Nevermind The Posers

See ya in the pit.

Music grows from its roots: Social Distortion, Dan Sartain, and The Action Design at Starland Ballroom. August 12, 2010

Review by Angela Blasi
August 1, 2010-

Picture it – Starland Ballroom is packed for a sold out show.  The room is a buzz with a mature crowd, filled to capacity, truly embodying the notion of standing room only.  The newly renovated space is home for the night to a congregation of faces, many of them creased deeply in the smile lines.  Yet, still the air is rife with the same energy one would have found back in 1988.  Yes, this is Social Distortions crowd.  Playing with openers The Action Design and Dan Sartain, I knew this was going to be one hell of a concert.
First to take the stage was the four piece rock group The Action Design.  Having risen from the ashes of former punk band Tsunami Bomb, this latest outfit proved to encapsulate the older punk rock roots while allowing the music to evolve further.  Driven by the eclectic mix of sounds, often fusing punk with rock and dance grooves, The Action Design graced the stage with an attitude of laid back professionals.  Happily grooving along to their own music with the audience, one could sense the groups chemistry as they interacted well with one another, feeding a vibe that only enhanced their performance.  Musically solid, Emily Whitehurst sang each note with grace and style, even seamlessly taking her place behind the keyboard, complimenting each bass groove and guitar riff to create a driving force.  Songs “Desperation” and “Still Standing” are available via 7″ vinyl release also titled Desperation, courtesy of Pandacide Creative Lending.  All in all, definitely a band I could see myself rocking out to driving down a long stretch of open road, just singing along, feeling the music.  I dig it.

Dan Sartain was next on stage.  A tall, lanky figure with slicked jet black hair and guitar strapped to his back, Dan stood center stage crooning rockabilly blues tunes to the audience, looking like the movies Crybaby and The Outsiders had a baby, complete with an old school microphone.  A simple set up consisting of a drummer and bassist to back him, he quickly stood out as a person of interest.  His voice, steady and sincere yet rich with the tones of musical forefathers like Johnny Cash, delivered something refreshing- rockabilly and blues- pure, simple and most of all genuine.  A fitting description, considering he hails from Birmingham, Alabama.  Now, I’m no die-hard rockabilly fan, it’s not something I listen to often but I do appreciate good music when I hear it.  Mr. Dan Sartain definitely is an up and coming artist in his genre.  With songs like “Ruby Carol” and “Atheist Funeral,” he has that punk rock devil-may-care attitude coupled with a quiet confidence that shines through effortlessly.  He’s been dubbed the “post-punk Johnny Cash” and I can see why.  His guitar riffs coupled with that voice, which is almost too perfectly rockabilly to be believed, make the moniker not only fitting, but something to be worn like a badge of honor.  I definitely recommend giving him a listen.

Now on to the main event!As soon as the Social Distortion banner took its rightful place in the air and the opening music sounded, the entire crowd came to unified attention and began to cheer; the show was about to begin.  One by one, the band members took their places on stage and in one second, tore right into “Road Zombie”.  One second more, the great Mike Ness geared up and completed the line up, being welcomed with even more cheers from the eager fans.  The music kept on coming and without missing a beat, the band began playing “Bye Bye Baby.”  Social D is one of those bands I’ve been listening to for years, sometimes without even realizing it, but never had the chance to see live.  As soon as Mike opened his mouth and that voice, that unmistakable instrument that’s defined the bands’ sound just as much as the music itself rang in my ears, a smile spread across my face.  All those years of listening and here it was, live and in the flesh before me sounding just as raw, perfect, and distinct as I’ve always heard it.  As the set continued on I could not help but notice the amazing atmosphere of the room.  In the pit, a myriad of converse plunged toward the ceiling as the younger fans faithfully breathed the words to every song while being passed along a sea of hands as if it was the last concert of their lives.  The rest of the crowd, almost all which were much older than myself, (some even bringing their own kids to share in the musical legacy) was completely drenched in positive vibes.  Throughout the entire show there was no division of band and crowd; it felt like a family had come together in the same place to share in something amazing and greater than themselves.  Ness spoke to the crowd casually but it never felt lengthy or put on, more like a friend you haven’t seen in a while, busting your balls and having a beer with you.  Despite playing since the 80’s and facing a host of trials and tribulations as a band, Social Distortion has not lost steam.  Giving it their all, the show was high energy from start to finish.  Time was of no concern that night, an hour and a half flew by like nothing, yet the group never once slowed down or compromised their sound, even playing four encore songs, ending the night with a great cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”  Every thing about this show was amazing – the band, their music, their live performance, skill, charisma and most of all the passion brought to the table that made this one of the best shows I’ve been to in a while.

