- by Nate Hennon
You know it is going to be a weird night when you run into infamous Basketball star Dennis Rodman milling around in bright yellow sweatpants and a wife beater. He appeared to be there not to see any bands or to meet anyone; it was as if he forgot his dry cleaning and wanted to be sure to pick it up before a three-day weekend. Maybe this is an once-in-a-lifetime occurrence or maybe this is just a regular thing in the OC. Either way, it makes one reset their expectations of what a Thursday night punk show in the land of Disney is going to entail.
Before I get into how The Falcon or The Copyrights were on Thursday, July 14th, I need to set the 'stage'. The venue, The Slidebar in Fullerton California, did not know what they were doing. The best way we could thinking to describe the place is a venue that curated their bathroom stickers and graffiti. Yes, they had a cool outdoor bar patio.
Yes, they had a real intimate back room for shows. They also had a sound system that was too much for their small room, and I heard a lot of Alkaline Trio coming from the speakers in the 'bar-tio'. In any other context, their music selection would have gone without question, but it felt odd to hear songs from one of the guys in the side-project you were about to see. It was as if you were at a party for your ex of many years, while you had your new fling in-tow. There should be nothing wrong with this situation, but someone is going to get uncomfortable.
As for the bands, New Jersey's Mikey Erg opened the show. He played with an intensity rarely seen from a solo act. His energy was infectious, but it was not enough to overcome a sound system too powerful for one person. Unless you were familiar with all of his songs or were right up front, the vocals were lost in the room. However, seeing how Mikey play on his own, really makes one excited for the upcoming Ergs! reunion at The Fest this October.
The second act was English musician, Sam Russo. Because I went to the back patio to grab a beer between sets and did not see the letter size print out of set times; I missed a good chunk of his set. In other small venues, a bar patron could hear a band starting in the other room because the bar does not have a live DJ spinning to drown out their sound, but I digress. Once I realized the bar was emptier than it was an hour ago, I quick ran into the back and caught the remainder of his charming, low-key set. He had great voice and played straightforward acoustic guitar based punk. Reminded me of early Frank Turner stuff, and not because of the accent.
Next were The Copyrights. The Copyrights played like a working band. Super confident stage presence and seemed like they could destroy any song on their set list. They were relentless. Hardly ever stopping to catch their breath. They were going to exhaust the audience, not as a way to blow the headliner out of the water, but because they know no other way to play. Also, come to find out, this tour was extra special because their permanent drummer, and primary songwriter, Luke, was with them. An occurrence that has not happened in years. The band felt whole, and they were going to show it.
After The Copyrights tour-de-force set, the 'Punk Rock Super group', The Falcon, were ready to take the stage. Because each member of The Falcon have 'bigger, more well-known bands', this tour appears to be an excuse for old friends to get together and play some music. Think 'Punk Dad Summer Camp.'
Regardless of the tour motivations, that was amazing to see these punk rock veterans in such a small room. Something most of the members probably have not done in a decade. Brendan Kelly, the unofficial mayor of Chicago Punk Rock, was the front man Lawrence Arms fans have come to love. Just like a stand-up comedian working the room after a heckler, Kelly owned the stage and commented on the questionable actions that took place that night. There was a running joke between songs about security guards using abusing what little power they had and the enforcement of a dress code that was not present at the beginning of the night. Side note, do not wear shorts to the Slidebar, they frown on that type of thing.
Backing Mr. Kelly was the rest of The Falcon’s super line-up. First is their solid rhythm section, Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano and another 1/3 of The Lawrence Arms, drummer Neil Hennessey. You can tell that these two have played for years. No missteps between them. Just solid bass and drums. In addition to the three permanent members of The Falcon, the band added second guitarist Dave Hause. Most would know him from his more recent solo work, but I have a fondness for his early work with The Loved Ones. Hause was quiet and reserved, but you could see that there is a part of him that missed playing loud punk rock. He was engaging and brought a fullness to their sound that was missing the last time I saw them play live.
The Falcon’s set was mostly composed of songs from their latest release, 2016’s “Gather Up The Chaps”. Even though they did dip into some older songs, you can tell that they were the most content with the newer stuff. If The Copyrights make one want to start a band, then The Falcon makes one want to reunite with their high school band. Both bands are forces to be reckoned with and should be seen live. It is a rare treat to see a band on the rise with a group of old dogs.