When I started dating the man who eventually became my husband, I was very new to the punk scene despite years of activism, which gradually turned me into an anarchist. Over the first several days of our relationship, he shared bands that advocated for the same ideals that I fought for. Over the first several weeks, he got me up to speed with the genre’s history. This process included watching the iconic documentary trilogy, The Decline of Western Civilization, and the slightly lesser-known but still incredibly influential, Another State of Mind.
So, of course, I couldn’t help but smile when I entered the Stoop. Especially when my husband whispered under his breath, “I feel like we are in Another State of Mind.” Mainly because those small communal clubs were a thing of the past when I was coming into my own. There were a few short-lived endeavors in creating these spaces. However, they all disappeared as quickly as they arrived. The catastrophically perfect storm of record labels overproducing bubblegum pop-punk combined with the simultaneous rise of music festivals and digital downloads likely contributed to their demise. Then came streaming music and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, both in 2008, and it is easy to see how local punk scenes across the country lost their sacred spaces like my husband’s beloved Riot 101.
And to be honest, few things have gotten better since 2008. The country has been on the decline since at least 2001. In hindsight, the shock value of the Decline of Western Civilization, particularly the third installment, seems hyperbolic now. More and more people are becoming economically marginalized after two financial crashes that we never fully recovered from, an openly fascist president, and a pandemic. In 1998, the year DoWCIII was released, my husband was in high school and would have to drive to the economically depressed neighborhood of Lorain to play for his (mostly) middle-class friends at Riot 101. Few people in the heartland of the Midwest at that time understood the desperation of the young adults featured in that film, who lived on the most extreme outskirts of society. But fast forward 23 years later, and the majority of this country is one to two paychecks away from that same threat of homelessness.
However, all those things eventually contributed to a revitalization of the punk scene. In the era of streaming music and social media, bands no longer need to relocate to Los Angeles or New York to get discovered. In fact, record labels are being formed in our own backyard. DIY has never been easier. However, Columbus was still lacking the kind of iconic venues that our gritty neighbor on the shores of Lake Erie is famous for…until now.
In the heart of Hilltop, in a nondescript and formerly abandoned building on West Broad Street, is a place that rivals those legendary venues of old. It’s called THE STOOP, and I have heard whispers of this place since 2019. And as this place has evolved, those whispers have only gotten louder. I was already planning on catching a show there when I overheard people talking about the Stoop at a Radkey show and then again at an Anti-Flag show.
So last Thursday, after a hectic day, I decided that it was time to pay this place a visit, and I was rather impressed with the concept. Inside, you will find a relatively diminutive main stage, which looks like a living room set piece of an 80s sitcom. Any band larger than a three-piece would struggle to fit up there, which only sounds detrimental. However, the notably small stage encourages vocalists to get on the floor with the crowd and gives solo acts a cozy spot to perform where all eyes can be on them. In contrast, the main floor is quite roomy. A band can open up a rather sizeable and active pit on a typical night while still leaving plenty of room for people who would rather quietly chill. And on a weekend night or when a well-known band is in town, it would be relatively easy for someone to crowd surf once the crowd filled the venue to capacity.
In addition to the stage, The Stoop also houses a half-pipe where local skaters can hone their skills. This is honestly one of the most ingenious ideas I have ever come across, especially when there is so much overlap between the punk and skateboarding communities. The presence of the half-pipe benefits all attendees, even if you don’t skate yourself. Watching the skaters practice and hone their skills before the show and in between sets adds the venue’s intriguing entertainment value. Also, I can only imagine how cool it is to skate with a local punk band providing a live soundtrack in the background.
But onward to the actual show…
Drake Talbot took the stage first, and I was pretty blown away by his talent and charisma. Although his acoustic set was vastly different from the hardcore D.O.S. or the skate punk of A.S.M.R., the juxtaposition worked incredibly well. Talbot’s acoustic guitar work gave me heavy Alkaline Trio vibes with intense and rapid strumming. In fact, he was strumming so fast that at one point that I was convinced he would break a string or rip the skin right off his fingers. Luckily, neither of these things happened. His intensity on acoustic guitar allowed him to hold his own in a lineup featuring two very aggressive hardcore acts while building up the crowd’s excitement.
