Four Chord Music Fest: A Parent Perspective
Four Chord Music Festival 4. I wish that I could start my review of this festival on a good note. The festival that I've spent every year since its inception going to.
But alas here I am yelling:
"Fuck, we're late why didn't the sitter call back?"
"Shit no early VIP entry I guess."
"What in the actual shit? Why is the landlord here? Oh he's putting in the new drop ceiling tile since that one time Ava got a bathe and overflowed the tub, awesome!"
As the day seemed to be doomed from the start, mom took one for the team and stayed home with the little one. Her having work at 5am combined with it being a school night for a kindergartener was a "lack of sleep" cocktail that I wanted no part in the following morning by any means.
By saying that with a lack of sleep that neither MoM or pRinCeSs aren't "morning people" does no justice, they're not "people" at all. More of a velociraptor that you're trying to feed pancakes to while it watches Sponge-Bob.
I finally got to The Four Chord Festival around 4:30. A little late considering everything kicked off at noon, but I hear that being late is better than never. (Totally using that line for a lyric.)
I made my way to the front, and hung out downstage left near where I ran into my good pal Rishi Bahl, the guy responsible for the whole pop-punk shindig. He, like every year was running around in his cool, calm frantic mode making sure everything was going as planned. Rishi is always humble, no matter how fucking busy he is, he has always taken a few minutes of his time to say "Hey, thanks for coming. How's your daughter? How's your own band?", and this time was no different, followed by "I'm really sweaty, I need to change, we'll talk more later promise!"
Patent Pending were getting ready to take stage. I consider them "family" when I see them perform at Four Chord or any show in Pittsburgh for that matter.
Ava is 5, and loves them. "Dad play that Mario song again." Who seems to be following in the footsteps of her cousin Aurora whom a few years ago loved the same song and still does.
Every time I see Patent Pending they always bring this wicked amount of energy that can't be touched by any other band. Their intensity is so mesmerizing that you're forced into loving this band after catching a glimpse of a few live songs.
I feel that when I see Patent Pending play Four Chord, it's like someone flipped the switch like: "Ok, enough with the stretches, time for a real work out."
These guys need to be the band that needs to perform in between bands during intermission to keep everyone from needing their sippy cup 3/4 of the way through the show.
To give you an example of what I'm talking about here's lead singer Joe Ragosta climbing the scaffolding to the bar, only to moments later, stage dive off of it.
If stage dives aren't enough, their overall sense of comradery towards the crowd is always magical. Joe is a craftsman of "walking the line" during "between song patter" and keeping you entertained with talking about something serious as a current event tragedy and in the next breathe bringing the crowd together to laugh and remember that when everyone's together at a punk show, things can be okay for a while.
They've also incorporated boy band dancing into their set. Wanna see?
(Patent Pending Anti-Everything.)
It was set break. Around this time I got a text message from MoM saying that "the ceiling is still leaking". Fuck, first world problems. With an exasperated sigh I snapped back into the show where the crowd was jamming along to the PA house music that was blaring Jimmy Eat World.
The lights dimmed and Eternal Boy hit the stage. Now if you don't already know my opinion about Eternal Boy, read my review on their latest album "Awkward Phase." CHECK IT OUT HERE!
Eternal Boy, (Andy, Joe and Rishi) have always been in my opinion the best versions of what blink-182 would've been post TOYPAJ hadn't blink taken shit more "serious." And that's not saying Eternal Boy isn't a serious band!
Joe is constantly all over the stage keeping a tight 3rd on harmonies and his bass in synch with Andy's is fast as hell drum fills, stop breaks and hardcore punk beats, while Rishi ties and holds the 3 piece band together with lead and rhythm guitar while singing lead, I mean c'mon he bars chords with his thumbs. (He's a tall guy.)
The Pittsburgh based band went on to play a slew of songs both off of their new album Awkward Phase and self-titled album.
Check out Eternal Boy playing Awkward Phase in a "Live Music Video" from last year's Four Chord Festival.
A friend from back in high school spotted me out in the crowd who decided to come hang for the next couple of band's. You never know who you'll run into at any given moment.
Hit The Lights were next on. Now if you're not familiar with the music, you've had to have heard the name and come across one song in their over decade run as a band.
How about we try this one on for size.
The 5 piece band from Lima, Ohio kept the show rolling with a very old school meets new school pop-punk transitional sound. They have this writing ability with pop-punk that stabs you in the back especially if you're a conservative parent. (not myself so fuck you.)
They have that sound that has you bobbing your head no matter who you are then you suddenly find yourself singing along, until you realize the lyrics are "This is goodbye, I hope you fucking choke on it"
It's almost like chewing bubblegum with rocks in it. I don't know, my explanation isn't doing this band's awesomeness justice, because in any case they remind me of if Simple Plan and Four Years Strong had a love child. Yes, I fucking went there. It's the heavy breakdowns with the melodic awesomeness.
By this time I was slammed into a corner only able to snap a few pix of the band, here's one that isn't so #shit-fuck-dick-blurry.
Hit The Lights can be mostly remembered for this 2006 song, if you haven't heard it, there's something wrong with you, go to the doctor, get checked.
The next band up was a band that I was totally unfamiliar with, but if I took away anything from last year's Four Chord Festival it was that a cool band could be anyone, like my favorite band from last year "Let It Happen."
