Kebs Talks Skateboarding, Inclusion, and Her Debut LP with Punitive Damage

Photo Credit: Clayton Hebenik

Punitive Damage, a Pacific Northwest-based hardcore punk band formed in 2018, rips hard. With a raw ferocity and a merciless attack on their instruments, their debut full length, This is the Blackout, which drops on October 14th via Atomic Action Records, rages at our decaying system.

At the center of the Punitive Damage eruption is Seattle bassist and professional skateboarder Kebs, whose passion for skateboarding, music, and social justice adds heat to This is The Blackout‘s meaningful scorch.

A longtime Seattle resident, Kebs first began learning guitar and getting interested in punk music at 12, inspired by her older brother’s collection of Green Day and Nirvana CDs. At the time, she was also starting to skateboard, a sport she says helped nourish her interest in music even further – she always takes a Bluetooth speaker with her to the skatepark, so she can jam while she skates.

“Skateboarding and music are naturally intertwined,” says Kebs, who went pro for Meow Skateboards in October 2020. “People put out skate videos and they’re edited to music… like Modest Mouse or Built to Spill come to mind, being a kid of the Northwest. I learned of a lot of bands through skateboarding.”

Through her teens and early twenties, Kebs continued pursuing her interest in music, learning a variety of instruments, and skating. While she excelled at both, she was also meeting resistance, exclusion, and loneliness as one of the only girls grinding rails or stepping on stage.

“Sometimes I’m skating and… it will pop [into] how some dude was a dick to me at the skatepark when I was a little girl and I’ll say, ‘fuck that’ and try my hardest,” says Kebs. “So, I’m constantly pushing myself to do things that feel scary. To get up on stage in front of people that might be better musicians than me, or play after a band that was fucking killing it that has way more following. I’m reminding myself that I’m strong and can do it.”

The pushback she faced as a young person also motivates Kebs to be a voice for justice and equity in the skating community, which is notoriously dominated by men—not unlike some aspects of the music community. As executive director of the nonprofit Skate Like a Girl, she works to empower girls and trans people through skateboarding. She’s also involved with Consent is Rad, an effort working bring cultures of consent to skate communities around the globe.

“I would say, in punk and hardcore culture, ten years ago people were talking about rape culture and sexual abuse, allyship, and racism. Skateboarding is a little bit slower to pick up on that, so I’ve taken some of the things that I’ve learned from punk and hardcore and brought that to skateboarding,” explains Kebs.

Vice versa, she brings her fight for social equity to the hardcore punk scene and to Punitive Damage, which she joined in 2018 after playing guitar for a band called Lowest Priority.

“Because my work with Skate Like a Girl is about creating space for women and trans and queer people in skateboarding and skateboarding has a big culture of teaching people how to skateboard, I’ve done that in punk as well,” she says, adding that she’s helped teach friends to play instruments.

Since their formation, Punitive Damage—including vocalist Jerkova, guitarist Czecho, drummer Alejandro, and bassist Kebs—has put out a few short EPs, but this month’s 13-track This Is The Blackout marks the band’s first full-length. Sure enough, issues of social equity and inclusion are topics tackled across their releases so far, particularly through the lens of Jerkova, who writes many of the lyrics and is the daughter of immigrants.

This is The Blackout also takes on other aspects of a defunct and unjust system—with roaring, acerbic emotion and a dash of hope. Kebs’ favorite track on the album, “Big Man,” explores how we “can’t afford to live, can’t afford to die” in an expensive and exploitative world. Hard-hitting “Nothing” condemns the complacency of Boomers, and “Pure Bloods/This Is The Sixth Sunrise,” draws comparisons to the present moment and the Nahua creation story in Aztec mythology, which suggests a time of massive tumult may be a beginning, not an end.

As the album drops, Kebs is proud of the entire thing and her commitment to community that made it possible.

“I feel like you could listen to the whole thing and not get bored,” says Kebs. “I think for me, it’s empowerment—and even though shit is fucked up and hard, that collectively, all we have is us. All we have is our friends and communities and the fun we create.”

Follow Punitive Damage on Twitter for ongoing updates.

