punk

THE BLACK PARADE IS BACK IN A NEW WAY
October 19, 2016 11:23 am

“When I was a young boy, my father took me to the city, to see a marching band…”

This line of lyric is so universally known by the rock world that no one can hear this song and not feel some strong attachment to it. My Chemical Romance‘s immersive album The Black Parade was part epic, part tragedy filled with soaring highs and wallowing lows. Rock Sound magazine is celebrating the 10th anniversary of this legendary album with the story of the creation and life of The Black Parade and an incredible amount of content.

9390352-368-k802450A decade is a long time, in 2006, the Playstation 3 and Nintendo Wii came out, Casino Royal and Cars debuted, Justin Timberlake was bringing “Sexyback, Shakira’s hips didn’t lie and Daniel Powter was still having his bad days. This was a year of strong movement in pop culture and punk rock was being redefined. My Chemical Romance way making one of the biggest movements because of their raw style of music, fashion and tone in their genre defining The Black Parade.

Rock Sound’s October edition is an essential for any punk, emo, rock or ska fan. There is a beautifully told story of MCR’s creative process of The Black Parade and its life and impact it had on the band. It is filled with a lot of funny small stories and interesting insights on why the band took a break and how they dealt with all of these changes.

However, the part of this edition that seems more interesting and gripping is the cover album that accompanies the issue. Rock Sound gathered a grand collection of artists deep in the indie rock world to cover each song on The Black Parade giving each track new life while saluting them with praise and honor at the same time. From Escape the Fate‘s similar and powerful rendition of “Dead!” to Twenty One Pilot‘s heart breaking performance of Cancer and Against the Current‘s different take on Teenagers, this album brings new life to The Black Parade while reminding you how truly amazing this album was and still is.

I would recommend anyone and everyone who is a fan of MCR, The Black Parade, punk, rock, indie, ska, heavy metal or good music in general to pick up this epic issue of Rock Sound with the additional tribute album. MCR is also celebrating this 10th anniversary with a special deluxe edition that any fan NEEDS to get, you can’t miss this. The Black Parade is amazing in both forms and may their music and memory carry on.

ALBUM REVIEW: WHITE LUNG’S PARADISE
May 9, 2016 1:23 pm

The strength of Mish Barber-Way’s voice has been the catalyst to White Lung’s stylistic growth. Her howls made for prime Punk anthems on their 2010 release, It’s The Evil and then contorted that essence into creating some incredibly catchy and effective melodies on Deep Fantasy in 2014. They’ve been able to keep their dynamic energy throughout this progression with great aplomb. Deep Fantasy stayed true to the heaviness of their Punk roots as they branched out to a more sound structure in songwriting.

On Paradise, White Lung proves that they aren’t done expanding sonically, releasing their most eclectic effort that still fits right in at some underground club that uses a specific hair dye color as its password. ‘Below’ blends their harsh drums and Way’s commanding pipes with breezy guitar plucking that provides a gentler foundation than usual.

“Below” could have been a disaster that went committed too much to a less abrasive tone and wound up sounding like an indistinguishable indie band from the early ‘00s. Way’s singing, as well as her ever improving songwriting, made it work. It’s one of the stronger songs on the album because of it. Unfortunately, a good chunk of songs on Paradise are inevitably failed due to of how they mishandle Way’s voice.

Whatever vocal tuning they put on Way for Paradise really puts a number on how effective her usually impactful imprint can be. Too often does it come off like an Avenged Sevenfold or +44 ripoff. It sounds schlocky. The first time listening to “Hungry,” I legitimately thought it was “When Your Heart Stops Beating.”

The problem with Paradise isn’t a matter of selling out or going pop, a banal criticism that Way herself discredited in an interview with Annie Clark recently. There are plenty of great moments from their previous work that had an accessible sound, but by making such a bold modification on Way’s vocals, they killed the potential to build that success. On tracks like “Dead Weight” and “Demented,” the pace is so breakneck that it doesn’t matter as much, but then there’s a track like “Narcoleptic” that’s just too artificial and it doesn’t make for a great listen.

