IT ALL started with a flyer.
Last year, when Crazy Bag Lady booked a 28-day tour, vocalist Josh Sterno realized the band needed an additional logo on the bottom of their tour poster.
“We’d always wanted to book good shows,” explains Crazy Bag Lady drummer Daniel Lynch. “At that point, we’d booked that whole tour ourselves, we decided, ‘I think we can do this and make it worthwhile.’”
Looking to incorporate both of their names, [Da]niel and [Jo]sh created Dad Joke: a booking collective of sorts specializing in bringing up-and-coming punk, garage, dark electro, and varying forms of rock to the Lowcountry. Joe Kapcin of the band Miguel Moure, who booked a good deal of shows while living in Portland, Oregon, joined the team later on.
Don’t call it a business, and don’t call them professional, but the trio’s got a certain kind of punk finesse to the art of booking that’s allowed them to introduce Savannah to awesome new bands. After a year of shows, they’re gearing up for their biggest production yet: Dad Joke’s Punk Mess, a two-day festival spread out over Dollhouse Productions and The Jinx featuring the best in Southeast and Savannah punk and garage.
“We wanted to have the aesthetic of a DIY thing, but have the shows be really solid,” Lynch says of the Dad Joke business model.
It shows, from collage-style design choices for flyers to the lo-fi recordings and often bare-boned Bandcamp pages of the bands they book.
“Every time we have a show, and it’s a Dad Joke show, it’s going to be really solid,” confirms Lynch. “Nothing’s going to be last-minute; we’re trying to put our heart into it.”
While it may seem difficult to book your favorite bands from across the country, you never know what can happen if you reach out, as Sterno has learned.
“That’s how we try to book,” he says. “If we see a band we want to bring here, we hit ‘em up. A lot of people don’t imagine that as a possibility—‘How are we going to get them here?’—just hit ‘em up!”
“It’s so far from improbable that they’re going to hit you back,” adds Lynch. “It’s a touring band: they want to have places to go where it’s a nice time. Every show we’ve had as been really hospitable to bands, and we know that’s good for the community. They leave Savannah and say, ‘We had a really good time.’ Like Downtown Boys—they said this is one of their favorite places to play, and we booked them twice. We want to put bands up and let them have a nice time.”
There’s no magic formula to knowing a band is the right fit on a bill, but Lynch says there is a certain je ne sais quoi that he and Sterno can pick up on.
“I only book bands that I like,” attests Sterno.
“Between the two of us, we don’t have a ridiculously niche sense of music,” says Lynch. “We like a lot of stuff, but we basically want to make sure whatever we’re bringing here is being taken very seriously—not serious like a business—but you can tell these people love what they’re doing, and regardless of genre, you can tell.”
Dad Joke has been incredibly selective in their curation; with the booking entity only existing for about a year, they’ve only hosted ten shows.
“We get an enormous amount of requests for shows, and we can’t book everybody first of all, and second, a lot of those bands don’t care,” says Lynch. “They get fucked up, and it’s not about anything other than having a good time, which isn’t necessarily what creating anything is all about. In that sense, we try to have some artistic integrity about ourselves.”
“We don’t want to put out anything that we don’t care for,” Lynch continues. “Even though, at the very base of it, we don’t care! Which is the beauty of it. We’re not super-serious—‘It’s gotta be this way! Gotta be this way!’—at the end of the day, it will be this way. It’s only for the good of the show.”
“Real recognizes real,” says Sterno.
“As stupid and cliché as it is, it’s true,” agrees Lynch. “We don’t have any reason to do what we do in our band, or in any of our projects. We don’t have any subsidiary reason. He’s not still trying to impress his girlfriend. There’s no reason for us to do this, but we do it, and we love to do it. You can be tight, have the highest production value, and I could not book you. Obviously, there’s no good and bad opinions, but I do feel there’s a soulfulness and a soulnessness in music. And you can tell.”
The Punk Mess is an idea that’s been stewing in Sterno’s brain for a while, inspired by smaller festivals like Gonerfest in Memphis, Total Punk Records’ Total Fuck Off, and Good Vibrations in Austin.
“I just want there to be a good punk/garage festival in Savannah,” he says. “This is a very modest version of those.”
“Yeah, but the first and only way you can make that happen is to start it,” Lynch chimes in. “I think it’s incredibly great for our first organized two-day show.”
The festivities kick off down at Dollhouse on Thursday with Orlando’s Tight Genes and Manic and the Depressives.
If you caught Tight Genes last time they were here for Dad Joke #2, expect spitting, scuzzy garage-flavored punk with hooky pop elements.
Manic and the Depressives make a splintering kind of brassy, snide punk.
Locals Generation Pill, The Anxiety Junkies, The Toxic Shock, and The Lipschitz bring the noise Savannah-style.
On Friday the 13th, head to The Jinx for Day 2 of Punk Mess. Golden Pelicans, featuring the founder of Total Punk Records on drums, make raw, contagious punk from Orlando.
“I’ve been in contact with them for quite a while,” says Sterno. “I’ve been wanting to book them here for a very long time; they’re doing really well. Their newest record sold out in two weeks on vinyl, which you never hear about!”
“There’s a Central/North Florida scene that’s killing it right now, and it’s a weird, imaginary line between quite a few different things,” explains Lynch. “They’re putting out super-quality stuff: it’s alternative, it’s super-hard, punk, weirdo stuff, but it’s grassroots, and it’s incredibly good.”
“I want Savannah to know about it,” Sterno says.
Atlanta hardcore punk band Slugga, trashy synth-punk band The Mold from Jacksonville, and Savannah’s Crazy Bag Lady and Forced Entry are on the bill; perhaps most exciting for locals, however, is Shoplifters, a “dad punk” band featuring Keith Kozel (Superhorse, GAM) on vocals. With The House of Gunt’s Influenza Mueller as host, it’s sure to be quite the evening.
“Whenever anyone sees ‘Dad Joke,’ we want it to be special,” says Sterno. “I feel like it has been.”
Dad Joke's Friday the 13th Punk Mess Day 2