Tag: jessi szczesny

Toxic Prom 2017 at Basement Transmissions: The Standby, Maddock, Jivan, Mallory Run, Time Cat, and Joose

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.

Captain's Press (43)

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.

Carnifex, Rings of Saturn, Lorna Shore, She Must Burn, Amavasya, Obelus and Primal Scream Therapy on March 6th 2017 at Basement Transmissions

On March 6th, Carnifex came through Erie, bringing an insanely high energy line-up and crowd with them. This was definitely one of the most brutal shows I’ve been to, both in regards to the performance of each band that played, and the crowd – quite a few people in the crowd left with some very physical reminders of the pit. The pit also featured some stand-out attendees – on several occasions I witnessed cartwheeling, Sunny D, a man in a kilt, and at one point during Carnifex’s set a (properly removed) prosthetic leg being hoisted above the crowd. Now that’s metal.

Opening the show were Erie natives Primal Scream Therapy, as always bringing their stand-out aesthetic and high-energy presence for a completely flawless set. Check out their YouTube page.

Locals Obelus played to an extremely attentive crowd and completely set the mood for the rest of the show, and I don’t think I saw a single member of the crowd not at very least bobbing along to the music. Their distinctive death metal is offset by hilarious song announcement moments from frontman Logan Emerling – example, “This song is called Cuckholded By Christ. It’s about Jesus fucking your mom while your step-dad watches.” (I may have quoted that incorrectly….but it’s definitely close.) Find them on ReverbNation and YouTube.

The last local band of the night, Amavasya, once again brought progressive metalcore to the stage with incredible flair. Everything about their music and their stage presence is unbelievably intense, and are a band best to be seen to be believed. You can find their debut album Fruition on Spotify and iTunes, and they have a YouTube channel.

Next up were She Must Burn from London, England. Their set was incredibly theatrical and aesthetically pleasing, the entire band cultivating their own look. Setting them apart was their keyboardist and co-vocalist Aimy Miller, mixing soft, airy female vocals with frontman Joseph Sinclair’s black metal vocals for a completely unique sound. She Must Burn’s debut album Grimoire can be found on iTunes and Spotify, and they also have a new music video out for their song Possessed.

Lorna Shore, a deathcore group from New Jersey, were certainly far more low-key in theatrics (and in demeanor: between songs, singer Tom Barber at one point announced to the crowd, “Who else is stoned? Me too!”), but their style of playing and Tom’s vocals are relentless and dizzying, making for one of the hardest sets I’ve ever seen. You can find their new album Flesh Coffin on iTunes and Spotify, and check out their music video for FVNERAL MOON.

The two bands many members of the audience expressed the most excitement for were Rings of Saturn and headliners Carnifex, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how hype everyone got for Rings of Saturn (or even how much I was going to enjoy their set, as someone who had never listened to them previously). The band jokingly call themselves “aliencore” because of their lyrical content and technical metal playing style, and it’s definitely the most accurate description for some of the heaviest, nastiest, strangest metalcore I’ve ever heard. They have an album coming out this year, and you can find their other work on iTunes and Spotify.

Headliners Carnifex opened their set to total silence, much to my complete shock. When the lights lowered and opening music played, the venue got eerily quiet. Too quiet. The kind of quiet that happens at a show right when you know things are about to get crazy. Members of Carnifex finally arrived onto the stage to a complete roar, and the lighting revealed a beautiful, gothic church-like stage set up. They played a combination of old favorites (and the excited noises coming from members of the crowd when it was announced they were playing older tracks shown the kind of devotion this band inspires) and new, and there was a lot of excitement and smiling from members of all areas of the crowd. And, again, you just can’t forget the kind of admiration represented by taking off your own leg and waggling it in the air to the music of your favorite band. Carnifex released a new album called Slow Death this past August, and you can find it here.

Thanks to Jessi Szczesny/JLS Photography and Kyle Myers/Striation Arts for photos!

BT’s Going to Funk You Up: Joose, Jivan, Miss This and Revelation at Basement Transmissions on March 4th 2017

The show at Basement Transmissions on March 4th was a fantastic night of funk music, every band playing a completely danceable set to a very warm and welcoming crowd.

Revelation opened the show, combining impressive rock instrumentation with horns and (an absolutely insane) 7-string bass for a punk-funk sound. You can find more of them on ReverbNation.

Albany, New York’s Miss This have a sound strongly reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers and this influence shows not only in their live sound and stage presence, but their recent EP, Hanky Panky. They also have a new music video on YouTube.

Jivan can’t be easily pigeonholed, and I’ve described them in a previous review as “Rush meets Tesseract and makes a sexy, guitar-driven baby”. But during this show, between the beginning of the set and the end of the set, my mind cycled multiple times between wondering whether to consider them funk, metal, or rock. Whatever Jivan plays, they completely nail down and have a wonderful, fun stage presence. Their first single Astrophe can be found on Bandcamp and iTunes, and there’s also a video for it on YouTube.

As usual, Joose’s crowd was insane, and marked by the unique crowd moments only Joose can produce. This particular show, instead of trying to focus my attention on the stage and music – and then becoming largely distracted by the crowd – I fully embraced the crowd moments: I’ve come to the conclusion that this is how Joose needs to be experienced. The highlight of the show was definitely the final song, Frostbitten, as the center of the crowd turned into a group hug of several people (including myself), passionately singing the song together. This definitely became an emotional experience for me that I won’t soon forget, thanks to Joose. Find them on YouTube, Bandcamp and SoundCloud.

