On Friday November 21, 924 Gilman (Berkeley’s famous punk rock mecca) was filled to the brim — fans of (nearly) all ages came out for Walter Mitty and his Makeshift Orchestra, Somos, Crying, Knuckle Puck, and Modern Baseball. It was reassuring to see that their first proper Californian-headlining stint (after two previous West Coast tours) turned out to be quite the success here in the East Bay.
According to hometown fans who came up for the show, San Luis Obispo, California’s Walter Mitty and his Makeshift Orchestra made it to the venue just in time, bringing a cavalcade of Cal Poly students up with them for their five date run. With an even mix of kazoo-sported classics such as “Otterpops in the Icebox” and “101 N” in addition to new jams from their Lauren Records debut Well Soon (2014) like “Holy Cannoli” and “Caterpillar,” the Makeshift Orchestra had Gilman bouncing and dancing, ready for the touring leg of the bill to come.
After spending the entire day recording live sessions in Pittsburg, CA’s Nu-Tone Studios with Scott Goodrich of The Restless Hearts, Somos captivated the crowd with their pop-punk/emo inspired hooks and confessional lyrics from Temple of Plenty (Tiny Engines Records, 2014). The band kept the room alive with a few dedicated crowd surfers climbing up to sing along every verse, including their lesser known “Letters From An Absent Future” off their recent split with Sorority Noise via Bad Timing Records.
At various points in the set, singer and bassist Michael Fiorentino had to step back in juvenile awe at the size of the crowd, remarking it this was beyond anything they had genuinely expected, this being their first time in California and at Gilman no less. He went on to thank the crowd for their support, remarking that drummer Evan Deges was the only Californian native in the band. In fact, Deges’ mom was right by the stage to correct Fiorentino when the frontman stumbled to remember the name of Deges’ town of origin: Santa Rosa.
From there, the show took an interesting, unexpected turn. Purchase, NY’s chiptune-pop trio Crying probably had the most intense ‘push pits’ of any of the bands that evening, surprising anyone who underestimated their name and upbeat Game Boy/guitar paired samples. Crying themselves have gained a lot of attraction over the last few months. After releasing Get Olde/Second Wind (Run For Cover, 2014), a reissue of songs off their first EP and then some, the act as been seen all over the web including sites such as Pitchfork and AbsolutePunk, including a longlist nomination for NPR’s Best Albums of 2014.
Despite some technical issues with the microphone volume Friday night, singer Elaiza Santos had the crowd stirring to the melodic command of her voice paired with guitarist Ryan Galloway’s matched guitar/Game Boy sample melodies. Crying brought the energy up the most of any other act and managed to sustain it throughout the entire set; this buzz lasted the rest of the show.
In a whirlwind of excitement, Chicago’s Knuckle Puck followed, sending the crowd in the immediate front of the stage into an almost dangerous frenzy and causing others to step back and make space throughout the set. While this was Knuckle Puck’s fourth time in the bay this year, the crowd was no less enthralled during their new live debuts of songs like “Bedford Falls” and “Oak Street” off their latest EP, While I Stay Secluded (Bad Timing Records, 2014).
The band has really grown since their first tour out here — they played with Neck Deep back in March in Walnut Creek — and are proving to be one of the largest breakout bands in the scene, all without having a proper label or full-length record behind them. Expect some amazing things from these guys in 2015.
Finally, act of the night Modern Baseball came on, playing through about a fifteen-song set, full of crowd favorites from both Sports (2012) and You’re Gonna Miss It All (2014).
For a band of this size, it’s sometimes easy to forget that they’re mostly still seniors in college, especially as they orchestrate louder-than-life sing-alongs with a diverse crowd thousands of miles from home. This must have been their most lively show in the Bay Area this year. While their opening slots, supporting The Wonder Years in both March in Oakland and October in Santa Cruz, were energetic, neither compared to the enthusiasm shared by the band and crowd at Gilman that evening.
The band rolled through “Fine, Great” and “Tears Over Beers,” while still featuring their less-often-played tracks, such as “Going To Bed Now” and “Charlie Black.” Impressively, the crowd’s vocal participation remained about the same for all of these songs. Before coming to an end, the band cracked their usual jokes with movie references, bars of Brand New’s “The Quiet Things That No One Knows,” and a full band faux jam of Papa Roach’s “Last Resort” before ending with “The Weekend” and “You’re Gonna Miss It All.”
Shortly after the show I caught up with Zack Zarrillo, of Bad Timing Records and Knuckle Puck/Modern Baseball management group Synergy, who flew out from Philly to witness the west coast portion of the tour and very first Gilman show. He remarked upon entering with the bands: “I am not punk enough to be here right now.”
With that in mind, and after leaving this show deaf in both ears, with questionable bruises and even more questionable sweat from other members of the crowd, the performers onstage that night were definitely “punk enough.”
Article by Atreyue Ryken
Photos by Penelope Leggett