vinyl collection, flawlessly lifting and reworking “My Sharona”‘s guitar structure; from this foundation, an entire new song is raised from the ashes. “Catch My Drift” is much more influenced by the Dead Kennedys, and seems like a song that still needs work – the song lacks the cohesiveness of the other songs during the night. Perhaps it was the oncoming storm clouds, perhaps it was from just being tired, perhaps it was to endear themselves to the crowd, but “Catch My Drift” contained a section in which Evan forgets the lyrics. Overall, this set really is another puzzle piece of a band trying its hardest to do the best they can – and they are succeeding.
To tell the truth, I was really getting excited to see The Freedom Fries, as they were the only band besides The Fat Tones I had not seen in the local scene, and it was even more of a desire because I had tried to book them for a show twice, and to not see them twice due to circumstances out of both of our controls. The clouds continued to gather as The Charlestons broke down and The Freedom Fries set up, but everyone was still very confident. Starting out their set with “Free Chase Peterseim”, which a very H20 or Bouncing Souls-like song with horn-like guitar, I knew that I liked this band. Matt Freeman-style bass lines cut through the air made tepid by people just standing around like cattle, and the only early difficulty came when the lead vocals cut out, caused by a problem with the PA. Rapidly fixed, The Freedom Fries played on.
Looking at the set as a whole, some minor issues came to light with The Freedom Fries. First, there were a number of times where the vocals ceased to be heard, or only to be heard at brief intervals, due to the musical instruments being at a much higher level than the vocals. By far, what brought the most people to attention during The Freedom Fries’ set was their superb cover of “White Man in Hammersmith Palais”, a Clash classic. Putting enough work into it to restore the two-part harmonies of the original, the only thing that was holding back The Freedom Fries was the limitations imposed upon them by the repressive sound equipment.
The Scamps came onto the “stage” (or the pavement in front of the store) after The Freedom Fries, and I must admit, they were the sight of the night. Ranging in visual age from 14 to late-30s, The Scamps come from Zanesville, and were pretty much the only act I had no familiarity with during the night. Immediately, I began questioning the inclusion of an electronic “Set” of bagpipes, which still had the bag, albeit as a fashion statement. Starting off with a few “traditional” Irish songs, the mis-aligned PA comes back into scrutiny again, as the Bagpipes completely dwarf the guitars, which together completely squash the vocals into something that cannot be heard during much of their set. “Working Class Stiffs” painted the picture of underclass discontent with the ruling class, and I must admit, did it in a pretty catchy way. Continuing on with their set, The Scamps played a form of Streetpunk/Oi that was aurally similar to Fear and Agnostic Front, but was much more listenable than your average RAC/Oi band.
Before I go on with their review, I must point out – The Scamps had the longest set of the night, playing track after track. Much of the crowd which I talked to were not fans in any sense of the word, but I still could appreciate their tracks during the early part of the set. After 8 or 9 songs, I began to notice the same chords, the same obligatory faux-bagpipes (which, honestly, do not sound a lick like real bagpipes, but more along the lines of the offspring of bagpipes and a synthesizer). Still, there were a few tracks worthy of mentioning, such as their Misfits-influenced song (only termed that because the J.B., the lead singer, said so), which does has the same horror-themed lyrics and chord progression. Some songs had them sounding more along the lines of drunk-punk with a country influence, such as Hilljack or Buford.
What really got me was the increasing number of missteps that The Scamps had in the second half of their sets. With many a dropped riff in their punked-up cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone”, the only thing salvageable was the time that they spent on re-working it. Another cover, them doing noFX’s “Bob”, was even more abortive, cutting out all of the horns and melody that made the song so memorable the first time around. The Scamps’ set seemingly would not end, and it was stopped only (from what I can ascertain) was because of them continually violating the no-swear rule. The no-swear rule was in place because the concert took place in the greater auspices of the Lancaster Festival, and both The Charlestons and The Freedom Fries tried their best to excise the “demon words”.
Angry because their set was shortened, The Scamps left the concert with their PA, forcing the last act, The Compressionists, to make do with their much-weaker sound setup. As most of the crowd did leave the general vicinity during The Scamps’ set, the effect of all sorts of individuals packing the cordoned-off area really seemed empowering to The Compressionists. Known on various nights as The Hospital Bombers and The Impressionists, The Compressionists are made up of Matt Dennewitz, Tyler Slater, Meg Lancaster, and Tristan Wolfe on bass. Beginning their set with the steroid-enhanced cover of “O Death”, Matt continues his role as ringleader even after he breaks the A string on his guitar. During “Cardioid”, a Compressionists original, the beginning is utterly marred by an inability to start on time, but this crowd is forgiving. In fact, the crowd even started moshing during “Cardioid”, so I don’t think anyone’s feelings were truly hurt by the error in the early moments of the song.
“The Robot Song” has The Compressionists move away from typical music and its overused time signatures, and has Matt innovating his own style of moonwalk, shuffling backwards while playing guitar. Ending their set with the Neil Young classic “Keep On Rocking In the Free World”, minor weaknesses begin to rear their heads, first in the forgetting of some lyrics, and then in losing some of the synchronicity that the earlier tracks had. As the end of the song rapidly approached, chaos took hold of the band, and Matt and Tristan launched themselves into the drumset and destroyed the chair. Unsure of whether the band will maintain its current lineup or state in the next few months, it would probably be in the readers’ best interest to see the act before they disappear.