two years later

This is another nostalgic post. What’s happening to me? Yesterday marked the two year anniversary of my old band’s first and only record. By total coincidence (which is why I felt compelled to write this post), I also I met my good friend and former Counter Riot cohort, Anthony, for beers and catching up yesterday. This was necessary as we both now live pretty far apart, and he’s busy these days building and repairing guitars, while I barely have enough time to do my laundry.

I smashed the TV myself.

I could probably write pages and pages about being in this band, but I’ll try to restrict the rambling. To sum up what we did in a phrase would be this: totally uncompromising. We were loud. Like really loud. We had more gear between three people than bands with 5 or 6 members. And it was big, boutique (read: heavy), expensive gear. There were literally no shortcuts taken in Counter Riot. We recorded an album in a real studio with a real producer, and it took a lot of time. In this era of bedroom recordings and plug-ins that can doctor every facet of digital audio, we were pretty old-fashioned by comparison.

However, the band was completely unsustainable. We burned bridges, were banned from playing certain venues, frequently had other bands not want to share bills with us, and generally polarized anyone we ever dealt with. Beyond that, we never found our audience. We jammed a lot, but were too aggressive for the jam band and festival scene. Our music had a lot of rock and punk elements, but we couldn’t seem to fit in with the club circuit. Above all else, nobody really seemed to care about what we were trying to do (although that’s pretty common with regards to playing original music, and speaks to the difficulty in generating interest from the Philly local music scene in general). As musicians, we should always be doing what we do for ourselves, but it’s easy to get burnt out without seeing too many external results, particularly when you take the aforementioned “no shortcuts” route. Not to say that there weren’t mild successes: regional touring, nationwide radio airplay, and a very small faction of militantly devoted fans certainly helped.

In the end, it was great to be in a band that did exactly what it wanted to do, with real integrity, and I’m incredibly proud of the record we made. I haven’t listened to it in a while, as I usually don’t revisit projects, but the two year anniversary of its release gives me reason to check it out again.

Also, while searching for an image to add to this post, I found this. I thought it was kinda hilarious to be “officially removed.”

9 thoughts on “two years later

    • Of course, you have unfinished business there. I would recommend calling them to make a reservation, although you may have to leave a message.

  1. I think it was one of the last shows you guys played at the Pick in Phoenixville, no joke, one of the best live performances I’ve ever seen.
    I’ve gotten into friend’s cars and your cd was playing. You guys were too good, and I know a lot of people who are glad you made the music that you did.

  2. Thanks, Susan and Dan, for your comments. You were both part of the “militantly devoted” group that I mentioned, and your support was incredibly valuable. I didn’t mean to start a pity party when I said that nobody seemed to care. As I wrote earlier, I could ramble on and on about this band, the ups and downs, but wanted to keep it brief. The “nobody cared” comment was really a reflection on the burnout that the band felt as a whole, and speaks to a larger problem of putting everything you’ve got (time, money, etc.) into a single project without seeing progress, and in fact, sometimes seeing regress. I know that both of you are genuine in liking the band, and it feels good to know that people still listen and care(d).

  3. Brendan, you guys rocked and took no prisoners. Bens drumming was just insane..animated, hard, timed, perfect. Still love the sound and sad it didn’t catch on in the area. We still listen to the record all the time…LOUD, VERY LOUD as it should be listened to. We do miss coming out to see ya’ll play. Best of luck in your endeavors.

    • Thanks for your words. Part of what propels a band to success is not only great tunes, but making music at a time that resonates with an audience. I truly believe that Counter Riot existed at the wrong time (though I don’t know what that time would be). And I don’t base this on what’s popular or not, because sometimes it takes something so different to shake things up (ex: Nirvana as a reaction to everyone being exhausted with hair metal). What I mean is a band that comes along who is perfect fit for the time, attitude, and place. This is something that is beyond anyone’s control, and part of what makes it so difficult to find success.

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