Two weeks ago, the celebrated Canadian high punk trio Metz (not a play on the baseball team) played a sold-out show at Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium (a play on the ballpark), and if the nomenclature was purely serendipitous, it still felt like an event meant to happen. Bassist Chris Slorach came out in a paper mache Mr. Met helmet. You had the usual Metz followers—shout out to the Mosh King in the blue hat—along with the chain-smoking kids in leather jackets that seem to grow out of Shea’s dance floor like asparagus. The mosh pit almost took out a wooden pillar holding up the ceiling. Per frontman Alex Edkins’ request, fallen bodies were promptly lifted, and I’ll be damned if he didn’t thank us all for showing up. But was there anything better to do on a Tuesday?
Shea Stadium, East Williamsburg’s finest all-ages DIY venue going on four years, wasn’t supposed to be so. Adam Reich, Shea’s co-founder and a current guitarist for Titus Andronicus (Titus members often work the door), told me that they intended the space as a recording studio first.
“I always wanted to have shows, and I wanted to record shows and keep an archive of them,” said Reich. “But I thought it would be more of a recording studio that would be supplemented by shows.”
Since 2011, the website liveatsheastadium.com has operated as a best-of archive of live performances, with full sets from the likes of Future Islands, Oberhofer, and Screaming Females. Reich told me they’re inspired by the bootlegs he grew up listening to—quality wise, they sit somewhere between blasted-out YouTube recordings and more polished Tiny Desk concerts.
“That’s a lost art,” said Reich. “Sonically painting the picture. It’s like listening to a baseball game on the radio. You know its context, but you can make your own picture. It was always a big thing that was driving this archive project. I wanted a way to paint the picture for people who weren’t there, and I think Shea Stadium Records is going to be a vehicle for getting a lot of that music out there.”
And so it comes to Blowout, Shea Stadium Records’ debut release from Shea co-founders and native Brooklyn punks The So So Glos, whose previous album and EP were also produced by Reich but released on the Warner subsidiary Green Owl.
If Shea Stadium’s just four years old, Blowout’s been a long time coming. Two singles were released over a year ago: “Lost Weekend,” and the cheeky anthem “Son of an American” (The So So Glos hail from Bay Ridge, which boasts among the highest amount of lawn flags of all Brooklyn neighborhoods. And a lovely still from Saturday Night Fever is posted to the bar at Shea, in honor of the end of the R line). But the ten other tracks on Blowout have been completed for a year as well. Why the wait?
“It was about doing it responsibly,” Reich told me. “One of the issues that the band and I had with Green Owl was that there was this sense of rushing. Things just weren’t as well thought out. We made an effort this time around to make sure that we had things in their right place before the album got released.”
At last Monday’s sold-out record release show, it seemed the waiting was worth it. An all-ages mosh pit (“rock ‘n’ roll’s for the kids,” says Reich) lost plenty of water weight dancing to sides A and B straight through. After side A, frontman Alex Levine solicited the crowd—“What are the reviews so far?” Well.
If you need to categorize the record itself (you don’t), just call it damn good rock ‘n’ roll. The So So Glos are decidedly punk in form and function, but most tracks on Blowout are laced with juicy melodies you won’t hear on a Pissed Jeans album. Oi ois are replaced with ooohs and aahs. The track “Xanax,” as an indie pop gem, might be the farthest departure from their mean—Levine does his cleanest singing over a dreamy Darlene Love sample, and if the title’s not enough of a giveaway, the song just feels good. More often, the vocals lean toward a hip-hop cadence (noted: guitarist Matt Elkin put down some riffs over Wu Tang songs during their set-up like he’s done it before). “Wrecking Ball,” a slam on senselessness circa 2001 (“Raised in a country—demolition company/ See that plane fly like a missile in the sky”), is appropriately rapped. But harmonicas, piano riffs and glockenspiels pump most of the songs into happy territory—“Dizzy,” a bookending round-the-campfire track (“Yo DJ spin me round!”), ends a euphoric album on a euphoric note.
And the album sounds surprisingly clean—they recorded in Philadelphia with Kyle Johnson at Fancy Time Studio—though live energy’s still at the heart of it. Either way, Shea Stadium Records cedes all ownership of the music to the band, so there’s little concern of tampering with or disabling their tracks. I asked Reich if that’s how a typical label works.
“We don’t function in the ways that a typical anything works,” he said. And that’s no lie.
[Photo: Maverick Inman]