Complete Set List:

    1. “Road Zombie” / “Bye Bye Baby”
    2. “Under My Thumb”
    3. “Bad Luck”
    4. “Don’t Drag Me Down”
    5. “The Creeps”
    6. “Another State Of Mind”
    7. “Mommy’s Little Monster”
    8. “Sick Boys”
    9. “Reach For The Sky”
    10. “Ball and Chain”
    11. “Highway 101”
    12. “Sometimes I Do”
    13. “Still Alive”


    1. “Prison Bound”
    2. “Nickels and Dimes”
    3. “Making Believe” (Jimmy Work cover)
    4. “Ring Of Fire” (Johnny Cash cover)

Bowling for Soup and the Dollyrots: A rock concert that doesn’t take itself so seriously. March 25, 2010

*Pictures coming soon*

On Wednesday March 10, 2010 Starland Ballroom was home to a night of pop punk delectability in the form of headliners Bowling for Soup and openers, The Dollyrots.  Having never seen or listened to either band in extensive detail, I made my way into the venue with both an open mind and open ears, hoping to bring a fresh perspective to both bands live performance.

Upon arrival, I sauntered into the bar area to take a seat and watch the remaining songs of the smaller openers and began to notice I was very much alone.  Quite noticeably, the entire crowd was well under 21 years of age, most not even being able to drive, as I sat amidst their younger siblings and parents who waited for them in the audience.  Finally it came time for the Dollyrots to take the stage.  This punk rock trio, formed for fun by members Kelly Ogden and Luis Cabezas, took the stage with a “devil may care” attitude and punk rock sound of their forefathers.  Looking much like a 2010 version of Joan Jett meets Nancy Spungen (a very befitting look as they cited Sid and Nancy as inspiration) minus the drug addiction; Kelly Ogden catapulted the band into their set, delivering catchy licks and sharp hooks that earned them my respect as a fan of the punk rock movement.  Musically, the Dollyrots were able to encapsulate their influences while bringing their own fresh sound to the table.  Unfortunately, despite my enjoyment of their set, I did notice that their style and influence was almost completely lost on the crowd.  Having done a cover of “Brand New Key” by Melanie Safka(popularized by the Janis Joplin cover), one could almost see the crowd’s eyes glaze over.  Being too young to appreciate the band and their music, I felt the group did not get the recognition they deserved that night.  Though I had never heard nor seen this group before, I absolutely enjoyed their energy, lack of seriousness about themselves, but also their tightness as a musical group, firing through the set with precision and ease, demonstrating their musical finesse while maintaining the illusion of a three chord Ramones skill.  Their sophomore album Because I’m Awesome was released on Jett’s own Blackheart Records and has gained the band some notoriety.

You may have already heard some music from the Dollyrots in this Kohl’s commercial.

Here’s the official video for “Brand New Key”

Upon departure the crowd began to get restless again, all that teen angst was mounting into excitement for the main act, Bowling for Soup.  A group from the larger than life state of Texas, I had heard many of their singles on the radio throughout the years and have painted a mental portrait of a pop punk group with less than life altering lyrics dedicated to the pursuit of fun.  In time, the television screen rolled up and the lights dimmed; the room stood silent in anticipation for just a moment when Bowling for Soup’s theme music began to blare through the house P.A. system.  Within seconds I realized the band had written their own entrance music with a catchy little chorus that repeated the hook, “here comes bowling for soup!”  I’ve been to a lot of concerts in my lifetime, but I must say, that would be the first time I have ever heard of a band writing a song for themselves, about themselves, just before hitting the stage.  While it wasn’t necessarily pretentious, I found it a little odd.  Within moments the band graces the audience with their presence, welcoming the crowd with their warmth and energy and seamlessly blasting into their set.  One downside however, the band took liberal amounts of time between songs to address the assembly of kids.  Often feeling more like an attempt at a comedy show than a rock concert, front man Jaret Reddick spoke in length to the congregation, making fun of himself and band members or simply creating long drawn out introductions for each upcoming track.  In all my experience, I have found this tends to make a show seem long and arduous to endure.  Just play the freaking music, that’s what we came for.

