I went bonkers as soon as this show was announced in February: Red City Radio, The Bombpops, Russian Girlfriends, and Pittsburgh’s own World’s Scariest Police Chases. Great bands all around, but with enough differences between them to make for a well-rounded bill.
I had been a fan of Red City Radio for a couple of years, after "Spinning In Circles Is A Gateway Drug" popped up on my Spotify discover playlist. I first learned of The Bombpops in February, when their album Fear of Missing Out was released and it was impossible to avoid them on social media. Shortly after, I heard and interview with front women Poli and Jen on the Mable Syndrome podcast and it endeared me to them even more. The fact that I was going to see both on the same bill was a dream.
Local dive bar Howlers was already packed when I arrived for the show since there was a Penguins hockey playoff game on and we Pittsburghers are nothing if not devout sports fans. The fact that the Pens score right when the show began was an auspicious sign for the evening (spoiler alert: the Penguins lost that game but went on to win the series).
First up was the seven-piece Pittsburgh hardcore group World’s Scariest Police Chases. These guys are always a total blast; the music is fast, the lyrics are brash and sarcastic, and they have matching outfits. They played some new material as well which sounded great. Those outside of the Pittsburgh area can catch WSPC when they play at Fest 16 in Gainesville, FL this fall.
Next up was Russian Girlfriends, whom I hadnʻt heard before. Itʻs a little bit hard to classify their sound: thereʻs definitely a pop punk base, but some songs veer off into solid rock and roll, while others are more aggressive. The lead singer has an excellent voice which really goes well with the songs. I really enjoyed their set and hope to hear more of them in the future.
Then, The Bombpops. Poli had brought her 4-year old son Adler on tour for a few days, and he was sitting on his dadʻs shoulders watching as the band set up. It was obvious he enjoyed seeing his mom do her thing, and an impromptu shout of, "I love you mommy!" just about killed me. Iʻm sure there are some people who think that a bar is never an appropriate place for a small child, but itʻs clear that his parents took the proper precautions (ear protection, etc) to make sure he was safe and loving the experience.
Their live set was as awesome as I expected it to be. Everyone was full of energy and Poli and Jen were killing it. They played all of my favorite songs, including "CA in July", "Capable of Lies", and "Be Sweet." The latter song they dedicated to the memory of Brandon from Teenage Bottlerocket, who had written the lyrics for them when they were first starting out. They finished their set off with the song "FOMO" and a surprise guest—Adler, with his own small guitar. It wasnʻt actually plugged in, but the kid was absolutely rocking out and having a blast being on stage with his mom.
Finally, Red City Radio took the stage in front of a packed room. Lead singer Garrett Dale and the rest of the crew absolutely destroyed. They played a mix of old songs, including crowd favorites "Two Notes Shy of an Octave" and "Whatcha Got?", as well as some newly released material like "Rebels" and "If You Want Blood (Be My Guest)". Everyone in the room was moving around and singing along to the songs, just having a fantastic time.
This is the part of punk rock that I love the most: intimate shows, the shared experiences of being up way too late on a Tuesday night (now Wednesday morning) rocking out to music you love, and the sense of community that comes out of it. Such an amazing night with fantastic bands.