ALBUM REVIEW: The Heartfelt Nostalgia of Tony Molina’s Tapes from San Mateo County

Bay Area indie artist Tony Molina has always had either foot in two worlds, which is perhaps the only obvious observation one might make about him. He maintains deep ties to the punk and hardcore scenes in which he cut his teeth, having played with bands like Healer, Caged Animal, and Bone Sickness in the past. He evades definition, however, in that his solo work is audibly a far cry from these genres. He pens earnest power-pop ballads with soaring guitar solos and melancholic lyrics about lost love and forgotten friendships, more akin to Weezer or The Replacements than the powerviolence and hardcore sounds of his other projects. 

His latest release is a rarities collection put out by Smoking Room Records Friday, July 19, entitled Songs From San Mateo County. Over the years, Molina has lessened the vocal distortion and heavy reverb of previous releases for a cleaner sound, but has held onto the tender lyricism, cheeky guitar riffs and short song lengths – each track clocks in at under two minutes. The tracks on this collection are for the most part unheard until now, unable to be streamed and only available on analog cassette releases: “Where’d You Go,” “Not The Way To Be,” “Can’t Find My Way” and “Separate Ways” all appeared on 2014 cassette West Bay Grease, and “I’m Not Down” appeared on 2008 recording Embarrassing Times, both put out on Molina’s own Bay Area label 650 Tapes.

Molina wishes we’d all stop talking about how short his songs are, saying in an interview years ago that he was “sick of that shit,” but it’s hard not to. It’s the greatest, and most plainly apparent, evidence of his hardcore roots. And it makes sense, in that hardcore music is more about the emotiveness of the sound than the content itself – the searing, fast instrumentals and the screamed, oftentimes dark but incoherent lyrics are ephemeral in time but strong in message. They are supposed to feel a certain way: angry, anxious, disillusioned. Molina takes this stylistic device and applies it to these wistful songs to create a different type of feeling but a feeling all the same, one of nostalgia and longing. It doesn’t matter that he trades songs among releases, because it’s about the big picture. The collection is bookended with an instrumental intro and outro; the intro gears us up with a power-pop riff while the outro melts into a twinkling surf rock ditty, the end credits of a heartfelt movie, music you ride off into the sunset to. As a unit, all fourteen tracks contribute to a fifteen-minute whole of a sentiment, or even the memory of a sentiment, rather than units in and of themselves. These songs are evergreen, containing emotion so universal as to mean the same thing in 2008 as in 2019, albeit evoked by different circumstances. After all, on track “Been Here Before,” Molina observes: “The more I change, the more I stay the same.”

When Push Comes to Shove: Etiquette in the Mosh Pit

The live music experience is a major part of music fandom, and anyone who attends concerts regularly can attest that there’s an unspoken sense in the air of how to behave and interact with one another at most shows. In venues of any size, hosting any band, of any genre, there is simple etiquette that one makes a contract to uphold as soon as they enter the venue’s doors. Sometimes though, for whatever reason, folks in the audience just don’t get the message, ignoring body language, personal space, and common decency, which can make for an unpleasant experience for everyone around. Here, we lay out the do’s and don’ts of show-going, explicitly stating that unspoken language once and for all.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

First, let’s go through some of the people you may encounter at shows. This does not go for all shows or all genres, but as a photographer and writer who covers live music often, I’ve become familiar with certain types of folks I often share space with. It’s important to identify these people so you know how to deal with them at your next show.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

Here With Friends

This person is typically just along for the ride, more than likely traveling in a pack and sticking with them through the entirety of the show. These people are generally harmless – just be on the lookout if they start to hype each other up a bit too much throughout the band’s set. But even that is better than a big clump of people only there to shmooze, who talk throughout the show about things unrelated to music – especially if the set is quiet. Though they may not talk to anybody else in the crowd, random conversations can be distracting; if it seems like this is going to be the case, seek refuge away from the group.

Die-Hard Fan

If the show is at a larger venue or is a really noted act, you might get those die-hard fans who will go early and wait in long lines to see their favorite band from a prime position. They will be at the front of the stage, screaming every lyric of every song, their unconditional love for whatever act they’re seeing undoubtedly noted by the freshly-purchased merchandise they’re wearing or some attempt to drop random facts about the act between songs. They may get wild, but it’s all for love of the music – generally you can count on this person to promote positive vibes in the folks around them, whether they’re alone or with a friend.

