It is hard to believe that 2022 is just days away, especially when shows have just started to kick off again in 2021 after a hiatus of more than a year. One of many of the questions that plagued us during the height of the pandemic was “How many bands on the brink of stardom had their momentum stolen from them?”
And, sadly, I don’t have an answer for that. However, I am observing an interesting pattern unfolding on the punk scene. I think after four tumultuous years under Cheeto Mussolini, more than 18 months of social distancing, a summer of protests, witnessing direct assaults on our already weakened democracy culminating into an attempted coup, and nearly a year of Business-as-usual Biden, that we were long overdue for a punk revival.
Looking back, the famous quote from Henry Rollins in January 2017 stating that “it’s punk rock time” now fills me with warm nostalgia. Rollins recognized something I couldn’t comprehend at the time, but I am now witnessing it all comes to fruition. He knew conditions were optimal for a new wave of punk music. Now, as we stand on the cusp of 2022, we can see that fourth wave forming as it comes our way. He was right, this is what Joe Strummer prepared us for, and there is a distinct possibility that the fourth wave will be more of a tsunami.
The most exciting thing about the oncoming fourth wave is that bands and musicians have us spoiled. I couldn’t attend nearly as many shows as I wanted to this year. However, I haven’t seen a bad performance in 2021. More often than not, we’re talking about the opening bands and not the headliners after the show as we walk out of the venue. Heart and Lung and Red City Radio were no exceptions.
I am sure many bands tragically lost their momentum in 2020. But how many more, like Red City Radio, gained their polish and shine. In 2020, the world ground to a halt. However, even as the livelihoods were on the line, this afforded many musicians the time to refine their craft. This might be why Red City Radio’s music sounded far cleaner live and more robust than they currently do on Spotify and YouTube.
I have a knack for predicting what bands will blow up big time and when it will happen. When the Interrupters released Fight the Good Fight, I told everyone that the Interrupters were the next Green Day. Approximately one year later, Green Day announced that the Interrupters would open for the Hella Mega Tour. After seeing Radkey for the first time in 2017, I knew they were going places, like on tour with the Foo Fighters in 2021. So, I am going to call it now: Red City Radio is the #nextbigthing.
I could tell by the crowd that had formed before Red City Radio hit the stage that they were the real deal. As their set started, I was honestly taken aback by how many people in the crowd were singing the songs word for word as the lyrics left Garrett Dale’s lips. Still, I was even more surprised by how many more people were singing along by the end of the song.
However, that is the magic of Red City Radio. Their explicitly simple lyrical structure with familiar patterns and rhymes in their choruses allows RCR to win over the audience, compelling them to join in on the chorus by the end of a song.
This is only aided by Red City Radio’s incredible harmonies. In fact, RCR backup vocals border on being too good. It seems Garrett Dale has a limited range vocally, which he more than makes for in swagger. Still, on more than one occasion, I was distracted by the harmonies coming from Derik Envy’s and Ryan Donovan’s backup vocals right before a Garrett Dale guitar solo. Dallas Tidwell even joined in a few times from behind the drum kit with strong juxtaposing harmonies. His backup vocals could have been easily missed if it wasn’t for his creativity and originality as a drummer.
It seems that every time Red City Radio visits a city, they leave with dozens of new fans, and those fans are quickly adding up. Dale even joked that much of their Cleveland fanbase discovered the band at a Lawrence Arm’s show at the Grog Shop almost four years ago, although the band first played the Grog Shop in 2013. It’s clear they are gaining momentum based on word of mouth, and it’s easy to see why, especially when their fans kept the stage well-stocked with beers during their set.
Being from rust belt towns ourselves, we will likely be dragging friends along to see Red City Radio when their next tour brings them to Ohio. RCR’s music has a universal appeal that transcends genre, so not even our parents and non-punk friends are safe. Red City Radio has an authentic yet rough around the edge sound. Their blue-collar vibes perfectly pull on midwestern and southern heartstrings with forlorn nostalgia, staying true to their Oklahoma City roots. Their songs are far more than just a novelty for listeners in the rustbelt; they’re melancholic love letters to our decaying way of life and economies.
In closing, don’t be surprised when Red City Radio is headlining at the Agora or Bogarts in a few years. And suppose they become an “overnight sensation,” rapidly rising to the peak of celebrity status. In that case, I hope you remember that they first played the Grog Shop in 2013 and have painstakingly grown their fanbase exponentially ever since.