I knew coming into the new year that 2015 would be a good one. I didn’t know so many good things would happen so early.
Saturday, Cool Dad and I journeyed back out to Brooklyn and parked a block away further. That’s okay though because it was warmer out than Friday, but damn, was the venue even more packed than last night! Again, Chris Gethard came out to begin the evening , and mixed it up by doing some improv with Joe Steinhardt. Alice, who are freshly signed to the label, were a perfect fit to kick off the night with their lofty garage pop rock. NJ natives brick mower followed and stirred up the crowd with their riling punk-hymn choruses. Continuing the party was Nuclear Santa Claus, who seem to not really mind getting shit thrown at them. I guess it comes with the territory.
Lauen Measure’s Worriers, who I really love and admire, then took the stage. The room was packed at this point with nodding heads, and I have no doubt they will be filling rooms on their current tour. I was surprised (but maybe not really) to see the energetic and talented Audrey Zee Whiteside up on stage a second time this weekend. Pinkwash then took the stage. Holy shit. The two piece played a short four song set, but they left an intense impression with their amped-up wall of sound. I mean, my ears were dead and buried. They rocked pretty fucking hard. But nothing could prepare me for Downtown Boys, who I am pretty sure have changed live music for me forever. I often speak in hyperboles, but this time I mean it.
Downtown Boys describe themselves as a “billingual political sax dance punk party from Providence.” Party is an understatement. The room was like a New Year’s celebration on cocaine. The music was invigorating, but even more invigorating was front woman Victoria Ruiz, who took the stage to command the audience with her powerful speeches (which she also gave in Spanish, an inclusive decision also meant to challenge those with English-as-a-first-language feel alienated in the same the way Spanish speakers in America do). Right up front was her mother, who she dedicated many songs to.
Time flew by watching as they worked up the crowd to a swirl of moshing, crowd dives and surfs. And, I just have a few thoughts.
I have never described myself as “punk.” I guess I just never identified with a lot of the scene, and I will just say, point blank: I have never been able to identify with the predominantly male anger of punk music. I am aware of punk bands that fronted and including women and people of color, but having not attended too many shows by these bands, I never realized how at-home I feel with that space. With Downtown Boys, I really saw how and why punk can be so powerful. I saw how it has the ability to empower others, to help them articulate a voice and release a cathartic anger and energy. The things that Downtown Boys sing about are important. They scream at racism, sexism, capitalism and colonialism and do not ignore how these institutions intersect. The level of energy from the room spoke to the raw anger young people in this country feel towards these topics, and how needed it is for women, people of color, and LGBTQ to have a punk space of their own. As dozens of people in the crowd hopped on stage with the band to sing out, I won’t lie, I felt a little tear.
California X closed out the night, and packing the room with no issue. After rocking out for a bit, I wandered off and sat by myself to kind of take in the breadth of experiences I witnessed across the stage for two nights in a row. I am getting myself out there more, and I am understanding the power of live music with every night I go out. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the space I was in, the one Don Giovani had curated.
I feel like I need to thank them for being so mindful of the way music can transform a space, how they have been so inclusive of the many forms of rock and punk music that exist in the area. It feels like they want to do more than just discover potentially critically-praised bands, but give so many others a chance to be heard and experienced. Because not all music lovers enjoy the same music. But they all enjoy seeing that music live.
Looking forward to the 2016 showcase already.