Wacky Flailing Arm Inflatable Tube Man

You will probably see this person in the middle of the venue, as they are often a part of the pit – maybe even the pit starter. Common at hardcore, punk, and even certain types of hip-hop shows, they flail their arms and legs all over the place to build a circle around them and are not to be reckoned or reasoned with. If they’re getting a pit started that you don’t want to be involved in, try and stay safe while giving them space to do their thing. It’s a little more awkward when someone’s just flailing for no apparent reason, but oftentimes these are the people who will be most offended when confronted, so subtle glaring or switching up your spot is all you can really do.

IPA Dude

Outside of shows, you’ll see this person at bars, at coffee shops, at Whole Foods, or walking across the street with their fixed-gear bike. They hold on to their beer like it’s their lifeline and probably won’t stray far from the bar of the venue so they’re able to order again quickly. If they’re not already friends with the bartender, they will be by night’s end, and will hopefully remain chill even if they have one or two too many. They might be very vocal with their opinions on beer, coffee, or even the music, but they can be cool to hang around with if you just want to enjoy your time by the bar, removed from the crowd.

Arms on Lockdown

Similar to IPA Dude, this person is very chill. Usually coming by themselves, they keep their arms and legs to themselves and inside of the ride at all times. They’re just there to enjoy the music, and not be bothered. Just like a bee, if you leave them alone, they’ll be harmless, but it’s likely they take things very seriously – seriously enough that if they’re standing next to Wacky Flailing Arm Inflatable Tube Man or a group of loud talkers there might be a showdown.

Surf’s Up!

We all know those who crowd surf. It is a sport and a gift to those who are comfortable enough to be lifted up by complete strangers and passed along sweaty palms to prove their love and joy of the band. Sometimes they barrel to the front to jump off the stage and into the crowd; other times, they’ll get bystanders to hoist them up and surf toward the stage. They may not appear so before the opening song, but those first few riffs transform them into a thrill-seeker. Once they’re up, it’s hard for them to control where they go or what they’re doing with their own limbs, so if you’re anywhere in their path, stay alert! Doc Martens to the forehead do not feel good.

The Photographer

As a photographer myself, I’ll say this: even though some of us are working, we are just fanatical as anyone else. We typically love the bands we shoot, we love the thrill of a live act, and we love to document that. We have to be near the stage to get good shots, and with that comes some risks. We dodge crowd surfers, flailing arm people, pit-pushers, and more, often with expensive equipment that we’d prefer not to break. A good photographer shouldn’t distract you from the main act – most will get in and get out once they’ve got what they need. If you’re near an amateur with an iPhone who sees a need to record video of every song in its entirety, that’s another story – politely remind them that they’re blocking your view when they do that and ask them to keep documenting the event to a minimum, and hope that they’ll oblige.

Push Pops

At some shows, there may the tamer cousin to the mosh pit – the push pit. The push pit mostly contains people jumping up and down and having a good time. It is a uniform mass and is easy to get in and out of. Those who decide to be a part of this mass are usually not aggressive, but have a gigantic love and appreciation for the band, and let that excitement show with high-energy movements. Joining in can be really fun, and it’s great cardio too!

Photo by Sarah Knoll

Needless to say, a crowd encompasses many types of people, and works almost like its own organism, reacting to the same stimuli. No matter what type describes your own show-going persona, there is some behavioral protocol that should be followed when attending a show. We all want to enjoy the experience, get our money’s worth, and leave happy. But one or two unpleasant folks can sour the mood for everyone, instead bringing negativity and sometimes even danger to the audience around them. Here are some best practices to be conscious of when you’re at a show.

Most importantly: R-E-S-P-E-C-T isn’t just a song by Aretha Franklin (RIP), it’s something that everyone in general life should exhibit, both spoken and silent. In the close quarters of a sold-out venue, this goes double, and the easiest way to tell if a given behavior is acceptable is to look around you. Observe the crowd – if no one’s dancing or moving around at all, it’s probably not an appropriate time to start up a pit and start pushing people around. Though it seems like common sense, unfortunately, some people are lacking of that.

Respect also comes in the form of respecting physical boundaries. Although sometimes show-goers are packed like sardines into a venue, it does not mean that someone should be touched without permission and personal space should always be 100% respected, as best you can. Even a tap on the shoulder can make someone feel uncomfortable, and shoving people aside to get a spot in front of the band is pretty rude. If someone’s in the pit it’s probably safe to say they’re open to the types of touching that come along with that, but – especially for people in the pit periphery who aren’t active participants, keep your hands to yourself.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

The pit can be an amazing experience to be a part of, but it’s also a complicated one. Unfortunately, the pit is heavily dependent on social cues, therefore communication can be misinterpreted. For the most part, even folks who appear aggressive want everyone to have a good time too, and there’s a good deal of helping people up when they fall or doing some protective pushing around smaller moshers.

