The Charlestons, Tripping Linda, CFD, Levi, Love and Squalor @ The Desert Rose, Lancaster, Ohio (December 27th, 2003)

Searching around the local bands’ websites in my spare time during the last few weeks of college, I found various hints of a big show happening the 27th at the one sleazy bar at the edge of town. The bar’s main claim to fame were their teen nights, smoke-filled affairs that brought together 10-12 year olds trying to pretend they were 16 and 45 year old lechers who think they are still 18. Still, any time that people are able to get a show in Nazi Lancaster, I try to go. So, me and Sidewalk pick up George (Cruci-Fetus) and drive over to the local Krogers, pick up a few cases of beer and a bottle of Mad Dog for me, and finally get out to the venue a few minutes before they were going to start.

We get up to the front doors, which end up directing us to the back part of the club. This place is literally a hole in the wall with a bar attached. Turns out, unbeknownst to everyone, that this was a 16 and up show, and the doorpeople were checking everyone’s ID. No exceptions, we end up getting in, and the place is packed wall to wall. The logistics of the place are nightmarish – instead of having an open place for dancing and moshing, they had plopped together a labyrinthine maze of tables which made getting through the place an impossibility. Alcohol was the big seller of the night, going at a reasonable $2.50 per bottle, but at one point, they cut off people who wanted to come in. Turns out that room only had an one hundred person capacity, but at all times, had about 150 people packed in. These fans were so tenacious that they would literally wait a half-hour or an hour until people left ,and kicked in their $2.

Yeah, going back to the logistics – the only place one could actually see the band is if they were looking head on at them or were far enough away that the mammoth speakers didn’t block their line of sight. The only other place that a person could see a band play, on the extreme side of things, was continually blocked by bands equipment. The problem was magnified when people just wouldn’t get the hell out of anyone’s way, and also due to the fact that the first band of the night, The Charlestons, finally rambled in over a half-hour late. In true sloshed-punk title, all of them rapidly mounted the stage, muttered a few profuse apologies, and started rocking through their hits. Everything seemed right on the first few songs, bringing a harder sound to the stage since the Gooddog concert of late summer.

The Charlestons had added a few songs to their repertoire, but their old hits (the ones off of the ? LP) were played faster and with a certain sense of irony. A number of times, Evan would go in and make subtle (or even not-so-subtle) jokes about the songs. For example, during “Two Drink Girl”, Evan jumped in during one of the many repetitions of the chorus mentioning about how many times the band sings it during the track. Evan, in the time since the last show, has really gotten eir’s dual duty of playing guitar and singing lead together, making sure to still incorporate the punchiness of the vocals of a Joe Queer with a guitar line to match. This night, it wasn’t Evan dropping out but rather the decreasing ability of Shawn to even know how to play a bass. The decreasing coherence of Shawn was an interesting site to behold during the night; while ey was still relatively lucid and competent during The Charlestons’ set, eir’s capabilities would decrease to such a point that ey would end up yelling at and spitting in the hair of this really preppy “punk” girl.

At some moment during The Charlestons set, Shawn ends up screwing up eir’s bass in such a way that a replacement had to be found. This was the beginning of the end of any coherence for the band, as Shawn would increasingly talk to Brendan (Cause for Diversion) while throwing off the timing of Evan. Still, the whole spectacle would infuse the room with a certain sense of energy that would go into the hero worship of local “cute boys” Tripping Linda. Tripping Linda had added another guitarist in Tyler Russell, bringing the band up to a spry and toned five piece act. Personally, I hadn’t seen Tripping Linda since the show I booked over at Utica, but each single time that I go and hear them, they have increased the quality of their general sound to such a degree it amazes me. The first Utica show, I was into their music but I really didn’t think much of them, but they started hooking me with their performance at my show, and at this night’s show – wow.

While I had been told by two or three people that Tripping Linda had went more hardcore and screamo in the time since I had met them, all fears of mine were assuaged when they busted through “Two Days Two Late”, the track that made their first EP. Moving through a number of their new tracks, Jeff’s emotion and wire-tight power really made the show memorable. What really seemed different for me was the rich, earthy bass lines that tied the tracks together that were laid together by Drew, something that really didn’t seem to be that much of a part of the band in the last few shows. With tracks like “Wide Awake”, the technical ability of the band really shines through, showing exactly how in sync each member of the band is. While I’m a little bit leary about “Choosing Sides”, which has Tyler doing a disc-scratching type noise a la Linkin Park, the infusion of different styles, especially the more metal-sounding riffs of the aforementioned “Steven” cover, really adds a new dimension to Tripping Linda. At times sounding like Mest, Wakefield, and The Good Life, Tripping Linda is a band that continues to surprise me every time I see them live somewhere, and they seemed to be the band of the night, sheer people-wise, even rivaling Levi for sheer numbers of fans.

