TVD Live: Breakin’
Even Fest 2: Night One
at Songbyrd, 5/5

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The first night of DC’s second Breakin’ Even Festival at Songbyrd looked well on its way to success Friday, making back its costs, gathering like-minded fans of melodic punk, and getting the bands all intermingling as well.

It began with a set by Flowerbomb, a Northern Virginia band led by the tiny Rachel Kline. In another era her guitar-led tunes may have been part of folk set, but she’s been supercharged by her band of Nat Brown, Dan Abh, and Charles Schneider into some dynamic tunes. In their first performance since January, they seemed stoked to be back on stage.

What would have been a fest started by two female-led bands instead led to a very different sound from the Baltimore band Dead End Lane. Lead singer Erin Demise is taking time from the band and won’t be back until the fall, so it fell to Mitch Nelson of the Gaithersburg band Brace Face to fill in. Demise’s vocals are usually aggressive, but Nelson’s aggro-rock was way over the top and the whole band in black sleeveless Ts was a little more bro-tastic than Dead End Lane may have ever intended.

Breakin’ Even is the brainchild of the band American Television (who were slated for Saturday). But they curated the festival with bands they knew, worked with or otherwise liked. So they got the longtime trio Dot Dash into the mix, with straight ahead and smart driving rock led by Terry Banks. The trio is also a kind of equipment showcase, with Bennett playing a baby blue Vox teardrop guitar and bassist Hunter Bennett rocking a rare, super-heavy 8-string electric bass that tended to dominate the sound. Drummer Danny Ingram managed with the drum set the first three bands were sharing. Named after a Wire song, Dot Dash, which is next opening for Richard Lloyd at the Black Cat June 1, had its last album—its fifth—released by an outfit in Ottawa.

Canada was the home also of the band with the biggest impact of the nigh—Pkew Pkew Pkew from Toronto. Though they had played DC only once before, a big portion of the crowd seemed to know its fast and funny anthems about mid-20s skateboarders, ordering pizza, and reaction to apartment neighbors who ask them to turn down the music (“Asshole Pandemic”). Like “TV Party”-era Black Flag, the simple lyrics are all meant to be sung-along. There is a preponderance of whoa-whoa in their choruses. Still, there is some twisted logic to their anthems (“We are gettin’ drunk before we go out drinkin’”), and their fun-loving energy even ignited some mosh pit action for a while.

By the time the headlining band the Sidekicks from Columbus came on to close the first evening, Steve Ciolek with his high voice had a bunch of new songs they’re about to record for Epitaph. But even then a few in the crowd were still echoing the previous act by yelling “Let’s Order a Pizza!” Maybe they were just hungry – it was, after all, a long night of music.

The fest roster Saturday had More AM than FM, Teen Death, American Television, Aspiga, Boardroom Heroes, Jonah Lee, Worriers and Restorations. Organizers were going to wait until the end of the weekend to decide on next year’s plans. But again, things looked good.

PKEW PKEW PKEW

THE SIDEKICKS

DOT DASH

DEAD END LANE

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