Five Years In the Dark: A Night With Dark Entries Records

Let’s get one thing straight, Dark Entries Records isn’t an exercise in nostalgia. “The original concept was to do one reissue, one new band, one reissue,” says Josh Cheon, owner of the label. “The problem was that I couldn’t find enough new bands to fill the gaps, so I went on this reissue phase for a while.”

In the five years since Cheon founded Dark Entries, the label has maintained a prolific pace – they’ve released over 70 records – in its quest to strike that balance between new and old. While the label has skewed more towards old by presenting a slew of high-end reissues of classic EBM, Minimal Synth and Italo Disco, among other genres, there has still been an effort by Cheon to search out vital new artists. Often, this professional drive coincides with his own personal desire to experience these unknown acts live. “A lot of it has to do with seeing a band, the live performance aspect. If I run into them and I’m, “I wanna put out your record.” And they’re like, “We don’t have any songs recorded.” I’ll say, “Whenever you do.” That’s very visceral for me, the live experience.”

Never was this more evident than in Dark Entries’ Five Year Anniversary showcase at Bourbon & Branch. Highlighting a diverse cast of artists whose music the label has released, including Bezier, Max + Mara and RedRedRed, the night was a journey through the label’s unique ability to curate varied and exciting talent.

Opening artist Bezier provided an energetic start to the evening with an analog assault on the senses. One of multiple pseudonyms for San Francisco DJ Robert Yang (he also records as Robot Hustle), Bezier combines a blend of early dance influences, drawing from Hi-NRG and Italo, with some more cosmic-reaching intentions, think ‘80s science ficton. The end result is a disorienting tour through a retro-futuristic dystopia, equal parts aggressive-reinterpretation of Trans-X and wide-eyed Blade Runner love letter.

Follow-up act Max + Mara offered a different perspective, acting as the come-down after Bezier’s high intensity opening. Working within the realms of Industrial and Minimal Synth, the duo provided the aural equivalent of a short trip – a cloud of blissed, lazy synths carrying you over a bed of watery keys, but with a hint of dread encroaching on the horizon as your paranoia slowly envelopes you.

The range of music displayed at Bourbon & Branch by Dark Entries ultimately ended up acting as a larger narrative on Cheon’s ethos of diversity. “I don’t want to fit into any genre,” he says enthusiastically, reflecting on his label’s output. “I want to have this umbrella of music I like, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into new wave, goth, or post-punk; especially, with the contemporary stuff, it’s all over the place.”

Words by: Robert Skvarla

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GIVEAWAY: Tickets for Reigning Sound, Uncle Acid and White Fence in Philadelphia

uncle acid banner giveaway post

HEY PHILADELPHIA. We’re going to give away a pair of tickets to some upcoming shows around Philadelphia. Leave a comment on the post with your name and which show you want to go to, and the winners will chosen at random with a +1 to their specified event:

First up, REIGNING SOUND is coming back to Philadelphia for Shattered, their first LP for Merge Records and first album since 2009. They take over the Underground Arts Black Box on August 27th with the Whips and the GTVs. See more details on the Facebook event page.

Next up, we’ve got UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS on September 24th @ Underground Arts with Danava. It’s their first show in North America… ever! You can RSVP to the show on the Facebook event page.

And last but not least, WHITE FENCE returns to Philadelphia on October 21st @ Underground Arts, with support from Australian psych-outs KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD. You can RSVP to the night right here.

Again, to win a pair of tickets to any of these shows, simply leave a comment on this post with your name and which show you are interested in attending. One winner for each show will be chosen at random! Ready? Set? Comment!

King Pizza Records: The Pizza Fest Story

pizza fest story

At the Brooklyn dive bar Don Pedro, cheap beer and awesome music make living easy. I was there for the first day of Pizza Fest, “an all out assault on non-fat, low carb music” from the Brooklyn rock label King Pizza Records (KP). This isn’t the rock played on commercial radio; it’s too lively and exciting and weird, an exhilarating onslaught.

Five bands played at Don Pedros that night, which is where I met Nemanja Mirkovic, who works seven days a week as a paralegal and doorman, but still comes to KP shows constantly. “I love all the energy, I feel refreshed,” he said. “When I go to work tomorrow I won’t be sleepy, just hungover.”

Greasy Hearts, who celebrated their new EP during their Friday Pizza Fest set, epitomize the KP sound. “Some people label it garage rock, or garage punk,” said guitarist and vocalist Peter Wilderotter, “but to us it’s just rock and roll, just pure, no bullshit rock and roll.”

They have an old school rock and roll mission as well. “Greasy Hearts is our lives. We’re really just trying to take over the world, what the fuck else are you supposed to do?” Wilderotter said. “We’re a beautifully dysfunctional family that writes great rock and roll music. It’s all that matters.”

