January has come and gone without any shows as covid hospitalizations spiked precipitously. We all felt the strain of bureaucracy buckling under the weight of an impending collapse of late-stage capitalism. Another Black man was murdered in Minneapolis during a no-knock raid similar to the one that Brianna Taylor was killed in. Yet, this news was buried mainly by the fear-mongering tactics of the mainstream media as they covered the impending war with Russia.
Meanwhile, on the home front, the rich keep getting richer. At the same time, the poor and middle class are being strangled by skyrocketing and soul-crushing infatuation. During our nation’s most dedicated distraction, the Super Bowl, we are bombarded by commercials for cryptocurrency telling us that fortune favors the bold. As if they aren’t stealing our hope, commodifying it for profit, and selling it back to us as something insubstantial. Look away. There is nothing to see here.
Yet deep in the heartland, in Hilltop USA, there is a place you can go to escape the perpetual anxiety of living in the decline. A place where you can find community and comradery in equal measure without denying our grim realities. It’s a little slice of heaven on earth where art and music thrive as the American dream dies in a fascist hellscape. It’s a place called The Stoop.
I have been itching to get back to The Stoop for a while now, and for a good reason. The vast majority of my readership has some affiliation with The Stoop. This is both serendipitous and convenient—to say the least—because The Stoop is approximately one mile from the Bands in the Bus headquarters. After more than a month without live music, I needed this show featuring Tweakers Inc., Sink Faster, and Worm so desperately. However, I did not anticipate this show being one of the most memorable of all time.
Punk rock cures nearly all ills, but even I had my doubts on Saturday about whether a good show could pull me out of such a miserable slump. To be completely honest, 2022 has been pretty gnarly from the jump, and it all seemed to be coming to a head last week leading into Saturday. Everything was going wrong. Nothing was going as scheduled. My anxiety was through the roof. The only reason I didn’t bail on the show was because I asked Matt Havranek to put me on the guestlist in exchange for a show review.
If you know me, you know I have one particular characteristic that exists in opposition to my punk rock lifestyle: my obsession with punctuality. Nothing triggers my anxiety like being late. After a trainwreck of a day, I showed up an hour after the doors opened. All I could think about was, what if I missed the opening band? How unprofessional of me! However, as soon as I opened the door and stepped inside, I felt my troubles melt away. Entering that place is like entering another dimension. Time flows differently there. They are on punk rock time, and everybody seems to check their worries at the door.
Tweakers Inc opened the night’s festivities. Its members—particularly the drummer and lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist—entertained the steadily growing crowd with their clothing-optional shenanigans long before they took the stage. Once they hit the stage, it was clear that this band of amateur musicians was still in its infancy. However, that is not a criticism but an observation. It takes years to master an instrument, and it’s far more punk to showcase your work in progress than it is to dream about being a rockstar while never putting yourself out there.
However, there are signs of glimmering potential beneath their muddy sound, especially if they continue working on their musical prowess and on-stage chemistry. Tweakers Inc is already greater than the sum of its parts, with a sound eerily reminiscent of early Nirvana. This moody quality culminated in their final song, “My Girlfriend Pays Full Price,” which caught my attention with its dark yet catchy lyrics. Their lead guitarist also offered a curious and salient juxtaposition to the rest of the band. Despite being muddled, his licks had a groovy jam band flavor, which gave me some Fu Manchu vibes.
Next up came Sink Faster. Unfortunately, a speaker gave out either shortly into their first song or during the last song of Tweakers Inc, which is a huge bummer because this trio totally shreds. You can’t really fault a band or a venue for a blown speaker. I have seen this happen to numerous bands at world-class venues. Sometimes a speaker just kicks the bucket. Perhaps we should consider ourselves lucky because I am pretty confident this band would have melted all of our faces off if not for the blown speaker.
Sink Faster was hands down my favorite band of the night from a personal standpoint. Don’t get me wrong, Worm put on one hell of a show and quite possibly the most unique set of my life. However, Sink Faster just overfills my very specific cup of tea. I was raised by metalheads who had absolutely zero love for punk music. But I was drawn to activism at a very early age, where I had my first exposure to Anti-Flag. Years later, after our first date, my husband started introducing me to other punk bands, the first of which was Propagandhi, and I was instantly hooked.
