If sweat is any measure of success, the sold-out Dec. 11 Modern Baseball show at the TLA and W.C. Lindsay's packed-tight Monday-night house party at the Michael Jordan House in Mantua were big successes.
Cheerleader's gig at Johnny Brenda's on Saturday will be equally jammed, like every show featuring Steady Hands, Wild Rompit, Migraine Boy, Psychic Teen, Trackjackets, the Best Westerns, Hit It Sideways, Pitter Patter, the Really Cooks, and many other bands in the Drexel-area punk-rock scene.
What unites these many bands - diverse in their sounds, often with shared membership - is that each comes from Drexel University, and their audiences teem with Drexel students.
It's a genuine scene, led by the critical success of Modern Baseball, a band that offers smart lyrics, power-punk, and releases like 2013's Split EP with the Hundred Acre Woods and this year's album You're Gonna Miss It All.
"I'm so excited for MoBo's success," says Cheerleader and Wild Rompit musician Paul Impellizeri. "They show commitment to fans by spending most of the year on the road and every waking hour doing what they need to do to take their music to another level." Impellizeri, Will Lindsay, and members of Steady Hands and Darla were backstage at TLA, and joined Modern Baseball for the set's last song: "That moment really gave us perspective on just how much of an impact our music community has made."
Sean Huber is a 2013 Drexel graduate (film major) who drums with Modern Baseball, plays guitar for the folk-punkish Steady Hands, and sings with both bands. "MoBo and S-Hands have been incredibly fortunate the last two years," he says. Modern Baseball's exposure and networking, he says, have helped Steady Hands a great deal. "But busily touring with MoBo has hindered S-Hands from being as active as possible, so it evens out," he adds. "Lots of people find S-Hands because they enjoy MoBo, but it's a different style, so it's up to them if they become a fan of both." Steady Hands sold out of hard copies of their 2013 release The Libertines, so it looks like Huber's MoBo fans took a shine to Huber's music, which is, in his words, "pretty but with a punch."
Huber notes that "our little community is incestuous." Musicians switch, double, trade, and variously commingle across many Drexel bands. "We just love each other's music," he says. Other Steady Hands members play in W.C. Lindsay, Darla, and Wild Rompit. "When I started Steady Hands, I aimed for it to be a celebration of the talented musicians I call my friends, and that's what we're going to do."
Will Lindsay, the front man of W.C. Lindsay and its brand of electro-hop, says the crossover among bands strengthens the sense of camaraderie. "And camaraderie drives the whole scene," he says. "We're all best friends, and that fuels all of our creativity."
Like other participants in the Drexel scene, Lindsay, his trio's bassist George Legatos, and drummer Richie Straub were part of the university's music industry major. Lindsay and Legatos graduated in 2014, Straub will graduate in 2015. They first met in the classroom. "W.C. Lindsay started out as my solo project," says Will Lindsay, "and George and Richie joined in 2011 to build up the live aesthetic.
"There really aren't West Philly venues, the bar scene isn't for us, neither are frat parties," Impellizeri says. A 2013 Drexel grad with a degree in entertainment and arts management with a concentration in performing arts, he's the bassist for Cheerleader and a multi-instrumentalist for Wild Rompit.
"Students convert basements or living rooms into venues, or we rent old houses in Mantua and do our thing at Michael Jordan House, Rathouse, Rock Bottom, and Moonbase," Impellizeri says. "Golden Tea has also been huge in the development of the West Philly punk scene." These houses are inexpensive, very close to campus, and "sometimes dangerous," he says. But they always offer a good, and loud, time: "We wanted to hear original music and play really loud for each other."
The beauty of house shows, Lindsay says, doesn't concern artistic cohesiveness: "It can be about just putting together a sick show for the sake of doing it."
Cohesion would be hard. Impellizeri is in two really different bands. Cheerleader has a shoegaze-synth pop sound, as heard on its recent EP On Your Side. But Wild Rompit has a boldly energetic indie-rock vibe.
"The genres that have come from Drexel range from funk with Darla, hip-hop from Quags, chip-tune electro from Kill3r Whale, pop-rock from Plainview, and electro-hop from my brothers in W.C. Lindsay," says Huber, who has lived with Lindsay and has the band's name tattooed on his body. "They're going to play my wedding and my funeral," he says with a laugh.
Impellizeri says the Drexel vibe starts with punk ("the most popular genre") and heads into other genres.
"It's a defined state of mind," he says, "that if you were going to school for this, you were going to commit to really going all in and you were going to support each other doing it."