For the last four years, Basement Transmissions has hosted an event in the local music scene called Toxic Prom, an all-ages live music alternative to your typical high school proms in the area. Every year there is a theme – and even a prom king and queen, who are nominated by the volunteer Toxic Prom committee and selected based on their costume and fit to the theme, crowned with epically crafted headwear by owner Bob Jensen. This year’s theme was Freakshow and Oddities, with a distinctly carnival-like flavor. As soon as you walked in the door, you noticed the venue was on higher energy than usual, the already passionate crowd there decked out enthusiastically with almost Halloween-like flair, with multiple members of the staff dressed as circus ring leaders and looking quite dapper.
The venue itself was decorated from the front entrance to the back room, complete with a sideshow carnival themed photobooth prop over top of the back room’s stage, and a table full of quirky, themed treats (“Strong-Man Dumbbells” made of marshmallows and pretzels, “Lady Beards” made of chocolate and pretzels and nuts, cotton candy and popcorn presented and stylized like your local fair’s best offerings) courtesy of Ashley Sayre de Rivas. The best local photographers came out in droves to do a completely phenomenal job of documenting the event, and even local broadcaster Kristen Neilsen of Jet24 Action News (also of the amazing local female punk band Dysmorphia) stopped by with a camera crew to give Basement Transmissions a shout-out.
Opening the show to an already quite large crowd, local pop-punk/emo/grunge darlings The Standby put on their best set yet, and completely blew me away. They were very clearly excited for the event, and their set showed an incredible amount of effort. They played a combination of work from their EP Passiflora and some incredible covers (notably Arctic Monkeys’ Why Do You Only Call Me When You’re High? and a mindblowing cover of Degausser by Brand New).
Maddock was next, and this young and insanely talented three-piece never disappoint, playing a set made for dancing with your friends. They primarily played material from their newly released EP Cliffside, moving away from the harder more rock-like sounds of their prior album It’s Drowning Out and recently favoring a lighter flavor of their distinctive alternative dance/post-punk. You can check out a short video of their set over here.
Prog rock wizards Jivan brought the groove next, bringing completely different vibes to the stage than the previous bands. While their music is definitely quite danceable and tends to be made for rocking out in the crowd, vocalist Kyle Myers also brought out a new side to the “freakshow” theme – before starting their set, he asked various attendees to write negative things people have said about them in the past that had stuck with them on his arms, with the cathartic idea that everyone has been made to feel like a “freak” at some point in their life. Always playing music with a clearly varied set of influences, the emotional content of the performance fluctuated wildly from intense and dark to beautiful and bright (definitely falling short of optimistic at any point, however, with casual introductions to songs such as “this song is called The Death of Passion, and it’s based on a true story”). You can check out a short video of their song Astrophe from the set over here.
Mallory Run is the one band on this list that has not been reviewed yet on the Basement Transmissions blog, and I was extremely excited for their set. They have an extremely energetic stage presence and sound, performing exceptionally emotive post-punk. Mallory Run has been around since the beginnings of BT, and their growth with the venue tends to be noted by many of those who frequent shows. Perhaps most importantly, the energy was extra high on stage this particular show as the band marked the (mid-set!) return of bassist Anthony Anglikowski from time in the military, with vocalist Danny McClune humorously (but emotionally) remarking “Fucking Navy. Don’t ever do that again.” They played a combination of old favorites and new material, particularly a new song titled Spin.
After Mallory Run’s set, the Toxic Prom committee voted on who would be crowned the king and queen of this year’s Prom. The designated announcers of this year’s event (the festively dressed Nico Lombardo and Georgia Buchner) brought Nick Vollbrecht and Naomi Mecci to the stage, who were both definitely dressed to perfection.
The show continued with out-of-town favorites Time Cat. The Akron three-piece always plays an intense set and their funky, bluesy, vintage-tinged sound always makes for a wonderful performance to jam out to. The crowd got extra amped up during Boozled, the second to last song in their set, and then singer-guitarist Jeri Sapronetti announced a guest guitarist for their last song, teasing that it was “something special” before the first riffs of David Bowie’s Moonage Daydream started (Jeri’s gold lamé getup for the show suddenly made so much more sense. Between the gold outfits and Bowie covers, I ascended to another plane of existence. Thank you, Time Cat.)
Joose was last. What do I even say about Joose? They’re the all-around all-ages local favorite: funky, hard-hitting, catchy in all the right places, bringing the wildest, most insane crowd to match the wildest, most insane vocalist (a favorite moment from frontman Jack Stauber: “Tell me guys, what’s on everyone’s mind?” Jack crooned to the crowd between songs – “Dolphins!” answered the crowd – “…Yeah that, but I mean collectively”). Notable members of the crowd included – in addition to the pre-existing attendees dressed up in Freakshow-theme – the sudden addition of a man in a pink unicorn onesie and someone who came into the pit in a giant metallic-painted robot costume made of cardboard boxes, which slowly got destroyed over the course of Joose’s set like some sort of crowd-directed performance art. They also played some new material which was extra exciting, but the most amped up the crowd was definitely during the not one, but TWO encores the band played, which were fan favorites Every Day and Drink and Drive.
At the end of the night, venue staff member Elvis Maryshine approached me and asked how I enjoyed it, smiling and describing Toxic Prom as “Basement Transmissions’ own special holiday”. As I was looking at the members of the crowd still lingering around the venue after the show, danced-out but still costumed and smiling and talking and laughing, I believe she hit the nail on the head.
A huge thank you to all of the photographers who came and especially those who contributed to this article: Jessi Szczesny/JLS Photography, Kyle Myers/Striation Arts, Joshua Arlington/Zack Pude/Julie Celidonia/Captain’s Press.