My husband actually didn’t intend on going to this specific show. However, less than 30 seconds into Sink Faster’s first song, I sent him a text telling him to get his ass to The Stoop because the second band had just hit the stage, and they sound eerily similar to Propagandhi.
Sink Faster’s songs offered plenty of social and political commentary embedded within their lyrics, along with the speed and precision on their instruments that come with Propagandhi’s more metal influences. They are definitely a certifiable local gem, and I need to know when and where they are playing next. I would love to provide them with a more in-depth review because, unfortunately, I couldn’t hear them as clearly as I would like due to the blown speaker. But I am confident that these guys are highly talented musicians who effortlessly blend my favorite elements of punk and metal seamlessly.
Finally, we have Worm, the hardcore band out a Massachusetts. All three members of Worm looked like randomly generated video game characters from radically different bands. Their highly individualized aesthetics added a playful sense of performative vagary. I found this quite refreshing for a hardcore band, which are typically either garishly over-the-top or utterly lackadaisical.
Before their set, Niv Nelah, Matt Havranek, and a small handful of their closest associates were hard at work replacing the blown speaker and recalibrating their sound system. The Stoop has a die-hard following who zealously support the artists performing there, partly because they are there to have a raucous time. I don’t think a majority of the regulars, aside from the lifelong musicians, would have been overly concerned about the blown speaker. However, I appreciate the fact that Niv and Matt worked so quickly yet tirelessly to correct the issue before the hardcore band took the stage.
Hardcore is probably the most challenging sub-genre of punk to review objectively, especially if you haven’t encountered a particular band in the wild before. Being able to clearly hear all the different elements is essential. Otherwise, the aggressive vocals, distorted power chords, overdriven fuzzy bass lines, and tight engine-like drumming will sound like a cacophony of angry, muddy noise.
I am not going to lie to you; I had my doubts about this particular band. Especially after Sink Faster put on such an immaculately clean performance despite having issues with sound quality. However, I must say, I was thoroughly impressed by Worm and surprised by how balanced they were as a band, which isn’t something I get to say about a lot of hardcore bands.
Mikke Worm can hold an incredibly hostile leading rhythm while on vocals. His solos were savage—tight enough to showcase his talent and expertise without any excess or superficiality. Gary Tears bass lines were played with fervor, and his backing vocals were unnerving feral at some points and perfectly harmonized at others. His steady and occasionally syncopated rhythms combined with Josh Crimespree’s dynamic drum fills to get the crowd moving wildly. Josh Crimespree may have looked like a Juggalo in a ska band. Still, his breakdowns, brutal backbeats, and cymbal strikes were galvanizing, spurring most of the audience into the circle pit.
The circle pit that formed and sustained itself throughout the entirety of Worm’s set defies explanation. Any description I could provide you would merely sound like a frantic fever dream. You would just have to be there to understand. It was pandemonium, yet it enveloped the entire crowd in communal merriment. Its shirtless participants embraced, spun, and formed mini kick lines with one another, much to the band’s chagrin.
The delirium reached its apex when Niv Nelah joined the band on stage for an absolutely barbaric cover of GG Allin’s Bite It You Scum that was simply annihilating. I am not a GG fan, but even I can’t deny the power this particular song has over old-school punks who need to channel their internalized rage. I don’t know who was more impressed, the chaotic crowd or the headlining band. Mikke Worm even remarked that Columbus now has a DIY spot that could become legendary and can only be compared to the mythical Bernie’s.
But I know nothing of that…Bernie’s was demolished years ago, and its peak was long before my time. However, I do know this. Just like Mikke Worm said himself, we need to treasure this place called The Stoop. We need to support it whenever we can—however we can. Because we are living through dark and troubling times. But as the world goes to shit, we are weirdly prepared for the worst. We know the best punk music is written in the most difficult of times, and us punks need a place in this unforgiving world to call our own.
Take care of one another and stay safe in the pit. <3