If you do not want to participate in jumping around, possible pushing, fist-pumping or any of that action, it is recommended that you find a small space where you will not be affected by said pit. Standing along the wall or in corners is a great option as these provide pockets of space where the pit will more than likely not open up, yet you’re able to see the action both on stage and off. If someone keeps pushing you or trying to throw you into the pit from the sides, feel free to tell them to back off, but don’t act hostile about it since you don’t want to start beef with someone who can put you in harm’s way.  If you’re not dying to see the act up and close, going to the back of the venue can put you in the arms of safety. It allows you to be close to the exits and possibly the bar, so you don’t have to interact with the pit people at all.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

If you’re going into the pit, don’t do anything more aggressive than you’d want done to you. If you don’t want to get punched, don’t punch people. It’s as simple as that. It’s sad that this has to be said, but countless times, people have been more aggressive than they need to be. If you’re in a pit and other people are knocking into each other and pushing around, cool. But if people are starting to grab one another by their shirts, push people down to the ground or grab anyone to the point where that person is out of control, don’t hesitate to notify someone. A lot of shows at bigger venues have competent security. Some bands have even been known to call out bad behavior they see in the audience. But whether it’s happening to you or someone nearby, don’t just do nothing. The more aware that people are about a potentially violent or offensive person, the safer that environment can be.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

Be observant of the venue around you, too. Be aware that the space needed for a pit can push other people into uncomfortable nooks and crannies. Assess your space before you decide to flail your arms everywhere or bring the pit further into the back or sides of the venue. Sometimes it’s appropriate and other times it’s not.

The pit can be a unique and fun experience if people can observe behavior and assess before they act. It takes at most five seconds to turn around and look at the people to your left and right and anticipate their next move. You’d do the same if you’re about to turn a corner on a street, so bring those same principles to a show.

Be a Conscious Observer. 

Safety should always be your main concern, even if that doesn’t seem “cool.” Observe and assess your surroundings; with violent events at concerts on the rise, it’s important to know where to go in case of emergency. Also, don’t be afraid to say hello to whoever is nearby you, and make sure they are aware of your presence. Whether offering a simple wave or friendly eye contact, noting your neighbors may help you in the long run if something were to happen, and even if nothing does, you might make a new friend.

It’s also important to note other people’s behaviors. Pit or no pit, some people may act in an unruly or uncomfortable way that can not only effect yourself, but other people in the crowd. Don’t be afraid to speak up if someone is making you or another person uncomfortable. Talk to the bartender, security, someone next to you, the box office attendant, even the band. Try to prevent a person from doing something potentially threatening and dangerous without direct conflict.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

Don’t Be An Asshole.

Pit ettiquette boils down to that one simple phrase. If you wouldn’t want it done to yourself, don’t do it. It’s very easy to be nice, but’s also easy to cross that line when you’re in the midst of your favorite song.

Courtesy extends to the bands providing the music; unless they have asked for requests, don’t heckle them with suggestions for their set list. Bands put time and thought into crafting their set list and try to get a good range of music played to make their audience happy. Sorry if that one obscure song from their very first album wasn’t played – ask yourself if you really wanted to hear it, or if you’re just posturing for those around you so that they know what a longtime fan you’ve been (FYI: no one cares, and true fans come to hear what the band is interested in playing). At the end of the day, though the band is hopefully grateful to have an audience to play for, it’s also an opportunity to play what they’re excited to play, and recycling the same old tunes can get boring on a long tour. Just because you paid money to see them perform does not give you the right to dictate how and what they should play.

Here’s an important one, if you are tall. Please. Let. Short. People. FORWARD. If you’re plagued with the short gene like I am (I’m 5’1”) then it can become difficult to see the band through a sliver of space between two people who are much taller than you, and no one wants to stare at someone’s shoulders and neck all night.