Day one was the appetizer, and day 2 the meal– 8 bands on a Bushwick apartment building roof and three in a living room, featuring $2 pizza and beer until the last band ended past midnight. Mirkovic was sad to miss the first few bands because of his doorman shift – just about the only thing that will keep him from a show – but came over as soon as he could. “Work two jobs, listen to music, that’s how it goes,” he said.

Unlike the mega festivals, Pizza Fest did not exploit anyone; a weekend pass cost $13. The goal, according to Bettina Katie Warshaw (who helps run KP’s social media presence and helped produce the festival) was not making money, but fostering “this really great community of people who are friends and like to hang out and make music and have a great time.”

Warshaw – who also drums for Ma, not part of KP but a friend of the label, and Saturday’s opening band – said she was ecstatic with how the festival turned out.

“Everyone got the memo that Pizza Fest was a really big fucking deal and every band played their best,” she said. “The crowd Friday was insane. It was like they knew Pizza Fest wasn’t just another night, it was a thing. It was the place to be.”

Greg Hanson started KP several months ago after unsuccessfully pitching his band, The Mad Doctors (“fun, fuzzy punk rock”) to record labels. “I was in a good place financially and was like, fuck it, if no one else wants to put it out, then I’m gonna do it myself,” he said.

Hanson soon realized that a lot of other bands were in the same position, and decided to form a label, but without the traditional hierarchical structure. “We are all King Pizza,” he said. “This is not a monarchy.”

Instead, Hanson refers to KP as a cooperative, presently extending to about two dozen bands. “I want people in it to feel part of something bigger than they are, that is supporting them and making the process easier and more enjoyable because they aren’t in it alone,” he said. “So if you have a moment of weakness there will be someone there to say, ‘no, you guys fucking rock.’”

Hanson also wants the audience included in the KP community; he wants shows to “feel like your buddies house party where you can let loose and not be judged. It’s strangely amorphous because you can’t really pin-point how to create that other than having the right vibe, having people there putting out positive energy, and treating everyone like a friend regardless of who they are.”

These egalitarian vibes compel many to volunteer with KP. Megan Mancini helped produce Pizza Fest and shoots video for PIZZAVISION. She also plays lead guitar for Ma.

“We started playing shows with [KP bands] and they were really cool and really inviting and we were like ‘How can we help you guys do more of what you’re doing?’” she said. “I’ve done a lot of video stuff and worked for a lot of music blogs… I could give my energy to something where it often goes unappreciated or I could give my energy to my friends and try to make something really cool that we all have creative control over.”

The strength of KP’s community was clear from my introduction to the label, during the last “Saturday Revenge” event at Don Pedros, which unleashes “searing rock and roll fury” the second Saturday of every month. Hanson books the bands and helps produce the event; that night all the bands were on KP or friends of the label. The vibe was a bunch of friends putting on a rock show because they love music and each other, and revel in displaying this love.

Hanson, whose head is framed by a massive amount of hair (I heard him compared to Animal from the Muppets) set the evening’s tone while introducing the first band with the MC, Casey Regan. “The thing about Casey is– look at that flat stomach,” Hanson said. Regan lifted his shirt. “Oh wow,” Hanson said, and began drumming Regan’s stomach, which soon devolved into motorboating and long licks, producing orgasmic groans from Regan, his back arched, eyes rolling, hands rubbing the spit into his skin.

“You know how to turn me on,” Regan said, and they started the show. The love continued all night, imbuing the evening with a sense of community not seen at most concerts. I’ve often felt alone since moving here, among 8 million centers of the universe, but not at KP shows, as I’m surrounded by people wanting to be part of something special, something bigger than themselves.

Words by: Chris Russell

Ottawa Explosion Weekend – June 12th-15th, 2014

ottawa explosion weekend

The Ottawa Explosion Weekend

One week has passed and I am positive there are still cosmic drones of power chords and the lowest of frequencies hovering over a small quarter in Ottawa, Canada’s humble capital city. The Ottawa Explosion Weekend is one of the punk communities most hidden gems of a festival that showcases all kinds of punk, garage and hints of metal and psych bands over five days. This particular Explosion was a spectacle of well-organized chaos, fantastic band rosters and the most friendly and positive vibe imaginable… I cannot express this with any combinations of words, “sorry!”, you will have to experience it for yourself to believe it.

The venues… the vibes

Art galleries have been a part of independent music since it’s infancy, in this instance the gallery is named Saw and it provided the perfect esthetic backdrop for the music, free-thinking and loose behaviors that were prevalent during these tuneful days. This was the home base for us through the weekend. where most of the music, merchandise tables and socializing was handled. There is an outdoor terrace with cobblestone, concrete and grassy knolls to sprawl out during the afternoon while you take in the music and some draft beer, this goes on into the early evening. When the night falls Club Saw opens up in the basement and bands take over the stage until 2am. The next closest venue is Mug Shots which is a pub based in a retired jailhouse building (it’s a hostel as well!). Mug Shots offered a pub styled venue as an enclosed, open-aired concrete courtyard. This was amazing for the reverb-y bands and added a very gritty and surreal atmosphere as it used to be a jail courtyard. There was also the local hotspot House of Targ, some record store performances at Vertigo Records as well as some other music friendly venues hosting acts during the weekend. Geographically this was easy to get a handle of and there was most everything you needed within walking distance including beer stores, restaurants, and coffee shops and of course some cool head shops to check out.

