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Milwaukee’s ‘Punx Give Thanx, Again!’ Benefit Offers Punk for a Cause

Nov. 15, 2016
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In times of political upheaval, the punk rock scene serves as a much-needed source of community for those who feel disaffected from the status quo. Punk rock doesn’t only speak to the vulnerable. At its finest, it seeks to provide tangible resources for those that need them the most. And, as the incoming Donald Trump administration sets up shop in Washington, D.C., there is little doubt that punk rock will have much work to do.

It is this current climate that makes events like Punx Give Thanx, Again!, a benefit concert on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at Frank’s Power Plant, so important. In addition to collecting food for the Milwaukee Hunger Task Force, event organizers will also be collecting coats and donations for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe/Dakota Access Pipeline Donation Fund. All proceeds from the door will support this worthwhile cause.                 

Thankfully, Punx Give Thanx, Again! organizers have put together a bill worthy of these vital causes. On the bill are Assault and Battery, Population Control and Bad Grades. All three bands are stellar, but the latter act are quickly making a name for themselves. While it doesn’t hurt that Bad Grades members Shane Hochstetler and Nathan Lilley did time in local legends Call Me Lightning, Bad Grades’ version of old-school thrash, as heard on such tracks as “Whatja Doo,” more than stands on its own. Such songs harken back to an era when “crossover” wasn’t a dirty word.

Explaining the origins of Bad Grades, Hochstetler notes that, “I originally just wanted to write punk/thrash songs for myself. I was a total metal kid growing up. I just planned on it being a studio project where I play everything.” But old partnerships die hard, and Hochstetler found himself sending his demos to Lilley. “He’s my all-time favorite singer,” notes Hochstetler, “and I’ve been a fan of his lyrics from long before we were in bands together.” Lilley liked the early recordings so much that he suggested the two of them start a new band. “I honestly even thought of putting it into band form,” admits Hochstetler, “but as soon as he said it, the seed was planted.”

Since recruiting other noted Milwaukee scenesters to round out the band’s lineup, including guitarists Nick Elert (Northless) and Mike Gamm (Population Control) and bassist Chris Ortiz (Volcanoes), Hochstetler has been busy coming up with new songs; he claims to have “147 new riffs/ideas” ready to go. Lilley is currently finishing up the vocals for the band’s first LP, which should be released in early 2017. And will the band tour on this release? “We’re not trying to grind away playing the game and getting our name out there the way past bands did,” says Hochstetler. “We’re open to touring if something comes our way, as long as it’s something we want to do, but we’re not hustling for it. This is all for us.”

Thankfully, though, the band is more than happy to give back and play benefit shows. Commenting on why he’s excited to play Punx Give Thanx, Again!, Hochstetler concludes that “It’s for a great cause, and it’ll be a great night with friends.” Such a simple statement reminds us why punk rock remains relevant—now more than ever.

Frank’s Power Plant hosts the Punx Give Thanx, Again! benefit on Wednesday, Nov. 23 at 9:30 p.m. Cover is $10 or $5 with a canned food or coat donation.

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