Monday, September 8, 2014

The Dead Milkmen @ Laurel Hill Cemetery - Philadelphia, PA 09/05/14

I had the strangest and most wonderful conversations the other night.

Chris: "What are you doing Friday?"

Me: "Nothing, Why?"

Chris: "Want to see The Dead Milkmen play a concert in a cemetery?"

The first time that I had heard of The Dead Milkmen it was 1986 and I was in 11th grade.  A friend of mine was in my Chemistry class and he sat at the lab table behind me.  I had known him since 7th grade.  We played against each other in Baseball and we hung out occasionally.  We were, for the most part, normal kids.  One day he showed up to class with a spiked Mohawk, A yellow Dead Milkmen T-shirt, and yellow tie-dyed jeans.  We were floored.  It was as if none of us actually knew him.  We had no idea that he was going to do this.  And who were the Dead Milkmen?  Why was he wearing their shirt?  Did they do this to him???

I was intrigued enough to pick up their 'Big Lizard in My Backyard' album.  This is what I heard.

It was hysterical!  It was punk and it was quirky and fun.  They poked fun at the same things that me and my friends did but in a way that was much funnier.  They had cool names like Rodney Anonymous, Joe Jack Talcum, Dean Clean, and Dave Blood.  These guys were pure geniuses and I fell in love with them.  By the end of 11th grade another friend of mine managed to ace an American Lit final by using lyrics from Bitchin' Camaro.  Even our teacher liked them.  When I graduated in 1988 they were heavy rotation on MTV with the hit 'Punk Rock Girl'.  Their time had come and now they were a national name.

Sadly, as time comes and goes, I never had the chance to see them live.  They broke up in 1995.  They did reunite in 2004 to play a benefit for Dave Blood after he had committed suicide.  In 2008 they had gotten back together with new bassist Dan Stevens and started releasing new music.  They have always been a part of my concert bucket list but for some reason it never seemed like they were playing locally.  This is even more odd as they are a Philadelphia band and I live just outside of Philly.

When I was asked if I wanted to go my answer was, "Fuck Yes".  I couldn't believe they were playing Philly and to top it off it was going to be in a cemetery!!!

Laurel Hill Cemetery is a National Historic Landmark and was the second major rural cemetery in the U.S.A.  It sits on 74 acres overlooking the Schuylkill River.  It was founded in 1836 and there rests congressmen, writers, revolutionary war soldiers, Civil War General George Meade, and Philadelphia Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas.  It is filled with elaborate tombstones, tombs, and mausoleums.  This was going to be awesome. 

It was a hectic day and there was a threat of rain all day.  By the afternoon it looked as though the sky would be clear and the concert would be a go.  I finished worked, said goodnight to my kids, grabbed a bite to eat and off I was.  I was picking up a friend and meeting more of his friends. What a way to see a favorite band, meeting new friends that like the same thing.  We grabbed a case of beer and we were on our way.

The drive down was great.  The car was full of excitement and the conversation was about Punk.  We talked about the Dead Milkmen, The Descendants, and Black Flag.  The conversation was so good I didn't even realize that we were there.

One of my passengers had a prosthetic leg and also a handicap placard so were pulled up about 30 yards from what would be tonight's stage, a mausoleum. 

We arrived halfway through the opening act, which was S.T.A.R.W.O.O.D..  We wanted to get situated quickly so that we could see the rest of their set.  In front of the mausoleum was a steep hill.  Amongst the tombstones were about 1,000 concert goers on blankets and chairs.  Directly in front of the band were fans dancing and standing.  We saw an open spot at the top of the hill in front of a stone wall.  That was our spot. We made our way up, I grabbed a beer, and opened my chair.  My seat was courtesy of Ursula.

We were settled on the Hammer family plot.  What time is it?

The sun was setting and we sat down and had a wonderful view for S.T.A.R.W.O.O.D.

Besides the great view I had this beauty sitting next to me.

I was unfamiliar with S.T.A.R.W.O.O.D. before this show.  S.T.A.R.W.O.O.D (Sociopathic Time Altering Robot Warrior Of Organic Design) are form Philly via Planet Vitrus.  They come from the future with their Propaganda Performance module mission to bring us their Cyber Glam Art Rock.  It was spacey and trippy with a touch of erotica.  It was very fitting for this venue.  Before they left us with the instructions of, "Do not pee on non republic gravestones". 

It was time for The Dead Milkmen.  They set up and came out without disappointing with the very appropriate cover 'Bela Lugosi's Dead'

This was like a dream come true.  They sounded incredible.  They went from 'Bela Lugosi's Dead' right into 'Punk Rock Girl'.  The urge came over me to go right up front.  I moved my way up to find a small mosh of punks minding their own business behind the crowd gathered in front of the stage.   It was almost like it was 1988 again.

Not only did they sound great, they still looked great.  The energy was there like they were trying to rise the dead. They started banging out classic after classic like 'Tiny Town' and ' Beach Party Vietnam'

Then came the moment of the night for me.  'Bitchin' Camaro'.  This song has always been a classic.  With it's improvisational beginning I could not wait to here what they would do.  I captured what I could before my phone ran out of space.

It cut out before the funniest part.  Rodney pointed out that there were Confederate soldiers buried there and this was probably their worst nightmare.  A concert mocking the very thing that they fought for.  He added that if he could hold a same sex, interracial marriage on their grave right now he would.  Classic!

As the show went on and they belted out more of their classic catalog, including 'Stuart' a teaser of 'Taking Bela Lugosi to the Zoo', we sat back and really enjoyed the night.  The clouds cleared out.  The music was great.  The company was great.  We drank good beer, talked about old times and good music.  It was definitely a night the would live in our memories forever.  As they encored with 'Filet of Sole' we realized it was almost over.  It was kind of sad.  I had waited for so long to see this and the setting was so perfect that we didn't want it to end.

After the show we started back and realized that the band was packing up their own equipment and talking to their fans.

We approached Rodney.  He was looking for his wife.  He was telling us how he and his wife come to the cemetery all of the time.  He was kind enough not only to talk to us but to also sign an autograph for me and pose in a selfie.

I made my way to Dean and Joe.  They were both kind enough to sign as well.  Joe saw my New Order 'Concert' shirt and commented that that was the most generic concert shirt he has ever seen.  We both got a good chuckle before I thanked him and headed back to the car.

There was so much energy in the car on the way home it was unbelievable.  The night was perfect and surreal all at the same time.  We talked about the show and listened to The Ramones and the Buzzcocks, who were also playing in Philly that night.  I had a great experience and made new friends.  Music did its job that night.  It did exactly what it was supposed to do.

See you at the next show!



  1. Freakin' Brilliant review , with the help of a freakin' great performance and setting to boot !

    1. Thank you Randy. It was incredible finally getting to see these guys. I think you would have enjoyed this one. I would love to see them again!!!


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