Drake Talbot has earned the honor of being the first local musician to be classified as a #localgem and #diamondintherough because of his ability to appeal to potential fans across multiple genres with his melodic compositions, soulful lyrics, and rich yet raspy vocals I hope we are lucky enough to watch this potential rising star progress in his musical career. His original song about his daughter, “Are You Sure?” almost made me weep, while his Social Distortion cover had my husband wondering if Talbot is looking for a drummer. When it comes to first impressions, I think Drake Talbot was my favorite act of the night. I am incredibly moved by lyrics, and Talbot had a distinct advantage in this category. Being an acoustic act, I could clearly hear his vocals at all times which allowed me to take in his masterfully sincere lyrics. I look forward to the possibility seeing him perform again and possibly writing a more in-depth review. That being said, you absolutely cannot sleep on D.O.S. and A.S.M.R. because both bands have the potential of being icons in the growing Columbus punk scene.
I would like to bestow the honor of being one of our first #ontheradar bands to D.O.S. because I need to see them again to give them a fair review. They are the band that I know the least about. From my initial impression, D.O.S. seems to be heavily influenced by bands like the Circle Jerks, T.S.O.L., D.O.A., and Fear. However, I will need to see the band again to provide a more accurate musical analysis and critique. Unfortunately, I don’t know the band members‘ names…yet. However, I can tell you that D.O.S. is definitely the most hardcore/crust punk band I have seen in the last five years or so, especially among local acts with lyrical gems like "I'll eat your f***ing ass until your dead." Unfortunately, hardcore bands are difficult to review after just one show unless you are already familiar with a band and their songs.
D.O.S. also has a secret weapon in their guitarist—a classic jack of all trades with a solid mastery of often overlooked fundamentals and a knack for subtle showmanship. That being said, the juxtaposition of their adorably femme of center bass player with the lead singer was ***chef’s kiss*** and bodes well for diversity and representation in the Columbus punk scene. I’d like to see the band again so I can give their drummer the attention they deserve.
This particular style of punk music is so in your face that I have trouble picking up more nuanced aspects like musical techniques and skill while being overwhelmed with such hostile (in a good way) energy from the vocalist. That being said, D.O.S. is built for a venue like the Stoop. Their vocalist, who was incredibly hard to photograph because he was so active, working the floor stomping in circles as he growled into the microphone and got the crowd hyped to let out a little aggression in the pit. Despite it being a smaller Thursday night crowd, the band was able to keep the audience energized with participation peaking during a song that I believe was called “I’ve Had It!”
The show closed with local band A.S.M.R. who’s name alone earns them extra points. They are the second of only two bands to earn the designation of #ontheradar. I will need to see them at least one more time before I can critique them fairly —especially from a musical standpoint. A.S.M.R. is fueled primarily by the power of Phœnix Radtastic’s pure, unadulterated charisma when on the microphone and it’s hard not to be distracted by their blissful glow when they are singing to a crowd of friends.
Seeing Radtastic open up one of the wildest, raucously fun, yet wholesomely communal pits was joy in and of itself to witness. Phœnix even helped the only person who got knocked down back onto their feet. There was so much commotion and merriment in the circle pit that it was difficult to observe the band outside Radtastic or fairly assess their original tunes. However, their covers were absolutely lit and the perfect soundtrack for those skating the half-pipe. Modern Man by Bad Religion got people out on the floor. Song 2 by Blur took the vibe to the next level as the entire crowd began interacting with one another. Finally, their cover of The Last Goodbye by Agent Orange got nearly everyone, especially my husband, absolutely hyped.
Overall, I would likely return to the Stoop to see any of these three acts perform live again. Drake Talbot blends genres beautifully, and his heartfelt lyrics and intensity on acoustic guitar give him the gift of mass appeal without sacrificing authenticity. D.O.S. is possibly the closest thing you can find to the New York hardcore scene of the 1980s, especially in Columbus. And finally, A.S.M.R. brings the west coast skate punk energy with plenty of our wholesome Midwest queer character. I have yet to see a local band that can get a crowd so hyped without losing its humanity.
(The Stoop will be featured again in an upcoming series showcasing some of the instagram-worthy bathrooms at my favorite punk venues.)