This is a really unfortunate aspect to this album because other than this, the incredible progress both lyrically and musically can’t be ignored. Way’s macabre sensibilities as a writer continue to become more refined, as perfectly shown on “Kiss Me When I Bleed,” and guitarist Kenneth William flaunts his guitar skills more than ever throughout.

Paradise could have easily been White Lung’s best work to date, but falls short due to them dulling the sharpest weapon in their arsenal for some reason. It doesn’t make sense! The high points are oftentimes hindered by this throughout the album and lead to quite a few missed opportunities. It’s a counterintuitive mess that lead to the album being a true missed opportunity.

PARQUET COURTS: KEEPING PUNK ALIVE
April 29, 2016 10:49 am

In regards to Parquet Courts jittery, scratchy, and bombastic 2012 debut record Light Up Gold, Tim Hodgin wrote:

” [It] is a conscious effort to draw from the rich culture of the city – the bands like Sonic Youth, Bob Dylan, and the Velvet Underground that are not from New York, but of it. A panoramic landscape of dilapidated corner-stores and crowded apartments is superimposed over bare-bones Americana, leaving little room for romance or sentiment. It’s punk, it’s American, it’s New York… it’s the color of something you were looking for.

Punk isn’t a new musical phenomenon, but it’s certainly proved to be an enduring movement. The Ramones’ self-titled album was released this upcoming weekend, forty years ago, which some would say was responsible for launching the punk movement into the mainstream; to say the least, times have changed. We have cell phones, the internet, Chipotle, and I’m sure a few other technological advances I’m not thinking of. And yet, a band hasn’t emerged since that’s cooler than The Ramones: if The Strokes were a distant second, Parquet Courts may be inching in quickly. Another thing to note here–or perhaps you might call it a bias: all of these bands are from New York. What’s up with that? **

Parquet Courts has released four albums up to this point. Their first release, American Specialties, was more or less a quick introduction in DIY punk fashion: a mixed bag of four-track recordings exclusively released on cassette tape.  Although it’s possible to find these tracks elsewhere now, the original cassette is something of a collector’s item, with roughly only 100 copies in existence, with it’s odd Chinese-American food inspired cover art, also designed by guitarist-singer Andrew Savage.

Courts breakthrough into the indie world came in 2012 with the aforementioned Light Up Gold, which received near-universal acclaim from the music press. The album showcased the bands raw energy and Andrew Savages poignant viewpoints on the dismantling American times we live in. On “Borrowed Time“, he sings:

“Was feeling nostalgic for the days when / My thoughts dripped on to my head from the ceiling / I remember the feeling of the muse less existence / Of the drunk, bored and listless \ Endless waiting for something that I knew wasn’t coming.”

As a fellow snake person, I could instantly relate to his feeling. “Stone and Starving” captured a similar situation: a young, starving artist, debating between roasted peanuts and Swedish fish. Parquet Courts followed suit with Sunbathing Animals, a project that landed the band a proper position on the US charts. Tracks like “Black and White” and “Ducking and Dodging” provided further insights, building on the same punk sound.

If you enjoyed their previous albums, their most recent Human Performance is a rewarding shift in gears.  They teased the record with groovy mural art. The albums focal point again is Adam Savages lyrics: discussing the anxiety of living in a city in uncertain times. However, They’re showing a divergence in style: an acute progression from their original street guitar rock content to a diverse range of sounds, instruments. Human Performance is a post-punk record.  If Light Up Gold was Wire’s Pink Flag, Human Performance is Wire’s Chair’s Missing.

Perhaps because of the atonal guitar noise, or the cynical nature of Andrew Savage’s lyrical content, Parquet Courts draws many comparisons to Pavement, a band that also showcased a raw DIY energy through the progression of their albums in the 90s.  However, not everyone appears to be so fond of this comparison. I tend to hear more of the early punk influences. They have the minimalism of The Velvet Underground. They have an all-around uncanny resemblance to Modern Lovers. In reality though, no one sounds just like Parquet Courts. They own their coolness all to themselves.

If you’re an avid Parquet Courts fan, now is the time to catch them on stage. They’re currently on tour and will be hitting most major American cities this Spring/Summer. They’re also touring with B Boys, who just released their debut EP No Worry No Mind, and will even do one show with Priests, for whom I got to see perform live at Philly’s Underground Arts and wrote about here.

