I had been so looking forward to seeing Direct Hit! for the first time for a number of reasons, but August 30th snuck up on me like a gig day has never done to me before. I’ll blame it mostly on my mind being hyper-occupied by diligently preparing for Grand Rapids Zine Fest (August 31st) right down to the wire, but really the whole month leading up to that weekend felt like an hourglass quickly draining sand until those last couple grains seemingly hang mid air for a while. I did my best to document some of those grains of sand below. Here we go.
First of all, the lineup for this show was peppered with friends and I was so excited to see them play on my favorite stage of all time. The Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids is so many of our second homes and with a lineup this stacked, it was guaranteed to be less a gig and more a punk-rock family reunion. As soon as I got off the bus, I was surrounded by familiar friendly faces! One of those was of our Bad Copy fearless leader, Kendra! Finally we got to hang in my city. After catching up with one hundred buds at the bar and getting introduced to two of the members of Direct Hit! without realizing they were with Direct Hit! until halfway through the conversation, we hustled back to the main room of the venue.
Kicking off the night was last minute add-on punk-rock band, Abner. Coincidentally, this was their first show, something the Grand Rapids scene had been collectively anticipating. Each of the three members have been active in various other GR mainstays such as The Scants, Crash, Stubborn Strays, Elroy Meltzer, Shoebox, etc. Outside of the one-time offshoot Alkaline Trio cover set that Anthony, Blake, and Haleigh played together for our friend’s birthday party, they’d largely only shared stages together in separate acts, so this was exciting to see come together.
As expected, the chemistry was off the charts. But for how tightly and energetic they performed, it honestly didn’t seem like their first show and I’d bet that any strangers in the room probably wouldn’t have known better if it weren’t for the band expressing their gratitude between each song. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a band more grateful just to be there as they referred to themselves as “lucky motherfuckers” and cracked bright smiles as some of the front of the crowd sang along to “Me To The Earth,” one of the single they released digitally recently on Bandcamp. But I assure you, Abner more than deserved to be there and are laying a base for big things to come.
Next up was diligent riot grrrl punk rockers, Boob Sweat. They’d been steady making moves so I hadn’t seen them since the last date of their tour to and from Berkeley to play Femme Fest earlier this. I was especially looking forward to seeing them since their recent recordings have gotten even tighter with the addition of their new guitar player, Nick. He not only shreds in the snotty punk band Kiwi Army, but is also a budding producer in his own right. It was evident right away that he is a perfect fit alongside vocalist/bassist Kate and drummer,Athen as the band was even better than when I saw them before.
There’s a new air of intention in their performance. From the jump they were always meant to be a feminist band, but they’re bringing their call for inclusion to a new and louder level. The first song in their set “Candy Wrappers” featured a friend of the band who’s an ASL student. They signed the whole song in a concentrated effort to make their music as accessible as possible. Later, between songs, Kate declared that shows like this are our home and that it’s our job to take care of each other and defend each other from abusers, predators, or general creeps. While in 2019, these are hardly radical thoughts, but they will always be very radical to say out loud on a stage like that, especially from a group that started as an Avril Lavigne cover act. Speaking of Avril Lavigne, they slipped a cover of “Complicated” in their set which got an equally moshy and teary reaction from all the sk8r bois and grrrls in the room. Part of Boob Sweat’s intention is also to have fun.
It’s weird that a band as nasty as The Bloody Lips stir up mushy heart emotions for me, but that’s exactly what they do. Their debut full-length album was the first one I reviewed when I was at For The Love Of Punk. The first time I saw them live was when they crashed my van benefit show. So in a way they mark the beginning of a notable part of my era as a music writer and brought an extra dose of party to one of the most crucial nights in my life. They were staples around the scene for awhile, then as fast as they play, they left. So this night, opening for Direct Hit! was the first time I saw my friends re-assemble in this form in two years, complete with Athen from Boob Sweat playing his second set in a row on drums.
The packed crowd could immediately tell the band hadn’t skipped a beat from their last iteration as vocalist Krystal asked us if we were ready only to interrupt herself to say she didn’t care. She’s the type of vocalist to aggressively pace the stage, anxiously gather and entwine herself in the mic cord, and eventually dive into the crowd when the circle pit isn’t going hard enough for her liking. I once lovingly likened her frantic flailing and squawking to that of a banshee and woof, was it good to see the banshee back in action. She’s one of my favorite performers of all time. The Bloody Lips never hold anything back.
With that said, slop is part of their signature. For example, bassist Kole encouraged the audience to throw beer at guitarist Taylor to see what he could catch in his mouth. When people did so and he failed to catch any, he literally pulled a beer out of his pocket. Let’s delicately say the rest of the set, which they referred to themselves as a debacle, was less prepared than the fucking pocket beer. The band shared a single set list that got shuffled around and lost multiple times until they closed their whopping 27 minute, discography spanning set/debacle with an Operation Ivy cover featuring Kole on vocals while Krystal went on a mosh pit murder spree. While members of The Bloody Lips are more focused on other projects now, it was great to see those songs in a live setting again and I hope they don’t break anything beyond repair long enough to do it again sometime.
And finally after much ado, Direct Hit! blasted off… except they didn’t because on the first kick, the drummer broke the bass drum head. I’ve been to hundreds of shows and I’d never seen that and something tells me that neither had anyone else in that room. So my long wait to finally see this band in action was extended a few more minutes until they opened with my favorite song, “The World Is Ending (No One Cares).”
It was immediately apparent why the bass drum head cracked, the drummer hits hard as hell. The rest of the band’s instruments took pretty brutal beatings as well in the name of rock. But that’s not to say they aren’t a tight band because they are. They weren’t even phased when some front row vape dork blew a fat cloud straight at vocalist Nick Woods midsong. In fact, I’d venture to say Direct Hit! were playing up the sloppy shitty pop-punk band schtick more than they were actually playing sloppily and shittyly. Between each last song and the next, Woods would howl into the mic from behind Crap sunglasses, “thank youuuuu! This is [insert unintelligible song title] goes looiiike diihsssss!!” in a slurred faux accent. I don’t know, maybe they were shwasted and I just couldn’t tell. I don’t know them, but I do know my shwasted friends had a blast crowdsurfing to their 13 song set. I watched about 10 songs, hugged Kendra and took off to catch my bus.
After a few quick goodbyes outside and wishing my friend Brantley a happy 30th birthday, I hopped the bus, which happened to be piloted by one of my favorite drivers, got home, slammed some water, and threw my extremely sober ass in bed. I had an early morning the next day and would be tabling at Grand Rapids Zine Fest all day. My weekend was just beginning but what a grand way to kick it off.