To explain the sound of Mischief Brew to someone who hasn’t heard them is akin to explaining the flavor of fine port to a brick. Equal parts Woody Guthrie, Ringling Brothers and Crass, the self-described, Philadelphia-based “carnivalesque punk rock” outfit dropped their most recent studio release, The Stone Operation, this past May via Fistolo Records. To celebrate its release, Mischief Brew played a spirited record release party at Philadelphia’s The Barbary with opening support from Philly locals Blood Bomber and Corrupt Justin.
Getting things started for the release party was the now-defunct Philadelphia hardcore punk quartet Blood Bomber, which featured Mischief Brew bassist Shawn St. Clair on guitar. Defined by pure aggression, Blood Bomber’s set was non-stop punk rock at break-neck speed. With tracks such as “Condescending Politicking,” “Outsider” and “Come Home to Roost,” the band’s set was proof enough—for the moment anyway—that punk isn’t dead.Bass lines from Blood Bomber.
Blood Bomber opens up their set at the Stone Operation release party.
Blood Bomber/Mischief Brew member Shawn St. Clair.
Following up with a more light-hearted yet equally intense set were West Chester, PA punkers Corrupt Justin, back from a near 13-year hiatus. Featuring Mischief Brew member Chris “Doc” Kulp on drums, Corrupt Justin featured raucous, nonsensical punk rock between bouts of extended crowd engagement by vocalist Kevin (that’s it, his last name is secret—maybe because he’s a high school music teacher, which admitted to the crowd during one of those bouts). Banging out tracks such as “Psycho Babble,” “Pipe Wrench” and “Radioactive Big Macs,” Corrupt Justin’s playfully cocky approach to punk was a welcome counterpart to Blood Bomber’s heavy vibe.
Corrupt Justin vocalist Kevin charging the crowd.
Kevin and Josh of Corrupt Justin.
Finally taking the stage, the Erik Petersen-fronted Mischief Brew opened their highly anticipated set with “Stuff’s Weird,” a standout track from The Stone Operation that boasts a mellow sound coupled with an emotional refrain of “stuff’s weird between you and I” backed by a crashing drum section. From there, they brought out crowd favorites such as “A Liquor Never Brewed” and “Citizen’s Drive” from Smash the Windows, a fitting rendition of Boiling Breakfast Early’s “Labor Day Massacre, and plenty of tracks from The Stone Operation.
Standouts from the latter release include the carnivalesque “Three Chord Circus,” the latin-infused electric folk track “Dallas In Romania,” and “A Lawless World,” a hardcore punk departure from Mischief Brew’s otherwise balanced folk-punk.
Erik Petersen of Mischief Brew gets things started for the band’s set.
The resulting sound from the set list was spastic to say the least, going from sentimental folk-rock with a punk edge to hardcore punk with a folk twang without warning. Doc Kulp’s Xylophone plinked along conspicuously amidst an intermittently blurting trumpet as Petersen and the rest of the band hammered out strong, rhythmic tracks at impressive speed. At one point, it seemed as if the circus had come to town, and we were at its punk rock after party. Perhaps that happened when the fiddle, played by Tom Swafford of Seattle celtic punk outfit Meisce, entered the scene to perform a special rendition of “Roll Me Through the Gates of Hell.”Petersen belts out a tune while fans sing along.
Doc on xylophone and guitar.
Taking a break.
The eclectic nature of Mischief’s Brew’s music seems to extend itself into all facets of the group, right down to the fans themselves. Throughout the show, crust punks moshed and danced with 17-year-old kids wearing Phillies-inspired “ill” hats and Nikes. Hippie chicks sang along just as loud as any one of the abundant Mohawk Suzies in the crowd while 30 and 40-somethings watched on from the sidelines exuding a distinct aura of mirth.
It all seems to come down to that, anyway. Mirth. That’s the crux of Mischief Brew’s world—their live shows, their music, their aesthetic. Fun. Unpretentious, uproarious, hellraising fun. Remember that?
St. Clair on bass duty for Mischief Brew.
Christopher Petersen on drums.
Check out a video of Mischief Brew’s performance, courtesy of West Chester Rock City, below:
All photos by Nick Vadala.