My sister and I survived our jaunt to Philly to see Lucius (barely, no thanks to a car that didn’t want to start and, once it finally got started, the worst rain/hailstorm I’ve ever had the displeasure of driving through), so after a scant five hours of sleep, I got to do it all over again. This time, my buddy Robin accompanied me. Robin and I go WAY back…like to 1986 (or was it ’87? It was so damned long ago, I can’t even count) when we were in kindergarten. We went to different middle and high schools and lost track of each other for a while, but we reconnected a few years ago thanks to the wonders of social media. She’s a hardcore music lover and concert-goer with a seriously broad range of musical interests. We’d been wanting to go to a show together for a while but could never quite get our schedules coordinated. So when she told me she’d bought a ticket to see Skinny Lister too, I was ecstatic. From all accounts, it was gonna be a fun show and I was so glad to share the experience with a good friend.
Skinny Lister is one of those bands that I found because of another band. The full story is a post for another day, but I’m quite a big fan of Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, and all the bands on the bill for last Sunday’s show at Milkboy – Skinny Lister, Beans on Toast and Will Varley – opened for them on their most recent tour of Europe. I’d heard really good things about all three of them and even though I wasn’t really familiar with their music, based on the glowing reviews and the fact that they were playing at an awesome little venue, I couldn’t not go.
So after spending an awesome afternoon with Robin, record shopping, eating at an English chip shop, and just catching up, we made our way back to the city. Milkboy is actually a bar/restaurant on the main floor with a music hall upstairs. But its dimensions are what make it so different – it’s narrow. Like, maybe fifteen feet across, if that. So it’s like watching a concert in a looooong, dark tunnel. And the stage is low, so (short girl problems again) being close to the stage is kind of necessity if you want to see anything. Luckily, even though we were kind of far back in the queue, a friend I’d made through Frank Turner’s shows, Wendy, had already staked out a spot at the front, so we just fell in behind her. And thus were in the perfect spot to witness all the craziness that would follow.
Will and Beans (aka Jay) were awesome, each doing their sets with nothing more than an acoustic guitar, their voices and their wits. Both are hilarious, smart Englishmen singing politically- and socially-minded songs with a sardonic twinkle in their eyes. At one point, Will even joined Beans to rap…about littering. Yes. Littering. It was just as funny and odd as you can imagine.
The main act didn’t keep us waiting long. Another awesome thing about Milkboy – there is no backstage area, so the band has to walk through the crowd to get to the stage. And because there was a sell-out crowd packed cheek-to-jowl in such a small space, we heard rather than saw when they started making their way towards us; there was a slow wave of cheering and applause that started in the back of the room and rippled and swelled until it reached us at the front.
If there was ever a band that looked how their music sounds, it would be Skinny Lister. The music is traditional, almost Celtic folk with an edge, so seeing greaser hair, buttoned-up polo shirts with full-sleeve tattoos, and sexy, heeled Mary Jane shoes worn with ankle socks was totally unsurprising. But what blew me away was their cocksure attitude. They were loud, they were brash, they looked like they were having the time of their fucking lives up there, which of course meant that we the audience did too. And let me tell you, I’ve been to a lot of concerts, but this was far and away the most fun I’ve ever had at one. It was one big shanty singalong (albeit one I couldn’t participate in because I knew none of the lyrics!). Lorna, the incredibly dynamic vocalist, passed around a flagon (filled with some assuredly high-proof liquid) at the start of the show that was (eventually) returned empty; Michael, the bassist, used me as the launch point for his crowdsurf WITH HIS UPRIGHT (sorry for grabbing your ass, Mike, it was either that or drop you); Lorna jumped into the crowd at one point and do-si-do’ed with as many people as possible; some guy named Mule screamed about a guy named John Kanaka (TOO RYE AYE!) in my face.
By the end of what was surely the quickest hour and a half of my life, I was elated and exhausted, drenched in sweat with my makeup running down my face, my hands, feet and throat sore from clapping, stomping and screaming. Robin and I briefly got separated in the surging mass of frenzied punks but, with a few exceptions, we were both amazed at how polite the crowd was for being nearly out of their minds with excitement (and heavily intoxicated). Unfortunately, because we’re both working individuals and it was a Sunday night, we had to leave soon after the show ended, but I’ve no doubt that if we’d lingered, we would have been able to thank the band in person for showing us such a good time – they seem like the sort to make themselves accessible to their fans. So instead we told ourselves we’d do it all over again when they come back to town this fall…only next time, we’d know the words.