Photo by Sarah Knoll

Bottom line: show-goers want to get the most out of the shows that they go to, and the bands that play want to see their audience have fun. If “fun” entails pushing people around in a mosh pit all night for some, and standing by the bar with arms crossed for others, remember: there’s room for all types of fandom, but all are governed by a golden rule. It’s easy to be nice, so why not do it? You’re there for the music, sure – but also for the experience of being in the midst of a living, breathing crowd, so taking it all in and putting out positivity in turn is the best way to make sure everyone has a blast.

ONLY NOISE: Marching Songs

women's march

It may be difficult to remember what politicized youth culture looks like. Some of us weren’t born in time to witness it at full wattage – in the student-helmed anti-war campaigns of the 1960s. The Civil Rights Movement that marched for the cessation of our own domestic race war. The efforts of second-wave feminists to seal with mortar the gender gap that has plagued most of human history. The Reagan-era LGBT activists, who effectively fought the religious right’s claim that AIDS was solely God’s way of eliminating the gays. Or the more widespread fury Reagan’s cabinet stoked in the poor, the disenfranchised, and the mentally ill when they binned the Mental Health Systems Act just as they were settling into office.

All of these efforts found their way into youth culture, whether directly, or just as an undeniable force of the time. Film, fashion, literature and music reflected the political unrest of their respective era in one way or another. And because youth culture and pop culture are all but synonyms in this country, whatever the “kids” liked was as pervasive back then as it is now.

Despite their history, politics and pop culture have an unsteady relationship. When we look specifically at music and politics, there lies an on-again, off-again affair that is as fickle as a middle school romance. From a zoomed-out, perhaps overly simplified lens, the pattern of their union seems to ebb and flow, with en vogue factions of politically incensed music followed by complacency and nihilism.

The anti-Vietnam War activists were emboldened by the music of Bob Dylan, Edwin Starr, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, to name a few. Seeger and Baez’s politics in particular overlapped with their support for the Civil Rights Movement. While the latter effort inspired the likes of Nina Simone, Gil Scott Heron, and Marvin Gaye, among many. The Black Power Movement and Black Panther Party found an odd ally in the likes of Detroit radicals the MC5, and the proliferation of politico punk during Regan’s reign is undeniable.

Punk was one of the few musical styles that seemed to morph its focus within the same genre. The substance-fueled hedonism of the mid-to-late ‘70s (Richard Hell and the Voidoids, The Dead Boys, The Germs, etc.) eventually gave way to the more substantive and topical songs of bands like Reagan Youth, Dead Kennedys, Youth Brigade, and Crass.

Arguably, the latter camp’s music is less lauded on a critical level, but both have their place in political and sonic history. While first wave punk certainly had many things to rebel against (The Eagles), it was also sprouting out of a time in which youth culture wasn’t as politicized. The Ramones weren’t exactly partisan revolutionaries staging protests and forming their own Weather Underground. First wave punk was more cultural rebellion than it was political rebellion, despite what Malcolm McLaren would have liked you to believe about his Sex Pistols, or his New York Dolls, whom he steered into a phony, late career Communist phase. It was more shock marketing than an actual political statement.

Second wave punk, despite being less inclined to smuggle interesting pop melodies, jazz, and a love of Doo-wop into its songs, had a whole hell of a lot to rebel against. Of course, everybody still hated The Eagles, but the onslaught of Reagan’s conservative policies, the oversold, underperforming promise of a suburban utopia (let alone an urban one), and the apolitical punk movement just before, left more to be desired.

The very aimless debauchery of previous punks inspired D.C.’s Straight Edge Movement, helmed by Minor Threat, whereas bands across the country needed only speed as an impetus for changing the game. Once showing its component parts of rock n’ roll and other beloved genres, punk had grown a thicker skin and put on a war helmet. When hardcore emerged with bands like Black Flag and Bad Brains, it somehow morphed what punk meant for generations. It had literally been hardened, and shined like a weapon. No longer existing for the sake of its own exploratory purposes, but as a vessel for discourse and agitation.

And it wasn’t just the punks who were getting political. The Reagan administration saw criticism from musicians obscure and mainstream both. Let us not forget that despite Reagan’s misuse of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.,” as his re-election campaign score, the song is in fact a damning reprimand of Reagan’s mistreatment of American veterans and his economic policies. Even His Purple Majesty Prince used music to criticize Reagan in cuts like, “Ronnie Talk to Russia” and “Sign o’ the Times.”

