For the better part of the 1990's, the Lehigh Valley Pennsylvania punk rock scene was alive and thriving. On any given Friday and/or Saturday night, there was a killer pop punk show happening at one of several local venues. As the deceade wore on, many of the venues started shuttering their doors, bands began disbanding, the sense of family at shows was fizzling. . .in other words, our hometown scene mirrored what was going on with punk rock on the national level.
During the time that scene was alive and well, however, there were certain bands you could always count on to put on a fantastic show. Digger, Plow United, Grieving Eucalyptus
, Nooner, The Heartdrops
, and countless others. The undisputed kings of the scene, however, were Weston
and to a lesser extent, Walter Krug.
This past Saturday night, Secret Art Space on Bethlehem's South Side hosted those last two bands in a show that embodied all the positive elements of the Lehigh Valley punk scene back in those golden years.
The venue is a non-descript basement with the only entrance being from a back alley. There are no markings of any kind to let you know where to enter (shows are not technically legally allowed to be held there, so advertising is pretty taboo), but word of mouth advertising (something independent music scenes are quite good at) has gotten the word out enough that people in the know can find it pretty easily. Even though it is nothing more than a basement, the addition of comfy couches and strings of lights hanging from the ceiling transform the space from a cold concrete box to something really special. There isn't technically a stage, only a specified area for the bands to set up. I've always loved this format because the "we're the band, we're up here, you're the fans, you're down there" wall is smashed to pieces.
After two outstanding opening acts, Walter Krug took the stage. Their set consisted largely of material from their final demo tape, their F.O.E. Records single (both of which are available for free download in their entirity here
) and the split E.P. they released with The Slap Happies (which was to become their last release while active). Many of the songs were given a slowing-down treatment, succesfully proving that Walter Krug was just as influenced by Pavement and The Pixies as they were The Mr. T Experience or The Queers. The band made sure to point out (several times) that they had only one practice for the show, but in spite of this, they sounded together enough, and the looseness gave their sound the kind of charm expected from a show of this nature.
The Weston lineup that took the stage was basically the Matinee
on out lineup (this time with a new drummer). The song selection, however, was strictly early material, drawing mostly from A Real Life Story of Teenage Rebellion
("Just Like Kurt", "Little Mile", "Mr. Lazo", "Two"), with a few songs from Got Beat Up
("New Shirt/Heather Lewis", "Just Like You") and one track from their early E.P.s ("Elephant").
If you are thinking that great music isn't still happening here in eastern Pennsylvania Weston and Walter Krug (and by extension, the Lehigh Valley punk scene)'s ability to be insanely spastic, explosively rocking, incredibly funny and inspire a general sense of unity proved that it is still there, you simply need to know where to go to find it.