The first night of music was a perfect party situation; you could see the bands showing up, old friends exchanging pleasantries and overhear people talking about what’s to come of the next few days. This was pretty much the daily grind throughout the weekend, it evolved daily as the intensity was building and those early fumbling and chatting most likely developed into new friendships, or at the very least comfortable acquaintances for the weekend. Everyone involved was relaxed and at ease, even the organizers, the bar staff and security were very accommodating to us 300+ punks in various states of sobriety and social disorder. Pogo-ing, moshing, skankin’ and crowd surfing was all good, people generally were cool with it all and were helpful to their fellow miscreants who fell during the more tense sets where bands mutated their audiences into frenetic beings controlled only by impulse and rhythmic muscle twitches.

The Bands…

The overall roster was staggering; there is no way to cover all of the great music that was played. There were very little conflicts with genres or bands competing for audiences, most bands were well placed amongst their peers or were slipped in to other lineups, which only added to the dynamics for each night.

The heaviest hitters were The Marked Men, Nervosas, Vacation, White Wires, and of course the “surprise guests” Radioactivity who delivered a tight set with a monster sound. I have long seen a crowd react that way to a band with only a debut record out – the vocals were delivered perfectly and the masters of their craft executed the songs with fresh energy. The other above-mentioned acts all equally delivered their art with precision, energy and conviction. I consider myself privileged to have seen all of these bands live and loud and look forward to hearing more from all of them.

Some very notable mentions for this festival were the Abandos, Crusades, Famines, Feral Trash, Needles//Pins, Outta Controller and the Sonic Avenues. Judging on the crowd’s reaction to their performances and their songwriting, these bands certainly gained new fans from this event and have definitely made a strong impression on this writer. Some of these bands have fresh records out and I heard rumblings about new releases and label hopping from some others. Bruised Tongue Records line up featured some great acts – Dirt Cult, Hosehead Records and Let’s Pretend brought out the best of their rosters. Of course there was Dirtnap Records and all of it’s presence, represented proudly by being a long time supporter of this event and continuing to show interest in the scene.

Conclusion…

The Ottawa explosion is an experience of it’s own flavor and is well worth a drive, flight, hike or whatever you need to do to get there. We drove 13 hours and paid 60$ to take in 5 nights of entertainment and socializing with like-minded individuals, where else does that happen? I am already dreaming up next year’s roster for myself… see you there! Check out the Ottawa Explosion Weekend site and the Ottawa Showbox for the visual perspective. Also, stay tuned here at the Styrofoam Drone for an interview from the Ottawa Explosion with VACATION coming soon.

Words by: D. Jonathan Lutes

Ex-Cult Live in Philadelphia (5/21/14)

ex-cult philly 5-21

EX-CULT made a stop in Philadelphia last night to play at Underground Arts. It was their first ever visit to the city, who were joined on stage by local punk freaks The Abandos (who will be playing at the 2nd SD Showcase on June 11th). Ex-Cult are currently touring for their sophomore LP Midnight Passenger, which was just released by Goner Records on April 29th. They played a large handful of songs from the LP, including these few that we caught live for you below. In other news, The Abandos just released a new 7″, which includes the sludgy tantrum below called “Missing Chromosome.”

Shattered Circle:

Ties You Up:

Lights Out Club:

BUY the new Ex-Cult LP from Insound
BUY the Abandos 7″ – send them a message on Facebook for info
The Abandos on Soundcloud
Ex-Cult on Facebook

Styrofoam Drone Showcase (6/11) + Kappa Chow 7″

kappa chow punk as fuck 7 killer haze records

Killer Haze Records just released a new cassette EP from KAPPA CHOW. The Sudbury, Ontario band is gearing up to tour the states and they’re coming to Philadelphia for a second Styrofoam Drone Showcase on June 11th. Continue reading “Styrofoam Drone Showcase (6/11) + Kappa Chow 7″”

GIVEAWAY: Win tickets to see EX-CULT in Philadelphia (5/21)

ex-cult live

HEY PHILADELPHIA. We’re going to give away a pair of tickets to the upcoming EX-CULT show at Underground Arts on May 21st. In the mean time you can RSVP via this link right here! >> https://www.facebook.com/events/388831417922624/.

To win tickets to the show, simply leave a comment on this post with an answer to this burning question: What is the name of Ex-Cult’s upcoming sophomore LP on Goner Records? Leave your comments, go!