Updated: Mar 15, 2022
When people hear about my unwavering love for punk music, most typically ask a follow-up question pertaining to mosh pits. The truth is that I rarely go into the pit—like ever— unless I am photographing a vocalist who has descended into the madness or joining a puppy punk who wants to jump in for a quick go-around. I wear glasses, and I am living with chronic illness. Pain is a consistent part of my day-to-day existence, and I wear a watch that helps me track my heart's functionality. I am not built for the pit...but I am pretty fucking Irish, and there was nothing that could keep me out of the pit last Friday night during The Bastard Suns set at The Stoop.
However, I will get back to talking about The Bastard Suns in just a few paragraphs. Although they more than exceeded my incredibly high expectations, both the local bands that opened for them blew me out of the water despite having their own very unique set of challenges. But to get the full story, I have to take you back to the afternoon before the show...
Around 1:00 pm, the co-owners of The Stoop sent out an S.O.S. to the community. The opening band for Bastard Suns and Adios Beaches had to drop from the bill the day of the show. Both Phoenix Radtastic and Mikey O'Keefe replied that ASMR was prepared to fill the spot in totally separate threads. It was soon announced that another local band would fill that opening spot. But then, 90 minutes after agreeing to the offer, they too had to drop out. ASMR was then tapped at the last minute to open the show, literally just a couple of hours before they would need to be on stage.
Now, there are 101 possible reasons why ASMR wasn't the initial choice to fill the opening slot, and the vast majority of those potential reasons have zero negative connotations. The most likely of which is that ASMR had just recently headlined a show at The Stoop and the co-owners want to showcase a wide variety of local bands at the venue without exhibiting any favoritism. But still, as an artist, you are rarely privy to such inside information. Even if you are, anxiety has a way of sowing seeds of doubt in a performer's mind, especially in this type of situation. It's easy to psyche yourself out, and I must admit that I was actually worried for ASMR and Phoenix Radtastic. I covered their last show, and while they were handily the best band to perform that particular night, they would have to play a lot tighter and cleaner to hold their own in a lineup featuring The Bastard Suns.
But the cream—much like a phoenix—always rises to the top. The exponential improvement that ASMR made in just two short months is simply phenomenal. You can tell that this band is preparing to go to the studio as their originals are cleaner than ever. The band's on-stage chemistry has evolved, with its musicians becoming more tightly synergized. Now that the band is more balanced than ever, they no longer need to rely on Radtastic's larger-than-life charisma. Instead, we are starting to see glimmers of their musical influences as their sound becomes more fluid. Radtastic, known throughout the scene for their flamboyant foolhardiness, approached this gig with professionalism and composure without sacrificing or compromising who they are as both a person and a performer.
Radtastic is a natural-born performer, and I am not saying this as lip service. Their mother is a former operatic first soprano and choral director. While I can't say whether they developed their powerful voice under their mother's tutelage or whether it simply manifested from their genes, I do know they have a near-supernatural understanding of how and when to breathe. If you aren't a vocalist, you may not understand, but breath is the key behind the magnitude of your voice and the sustainability of a note. At their last show, Phoenix joined the audience on the floor during their performance. However, they chose to stay on stage for this performance, which I thought was a good move. Radtastic sounded better than ever on their cover of Rock 'n' Roll Evacuation, and because they were standing on stage and not getting wild with the crowd, they could showcase their full vocal range on originals like Asshole and Ode to Dick. ASMR is well on their way to being certified as a #localgem, and I have sneaking suspicion that they will only get better after hitting the studio.
Next up came Adios Beaches, and this band perhaps had the biggest obstacles to overcome: my apathy for all-instrumental songs and my general distaste for surf music in general. Yes, I said it, and in my defense, I am not a huge fan of beachy vibes or even tropical vacations in general. It’s just not my cup of tea, but I understand the appeal, especially when it comes in the form of live music. That being said, Adios Beaches gave this sub-genre a punk edge, and now even the legendary riffs of the late great Dick Dale are finally growing on me.
I grew up with a father who trashed talked local bands that played cover songs. Now, as an adult, I consider this attitude to be ass-backwards. Cover songs are the most clever weapons in a musician's arsenal. A good cover is the ultimate frame of reference for the audience, especially if the band exists within a specific niche that allows for an original twist. Adios Beaches used this secret weapon so masterfully by including Linoleum by NoFX in their setlist. Outside of Dick Dale, I don’t know much about surf music, but I know plenty about NoFX.