** To clarify, AtypicalSounds is based in New York, but I’m from North Carolina, and write from Philly.  I’ve been to New York a handful of times, and it more or less feels like a giant theme park for rich people, but what can I say? New York has awesome music. And that’s all that matters.

THE YEAR OF MICROWAVE
April 11, 2016 11:23 am

2016 is definitely the year of Microwave. The Atlanta band has been on everyone’s radar for a while now, and for good reason.

The people who saw the band’s set on April 1st could probably all agree that they are no joke. Just getting off tour with Philly band The Wonder Years, Microwave has been ripping through sets for quite some time.

Their setlist included songs from their debut, Stovall and their split with New York band, Head North. The band brings an unmatched energy to every show they play, mixing elements of Post-Hardcore, early emo and self described “aggressive-indie rock.” They’re often compared to Manchester Orchestra and Brand New. For any former-emo kid finding a young band like Microwave with the sounds of the aforementioned is like finding gold.

Vocalist Nathan Hardy can bring an entire room to tears (or maybe I’m just over emotional) or incite a barrage of crowd surfers. A prime example would be the title track “Stovall” where Hardy’s vocal tone changes from sweet to passionate in seconds, in Jesse Lacey fashion. Someone tell Lacey he’s in good company. The band creates lyrics that are relatable and poetic, offering an exciting, fun and cathartic quality.

I’m positive that everyone who came to the show never hearing Microwave, hit up the merch table after it was over (or at least looked them up on Spotify and played them on the way home.)

If you’re looking for a band that will make you cry and yell at the same time, I suggest you check out Microwave. Maybe just not while driving.

Microwave is currently signed to Side One Dummy Records, if you can catch them in their hometown Atlanta, Georgia for Wrecking Ball Fest this August.

BRINGIN’ THE BLEACH WITH SWMRS
March 4, 2016 11:26 am

Are YOU tired of waiting on some air to breathe? How about just waiting for something to work out all that teen angst raging inside you? Don’t lie to yourself. You know you feel it.

But it’s OK. Take a deep breath. And then turn on Drive North by SWMRS and rip your shirt off.

The Oakland, CA based pop-punk band has actually been around for a little while, but just recently settled on their name. You may have known them as Emily’s Army, The Raining Souls, The Clocks, or the phonetically simplistic Swimmers. While they were busy trading titles, they managed to record a couple albums, earing comparisons to Green Day’s early work. Which makes a lot of sense because Billy Joe Armstrong produced them (It’s also worth noting that SWMRS drummer Joe Armstrong has a bit of an in).

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But considering they’ve changed names and producers since then, let’s just focus on their most recent effort Drive North. This time around they worked with FIDLAR lead vocalist Zac Carper, and the influence shows. The songs ”Harry Dean,” “Brb,” and “Uncool” fit right in with modern party punk bands like FIDLAR, PUP or Cloud Nothings. But Drive North also has a serious pop bent to it.  The anthemic “Figuring It Out” shows the band knows how to put together a real radio single, and the infectious “Miss Yer Kiss” and “Turn Up” almost venture into Owl City territory. While some of the lyrics are a bit wanting, the pop tunes lend a nice balance to the punk ones. This duality probably stems from the band’s two lead singer/songwriters, brothers Cole and Max Becker. There is a noticeable difference between the two’s voices and styles, but both brothers seem to embrace both sides of the band’s sound.

While a lot of people will probably favor one type of song or the other, Drive North features two slam dunks. Home Runs. Sure Bets. Two pieces of screamin’ good art that have come together to take over my life— “Miley” and “D’You Have a Car?”

Miley” is a stoner punk love song with huge dynamic range. The almost whispered verse yields to the massive chorus –

“You bring the bleach, I’ll bring chlorine. We can dye our hair a color that nobody ever seen. You’re a national threat and you’re messing with my head. Cause Miley you’re a Punk Rock Queen.”

Anyone that has found themselves falling for someone weird, different, or dangerous (or is Miley Cyrus and -let’s be honest- those kinds of people are the hottest so everyone knows what I’m talking about) can identify with that.

D’You Have a Car?” is also a stoner punk love song, but it’s less bout lust and infatuation and more about yearning and escape. If Blink 182 makes you get up and feel real good LISTEN TO THIS SONG.

