In a cream soup thick humidity, replete with a teeming torrential downpour of rain sheeting sideways to accompany the rush hour traffic, *(Center City Philadelphia style – – – “Ay! Fukk you too, asshole!” – – – HONK!!!), bumper-to-bumper and stopped up worse than Elvis’ bowels, my photographer and I slugged along in that impacted automobile-centipede, an endlessly long line of cars before us. On a normal day *(what the fukk is that, anyway?), this trip from my current place in Joisey being virtually a straight line to and over the Ben Franklin Bridge, and into the perpetually apathetic and seizing heart of the City Of Brotherly Love *(my ass), and minutes from there to the location of the show, UNION TRANSFER, would’ve taken no longer than 15 minutes.
This was a 45 minute fiasco – – – but holy shit was it ever worth it.
After we found close and reliable parking, we still had some extra time to chain-smoke and listen to the man in the trash bag-poncho tell us “The good food is there, and the good SHIT is there.” *(Trust me, if I’d wanted the “good shit” I’d’ve already had it.). He also asked who was playing, within our time killing general discourse of nothing in particular, acting as though he had any idea who the hell we were talking about. “Yeah, yeah, they good!” Uh-huh. The rain had eased up a good bit by then, though a steady drizzle remained.
The doors opened promptly at 8pm, and upon entering checked the merch booth, which was right there. I ran into old friend Pat Society (formerly of VIOLENT SOCIETY and CRANKED UP!), as he was setting up THE DROOGETTES portion of the table. He and I caught up a bit, and then we entered the actual club itself, almost hidden behind a set of double doors right next to the merch/ concession area.
My first time at that particular establishment, I noticed that the actual inside of the UNION TRANSFER has a really unique architecture. It’s a large box of a room designed as a unique criss-cross of Steampunk and Gothic stylings, with slight Futurist touches, and perfectly low lit by gorgeous and finely crafted chandeliers, with odd angles casting strange shadows in slim archways. A perfect setting, intimately midsized, we went to the bar.
Within 20 minutes or so, THE DROOGETTES took the stage fully confident, four devotchkas in stark-white droogsuits, each with her own distinctive bit of flair, and owning the stage with a rampant ferocity that overpowers just about anything else to come from the predominantly patriarchal local scene. A perfect opener for what was yet to come, their songs, live, rip away at three times the speed of their recordings. Lead vocalist Jenn was a fully energized whirling dervish of confrontational power and crowd-kicking fury; a genuine performer. In fact whole band was fully into the gig, and it showed. Sporting newer members Jamie and Elija, along with co-founder of the band Rachel *(Jenn being the other co-founder), they were tight as a finely tuned snare drum. They played most of their ep, both songs from the new split 7”, and a couple I hadn’t yet heard. They do have another upcoming 7” soon as well, to be released by German label Shout Proud Records. More info on that to come. I really hope they do a full length soon, as they are just that fukking good *(and something necessary, both in the scene, and in their philosophies). This needs to be heard beyond the brick and mortar walls of Phila-Jerico. I do know I’ll be seeing them play again, however.
Next up was something I never thought I’d see. THE WEIRDOS, pioneers of the original L.A. punk scene. Formed in 1975, originally breaking up in 1981, only to remain performing about here and there, finally releasing the full length Lp Condor in 1990, and still occasionally performing from those distant origins to the present. Brothers and founders John & Dix Denney always remained the core of this incredibly creative, artistic, intelligent act. *(Personally, I’ve always kind of thought of them as L.A.’s version of the DEAD BOYS – – – long before the DEAD BOYS). Dressed in post-apocalyptic-type black and white, bleach stained and symbolically spraypainted garb, they ran through their set as though on the front lines of battle, easily the loudest band of the night. Vocalist John Denney prowled and lurked about the fairly large stage, jumping around and projecting out his notoriously bizarre facial contortions, a mutant Neutron Bomb ringleader, no between song banter; brother Dix was over to the side, almost in the shadows, looking over the crowd with a gamma-affected intensity and ready for war. Bassist Zander Schloss *(occasionally bassist for the CIRCLE JERKS) loomed over the crowd like a behemoth guardian, donned in a war-torn 3 piece suit. His skills are amazing, as I was right up front, watching him (and the whole band) perform, in total awe. They played the absolute best of their material from the early days til now, and an awesomely potent version of my personal favorite WEIRDOS song *(one of my favorites in general and, as previously mentioned in another article, one of the first songs I ever learned to play as a kid), “Solitary Confinement.” I felt honored to bear witness to this, it’s something dear to me that I never would’ve thought possible, being able to see them live, experience the intense power and artistry that they brought, and still bring, to the stage. I got to speak to the Brothers Denney for a bit as well, both of them incredibly cool, approachable, and down to earth.
