In the underrated city of Pittsburgh, Pa. a legendary weekend occurred that will forever go down in history as one of the most valuable nights for obscure punk rock fans everywhere.
A pioneer punk band from the 1980s who helped spearhead the scene got back together for one legendary weekend of chaos and goddamn down and gritty punk rock! They’re known as Carsickness.
If you already know who this band is, then you’re already cool AF in my book. This is a punk band that was doing things in the scene that were considered outrageous at the time—playing shows that coincided with peculiar multi-media/interactive art events, considering throwing beer and spitting on each other as a compliment, and getting an entire room to shout at the top of their lungs “fuck you!” Nowadays you wouldn’t even consider it a punk show without these features.
There was the punk rock scene in the 1980s that everyone knows about with The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Blondie, etc., but seriously, everyone knows about that. If there were any royalty to the underground punk rock scene of the 1980s, though, it would be Carsickness.
Originally comprised of Karl Mullen (guitar/vocals), Steve Sciulli (synthesizer/ miscellany), Dennis Childers (drums), and later added Chris Koenigsberg (bass), Dan Roelich (saxophone), and Hans Werner (guitar/ keyboards). They all not only contributed to the sound that defined a generation of misfits and rebels, but also provided the winds of change that helped morph Pittsburgh into the art and cultural hub it is today.
On April 21 & 22, Carsickness got together for the first time in over three decades to do what they do best—cause mayhem!
April 21 at Space Gallery, coinciding with Non-Punk Pittsburgh, Carsickness played their record release show with The Full Counts and Nox Boys. The spacious gallery filled with pictures of the old school punk scene from the ‘80s was packed shoulder to shoulder, especially once Carsickness took the stage.
It began with Blawnox, Pa. natives Nox Boys—fronted by youngster Zach Keim. Though these guys are new to the game (excluding Bob Powers on guitar, who is also a Pittsburgh punk pioneer), they’re already pros at putting on a show. Their sound is high in energy, with melodic riffs and catchy lyrics that somehow take you back to the days of true blue rock’n’roll (even though most of the band wasn’t even a twinkle in someone’s eye back then). They’re able to capture an essence of rock that many bands these days desperately try to achieve.
Next up were The Full Counts, another band comprised of musicians who have been around in the bustling underground music scene of Pittsburgh, Pa. Fronted by Eric Vermillion, who has been in several other garage rock bands since the ‘80s and is already around 40 records deep in the game, the band is filled with full-bodied guitar riffs and lyrics that are reminiscent of early ‘90s grunge. The talents of these music pioneers combined creates an explosion of a rock’n’roll show, generating a wave of badassery that hits everyone in the crowd like a tsunami.
When Carsickness took the stage everyone came rushing. The original members were set up ready to play, in front of photos of themselves 20 years ago also set up ready to play. It was a beautifully bizarre spectacle for anyone to lay eyes on. The opened with their classic crowd pleaser “Bill Wilkinson,” which is a song about a KKK imperial wizard—it’s a favorite because the chorus requires everyone to scream “Fuck You!” to the KKK. The audience was shoulder-to-shoulder with not only original Carsickness fans from the scene in the ‘80s, but also new punk kids with mohawks and leather jackets—all of whom were either just blossoming into fans at that very moment, or were somehow extra cool, had already discovered Carsickness, and couldn’t believe that they were seeing them live in the flesh playing hits that exploded into such a punk staple.
Their sound is difficult to capture with words only—it embraces an ideology of spreading justice and shining light on how messed up our world is. It’s crazy how these songs were written back in the ‘80s, yet remain as relevant as ever. To really capture the band’s essence, you’ll just have to experience the pandemonium yourself. Get your record here and/or listen to it on Get Hip Recordings Bandcamp.
Nox Boys and Carsickness played an additional show the next night at the infamous punk rock bar Gooski’s, where they used to play all the time back in the day. This night was even grittier than the night before because this establishment has been able to hold onto its state of graffiti and punk rock paraphernalia as if it were a time capsule. A smoky bar with the most intimidating looking bartenders (who are actually the sweetest people you’ll ever order a drink from), the show was again packed—one woman in her 50s even staged-dived, proving age is just a number.
All in all, this weekend was a historical event for music history, and if it taught anyone anything, it’s that punk rock is not dead—it’s actually alive and thriving and will never die.