“Are you tired of waiting on some air to breathe? Are you tired of me?…D’you got a car? D’you got a set of keys? Tell me where you’re going, is there room for me?”

UUUUUUUUUGHHHH, Yeah I know it’s super awesome.

Both of these songs manage something that is very hard to do – something that is essential to punk music. They speak simply of feelings that everybody has in words that everybody can understand. What’s impressive is that they manage to stuff these songs with classic punk imagery and archetypes in a way that is new and exciting. They’re not singing about anything different than The Ramones did, but it’s still fresh. When you add in SWMRS’s use of electronics –loops, samples, synths and other effects—the end result is a unique and modern punk sound.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go dump a bottle of peroxide on my head and drive off into the night with my head out the window, blasting “D’You Have a Car?” until I run out of gas.

PROTOMARTYR BRING MOTOR CITY POST-PUNK CHOPS TO UNDERGROUND ARTS
February 17, 2016 11:00 am

Last Friday, February 12th, Detroit post-punk outfit Protomartyr performed at Philly’s Underground Arts in support of their critically acclaimed record The Agent Intellect, their second release via Hardly Art.  It was a frosty evening, but the intensifying snowfall did little to deter a boisterous crowd from cramming into the dimly lit venue.

First on the evening’s bill was Taiwan Housing Project, a local Philly noise rock band that pays homage to ‘No Wave’ provocateurs before them such as  Teenage Jesus and the Jerks. The band features both screeching saxophone bursts reminiscent of James Chance noise experiments as well as lead singer Kilynn Lunsford’s devastating howl, who also strikes an uncanny resemblance to a young Lydia Lunch.   Their sound is an excruciating blanket of atonality and dissonance. Their debut Taiwan Bulding Project 7″ EP is available via M’Lady Records.

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Next in line, hailing from D.C., was Priests, a four-piece “Real Life Non Internet Band” that combine psychobilly antics of The Cramps with a relentless tension and grit of punk. The formation of a mosh pit almost immediately commenced upon Priests taking the stage. Cans of beer began to fly overhead.  Audience members, perhaps uninitiated to the more visceral edge of live punk performance, showed visible distress and disorientation. It was chaotic, experiential, it was, “real life non internet.” Their debut EP Bodies and Control and Money and Power is available via Sister Polygon Records.

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Protomartyr closed the evening’s festivities with their smart and gloomy brand garage rock. Songs like “I Forgive You” kept the crowds on their feet with the off-kilter post-punk grooves of Greg Ahee’s impeccable angular guitar hooks and Alex Leonard’s precise drum execution. Front-man Joe Casey was in signature dapper attire as he shared disparaging tales of a crumbling Motor City necropolis in his somber baritone. The performance was an immaculate reproduction of their record, rewarding avid listeners with a near-complete track list of The Agent Intellect, along with a selection of other select tunes from previous output.

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SAVAGES RETURN WITH THE SAME INTESITY IN ADORE LIFE
January 23, 2016 12:05 pm

London-based post-punk revivalists Savages return with their sophomore effort Adore Life, via Matador Records.  This record is a continuation of their harsh, relentlessly brooding assailment that brought the band to critical acclaim off the heels of their 2013 debut Silence Yourself.  Again we have Jehnny Beth’s agonizing howl, joined by Gemma Thompson’s ferociously swerving guitar, Ayse Hassan’s bombarding bass, and Fay Milton’s mechanized percussion. Their music conjures up the dark, icy-edge of late-70s art rock of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Public Image Ltd.  You get the picture.

Savages made quite the stir when they first came into the spotlight.  To some, their antics can be quite unsettling.  Silence Yourself was a political album, it was preceded by a manifesto on their website, which was also recited at the beginning the video for “Shut Up”, an aptly titled tune. At live shows directions were posted outside of hosting music venues, instructing attendees to politely turn off their mobile devices. In other words, please silence yourself.

Ok, not exactly your run of the mil request from an indie band in 2013.  But ok.  Fine, I’ll turn off my phone.

Their hopes were simple.  To turn their music into an immersive experience.  To alleviate you from the world’s modern ‘distractions’.  While most indie bands might jump at the opportunity for free exposure via social media, Savages sought to have their music be the absolute center-piece.  They want to be taken very, very seriously.  In a world where we seldom think twice before taking out our phones and unapologetically snapping pictures of our idols, perhaps their manifesto isn’t so absurd after all.

Savages is here to make music.  They’re no gimmick.

With Adore Life, Savages bring us an album about the most primordial human emotion of all: love.  But like their stance on music, politics and art, their discussion on the subject of love is deadly serious.  No holding hands in the park and sharing an ice cream cone, no. We’re talking about love as a societal-balancing scale.

Beth goes through all of love’s permutations.  In “The Answer“, love is a source of jealousy. Beth states, “If you don’t love me / you don’t love anybody” followed by the plea “sleep with me / and we’d still be friends / or I know / I’ll go insane.”  In “Adore”, love is temptation, “If only I’d hidden my lust / And starved a little bit more / Is it human to adore life?” In “Evil”, love is  a political instrument blockading us from true happiness: “only one way to raise a family / I squeeze your brain ’til you forget / why is it you’re afraid?” In “Sad Person”, love is a psychosis: “love is a disease / the strongest addiction I know / what happens in the brain / is the same as the rush of cocaine / the more you have / the more you crave.” In “T.I.Y.W.G.” we’re faced with irresistible physical passion: “this is what you get when you mess with love?” followed by “All you want is that feeling again…I saw a no become a yes”. Adore Life discusses love as a boundless, size-less, shapeless entity.

Savages are serious as a band as they are about the love, but you’ve considered these ramifications before.  Many times before. It’s simple: absorb and spread love throughout, and at the end of the day, Adore Life.

LIVE FROM BROOKLYN: HINDS RELEASE PARTY REVIEW + PHOTOS
January 8, 2016 6:08 pm

Hinds took over Palisades this past Wednesday for a raucous release party for their highly anticipated debut album, Leave Me Alone, out today via Mom + Pop Music.

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The event was wildly creative and inclusive, featuring $3 tickets, cheap beer, karaoke, and an all-ages option for the youngsters. Fans (myself included) lined up around the block for the chance to catch the album live before the Madrid-based group hops across the pond for a three month European tour. In typical Hinds form, the band showcased their gratitude by joining their waiting audience in the freezing outdoors. The group ran up and down the line, stopping at various points to take photos, sign autographs, and even perform dance numbers to cheer up the grumps.

Once the frost settled and the band started, the wait was nothing but a thing of the past. High-energy tracks like “Trippy Gum” got the crowd dancing and set the free-spirited tone that flowed through the rest of the show. Strict set-lists and smooth transitions were thrown out the window in favor of a more playful style of performance filled with spontaneous action.

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The girls weaved the old with the new, sounding refreshingly down-to-earth yet professional in every moment. Captivating songs like “Bamboo” and “San Diego” rendered a rowdy young crowd silent (if only for a moment) as the power of music prevailed. Crowd-pleasers like “Between Cans” and “Garden” were made all the more special by guest appearances from friends like Public Access TV’s John Eatherly and 2015 breakout star Shamir.

Repeatedly, guitarists/vocalists Carlotta Cosials and Anna García Perrote, told the audience this was not a concert but a party – like the ones your friends threw back home in their parents’ basements. Garage-punk nostalgia and wallflower empowerment manifested in an epic multi-round game of audience karaoke. Cosials, who used to MC a karaoke bar back in Madrid, encouraged fans to jump on stage and scream their hearts out to the Hinds catalog even if they didn’t know the words.

It was in the final moments of the event that you could really see just how special this band is. The performance was over. One band member was bed-ridden from jet lag and only a small group of fans remained. Yet the band kept working: meeting fans, taking pictures, signing merch, giving hugs, and wearing huge smiles on their faces the whole time. This was no ordinary concert. It was an epic party. Those who attended will be grateful they did when this band hits it big in 2016.

Pick up your copy of Leave Me Alone over at iTunes or stream it over at Spotify.

All photos by Julia Drummond (Tumblr/Instagram)

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ESKIMEAUX SLAYS IN 2015
December 11, 2015 1:59 am

2015 has been a big year for Eskimeaux, the solo project of songwriter producer Gabrielle Smith. While she has been recording as Eskimeaux since 2007, this year marks the first time she has garnered wider recognition from her own music.

As a frequent collaborator and friend of bigger names in the lo-fi/bedroom pop world, like Frankie Cosmos and Mitski, Eskimeaux released her own album O.K. to an unforeseen amount of positive response. The release garnered critical acclaim, successfully catapulted her from the insular Brooklyn indie scene to a more nationally recognized Indie stage. NPR’s host of All Songs Considered, Bob Boilen, picked Eskimeaux’s album as one of his top 10 of the year along with bigger name acts like Courtney Barnett and Girlpool. Rolling Stone declared her one of the artists you need to know this year. Stereogum selected the album as their “album of the week” above more prominent artists The Tallest Man On Earth and Snoop Dog.

Yet with all of this publicity and high praise, it’s likely that most of you haven’t heard Esimeaux before. Luckily with music, it’s never too late to get started.

O.K. is a beautiful collection of eloquent and earnest bedroom-pop. The confessions she makes cut pretty deep, yet the precision with which she molds her lyrics into pristine melodies functions as a haunting juxtaposition to the darkness in her stories. Above a soundscape of beautifully layered keyboards and fuzzy guitars, Smith’s voice floats in a realm of its own—too present to be labeled ethereal yet too aloof to be fully comforting.

The breakout track from the album, “I Admit I’m Scared,” is a masterpiece in the art of understatement. Reworked from an earlier version of the same song, the version that appears on O.K. is a beautiful example of when music and lyrics come together to create something larger than the sum of their parts. The track begins with a nervous and unsteady confession, “I admit I’m scared.” A softly strummed banjo complements the naïve lyrics. Yet as the song continues and the narrator becomes more confident in her confession, booming percussion and guitars chime in to ensure the narrator’s intensity echoes out to the listener. There is a true beauty to Smith’s lyrical and musical method of storytelling – reminiscent of a film score. With a little luck and some excellent sync/licensing placement in the indie film/television world, Eskimeaux could easily become a household staple.

As we near the end of the year, it’s important to remember all of the things that stood out to us about the year. Music discovery is no exception. With an oversaturated market, it’s easy to miss something great and difficult to go back and revisit stuff you may have overlooked. Do not make that mistake with Eskimeaux. Go home, put on the record and give it the full listen that it deserves. You just might find that it sticks.

QUIRKY CLEVER KOOKY COOL: WEAVES
November 24, 2015 8:31 am

Toronto has produced yet another phenomenal alternative indie music act with Weaves. Although they have only been a band for less than two years, Weaves has been on the Beasts’ radar for a while now, playing our CMJ showcase at Pianos this past October, and living up to the respectable hype generated by publications such as The Gaurdian, NME, and Rolling Stone.

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The praise is well warranted as the music of Weaves is in a category of it’s own. Front woman Jasmyn Burke and friends have created a spunky brand of laid back stoner pop that has been immersed in a world of pop art. The laid back vibe brings a wave of 90’s nostalgia with it, drawing comparisons to acts such as The Thermals and fellow Canadians The New Pornographers. But Weaves has something more. They have a creative element to their sound that goes beyond music. Is it the recognizable sense of humor? The non-chalantness? Or the never before seen Individuality? I’d say it some combination of all of these.

Their debut self-titled EP is a sonic masterpiece of the lazy punk- indie rock aesthetic. The record, released through Buzz Records, was produced by Dave Newfeld, known for his work with Broken Social Scene and Super Furry Animals. Tracks like “Take A Dip” feature wailing guitars and upbeat melodies while tracks like “Buttercup” and “Do You See Past” present a loosened up and faded side of Weaves.

After their big 2014 release, Weaves shows no signs of slowing down. Their Summer was spent on tour in Europe and since their New York City CMJ appearance, they have been spotted in Iceland. Their next show will be in their hometown of Toronto at Lee’s Palace December 5th. So if you’re in the area, make sure to see Weaves make their waves.

If your like the rest of us, You will probably be reminiscing a bit this holiday weekend on how the hell you’ve gotten so old. So the Beasts suggest you take a trip out of time, perhaps back to the 90’s, throw on the Weaves EP, and go ahead, stuff your face, we’re not watching.