Tag Archive | punk

Punk rock’s champion leaves NYC

I knew it was a possibility; he had told me about the idea. But when I got word from Philthy Phill that he was leaving town I was still shocked.

Phill Lentz, better known to the New York punk rock world as Philthy Phill, is the singer for World War IX. He’s much more than that though. Over the 13 years he’s been in New York he’s excelled at stand-up comedy, writing, podcasting, concert organizing, and being a creative jack-of-all-trades that would be the envy of most Big Apple newcomers. He’s conquered New York City without losing the Midwestern disarming charm and good humor that drew some of this town’s finest musicians, artists, and comedians into his orbit.

I first got to know Phill when he was the lead singer in a band called Sexual Suicide. His singing style captured the necessary aggression of the genre while also displaying a keen sense of humor; a you-are-being-subjected-to-our-noise-but-we’re-in-on-this-together vibe. Bands with no sense of humor are miserable to watch. If you had any doubts about Phill’s take on things, the highlight of any Sexual Suicide show was when Phill would put on a Spider Man mask and sing a song about performing cunnilingus on Mary Jane Watson.

He came to New York City from the suburbs North of Chicago in 2003, following a girlfriend who had moved here. Three years later they broke up and he considered moving out of town at that point but decided to stay and drown his sorrows in punk rock.

Phill not only sings but also plays guitar and drums. Over the years he has served as the drummer for Joey Steel and the Attitude Adjusters, the Misanthropes, and toured Canada and Europe with the Scream’n Rebel Angels. I was fortunate to play with him in New Damage.

Phill wrote a book, a long-form short story, written from the point of view of a down-on-his-luck New Yorker who made a living as a Spider Man character for kid’s parties. It was a great read because it celebrated, among other things, the joy of the creative act. Read Self Poor Trait if you are down and feel jaded as a creative person, you won’t be sorry.

To top that all off, Phill worked the stand-up comedy circuit and played some of the top clubs like Caroline’s. And he co-founded the Dispatches from the Underground podcast.

Earlier on in my time in New York, I discovered the comics of Justin Melkmann through the New York Waste. I was so impressed that someone was doing a comic strip about the life of GG Allin, that I made it a point to go see the artist’s band, which was subtly advertised in each strip with a discreetly inked URL. Catching my first World War IX show at CB’s Lounge and meeting Justin was a turning point in my punk rock life. Blackout Shoppers have played numerous shows with World War IX and there’s nothing we like better.

A few years after I got to play my first show with World War IX, they were looking for a singer, and I and I’m sure a whole bunch of others called and told them to get Philthy Phill.

Having Philthy Phill join World War IX was like Beethoven coming back from the dead to conduct the London Philharmonic – it’s the supreme punk rock combination that had to happen. And it did.

World War IX entered a new period of productivity and creativity and produced some of my favorite songs over the past several years. I had the honor of playing a villain in a few of their videos, including the video for my favorite World War IX song, Cutlass Supreme. Phill’s acting chops earned him roles in other punk rock videos as well.

“Without a doubt, I will miss my World War IX and the friends I made playing with that band,” Phill told me. “We’ve toured many times, put out an envious number of high-quality music videos and some outstanding music to boot. Anyone who has partied with us at a show can tell how well we all get along because it comes across in what we did. Unrelated fun fact: everyone in the band has wanted to fight me at some point.”

Phill also met his wife among the punk rock fans that came to his shows. He and Erin married in 2012 and last year they had twin boys. While they excelled at making a family of their own, they have no other family in the area, at all. That, coupled with the high cost of living and the need for more space, was the deciding factor in making the move to Indianapolis.

Sometimes, the people who best embody the humor, creativity, and egalitarian grit of New York City find it is best to leave New York City.

There’s also a trap that New Yorkers fall in to easily, thinking that the world revolves around what happens in the five boroughs and believing that residing in the New York City area counts as an artistic achievement in and of itself. While surviving in New York is an accomplishment, we’d be kidding ourselves to think that any work of art is somehow automatically superior if it originates from an NYC zip code.

This Saturday, Philthy Phill will sing with World War IX for one last time at Otto’s Shrunken Head. My band, Blackout Shoppers, will be joining them, along with Controlled Substance. It will be a packed house and there will be lots of music, loudness and alcohol.

Phill hasn’t stopped being creative, and he’s already working on his next project, which he’s keeping under wraps for now.

While people will forever come from all over the world to pursue their creative dreams in New York City, the point is to keep being creative and live a good life while doing so. Great art, music, and literature can be found wherever there are people great enough to do great work, wherever the creative spirit ignites a spark that leads to more ideas, wherever there are people like Philthy Phill.

A Punk Rock Anniversary

Mike Moosehead is the hardest working man in punk rock, and this weekend he’s playing shows with five different bands. Four of those bands are playing a special show to commemorate his and his wife Xtene Moosehead’s 10th wedding anniversary. The two are both punk rock bass players, though Mike plays guitar quite a bit also.

The Cobra Club in Brooklyn is the venue where the show will be. It is in a now-trendy area of Brooklyn where the remnant industrialization means a greater chance to find parking if you are driving there.

