Around 170 miles separate Detroit and Cleveland – two industrial, rusty Midwestern cities with thriving, close-knit punk scenes. So for Zack and I, it’s always great to take the turnpike south and spend some time in Ohio. This time we headed for The Grog Shop to see The Flatliners with PKEW PKEW PKEW, Garrett Dale and locals Heart & Lungs on July 8.
We headed down I-80 early to catch Chris and Scott of The Flatliners play an acoustic in-store set at Wax Bodega with Garrett Dale of Red City Radio.
Garrett’s western charm was in full force as he sauntered into the store playing a jaunty tune professing his love for getting stoned. His brief four-song set kept the crowd laughing. One small child in attendance declared Garrett a “funny man,” and honestly that’s probably the best review of his performance. Stopping between lines to make quips about the audience or drop a quick one-liner, he kept a smile plastered on everyone’s face. His set included two covers, including Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” which had a majority of the room’s punks singing along.
For a band as popular as The Flatliners, the opportunity to see them in such an intimate setting is a rarity. With less than 50 people in the room, Scott and Chris’ cheeky banter felt more like a peak into their van than a performance. The brief set went through a few choice Flatties tracks spanning their discography as well as a rare cover of The Ramones “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down.”
Zack snapped a few photos of the acoustic set, check them out below:
After hanging around Cleveland for a few hours, we made our way over to the Grog Shop for the full show just in time to catch locals Heart & Lung. Melodic and upbeat, this four-piece was a great way to start the night. A little on the pop side without venturing into sugary sweetness, I’d be surprised if we don’t see this band heading down to FEST in the next few years.
Garrett took the stage with a collection of wrestling figurines, meticulously set on top of an amp and his now-signature “I like getting stoned” tune. His fun-loving attitude is so infectious that even though I’d seen him play several songs from his set earlier in the day, I was just as captivated. This time we got a little more from Garrett’s recent EP Two Ts including “2016 Was…” and “House Full of Dogs” as well as some crowd-favorite Red City Radio tracks. Pretty soon the whole place was “whoa-oh”-ing along to “Electricity.” Ending with Rancid’s “Olympia, WA,” Garrett had the crowd pretty damn primed up for the Canadians getting ready to take the stage.
Garrett’s set also introduced us to “Steve’s Bachelor Party,” who enthusiastically sang along to most of the set. It’s probably pretty obvious, but Steve is getting married and the boys were out for some cold ones, as they say. A little rowdy, but overall good natured they were often seen double-fisting PBR Tall Boys in the pit and served as a great litmus test for the night.
I missed PKEW PKEW PKEW at FEST last year and have been aching to catch their set ever since. Their self-titled debut was one of my favorites last year and I can’t get enough of the pizza + beer + fucking off theme they have going on. With a ton of speed, irreverent lyrics, near-constant gang vocals and the pseudo-macho ‘tude and I’m pretty much in love.
The crowd ramped up for their “party punk” set as well, with the “Steve’s Bachelor Party” crew coming into peak form. They were happy drunks, and so am I, so we got on pretty well singing along to my personal favorites “Asshole Pandemic” and “Prequel to Asshole Pandemic.”
The Flatliners released their fifth full length Inviting Light a few months ago – their first record off of Fat Wreck Chords and one with a decidedly more mellow tone than we’ve seen from a band that’s effortlessly bounced around hard-hitting punk and a bit of ska. That mellow tone caught me off guard when the record released – I’m just always secretly hoping for a Cavalcade II whenever a new album is announced. I mean, few better albums have been recorded than 2010’s Cavalcade so who can blame me for wanting more?
All of my doubts about the “softness” of Inviting Light quickly disappeared as The Flatliners updated their set list with new music. Songs I originally felt were muted don’t seem muted at all on stage, played with the same fervor and energy as we’ve come to expect from the Canadian foursome. “Human Party Trick” and ” Hang My Head” fit seamlessly in with classic Flatties powerhouses like “Shithawks” and “Count Your Bruises.”
The crowd, dominated by the “Steve’s Bachelor Party” gang, didn’t seem to find anything muted or soft about their set list, either. The packed room riotously absorbed the frenetic energy these guys consistently put into their live shows.
By the time they closed out the set with a rager encore performance of “He Was A Jazzman,” all of my doubts about the direction these guys were taking their band was left back in 2010, where I’m going to let my expectations of a Cavalcade II die.
How could I have been so blind and doubtful? As Steve’s Bachelor party kept chanting, we are not worthy.
Take a look at Zack’s photos from The Grog Shop below:
This tour is continuing through July 17. Check out the full dates here.
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