It could have been a classic punk merch convention, seeing how fans of The Dead Milkmen were decked out for White Eagle Hall on Saturday night. Their threadbare cow tees were a living museum of band history as the Jersey City venue filled up for the circa-83 Philly punk/indie rock outfit. In the meantime, everyone enjoyed a loud and sequin-worthy opening set from Gibbous Moon. This groovy three-piece is known as a supergroup in the Philly area, having been involved with dozens of other area bands over the years. As Noelle Felipe brought strong vocals and hefty basslines, husband guitarist Mauro Felipe supplied extra vocals and jagged riffs. With the seasoned drumming of Michael Mosley, their hazy-heavy sound got NJ dancing early.
Eclectic bills often work, but it was a weird pivot from Philly psych rock into Oakland “nerdcore” rap. LA’s MC Lars – who wore a jumbo Legend of Zelda game cartridge on a chain – aimed to please. His self-described “post-punk laptop rap meets lit-hop,” however, had NJ punks reacting awkwardly to the cheese. One moment did restore some eye contact with those who’d been staring at their shoes: when the frontman of the headliner hopped up and started rapping too. The Dead Milkmen’s Rodney Linderman authenticated the strange sandwiched set with his fun presence, and then it suddenly felt like a party.
Inciting an unending barrage of audience participation, The Dead Milkmen matched the song order from other recent dates with the opening trio of “Dean’s Dream,” “Serrated Edge,” and “Methodist Coloring Book.” Their catchy flavor of fucked-up, satirical indie rock was expertly brewed by guitarist/vocalist Joe Genaro (“Joe Jack Talcum”), vocalist/keyboardist Rodney Linderman (“Rodney Anonymous”), drummer Dean Sabatino (“Dean Clean”), and bassist Dan Stevens. After a supercharged “Nutrition,” a momentary scare ensued when the not-even-moshy pit somehow swallowed up a fan. Linderman asked, “Whoever went down in the pit, are you okay? You okay? Okay, because if they were unconscious, I would come down…” His concerned face turned back into a grin once it was clear that person was safe. “Alright, in that case, I have one word of medical advice for you,” and right then, they dove into “The Thing That Only Eats Hippies.”
Across genres, it’s getting tiresome how the biggest hits tend to close out most setlists, so it was awesome to see The Dead Milkmen shirk that norm. The energetic now-uncle-y punks were coolly unafraid to burn through some of their best-known songs – “If You Love Somebody, Set Them on Fire,” “Bitchin’ Camaro,” and “Punk Rock Girl” – dead in the middle of the set, with more than a dozen songs still coming. Between those flames and cars, Linderman riffed, “I’d like to thank the state of New Jersey, which is my second-favorite state in America.” He then prompted a round of applause for all those who “got fat during the apocalypse,” bemoaning the irony of a fattening cataclysm. This cracked up the happy crowd, who were clearly enjoying each other’s shoutalong lyric-camaraderie too. They kept flipping for Linderman, who still has a kickass knack for sing-screaming, sounding vocally in control when he yells right into the mic. As they continued to crank out old favorites, it was refreshing to see so many unmasked fans feeling relaxed after the band’s vax card check at entry. They were really cutting loose as The Dead Milkmen’s Philly-snarky words and caffeinated sound boomed around the room.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley