May 16, 2007, The Ottobar, Baltimore, Maryland
First, this show was a benefit for a great cause. J. Robbins has given an awful lot to the music community over the years between his own bands and those he produced. Now, J.’s family is in need. His son Callum has Spinal Muscular Atrophy and his care requires more than insurance will pay. There was a nice turnout for the show, so that will hopefully help out the Robbins family. If you want to learn more or help out, check out For Callum.
In addition to being a great cause, the show was a real deal at $10 for four bands. First up was Baltimore locals Deep Sleep. Their set was short (under 20 minutes) and likely included every song on their 9-song debut 7″. But it was a short, fast explosion. Borrowing heavily from Chavo-era Black Flag in both sound and presence, Deep Sleep may never become a great band, but they certainly ripped it up as an opener and got the show off on the right foot.
Deep Sleep was followed by Baltimore natives Liars Academy. They came out with three guitarists and I expected it was just a way to get all thier buddies in the band rather than actually serving a purpose. However, their riff-heavy brand of emo really employed the whole band’s skills. The harmonies were usually a little off (something I’m sure they remedied in the studio), but they were otherwise tight. The lead vocals brought most of the emo elements to the table, but singer Ryan Shelkett did keep enough edge on his voice to avoid much of the sappiness that often weakens bands of that genre. Still, it had enough soft spots to make me wonder if the album had the same punch as the live show. While they weren’t my favorite of the night, Liars Academy certainly were the most musically interesting.
Philadelphia’s Loved Ones didn’t have the creativity of Liars Academy, but they made up for it with good energy, good hooks and good nature. They played a set full of gritty, catchy punk along the lines of bands like Avail. While they weren’t musically remarkable, they were very engaging, both in calling the audience to support the cause and to have fun at the same time. The Loved Ones are certainly up my alley and I would recommend catching them live if you can just because it’s a guaranteed good time full of solid punk rock.
Strike Anywhere headlined the show. They’re one of those bands that I like well enough, but never got tremendously excited about. They seemed like a good political punk band, spewing anger over fast and somewhat melodic songs, but not particularly special among their peers. I had no idea what I was in for though. Strike Anywhere played 50+ minutes of pure adrenalin, their righteous anger full of love. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a band blast out that much energy over a full set. I’ve always thought there were two reasons to be really angry: because you hate the world or because you love the world. The latter is the one that resonates with me and that is exactly why Strike Anywhere’s set felt so good. Despite the crowd’s demands, they didn’t come back for an encore and I applaud them for it. Why should they when they left everything out there in the set? They had nothing left to prove and probably little energy left to give. If anyone complained, they must’ve been in the bathroom for the whole set, because there was no reason to walk away anything less than elated.