Sadly, none of this has happened in my lifetime. Though it may not be entirely true, I feel as though I have lived in a time period without its own protest music. I was too young to understand the relevance of ‘90s rap, let alone remember it as it happened. Only now, with detached hindsight can I see that it too was protest music, no matter how much the media tried to demonize it. I remember a smattering of artists, mostly smallish in name, condemn the Bush administration in the early 2000s…but I also remember that when a mainstream band tried to be critical, they got panned.

I will never forget how unexpected country sweethearts the Dixie Chicks nearly lost their fan base when in 2003, singer Natalie Maines spoke out against Bush at the Sheperd’s Bush Empire Theater in London:

“Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.”

I didn’t start immediately loving every song the Dixie Chicks put out, but I was sure as hell proud that a mainstream country act would risk the bulk of their followers to speak their mind.

There has long been a lull in political music. The eight years of Obama’s presidency have left us complacent – and they shouldn’t have. There is always something to improve. Just as the second crop of punks made the genre their own; just as the second wave feminists worked to continue what the first wave had laid for them; just as the Black Lives Matter movement has taken the still blazing torch from the Civil Rights activists; it is the turn of the artists, the authors, and the songwriters, to match the task at hand with cultural inspiration. Fiona Apple knows this, as she’s already given us two anti-Trump tunes. There was of course her Christmas parody, “Trump’s Nuts Roasting on an Open Fire” released just around the holidays. But her new song, “Tiny Hands” is one to march to.

LIVE REVIEW: Low Fat Getting High @ Cake Shop



Grow your hair. Throw a beer. Break a bridge, chuck a cymbal. Hold your Jazzmaster with its busted bridge up to the foam ceiling insulation to get more feedback. Play through stacks jacked up so loud you drown the house PA. I don’t know if Brooklyn’s Low Fat Getting High read a book on how to be the most rock n’ roll, but they sure as hell could write one.


Low Fat has been making strides in the underground rock circuit as of late, receiving praise from the likes of Brooklyn Vegan and the Village Voice, the latter calling them NYC’s Best Rock Band. Now while that’s a hefty medal from a source past its prime, Low Fat certainly do kick ass. The proof was at the Cake Shop last Thursday, where the trio shared a record release party alongside label mates The Black Black. Both groups have fresh vinyl out on NY’s own Money Fire Records, Low Fat’s being a self-titled 12 song ear-ripper that could sit on a shelf next to 90’s Queens of the Stone Age; no shortage of muddy bass and aggro drums here.


The Money Fire boys split the bill with Dead Stars and recent Seattle transplants Iska Dhaaf who opened the evening. Iska Dhaaf, whose name roughly translates to “to let it go” in Somali, is made up of Ben Verdoes, formerly of Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band and Nathan Quiroga of the much-maligned Seattle “rap” outfit Mad Rad. To let it go, indeed. To the credit of the band’s reincarnation, Iska Dhaaf put on an entertaining show that revealed their diversity and technical ability as musicians and songwriters.


Verdoes sang harmony, played drums with his right hand and diddled a miniature keyboard with his left. Meanwhile Quiroga sang lead and riffed on his battered 335, duck-walking and playing footsie with an 8-pedal effects shelf. If multi-tasking is a necessity of the era, these boys will survive just fine.


Next up was The Black Black, whose latest record Boogie Nights brings to mind bands like Minutemen and Mclusky. Lead singer/guitarist Jonathan Daily’s vocals could hardly be heard over the band’s pushy breed of post-noise rock, but his attitude rang loud and clear. A bastion of blasé, he sneered while mouthing sarcastic lyrics such as “what the world needs now is one more band.”


But while Daily had a self-deprecation dilemma on his hands, the rhythm section seemed to be having a blast. The bassist, who looks and sounds like he stepped out of the 1980’s New York hardcore scene served up tendon-trembling riffs with no hesitation. Smiling wildly behind the drum kit was Tomo Ikuta, whose grinning enthusiasm is something rarely seen in a rock band. An exceptionally skilled drummer, he filled out the band’s set with as many solos he could squeeze in.


Co-headliners Dead Stars steered the evening in a more melodic direction, though I found their sound to be less exciting than that of the previous groups. They’re a talented group of musicians, but exude a commoditized presentation of grunge and shoegaze, complete with ripped jeans, laissez faire hair and flannel button-ups. Jeff Moore’s vocals are a bit on the whiny side, and the music isn’t groundbreaking enough to spark much conversation.


