As a recovering poster child of Late-90s Teen Angst, I dedicated a fair share of my high school and early college days to dark, modern punk rock records. My dedication, for the most part, fell to Chicago-based punk band Alkaline Trio and its catalog of raw, eerie tunes about afterlives, coffins, radios and pain.
I’ve grown up now, and my days of surviving on loud music whose main thread is death and dark imagery have been throttled by adulthood and a growing gravitation to bare bones sounds. Those old punk mixed CDs and MP3s are stored away on shelves and old iPods and only surface on occasion, when the mood is just right (typically on a long, solo cross-state trek).
And just as my days of Teen Angst have waned, it seems that “punk” may have done some growing up, too — it’s at least become comfortable going unplugged.
This week, two of modern punk’s most recognizable names, Dan Andriano (Alkaline Trio) and Chuck Ragan (Hot Water Music) are hitting Austin, but you won’t find them on the rough stage of old Emo’s. Andriano and Ragan are going back to basics, kicking off the fifth installment of The Revival Tour with some solo singer-songwriter and folk showcases.
This isn’t the first time Andriano and Ragan have joined forces on a project that puts punk rock into a new perspective. In 2002, Alkaline Trio and Hot Water Music released a self-titled split EP, featuring a rare look into seven songs, including previously unreleased tracks and covers. On the album, you’ll catch Alkaline Trio’s polished cover of Hot Water Music’s anthem “Rooftops” and Hot Water Music’s gritty take on Alkaline Trio-penned “Radio” and “Bleeder.”
Now Andriano and Ragan have successful solo careers outside of the punk rock bands that shaped their personas. But don’t let the words “folk” and “singer-songwriter” fool you into thinking that they’ve left “punk” at the door. The same elements that defined the sounds of Alkaline Trio and Hot Water Music can still be uncovered in their newer work: It's just evolved into a sound that's less dependent on electric instruments and big drums.
If you’ve seen Alkaline Trio live, you’ll recall at least a few instances of guitar-only spotlight songs performed by Andriano. In 2011, he released Hurricane Season, an effort of his solo project, Dan Andriano In The Emergency Room.
Hurricane Season is heartfelt and refined: a set of songs that are more demure and polished than anything Alkaline Trio put out before 2005. Tracks like “It’s Gonna Rain All Day” and “Say Say Say” can feel a bit folky, but in the right way. If you’re pining for Alkaline Trio’s sound, settle into “From This Oil Can.” It’s quiet, raw and has plenty of signature stark imagery.
Chuck Ragan’s solo project definitely maintains a closer connection to his punk roots, all offset by a heavy dose of country influence. Gold Country, Ragan’s 2009 solo release, feels familiar: Ragan’s rough vocals are loud, the song structure the same.
Instead of screams and electric guitar, he fills these quick choruses with lots of fiddle, rhythm guitar and female harmony. Gold Country is an album for warm afternoons and whiskey.
With The Revival Tour — spearheaded by Ragan in 2008 — Andriano, Ragan and a host of other influential punk players take the stage as a unit set up more like a country ensemble than a hard-hitting three-piece punk band. What The Revival Tour creates is an evolved experience: A way to unplug — remove some of the noise — and get back to the bare bones basics of the song.
Revival Tour kicks off its fifth year with several SXSW performances before Sunday. Ragan and Andriano will be joined by Cory Branan, Nathanial Rateliff, Audra Mae and Tim Barry at the Austin Convention Center on Friday afternoon for a one-hour showcase.
Chuck Ragan can also be seen solo Saturday night at Cedar Street during the Lucero Family Picnic Showcase. Dan Andriano takes the stage for his solo showcase just prior to that at Dirty Dog Bar at 10 p.m. on Saturday.