Friday night at Doc Watson’s in Exton, Mitch Koehler and Kindergarten Shows brought out a great lineup of punk rock bands. Philadelphia three-piece Nark kicked things off in high gear. Ben Mink, Lucas Kozinski, and Rodrigo Gualberto have been pumping out jams since 2012, culminating with Cry About It this past December. Mixing tunes from that 8-song EP and their previous releases, they hooked in some of the bar crowd with a cover of No Doubt’s “Underneath It All”. Sharing their drum kit with all but the last act, the three stuck around and encouraged everyone else to do the same, especially for Welter, an act they’ve shared plenty of stages with over the past couple years.
Their friends in Welter are also a trio from Philly, rocking just a bit harder in the vein of early Green Day or Blink-182. Several songs were great for a bar environment, especially “Tonight I Hit The Bottle”, a song vocalist and guitarist Jeremy Saul submitted to a Preston & Steve contest way back in 2009, but the full band didn’t record until their Ghost Hits double album this past year. While some may question the song’s gender politics, it is an undeniable earworm, one that sounded both familiar and new simultaneously and lingers in the mind long after the music fades. Welter had quite a few such earworms in their setlist; they even got the audience singing along on the “sha na na” chorus of “She’s Gotta Heart” from 2013′s On The Floor. They encouraged everyone to stick around for Dizzy Bats and Awaking Mercury, especially the former since they came all the way from New York City.
Dizzy Bats are firmly ensconced in the current wave of wordy post-emo indie with artists like The Front Bottoms, and their particularly NYC-flavored take on it is energetic, hook-filled, and highly quotable. For example, they manage to jam the following lyrics into the last 30 seconds of “I’m Drunk, She’s Sober”, a standout from their recent Girls that they didn’t play Friday night:
To my girl and secret love, you probably think this song is scum
It’s never been so clear, realized my greatest fear
You’ll go to settle down, replace me for that wedding gown
And I’ll nod and shake his hand
Never ask what could have been
And I think what bothers me is that while you have set me free
Lost the bond, one to mend
Voice of reason, loyal friend
And I’ll miss you less each year
Want to now make sure you hear
Final word, current state
Tell you one last time, you’re great
Singer-songwriter Connor Frost plays lots of instruments on their recorded material, but he brings bassist and backing vocalist Dave Ma, guitarist Jared Sochinsky, and drummer Derek Swink out on the road to replicate it, though the live versions tend to strip down the more exotic arrangements and stick with a straightforward punk format, which given the horns in the aforementioned tune probably explains its omission from their set. All four seemed genuinely enthused to be playing music together, alternately jumping around on stage and bantering with each other at the microphones like long-time veterans. Frost seems to come to Philly a lot, mentioning it on Girls’ title track and encouraging everyone to come catch their Saturday night show downtown as well as mentioning past trips as a solo acoustic act. Such a performance might underscore the sardonic Tumblr humor in many of his lyrics, but I’m sure I’d miss Ma’s walking basslines and Sochinsky’s solos, even if he could keep up the driving pace without drums. This is definitely an act to watch as they continue to tour and record.
Local headliner Awaking Mercury made the substantially shorter jaunt from Phoenixville, and the level of support they enjoyed reflected that. Friends and fans had been patiently waiting for their set, as well as interested to see Alexander Saddic from The GoAround filling in on bass. Singer and guitarist Luke Eccles, lead guitarist and backing vocalist Eli Endres, and drummer Dylan Whitman are all regulars, however, and all four were clearly well-rehearsed and experienced. Another act that carefully chose a cover song to hook in the bar audience, their rendition of Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper” would fit nicely on one of those Punk Goes… compilations. A hard-working band with a tight sound, they just need a solid opening slot on a major tour to break out.
By Dave Fox | Philadelphia Ambassador | @philosofoxthedj | Beat-Play and Music Without Labels, LLC