by Wheaton Hop
As you may or may not have noticed, I’ve been on another long haul Wheaton Hop hiatus, a social media sabbatical, I guess you could say. I was absolutely certain this corner of my world had become as forgotten and far away as that overdue Blockbuster DVD under the passenger seat of your mom’s Hyundai.
But then…. Mother’s Day 2023 happened. And I have to say, in my 21 years of motherhood, it was the best one yet! It awoke a ridiculously happy beast in me (albeit one with two hands) so I just had to dust off the keyboard cobwebs and share with y’all. It’s super long and not my usual schtick but definitely a reminder of what a great community this is and hopefully an inspiration for us to keep local scenes alive and share them as far and wide as possible. It’s a reminder to myself of all the joy and energy out there for us and who couldn’t use a little more of that?
So, Mom’s Day. Did I get flowers, candy, breakfast in bed? Fuck no. What I got was better than all the roses and chocolate you could throw a pair of Chuck’s at. I got a punk rock show! So, I’m here to tell you a story about good times, good tunes, good people, and the little punk rock scene that could. In this tale, the cast of characters ranges from legendary veterans to the current guard of pop punk powerhouses to what I truly hope will become one of your new favorite bands.
It all started a few days prior to the show when I was reminded that Kepi Ghoulie would be at the cozy and fabulously dive-y Geno’s Rock Club in Portland, Maine on Mother’s Day. Man. I was convinced there would be no way I could make it work, what with it being a Sunday night and an almost 3 hour round trip drive. (With my ongoing concussion issues blahblahblah, I couldn’t drive that far on my own without it being a complete disaster). So, I approached my newly minted 21 year old with the greatest idea ever!
With the biggest grin and bounciest cheer, I exclaimed “Hey! You know what would be an awesome Mother’s Day gift?” Kid says, “Uhhh, mow the lawn, clean the house…” Um, yeah, no. Don’t be foolish. “You can drive me to the Kepi Ghoulie show!” As his shoulders slumped and a tortured sigh was expelled, he replied “Fine. But I’ll just drop you off and go hang out somewhere else.” Little did he know that he was about to have a great night. With his mom. Magic.
We arrived at Geno’s with the bar to the right and the merch table to the left. The kid made a beeline to the bar; I headed over to check out the goods. Lo and behold, there stood 2 of the coolest creatures known to punk, Kepi and BFace. I had met and chatted with BFace at shows before, so I sauntered over to say hello to him. As I begin to utter a hello, SWOOSH! In front of me swoops one of the most beautifully boisterous and infectiously kind souls in rock. Suddenly, standing in front of me, arms outstretched, Kepi pulled me in for a giant, delicious hug. I had never met Kepi before but his energy was so natural, it felt like I had known him forever. This is what I am talking about, kids! This is what makes this rock and roll community of ours so incredible. We’re all friends here. We all love to love punk rock and Kepi is the quintessential guardian of punk rock joy. Thanks, man.
Another great merch table moment was witnessing a Kepi fan approach him to exclaim their own excitement at discovering Kepi’s music and what it meant to them. They vibrated with so much happiness and appreciation meeting Kepi, it was really rad to see. I watched as both Kepi and BFace took the time to talk to them and graciously draw their art and names on the battle jacket of an obviously overjoyed new friend. I took it all in and smiled at the thought that they just made someone’s night, week, damn…. their year. Positive energy everywhere. Yes!
At one point in the evening, I headed back to my kid at the bar. I noticed Kurt Baker had walked in and was standing next to him. After a hug and quick catch up with Kurt, I introduced him to my son. Now, this was great! They shake hands and my curmudgeonly, not a fan of punk rock child beamingly remarks to Kurt, “I listened to you ALL the time when I was a kid. I was a huge fan!” I’m gushing with pride, people!! Gushing! It was awesome. Don’t you dare tell my child, but when Kurt and I headed outside for some “fresh” air, I let him in on a little secret. Not only was my child a huge Kurt Baker fan, he once stated quite firmly, “Kurt Baker is better than Ramones, any day!” Now, that’s up for raucous debate: Ramones v. Baker, but I later learned that the encounter made my kid beyond psyched and he was suddenly ok with being at a punk show. With his mom. Keep hope alive! Now, on to the show! (Finally, you say. You’re welcome, haha)
It was, thankfully, an early door time and we arrived shortly before 7:30 when the first act was about to take the stage. Dan Blakeslee (Doctor Gasp) warmed us up with a more folksy, jangly ghoulrock set that got feet tapping and delivered clever lines that elicited a few chuckles to set the spooktacular mood for what was to become a rock show to remember. Yeah, it was going to be a fun time. I was excited for the rest of the night to begin.
