Our New Writer ‘Stephen King’ and A Recollection Of A Christmas Time House Show.
It’s mid December and my band Trigger Happy are set to play out last show of the year. As we walk through the door, my ears perk to the sounds of laughter and The Melvins belting out some sludge from a record player somewhere unseen.
The living room is packed with drums, amps, a pinball machine, a three-tap Kegerator, and more Punks and smiles than I can take in. My eyes catch the familiar face of Chessie and The Kittens front man Jimmy Trump, as he slips through the crowd to give me a hug. Jimmy’s humility has always impressed me, despite being a phenomenal guitarist and vocalist, theres never an ounce of ego or vanity, which is well represented in his lyrical and vocal talents. Quickly he is joined by his drummer and sharer of this humble Punk abode, Donnie Schwerdtfeger, who is the human equivalent to Animal from the muppets.
When we first shared the stage with Chessie and The Kittens in 2013, Donnie was the first element of the band to really impress me, as he plays a left-handed four piece with the ferocity of ten Bengal Tigers on meth. Jimmy did some back-up vocal work, but mostly played his Fender with a strange passion that was entrancing. I approached them after words to tell them I appreciated their raw sound and to hopefully book a show with them again, that in fact happened a few months later at their local watering hole Coyote Joe’s.
Soon after arriving we learned that their lead singer had bailed on the show and that they were just gonna jam as a three piece on some instrumentals. I offered to join them, so we ended up blasting through some Weezer and Ramones covers. It was seamless, their ability to improvise a thunderous performance from the ashes of what could have been written off show.
Mason Cramer, bassist for the band, was tuning his acoustic for his side project Cowabunga Breakfast to open this evenings festivities. Cramers soft crooning vocals and sentient lyrics have always enthralled me, and I was shocked to see how good he had become playing bass with the band. We returned downstairs as Mason opened the show with his incredible tunes to a clapping crowd, eager for original music.
Electricity sparked the air as he strummed out his last few chords, and announced that hometown heroes Chessie and The Kittens would be taking the stage. The crowd hurries to grab a beer as Jimmy and fellow guitarist Kurt Moore tune up their Fenders. Kurt is sporting the same as me, a ’72 Telecaster Custom, and a grin covers my face as I notice the Big Muff pedals on both their decks.
This band encapsulates so many different Indie sounds into a cacophony of beauty which is their own. Twenty seconds into the first song ‘Butterteeth’, the crowd is moving to the infectious groove these sonic magicians have created, as Jimmy wails through the wall of fuzz with a gruff voice so earnest and true. You can see the built up angst spew out in every chord from the guitars and beat that Donnie slams into the room on his dilapidated kit.
The Punk kids dance in perfect time as the band speeds up into their second song ‘Engelbert Humperdink’, this Pixies-esque number makes even the most modest feet like my own tap. The crowd flows with them on a wave of energy and sweat, this is the true Punk essence that I craved in my youth, no promoter, no bar owner, no ticket sakes, just a house full of disenfranchised millennials here to celebrate their friends birthday and the holidays with their favourite local band.
Chessie and The Kittens embody in their sound the battle cry for the misfit weirdo. In a town dominated by lifted trucks and bro-country, their Indie Rock genius shines through. As their set progresses, they continue to build the energy in the house with great tracks like the heavy ‘Sun War Ship’ and trancy ‘Clines Eyeball’. Audience members jump on the makeshift stage with cameras as Jimmy shreds and epic solo driven by delay and squealin feedback from his head unit. He takes off his axe and lays it against his cab while the bands speeds up into a tornado of heavy drums and raucious guitar.
With the concentration of a mad scientist, Jimmy manipulates the knobs on his pedals to modulate the insane warble of feedback while Kurt slams his mini Korg synth along to Mason and Donnies sick groove. The show ends in a chaos of noise as Jimmy announces the next band.
My mouth gapes at the act we have to follow. The band leaves the stage kings of their own castle. This Killer Whale in the muddy puddle town in central PA glean with potential that the whole world might one day take off their hats too. In the meantime, they have created an underground oasis in the desolate musical wasteland that is their home.
They draw from such influences as Modest Mouse, Fugazi, and The Pixies, yet so many other Funk and Blues factors come into the mix. Their newest release, Live And Probably Alive Too, is a live EP recorded at Rock Falls Park last September. It captures the soul with the bands innate ability to flow through songs with ease. I will be proud to share the stage with this epic act in the future.
You can find both bands via the links below:
- Chessie and The Kittens: Facebook – bandcamp.
- Trigger Happy: Facebook – bandcamp.
- For our article on Stephen’s band, Trigger Happy, Click Here.