After an astonishingly brief break from that, just enough time for a step outside and a smoke, the ADOLESCENTS took to the stage. They played a gloriously fast and loud set of both classics and material from their more recent albums, at a blinding flash of pace. Founding members, bassist Steve Soto (AGENT ORANGE, LEGAL WEAPON, MANIC HISPANIC) and vocalist Tony Adolescent (FLOWER LEPERDS, SISTER GODDAMN, THE ADZ), were joined by guitarists Dan Root and Ian Taylor, as well as drummer Mike Kambra, for this blitzkreig circle-pit and stage diving extravaganza of raw and old school energy. Just as when I’d seen them at the Echoplex in L.A. a few years ago, this place went absolutely haywire as well. They crammed as much music as possible into their brief headlining time, the songs played at a remarkable speed, unstoppably back-to-back. A great time was obviously being had by the band onstage, as well as the entirety of the crowd. In bellowing out song titles, I hollered for “I Love You” *(from their 2nd, 1987 lp “Brats In Battalions,” my favorite of their albums), to which Steve Soto looked down at me with a sly smirk and a wink and said “And we love you too.” Too short a set is my only gripe *(well, more songs from “Brats In Battalions” would’ve been nice – – – but not worth bitching over) about the performance *(and that’s got nothing to do with them, but instead Philly’s archaic L&I laws), but Tony still ran about the stage like a man on fire. They were exhausted by shows end, as was everyone else. I was also lucky enough to speak with Tony and Steve after the show, both immensely friendly, just as approachable as the members of all the wondrous, almost surreal trifecta of bands that conquered the night of June 25th, 2015. A ton of legacy, not an ounce of egocentricity, yet still kilotons worth of radioactive charisma, all the way around.
Kudos to UNION TRANSFER for NOT putting up a barrier between band and audience. We hung out leaning against the stage the whole show, something I’ve not seen *(or done) at a midsize venue in some time, probably close to fifteen years. It was nice to see circle pits and stagediving again, without hindrance from fukkhead bully-bouncers, at that. I’ll be checking out more events there, as well. It was a nifty place with a generally good vibe, and a beautiful interior design.
On one final note, I noticed something amongst the crowd that, well, I couldn’t even imagine back when I was a kid. Being an all ages, old school themed show, there were a number of punk-parents there with their kids, literally an ages 8 to 80 gig, and I found that really cool. That, as well as certain other small observations I made throughout the evening, has proven to me that, much as Watty (vocalist of THE EXPLOITED) proclaimed so many, many moons ago – – – PUNKS NOT DEAD. At the end of the day, really, it’s all just rock-n-roll to me.
Great show. Great venue. Great night. If this tour passes anywhere by you, go see it, as it’s an amazing piece of music history that most likely won’t happen again.
Vincent Daemon, writer, editor, musician, photgrapher, film/music buff and historian, and rabblerouser, can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vincent.daemon.1 as well as his spontaneously updated blog of writing news and nonsense THE WRITINGS OF A DEPRAVED MIND http://vincentdaemon.blogspot.com/Some of his music can be painfully experienced at http://www.reverbnation.com/vincentdaemonsageofdesire3 His email email@example.com