But, I’d now like to introduce you to a band I can’t get enough of these days. Maybe you’ve heard them and I am just oblivious and late to the game. I hadn’t heard them prior to seeing the flyer for the show and I have to say that “How the hell did I miss these guys? Where have they been all this time (Portland, Maine. Duh)? was a constant muttering as I set out on a mission and listened to everything I could find online. I’m talking, of course, about The Gubs. And you should all be checking them out right now! You will not be sorry you took my advice. I guarantee it.
The trio of Portlandites effortlessly and tightly hit us all with a sound that harkens back to that late 90s Lookout era, complete with a nasally vocal style and attitude blended with an undeniably hard hitting and formidable kick ass Ramonescore energy. With song titles like Church Of John Tesh, You Tased My Heart (about getting tased by your girlfriend in the Applebee’s parking lot!), My Baby’s On Bath Salts, and Passed Out At The Punk Show, you knew you were in for a treat. They brought the crowd together and gave us a reminder of where it all began and where we can go in punk. As much as their sound pays obvious and deserved homage to days of yore, The Gubs are fresh. The Gubs are relevant. The Gubs will show you a good time. They had the crowd singing and dancing along, and didn’t miss a beat. They bantered easily and played fast, loud and catchy songs you’re bound to get stuck in your head. Even my kid who has tried to say he wasn’t a punk fan, said the song titles got his attention and made him smile enough to take notice. Priceless.
And finally, it was time for Kepi Ghoulie. We all love Kepi and the Groovie Ghoulies, that goes without saying. And as much as Kepi has always been one of my most favorite go to happy places, I had somehow never seen him perform live. We’ve all been fortunate to catch his Saturday live feeds online and he was certainly a daily dose of what we all needed to get us through Covid Times. But, I was beyond thrilled to finally see him perform and plugged in to boot. And disappoint, he most certainly did not.
Kepi, BFace, and Atom Bomb hit the stage and delivered a fast, fun, and unforgettable performance. I challenge you to find a more inviting artist and performer than Kepi. He kept us in smiles with his famously warm and charming conversation and rocked our asses off with a litany of classic Ghoulie tunes in addition to covers you can find on his latest release, Full Moon Forever. I was immediately intoxicated by the good vibes and familiar songs and my heart flew. It’s indescribable, really, how comfortable and full of life a Kepi Ghoulie set can feel. It’s an adventure you have to experience.
I sang, I danced, threw my fist in the air, the whole deal. I soaked it all in and lost myself in the love of memorable songs like but not limited to Vampire Girl, Beast With 5 Hands, She Gets All The Girls, and one of my all time faves, I Wanna Have Fun as well as amazing renditions of Needles and Pins, The Cure’s The Perfect Girl, and Happy When It Rains by Jesus and Mary Chain.
Sadly, after about 45 minutes of blistering euphoria, just as they were about to lead into Super Model, this old brain addled Mom was suddenly overcome with a bout of vertigo and had to head out or it woulda been this gal passed out at the punk show. My heart was shattered and I was absolutely gutted to find out later that Kurt Baker had joined them onstage and we missed it. I would have loved to have shared that moment with my son who hadn’t seen Kurt play live since a summer day show about 13 years ago. But, I’ll take what I can get.
As regrettable as it was to have to jet early and for the first time EVER, not be able to muster the energy to grab some merch I was eyeing, it was an amazing night and I will never, ever, ever forget it. I can always get the merch later and continue to support the people who have the power to bring magic and joy to our lives. More importantly, I got to share this fantastic scene and people with a kid as great as my own. I raised him right and, in part, I owe a big thanks to punk rock and all of you for that. Lastly, I have to give another thanks to Kepi for bringing a band as phenomenal as The Gubs into my life. And I am happy beyond words (and if you hadn’t noticed, I have a lot of words) to bring them into yours. Happy Mother’s Day, indeed.
Love ya and miss ya, Dummies!
~Wheaton Hop Out.