Full disclosure: I’m playing guitar in Beer Drinking Fools, the opening band of the night that features Mike on bass. The name of the band pretty much gives you the story: songs about beer. But there are some really great songs not directly related to beer that make me love Beer Drinking Fools long after I left the drinking life. Songs like ‘Work Sucks’ and ‘Let’s Get on Welfare’ offer common anthems for anyone frustrated by the standard dirge of working life. And even if you don’t drink, ‘Drinking 40s on the Subway’ is a great homage to the spirit of freedom that makes life worth living.

The second band playing that night is a special guest, and the name of the band will not be announced in advance. I happen to know what band this is and I can say first-hand that they will be in keeping with the spirit of local New York punk and hardcore with a sense of humor and chaotic stage performance.

Skum City features Mike on guitar and Xtene on bass. They started this band in 2007 and played their first show in 2008. Some former members are going to be coming back to play, and it will be a great time. Skum City blends old school punk rock with West Coast style early era hardcore. If you are looking for down-tuned grunge music to fall asleep to, look elsewhere.

Mike is also a guitar player for World War IX. World War IX was a band I learned about from reading their founding guitar player Justin Melkmann’s biographical comic strip of G.G. Allin in the New York Waste. They have been friends and comrades for years and they made my punk rock dreams come true when the inspiring Renaissance man Philthy Phill became their lead singer. I have had the honor to play some villainous characters in a few of their music videos. Who will they proclaim to be the King of the King of the King of Beers? I’ll have to find out (will not be me).

Headlining the night is Philadelphia’s Loafass, a band I have loved since I saw them open for Murphy’s Law on St. Patrick’s Day in 2003. Their lead singer, Fish, was the officiant at my wedding. Few bands are able to harness the sense of humor that punk music requires as well as Loafass. If a ramshackle jalopy with Pennsylvania license plates careens across the highway in front of you in a blaze of marijuana smoke and empty beer cans, the band playing on that car’s stereo is Loafass.

The show is only $5 dollars and requires you have an ID that says you are 21 or older. Mike and Xtene have put together a great show and the longevity of their band and marriage is a testament to the notion that making great music together can make a lot of people happy. I hope to see you there.

Green Hell has your Halloween Misfits fix

Halloween season means a lot of things. It means that the coffee shops of Gotham are rancid with the odors of pumpkin spice. It means full-grown adults are planning to spend time and energy on Halloween costumes. It also means that horror punk fans can look forward to Misfits cover bands and tribute bands coming out of the woodwork to play shows.

For those not familiar, The Misfits pioneered the genre of horror punk in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Their songs are simple and fun and punk fans have enjoyed singing along to their “Whoa”- centric lyrics for many years. As such, punk musicians started forming Misfits cover bands and tribute bands so local fans can get their Misfits fix for Halloween.

I am fortunate or unfortunate enough to play bass for Green Hell, one of New York’s Misfits cover bands (others have included Psycho 78 and Ghouls Night Out, an all-female Misfits cover band).

Green Hell is the band that can bring a lot of fun and get a crowd to be drunker and louder than is necessary or normal Misfits songs led themselves to crowd participation. The annual Green Hell reunion became a favorite part of the fall season. The five of us would start messaging one another to try to schedule rehearsals and shows. We’ make time for fewer rehearsals than we thing we needed, spend a good portion of that rehearsal or rehearsals drinking and goofing around, and then play a few very fun shows anyway. Since we’ve been playing the songs for so long now, we do a pretty decent job despite ourselves, and are usually not as sloppy as the real Misfits.

Through over-commitment, habitual aggression, and a pure not-giving-a shit punk ethos, Green Hell became the vessel of pure, unadulterated fun that every band should aspire to. It was the highlight of the Halloween season for many of us.

Green Hell didn’t play last year. Our singer and drummer each moved out of town and too much other stuff has been going on. Two of us have kids now. It was the first year Green Hell didn’t play since the band’s inception in 2004. It made Halloween less fun.

But this year the two guys that moved out of town, singer Marc Sucks and drummer Joey Bones, made plans to get themselves to New York and wanted to play Green Hell shows again. Green Hell offers those of us less active in music now a chance to enjoy playing out again. And Green Hell is fun because it exists with no ambition other than to have a fun time with other people who like the same music. It’s not a complete reunion, unfortunately. Circumstances beyond my control have led one member to sit out this year for the sake of keeping the peace, but I am determined to have a full roster next time around. We wouldn’t be keeping with the spirit of the Misfits if some of us were pissed at each other about something.

We have two shows this weekend: this Friday at the Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria, Queens and Saturday night at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn. It’s been nearly two years since we’ve played these songs and we haven’t had a rehearsal yet. We have more shows than rehearsals scheduled and we wouldn’t be Green Hell if we didn’t.

Earlier this year, members of the Misfits reunited with original lead singer Glenn Danzig for two shows at Riot Fest concerts in Denver and Chicago for a reported $2 million. Green Hell will be happy to get a few drink tickets each. Our crowds will be a fraction of the size and we’ll be spending more money getting to the shows than we could ever hope to make, but I guarantee we will have as much fun playing on stage as you can have.