Now all of this The Dangerous Summer. These guys right away from their gear all the way down to their overall look reminded me of Jimmy Eat World meets Ataris. Although I couldn't pick out any songs in particular, when I got home I jammed away on a few of their songs like this one right here.
These guys like the rest of the bands were tight as hell. The Ellicott City Maryland rock quartet became a trio this past year after departure of rhythm guitarist Cody Payne in early July 2017. Additionally the band wiped all of their social media clean, followed by a message that read "Hello" mid July 2017. However live, hey have a 4th member to keep that rhythm guitar heavy and consistent.
A few days before Four Chord Festival the band was opening up for Taking Back Sunday in Baltimore, and now in the studio creating their 4th LP. I'm excited to see what The Dangerous Summer, a band that I've never heard of prior to Four Chord Festival has in store.
Speaking of bands that I've never heard before, the band up next was a band that if you're in the punk scene, the pop-punk scene, the indie music scene, or any local rock scene in Pittsburgh at some point the band "Punchline" comes up.
It was so awesome to hear all throughout the night bands give a shout out to this one iconic Pittsburgh band. From Eternal Boy, and Patent Pending to Hit The Lights and State Champs it was fucking sweet to see how this band has been such a huge impact on bands of all sub-genres of the scene throughout the years.
Personally, I'm a big fan girl when it comes to Punchline. My old band(s) opened up for the Belle Vernon, PA lads a time or two, and seeing them in always takes me to nights at Michael's Pizza (hockey pucks so fucking good) after the Club Diesel/Rex Theatre shows.
One thing that I love about Punchline is their ability to play old and new songs in a way that makes them all timeless. Opening up with "Just Getting Started" off of their iconic 2004 album Action to closing with "Universe" off of 2012's EP So Nice to Meet You.
As Punchline walked off stage the entire crowd in unison agreed it was time for "One-More-Song. One-More-Song." but due to time constraints, that couldn't happen, maybe next time audience.
State Champs was up next. By this time I had made my way to the upper bar of Xanga Nightclub meeting up with Joe (Patent Pending) and Joe (Eternal Boy.) Where Patent Pending Joe and I discussed of having kids while being in bands and how his little one is just discovering words to his songs which is totally awesome.
It really puts you on the spot as an artist because your kid kind of doesn't give a shit as an artist, because at the end of the day you're just "dad." So if your song sucks, they're going to tell you to turn it off really quickly, but what's even more of a profound moment is when they're jamming out to something you wrote that isn't some overplayed radio nonsense. (That's my two penny take on it.)
My friend Caitlynn and her pal Malinda's persistence found us to a really cool spot in the lighting booth where we watched State Champs, another band whom I've never really listened to before.
You see (back in my day) we didn't have these "Real Friends" and "Wonder Years" bands. What I'm fucking saying is, I'm just now getting into the new wave of pop-punk, and I must admit, it's not letting me down at all.
State Champs set was phenomenal. They remind me so much of New Found Glory it's unreal. Like early Sticks & Stones NFG, but with heavier guitar, and breakdowns.
I don't know why I've boycotted this new wave of pop-punk for so long. Especially when it comes to bands like State Champs I find myself saying things like "damn, I wish I would've come up with that lyric." "Or fuck that riff is catchy." constantly. I think I'm so stuck in the stone age of medieval era of pop-punk that it's hard to break from it's bubonic plague-y grasps.
Anyways, State Champs impressed the shit out of me, they gave a shout out to Punchline, Rishi, and even remembered that the last 6 bands in a row have played off and on with each other for over a decade at festivals, shows, and even small venues reiterating the idea of unity in the pop-punk community.
Last but certainly not least was The Starting Line. A band that I'm pretty sure every guy in the last decade who has made a mix CD for a girl (don't know what a mix cd is, Google it.) has put the song "Best Of Me" on it.
This band was straight nostalgia for me. Hit me right in the Drive Thru Records era of pop-punk. For a lot of people TSL's 2002 album Say It Like You Mean It was "The Fucking Album" for them. For me it wasn't. I "liked the band." But I didn't give a shit until years later.
Kenny and the guys from TSL have stay true to craft after years of albums, kids and touring though joking and hinting several times throughout the set "we don't know what the hell we're doing anymore."
My favorite album from The Starting Line has to be be their 2005 album "Based on a True Story." which the band played a good handful of songs from including my favorite song:
Ya, I didn't say it was a single, so fuck you.
TSL went on to play a bunch of nostalgic "sing a longs" like 2003's Leaving.
Lead singer/bassist Kenny went on to play a few acoustic songs, teasing us with the idea of a Starting Line cover of Smash Mouth's hit All Star, then stopping and going "no way."
The band played a few more before finishing off with their hit Best Of Me. KA-POW, right in the teenage angst-hood.
The Starting Line exited the stage without giving out 100 thank you's, and that was it.
Every year this Pittsburgh pop-punk fest seems to grow and grow, and I'm pretty excited to see where it's going to go next year.
As Tim Armstrong from Rancid said; "I think as long as there are kids with fucking problems, kids from broken homes, and they've got instruments to play. Punk will never fucking die man."
...and neither will awesome shows like Four Chord Music Festival.