From the first chord to the last, the young audience moved in unison, fist pumping and making hackneyed attempts at crowd surfing.  Playing singles such as “Punk Rock 101,”  “My Wena,” and “High School Never Ends” one entire theme became clear to me- no matter how old the members of the band were, their lyrics never quite grew up.  Stuck in the epitome of the genre ‘pop punk’ it made complete sense that a large majority of the group’s fan base isn’t even old enough to vote.  What’s more is the band has the tight musicianship of seasoned professionals.  Playing their instruments with skill, even throwing in a few tricks, I noticed that the group overall was incredibly strong and had the talent to take their music to the next level; they simply choose not to.  Now, I’m not trying to say that this band was terrible live as their fans ate up every single second, but I feel that if the band does not grow up and evolve past their ‘pop punk roots’ utilizing all that musical talent, they simply will fade out once their fan base grows up.  It doesn’t all have to be drunken potty humor and high school romances.  So stop talking so much and start playing the type of music you’re capable of or the idea of longevity will simply remain as such.

By Angela Blasi


A.F.I. Comes to Life & of Age on the Road with Crash Love October 19, 2009

Filed under: Concert Reviews — NVMP @ 3:13 AM
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Review by The Atheist Angel

     On October 10th, 2009, A.F.I. returned to Sayreville’s own  “>Starland Ballroom with openers The Gallows as part of the Crash Love tour.  Considered by singer Havok to be, “their first truly timeless record” and critics citing it as their most focused and ambitious effort to date, the live performance held a lot of promise and expectation.  Naturally, in true A.F.I. fashion, not only was the crowd given an unforgettable performance complete with surprise guest appearances, but a sound so crisp and clean one can’t help but give respect in a time when so many artists depend on machines to give them their sound.

     As soon as the house lights dimmed on this chilly Saturday night, the crowd instantly burst into a unified cheer.  This was it- in one more moment each audiences members ears and eyes would be indulged in A.F.I. glory.  In what seemed like less than a minute, Adam, Hunter, Jade, and finally Davey Havok himself, stepped on stage and tore into their first song of the night, “Torch Song”.  Setting the precedent for the rest of the show, their high energy presence slipped seamlessly into a fan favorite, “Girl’s Not Grey”.  It wasn’t until after their third song Davey chose to address the crowd expressing in true sincerity, how great it was to be back in Jersey (and Jersey was beyond happy to have them back).  The band’s energy was matched by the crowd, as each song had hundreds of hands and fists in the air, all moving as one entity with each pound of the bass drum.  Even on slower numbers the audience lent their voices and lighters, or in this case cell phones, to create a show experience that neither the band nor the fans would soon forget.  But some of the highlights of the show came as complete surprises.  During “Kill Caustic”, Davey Havok announced his pleasure in bringing good friend Lou Koller of the band Sick of It All to join him on vocals.  The crowd instantly cheered while Havok and Koller tore the vocals apart, giving the song a new life appreciated by all.  The next jaw dropping moment, at least for this fan, came when A.F.I. decided to play the vinyl only release “Love Is A Many Splendored Thing”- proving that despite the years of evolution and change, this band absolutely is still true to their roots and does so with just as much punk rock enthusiasm now as they did then.

     At the end of “Love Like Winter”, the band graciously thanked the audience and departed off stage.  Now pitched in darkness, the walls of Starland Ballroom began to resonate with the familiar chant, “through our bleeding, we are one” over and over, slowly gaining voices and speed bringing the darkness to life as we all demanded more music.  Minutes later, the direct approach of “one more song!” saw the four veteran musicians return to the stage and tear into a brilliant cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven”.  Two more songs followed suit for this encore and when it came time for the band to say goodbye for real, every member of that audience was left in complete musical satisfaction. 

     No matter what your opinion of A.F.I.’s music might be, this is one band that stands and delivers with their live performance every time they grace a stage both visually and in sound quality.  If ever given the opportunity, this is a band I completely recommend seeing whenever they find themselves in your area.

Complete Set List
Torch Song
Girl’s Not Grey
The Leaving Song Pt. II
Veronica Sawyer Smokes
Ever And A Day
Kill Caustic
End Transmission
Love is a Many Splendored Thing
Beautiful Thieves
Dancing Through Sunday
The Leaving Song
On The Arrow
Death of Seasons
Love Like Winter

Just Like Heaven (The Cure cover)
Miss Murder
Silver and Cold