A huge thanks to Kyle Myers/Striation Arts and Jessi Szczesny/JLS Photography for photos!

January 28th 2017: BT’s Brutal Boogaloo with Smooth Stone Philosophers, Chillin’ with the Primates, Gelatin Skeleton, Bravura, Amavasya, and Primal Scream Therapy

January 28th 2017: BT’s Brutal Boogaloo with Smooth Stone Philosophers, Chillin’ with the Primates, Gelatin Skeleton, Bravura, Amavasya, and Primal Scream Therapy

This past Saturday’s show at Basement Transmissions demonstrated the exact reason why you should go to local shows: great music, amazing connections between bands and audiences, and partying with Sunny D. The entire show was just fun, and all around a great lineup of rock and metal.

Smooth Stone Philosophers
For being their first show, I certainly won’t forget Smooth Stone Philosophers anytime soon. They played a mix of covers and original songs, and worked 3 co-vocalists into their set well. But most memorably, amongst the cohesive 90s aesthetic of the rest of the band, one of the vocalists/guitarists was a very charismatic man in a kilt.

Chillin’ with the Primates
Two bands in the original show lineup for the night couldn’t make it due to inclement weather, and these guys in Chillin’ with the Primates stepped up last minute and played a solid set without a hitch. Their music is 80s influenced hard rock (with stand-out bass playing), and they ended their set with a song titled after the band….which was cute and folksy, lyrically detailing literally chilling with primates on an idyllic tropical island. This was charmingly disarming after the tone of the rest of their songs, and displayed the sense of humor the band possessed and demonstrated the entire night – a favorite moment was one of guitarists telling a facepalm-worthy corny joke between songs: “What do Winnie the Pooh and Ivan the Terrible have in common? The same middle name.” (ba dum tsh)

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Gelatin Skeleton

Gelatin Skeleton is really unique in how strongly their musical presence contrasts their personal presence onstage: between songs, band members were cordial and laid-back while speaking to the audience, but as soon as the music began, the band became a different beast entirely and the atmosphere changed dramatically. Everything about their music is solid (and you have to appreciate “songs about Mermaids and shit”, as quoted from singer Terry Crebel) and the vocals were beyond impressive. There was also a fantastic one-band crab-dance mosh pit, courtesy of headliners Primal Scream Therapy.

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Stand-Out Track: Levitate
I don’t know if Bravura’s set marked the true beginnings of the Sunny D epic, but this is when I first noticed it….and Bravura took it and ran with it (not literally, but more on that later). The Sunny D, brought by a group of people attending the show, definitely became an interactive part of the night: Bravura singer Steven Attenborough even exclaiming “this set brought to you by Sunny fucking D” some time after drinking from a bottle (then shoving the mouth of said bottle up his nose). These antics in no way overshadowed the talent or immensely energetic stage presence of the band themselves, though – Bravura’s combination of charismatic stage presence and style of well-thought-out, rock-your-face-off progressive metal make for one of the best shows you can get.

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Stand-Out Track: Fruition
Somehow, in a night of nothing but rock and metal, I was completely taken off guard by Amavasya. There was almost no warning – just a nod among members on stage – before jumping straight into one of the hardest, fastest, heaviest sets I’ve ever seen. They have an incredibly fast and active stage presence to match their relentless playing style, and a well-formed brand of progressive metalcore that sets them apart. It’s also worth mentioning that at one point during the set, a member of the crowd ran (literally, this time) in circles shaking a bottle of Sunny D above their head to the music, as if celebrating the spoils of a hard-fought victory.

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Primal Scream Therapy

Stand-Out Track: Headsman
Over the course of personally seeing shows at Basement Transmissions, I’ve seen Primal Scream Therapy three times, and each time is better than the last. This was their first headlining show, as well as their album funding show, and I’ve seen them progress so much as a band. They put a lot of thought and effort into not only their music, but their presentation as well, and they have a clearly developed aesthetic and performance style. Their level of energy on stage is incredible, and their potential is pretty much limitless. A particularly memorable moment from the show was when the majority of the band joined the audience in the center of a circle pit with their instruments, and a few members of the crowd joined the singer and drummer on stage to headbang – while shaking bottles of Sunny D with such vigor that I was pretty sure they were going to explode. Primal Scream Therapy is hands-down one of the most fun bands in Erie to see (and they did an impressive cover of The Trooper by Iron Maiden, which gets major props from me).

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Sunny D

Stand-Out Track: Tasting Like Oranges Even Though It Isn’t Even Made of Oranges
I never thought of Cincinnati, Ohio natives Sunny D as rock or metal – or even musically inclined at all, really – but it definitely knew how to work a crowd. Having joined us in the form of two-liter soda bottles, all bottles impressively lasted multiple sets. They endured every encounter with audience members and musicians alike with incredible flavor and durability, thankfully rupturing on no one in the course of being in the pit and moshing. Some people might think it’s orange juice, but Sunny D is so much more: tasting exactly like someone challenged someone else to make orange juice without oranges, and at least marginally succeeding. Would see again.

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Thanks to Jessi Szczesny/JLS Photography, Joey Dunn and Jared Keyes for photos!

Unified on Inauguration Night 2017 at Basement Transmissions

Thanks to Jessi Szczesny of JLS Photography for the photos!

Photos/Video: The Sex Blossoms, Jivan, Instead of Sleeping, and Joose at Basement Transmissions on January 13th 2017

VIDEO: The Sex Blossoms performing The Ballad of Noah and Joe
VIDEO: Joose performing Galaxy Queen

Thanks to Jessi Szczesny of JLS Photography for the photos and video!