There is a Halloween concert this Saturday in Lansdale, returning for the fifth year in a row.
That’s half a decade.
It is at the Lansdale VFW Post 32 on West Second Street at 6:30. The show is all ages, with 21 and up allowed to drink.
There’s a costume contest, natch, with a prize.
The Facebook event page has 99 attending guests.
But here’s the treat – Nine bands. Five bucks.
The Graveyard Smash, as it’s called, began as a Halloween-oriented house party at an old farmhouse in Pipersville. In recent years, it was moved to Third and Walnut in Lansdale.
Each year, the bill grows a little more in size. Each year, a new scene appears at the show.
Each year, the same man is behind it.
One Wednesday evening finds North Wales native and local concert promoter Derek K. Calhoun relaxing in his office in Lansdale.
It is a time when Calhoun is in his moment – there’s an iPod blasting Aerosmith, Nirvana and 311 from an amp and he’s focused on talking about one of his favorite subjects: shows and the local scene.
As NPH Booking, he is two days away from opening the doors on his biggest show yet, at a venue with a lot of history.
“Third and Walnut was cool, and Mike (Ricciardi) was great. But we wanted to do an all ages show this year,” Calhoun said. “We are doing it at the VFW, where we’ve been doing all the Lansdale shows recently.”
The reason is a constant. With the ever-changing bills each year, and the evolving scene, one thing has remained the same.
“You’ve got to include the kids,” he said.
The Graveyard Smash has become something for those in the know to look forward to every year on Halloween.
“It’s to have a good time,” said Calhoun. “It’s for whoever wants to show up.”
... Here we are now, entertain us ...
Like every year, Calhoun sets up the lineup for the show.
This year, he said, it’s chock full of bands out on the scene, who are consistently making something pump through those amplifiers.
“I’ve got this band from Ohio coming called Yesterday’s Youth, a hardcore band. It’s cool. They’ve gotten good publicity,” he said.
As for the rest of the lineup, let Calhoun explain in his own words.
“There’s Combat Crisis, who is from Philly. They’re a punk band. They’re awesome, and they play all over the place. It’s cool to have them come back up here since they played in February,” he said.
“Oh God,” he said, “there’s so many bands.”
Stoked On Being Pumped is on the bill, a punk-hardcore band from Phoenixville.
“I love them,” he said. “They’ve played up here a couple times.”
Animalhaus is expected to end the night. They are also a hardcore band from Phoenixville.
“They are really putting it down. They are getting a real good reaction from people,” said Calhoun.
Calhoun isn’t just a promoter; he’s also a percussionist and vocalist in local band Rough Justice. On Halloween, Rough Justice dons its annual costume.
“Rough Justice is playing as Epic Titties,” he said. “It’s something we do every year.”
In the last four years, Calhoun had about two instances where people have come and asked to play the show.
Yet with evolution comes adaptation.
“This year, I did it so far in advance that it’s been on peoples’ radar long enough that they have been asking to play the show,” he said. “I haven’t done that in years past, so this year, I had the whole lineup set up by the beginning of September.”
Even after the solid lineup, more bands were coming to Calhoun to get on the bill.
“I’d love to have them all play,” he said, “but nine is crazy. I’ve never done a show with nine bands before.”
There was once upon a time in Lansdale history where clubs, bars and other venues like the Lansdale VFW refused to sponsor concerts.
“Kids will be kids,” Calhoun said. “Stuff got out of control and people decided they didn’t want to deal with it anymore.”
So, Calhoun took the initiative: he went out and shook some hands.
“I went in (to the VFW), fresh face, shook hands, and that was two or three years ago,” he said. “Ever since then, I’ve been putting on shows consistently.”
If you want to do a show in Lansdale, Calhoun’s your man.
“I needed to be motivated in doing stuff. I sat back on it for a while. Even if I wasn’t calling these bands, somebody else is going to do it and I’ll be there to help them,” he said.
... The kids are alright ...
It isn’t so much inspiration that drives Calhoun’s motivation as it is dedication to the scene.
Calhoun, 30 and a newlywed, has lived here all his life. He has welcomed the influence from local bands he followed coming up as a teenager in the 1990s and into his 20s in Lansdale.
If the Lansdale scene had a music guru – an atlas for angst – it’s Calhoun. This is his American dream.
“It’s the scene, if that makes sense,” he said of his influence that propels him to make shows like The Graveyard Smash a microcosmic success.
“That’s everybody’s local thing that goes on around them that they put into. Whether it’s going to a show, setting up a show, playing at a show, it’s your local scene,” he said. “I’ve always been into the concept of our local scene, the local scene. Lansdale’s always had so much good stuff come over the years, and bands supporting bands. I was always influenced by that.”
In contrast to his youth, Calhoun finds that the scene exists, but it’s not as evident as it has been at times in the past.
“The kids aren’t really coming out in droves, and its’ either because they are not in the know – we are older people, and I don’t know who information circulates to through the Net, but I assume that everybody has access to it – or they are not into it,” he said.
Take the band The Wonder Years. They started their thing in high school, so all their peers knew about them.
“It was the kids’ thing. It wasn’t anybody else’s thing. And they are a huge band now, and they’ve had the kids ever since then,” he said.
Switch Hitter and L.M.I. are the first bands Calhoun has heard in a long time that are actually from Lansdale and making it as a band.
“There was more of a commitment years ago,” he said.
That’s not to say there aren’t teens jamming in basements and putting on shows elsewhere.
“What I see is the people that are out there and actually playing. There’s a big thing there with being motivated and taking an initiative and getting out there and doing it so people know what is going on,” he said.
... Where do we go? Where do we go now? Where do we go? ...
The way a scene grows and blossoms begins with the people setting up shows. Then, bands play and people in the audience get inspired to start their own bands. And it grows and evolves and changes.
“That’s how music happens,” he said.
Perhaps there’s another subtle constant out there, at least on the Lansdale front. It was mentioned earlier in this article, and that’s the Lansdale VFW.
Many big bands have come through the VFW in the last decade and Calhoun is all about reviving that essence.
“CDC is from Lansdale and they are doing stuff all over the world. They’ve played there many times,” he said. “Ladder Devils have played there. Full of Hell played in August. They are a crazy, crusty, grindy, noisy, heavy band and they are making waves.”
What it came down to was there are just too many to name.
“It’s been really pleasant,” he said, nonchalantly.
The future of the scene and of NPH Booking depends on that constant – the kids.
“This is an outlet for them, still,” he said.
If there could be liner notes to the anthology of local Lansdale music, it would be this: shows aren’t just shows where sweat, screams, $10 T-shirts, cold beer, flailing bodies and sample CDs are the illustrated atmosphere. Shows are family.
“Once you get into the scene, that’s your thing. You’re always going to have that family,” he said. “The scene is what you want to make it.”
And some choose to make it just deathcore, just metalcore – one thing, one style, one audience. It’s segregation.
You can’t be nuclear and extended at the same time. Not with this family.
“If you are bringing different bands onto a bill, and every band is doing something different, then different people are into them,” he said. “You must bring the people together.”
Where do I plug in?
Contact NPH Booking for a Lansdale show at firstname.lastname@example.org.