West Side Punks: Day One

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Punk band Eel plays to a full house during West Side Punks Connect in Cleveland. Photo by Billy Ludt/The Jambar.

West Side Punks Connect is a three-day punk festival held in Lakewood, Ohio.

The opening set for the West Side Punks this year was a band by the name of Fat Vegan. A vocalist with the stage name Richard Rotisserie fronts the band.

Rotisserie was clad in a white T-shirt written on with black marker. The shirt read “It’s not Adam and Eve, it’s Tofu and Steve.”

“Who wants some meat?” Rotisserie asked before Fat Vegan’s set began.

In his hand was an uncut slab of salami. A girl from within the crowd approached Rotisserie, took a bite of the salami, and then the music began.

It was not long before this hunk of meat was thrown into the crowd, along with two full pots of spaghetti and assorted cold cuts.

After 15 minutes of throwing food and loud, fast music, the set ended. Rotisserie told the crowd that there are starving children in Africa.

“We’re selling tapes and stuff,” Rotisserie said. “If you guys even think we’re good.”

West Side Punks kicked off its three-day festival in the venue Now That’s Class located on Detroit Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio.

The self-described dive bar is host to many bands of a similar musical style. Many punk, metal and alternative bands are accommodated within Now That’s Class’ walls.

The entire set list for the evening was Fat Vegan, Cretins, Party Plates, Moron, Eel, Blood Pressure, Mongoloid and headlining the evening was Iron Lung.

Following Fat Vegan’s set was Cretins, a hardcore punk band from Richmond, Virginia.

Cretins made the seven-and-a-half hour drive to Lakewood to play a 20-minute set. They are a four-piece band fronted by vocalist Jack Strickland.

“The crowd’s great,” Strickland said. “Couldn’t ask for anything else.”

The evening was comprised mostly of 15-20 minute sets from each band. Stages alternated between bar side and the actual show space.

The first band to play the show space was Party Plates from Cleveland. The metal-punk band’s members go by the aliases Roder (vocals), Paul (guitar), Skeletor (bass) and Pat (drums).

Roder spent the majority of their set taunting and interacting with the crowd. He wrapped the microphone cord around his neck, was pulled into the crowd and continued to slam into people.

The next set in the show space was split between Blood Pressure and Eel. The two bands hail from Pittsburgh and share a bassist.

A constant drone of feedback filled the show space well before Eel’s set began and it continued through their set.

The vocalist for Eel used a total of two microphones to perform. He often handed off one to a crowd member to use.

After their first song, Eel’s vocalist found a knit stocking cap and pulled it over his entire head. He ripped a hole for his mouth and right eye then began to play again. This continued on for several songs, and then the hat was thrown into the crowd.

The remainder of evening occurred in a similar fashion.

Bands playing bar side had to be wary of crowd members diving from the bar counter. Sets played in the show space were riddled with crowd surfing, thrown bodies and slam dancing.

The day came to a close with a set from the Seattle-based band Iron Lung, finishing the night with a power and intensity that would come to be a staple of the event’s musicians.