For example, even when scaled down completely, Linoleum still features four musicians, while Adios Beaches is a fully instrumental trio. If NoFX was a better band, this song would have likely been an uphill battle from the jump. The trio's rendition was incredibly tight. Each member provided creative fills in critical moments so that the guitarist could replicate the memorable syncopation and juxtaposing melodies of Fat Mike’s vocals, all while keeping with the wave-like fluidity of surf music. Covers are the Rosetta Stone of live music, especially in the small local club scene. Adios Beaches spoke my language, and because of that, I could better understand theirs. By the end of their set, I was fully developing a taste for their original songs. And the band earned extra credit points with how quickly and professionally the guitarist recovered from a broken string.
They also covered the Kids in the Hall theme, which had my husband far more excited than me. He immediately started recording the cover and showcased it on all his social channels tagging several friends. I am now convinced that the quickest way to determine if someone graduated high school before September 11th is to ask if they ever heard of the show Kids in the Hall and gauge their reaction. But jokes aside, Adios Beaches has earned the #wherearetheyplayingnext tag from Bands in the Bus for changing my perspective and getting me excited for warmer weather. I hope this band books a lot of gigs and festivals this summer. After two years of living through a pandemic, I think we all need a little tropical escape in our own backyards.
Finally, there was The Bastard Sons, which were hands down one of my favorite acts this year because they cater so directly to my incredibly niche tastes: punk, Irish folk music, and reggae/ska. I find it peculiar that other music connoisseurs talk about this particular band as if the Irish element is limited to a few drinking songs when the band's entire aura radiates with Irish-American swagger. It's a cultural thing, you either have it, or you don't. The ultimate barometer for this is if an unbiased person of Irish descent recognizes it in you. Now, you can't count me as unbiased: I came to this show hoping to dance the night away. However, I did bring my younger brother, who doesn't know anything about punk or reggae, but his name literally translates "little king" in Gaelic. He hung out in the back most of the night, but I checked on him when I needed to catch my breath, and his toes were tapping the entire time. He loved the band because of their effortless Irish-American pride.
Ultimately, if you know me well enough, you know there is nothing that I could write that would count as higher praise from me than the fact that I could not keep myself out of the pit, and I even broke my glasses. Like I said earlier, I am not someone that frequents the pit at all, and it wasn't until seeing The Bastard Suns at The Stoop that I truly understood its appeal. Although this experience was almost euphoric in nature, I wasn't forever changed by the experience. It's incredibly unlikely that you will catch me in the pit any time soon, even at The Stoop. Even if you do, it definitely won't see me going in and out of the pit all night long like I was during The Bastards Suns set, especially during their original songs.
The Bastard Suns are the first band to earn a #cannotbemissed title from Bands in the Bus. This band is definitely worth the trip to Cleveland or Cincinnati the next time they roll through Ohio, or even worth crossing state lines for a show in Pittsburgh or Indianapolis if their next tour doesn't bring them to our neck of the woods. Hell, we would have seen them the following night at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland if we weren't seeing Firebarker, a band featuring my husband's best friend play live for the first time in three years.
When I started this website, I promised my husband that I wouldn't document every single moment and that I would occasionally allow myself to be just another fan in the crowd. So, when The Bastard Suns announced that they were going to play a Bouncing Souls cover, I made the conscious choice to put my camera away and savor the moment. I will never regret that decision. The Bouncing Souls are sacred in my household, and The Stoop is becoming a second home to me. The Bastard Suns are living proof that while music is the greatest gift bestowed upon humanity, live music is even better.
Some things cannot be explained; they must be experienced. The magic we all felt from the beginning of The Bastard Suns set to the very end is one of those things. This show, including ASMR's and Adios Beaches’ sets, is probably in my top ten of all time, and it happened one mile away from home. Gas prices are rising, which means it's time to actually get out and support the live music venues in our own community. You may have missed The Bastard Suns last weekend, but The Stoop will be giving you another chance to see a show that may just become the stuff of legend in approximately two weeks. Make sure you get your tickets to see Escape From the Zoo, Public Serpents, and Some Kind of Nightmare on Saturday, March 26th, before they sell out.