Moving onto the middle of the show, Cause for Diversion came up and took the stage. I completely made an ass of myself with Mason, as eir’s new style was to look exactly like Shane, this drummer who ripped off my bass amp. After figuring out who it was, I squared that away and listened to Cause for Diversion rip up the stage. With another chunk of incredible talent, the main complaint that I heard about the band was that they tried to tie in AFI too much with their own style. While I did mention that fact during the first Utica show, I really feel as if they have taken some new directions, especially with the inclusion of a more hard style, along the lines of Atreyu and Avenged Sevenfold. During “The Silhouette”, Brendan shows the one weakness of the band – the higher range of eir’s singing really isn’t as polished as the more low end vocals that ey would do at other points during the song.

Going through “Shattered” with a little more energy than is recorded on that EP, Cause for Diversion moves into a few new tracks. While there was some stage banter about the one track being more of a “punk” vibe than the others, I really couldn’t discern any difference between that one specific track and the rest of the show. However, the final new track of the night showcased some of this new direction, as the echo and straight-forward pounding guitars really reminded me of a Exit English-era Strike Anywhere. Even though I really didn’t notice anything in the way of voice petals at Brendan’s feet, the use of echo to further eir’s singing really was used in a strong way. In terms of crowd presence, Cause for Diversion brought less people up front than either Tripping Linda or Levi, a fact which could conceivably allow them to pursue yet other influences instead of being boxed into a teen idol-type of thing.

Now, Levi was the one band there that night that I hadn’t ever heard, but I was told that they were “emo”. When exactly did emo become a derogatory term, tied in with “Fag” for attacking people? Levi took literally about another half-hour to set up, but this was due to the fact that Levi’s drummer has a Neil Peart-looking monstrosity of a drum kit. Josh Jenkins took the stage first, and took eir’s rightful place on a synthesizer, doing a very emotive style. Now, the individuals that came with me were definitely not into Levi’s music, and neither were any of the “punk” kids that I talked to, but the simple fact is that the rest of the crowd was hanging on Josh’s every last word, and even singing some of the songs. Now, the societal construct of “emo” as the newer wave of kids see it is almost a perfect definition for Levi, who go back to Pictures of Lily and incorporate Barenaked Ladies and Dave Matthews to a harder punk edge.

Levi is a logical progression from Jadison Notes, but I think Josh and the rest of the kids in the band have opted for a more all-encompassing sound instead of the heart-wrenching emotional assault specific to Josh in Jadison Notes. However, Josh is much more comfortable with eir’s voice then during Jadison Notes; allowing at time to let eir’s voice to reach a childish inflection that draws individuals in with its honesty. What was slightly odd was the extremely long run-time of their set; billed as the last band of the night, the original lineup would have made more sense. As the case was, since the show started late, Levi decided to switch with Love and Squalor, and had a mass exodus of people leave as soon as their set ended. Love and Squalor would start playing to a much reduced, yet still incredibly interested crowd.

In their vein of Descendents-meets-Jawbreaker type of post-punk, Love and Squalor was able to come up to the stage with the same type of energy that endeared them to the crowd at the second Utica show. In continuing a trend that was very positive through the night, Love and Squalor would infuse each and every track with an incredibly capable and intricate bass line that pulled double duty both as an aural ornament and as a timekeeper. Dual harmony is used very successfully, but the main issue that Love and Squalor kept stumbling over are the tracks led vocally by the bassist. Now, it is not that Joel is a bad singer, but just that Jason’s accompanying vocals really push the leads of Joel’s out, instead of being a complimentary type of thing (which would usually take place if Joel backed Jason).

In another derogatory term (Love and Squalor says) that “Hymn of Fragility” is so emo that it will make you cry. While the track is very emotive and rich in swirling eddies of guitar, it really is not what a lot of people would call “emo”, except those individuals who were in the scene about a decade ago. Love and Squalor is a looking-back type of band, one that would go and look back at some of the most talented acts of the last decade instead of covering the flavour of the weak. Coming off as a much more solid type of band than their Utica performance would suggest, Love and Squalor, especially with their new CD, shows a coherence that any Lancaster band would be hard to top. While everything else concerning the show that night might have been disappointing, the venue, the lack of space, the bands were really a bright spot, and really fill me with a hope that the central Ohio scene will pump out a solid band in the near future to the national stage.

Author: James McQuiston

Ph.D. in Political Science, Kent State University.

I have been the editor at NeuFutur / neufutur.com since I was 15. Looking for new staff members all the time; email me if you are interested. Thanks!

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