Low Fat Getting High, on the other hand didn’t seem to be wearing anybody else’s outfit. They’re true entertainers, packing more into the first five minutes than most bands do in 45. By their second song a cymbal had flown off of the drum kit and lead singer/guitarist Michael Sincavage had broken the bridge of his guitar. No matter though, it only seemed to add to their air of “who cares?”


The band played a full-throttle set that was nothing if not entertaining (and of course badass). Artie Tan hammered out fast-paced sludgy bass lines, bouncing around the stage with a recklessness that defies his waifish build. Sincavage didn’t disappoint with face-melting solos, taking his performance into the crowd from time to time.


For all of Low Fat’s serious rock ‘n’ roll, they had an admirable sense of humor about themselves while they played, cracking jokes and smiling through their curtains of hair. It didn’t hurt that it was their record release party, and that the crowd was full of friends and Money Fire brethren. At the end of their set, the audience shouted for more songs, to which Sincavage quipped:


“We’re too young for encores.”


Can’t blame them for that.

[fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”]





TRACK REVIEW: Cerebral Ballzy “Speed Wobbles”


Cerebral Ballzy encompasses all that is freeing about punk. This throwback Brooklyn band is keeping the fires of old alive in the hardcore music scene. From their riffs to their sweat-dripping performances to the crudely carved lettering on their album cover, they scream grime and rough force. “Better in Leather”, from their forthcoming album Jaded & Faded, was Zane Lowe’s ‘Hottest Record in the World’ on BBC1 Radio. The newly released “Speed Wobbles,” is the B-side to “Better in Leather” and it’s a short, thrilling ride.

This minute-long track goes from beginning to end with a super fast-paced rhythm that jars you into action (or, at least, wanting to move). The guttural, croaking voice is harsh, but really makes you want to sing along however the only really intelligible words are, unsurprisingly, “Speed wobbles” shouted just before the song ends. The guitar and bass here are quick enough to come close to metal, but Ballzy stays dirty enough to instead ride off into a meeting between hardcore and punk.

The best thing about music like this, for me, is how cathartic is is. Not lyrically, as some other music might be, but in the mood: It’s jut-your-chin-out angry, it’s plain old fuel for the fire. And letting go of that fire is such a release. Somehow this track manages emotional and fun at simultaneously, and its brevity is what keeps it level. There’s a release, but it doesn’t go on to the point of rage or anxiety. It’s short, sweet, and during shows there’s time between songs to prepare yourself for the next bout of action.

Give “Speed Wobbles” a listen below:

VIDEO OF THE WEEK 12/2: “Hidden Structures”


The Holograms‘ new video for “Hidden Structures,” off the full-length September release Forever, shows a basic juxtaposition between silence and noise, listlessness and energy. The Swedish foursome loaf on the rooftop of a graffiti-branded shack, stand discontentedly in front of pastel high rises and grassy hills, sit moodily in greenly lit bars, and pile into a station wagon that, against the grey backdrop of Scandinavian highway, looks nearly cartoonishly red. An Asian man stares at the camera, smoking mistrustfully.

By contrast, the band’s brand of heavy, epic synth-rock doesn’t let up once on this track. This rawness is par for the course–with the release of their debut album a little over a year ago, The Holograms established an energy-driven, fast kind of post-punk so cohesive that that made listening to their music feel like a full-body experience, a throttling surround-sound effected by the band’s cohesive vivacity. Their recent follow-up wavered little from the course already set, sticking to large, heavy themes expounded upon via synthesizer, but expanded the breadth of the sound, carving out deeper intricacies of their bass lines and moving further away from communality in the direction of the most insular, most introverted edges of synth-punk.

With scenes of record shops and fast driving, there’s glimmers of rock and roll in the video, but ultimately it’s the divide between outer isolation and inner rage that adds complexity to this song. The effect is one of looking out at the world–in this case, a sparsely populated, quiet and monotone Scandinavian landscape–and creating a vastly different world inside your head. When the band set out to make the new record, they were famously broke and despondent, connecting little with their more electro-inclined Scandinaian musical brethren.  The video for “Hidden Structures” plays off that dichotomy, opening up the song to a loneliness that feels gritty and true.

“Hidden Structures” is featured on the Forever album, out via Captured TracksWatch the videos for “Hidden Structures” below!