 

Chasing down the last vestiges of punk rock youth

The other night I left home to walk to the Parkside Pub in Whitestone, Queens to see an excellent hardcore punk rock show. I love punk rock music and this show was so close it took only a few minutes to walk there. I have loved punk rock for a long time and knew some of the bands that were playing from playing with my own band, Blackout Shoppers (currently on hiatus).

It was late and I didn’t have a lot of time to spend there, but as I set out I noticed an envelope that needed mailing, so I figured I could drop it in a mailbox on my way to the show.

Publisher’s Clearinghouse is a shitty lottery that only requires you mail back a form. Of course my chances of winning are next to zero, but instead of spending two bucks on Powerball I spend only the price of a stamp. That’s a very low-cost form of gambling, though it does come with the added humiliation of having your name on a Publisher’s Clearinghouse envelope.

I didn’t run across a mailbox until I got the block that the Parkside Pub was on. How can I show up at a hardcore punk rock show with a Publisher’s Clearinghouse envelope? Would that make me a horrible old poser? I had no choice. Those Publisher’s Clearinghouse millions are destined to me mine. If I win enough money, I’ll spend part of my fortune on starting a new non-profit arts venue in New York City that will feature punk shows. As I neared the show, I hoped no one would see me drop the sweepstakes envelope into the mailbox. No one did, or at least had the kindness not to call me out on it.

It was glad to see the show was packed. There were people there old and young and the bands were excellent. It was great to see friends from many different bands there. Some of them are my age or even older and many of them also have kids.

Being a parent with serious bills to pay and a job that requires long hours means I don’t get to very many concerts anymore. So any time I can steal away for a few hours and subject myself to the full blasting fury of as much aggressive music I can take.

The show at the Parkside did not disappoint. The bands were excellent. And even if they hadn’t been, it was worthwhile to see people you haven’t seen in a while. There are a lot of people that I know and love to see but only see them in the context of going to shows.

There are people like my friend Pete, who I ran into at the show. I have known Pete for years but don’t know his full name and couldn’t tell you what he does for a living. I’ve seen him at numerous shows for my band and others. I’ve spent hours talking to him at bars and on sidewalks outside of music clubs. I know he lives in Douglaston, Queens and used to have a girlfriend named Nicole and he loves punk and metal music, and that’s all I need to know. We love the music and the scene around it and so it doesn’t matter what we may or may not have in common.

Because while the band one plays in may not last, the friendships and the love of music will endure. People have been writing punk rock’s obituary since the 1970s. It’s still here. And as long as I can stand on my feet, I’ll make it to shows from time to time. No regrets. See you there.

Banish Yourself to Punk Island

This Saturday is the Punk Island 2014 festival in New York City. It will feature almost 100 bands on seven stages all for FREE on Staten Island.

I have had the good fortune to have been a fan of punk rock music since I first heard ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ in the eighth grade. And 10 years ago I decided I would take a stab at being in a punk band of my own and started a band called Blackout Shoppers.

Full disclosure: our band is playing Punk Island and has played the festival several times, and we are friends with several of the principal organizers. But this isn’t world of laminated back stage passes and cushy green rooms. In the world of DIY punk rock music, the back scratching and mutual admiration dick sucking doesn’t earn you big rock and roll money; it maybe gets you a space on a floor to sleep on, and maybe a free beer.

The Punk Island festival for the first several years of its life was held on Governor’s Island. Governor’s Island is an excellent place to visit. A former Army base, airfield and Coast Guard base, Governor’s Island boasts lots of great historic sites and rarely-seen views of Manhattan and industrial waterfront Brooklyn.

Governor’s Island became off limits in the wake of the damage done by Superstorm Sandy and more recent park development by the city.

So last year, Punk Island moved to Staten Island. It takes place on a small strip of land and pier right near the Staten Island Ferry terminal. It was a long, hot day but it was well run and everyone had a good time. It wouldn’t be a punk show without a few fights and problems. But last year only one person went to the hospital and no one went to jail; that’s a win-win for a punk rock festival.

People have been fighting over what the term Punk Rock means since 1975. Punk Island has always featured a large cross section of punk rock music. There are “crusty punk” bands with members who my live as or at least appeal to the gaggles of itinerant homeless-by-choice youngsters who smell bad. There are beat-down hardcore bands that buy tattoo ink by the gallon. There are “pop punk” bands who may sound like Green Day though they probably don’t want you to tell them that. Punk Island even has a Brooklyn TransCore stage because trannies from Brooklyn have created their own punk scene. More power to them all.

Our band has agreed to help provide equipment for the Dispatches from the Underground stage, which we’ll be playing. So I will be there bright and early by 7 a.m. It will be a day baking in the sun with my ears ringing from the sounds of a multitude of punk bands. By noon I will be a disgusting miasma of sweat and coagulated sunscreen. It will be great. As much as my inner adult voice tells me to be more serious about life, and that punk rock is a young man’s game, I find it hard to tear myself away, try though I might.

Punk Island is a very short walk from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and it’s free and for all ages. It it will have all kinds of punk bands there. You have no excuse not to go.

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