Keeping NEPA Strange an Interview w/ Josh Balz by Emily Sulkowski

 

Being odd is typical for artists. It’s what makes us all unique. Josh Balz took the idea of odd and amplified it. Owner of the Strange and Unusual Oddities Parlor in Kingston and Philadelphia, PA, Josh has certainly added a little gem to the often dreary North East, PA. I sat down with him to talk about how life has been after his transition from being in a touring band to running his store full time.

I started by asking if the transition from touring to being grounded back in PA was strange?

“ I love the area, I grew up here and always lived here.” He says.

He certainly thought the transition was strange, since the hectic touring life took a lot out of a person, “ I never felt busy, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, since I was only running the store, not doing both.” He said while talking about reconfiguring his life after leaving his band.

I asked about his music, Strange Kids, which he’s released two singles under, and more importantly if he was releasing more music, “ I’d like to, it’s more of a hobby right now.” Genre wise, Strange Kids and Motionless in White are very different. Josh said, “ It’s all based on my emotions, what I’m feeling at the time.”
In NEPA, Josh is somewhat of a hometown hero. I asked him if support from local fans had ever changed after coming home. “ I think there’s more support now. The store and Motionless have the same vibe. It goes hand in hand.” His employees at the store said his fair share of fans still come in, excited to meet him. Fans and locals alike still love the shop, enjoying how different it is among the repetitiveness the Valley seems to see often.

Owning a store like this comes from a love for weird things. “ I always enjoyed them (oddities). The stuff comes from all over. A lot of vintage taxidermy” He said when I asked how he finds his unique items, “ It’s definitely a process.”

In a town full of pizza shops, I wondered how a shop selling human bones and spell books does so well, “ I wanted to do something different here,” Josh said when I asked what inspired him, “ Everyone told me I was going to fail.”

Balz said that the shop does very well, being able to sell such unique, incredible items and still stay afloat, where in a huge city it would be difficult. Having the backing he did, it’s no surprise the shop is well loved and received. While wrapping things up, I asked him how it feels to know his music and his parlor help so many people. Being weird isn’t always easy, and he’s always made people like him feel a little less like outsiders. I asked if he ever wanted to have that effect on people. “ Always. I’ve always been a very supportive person. I love helping other people.”

Josh has always encouraged people to be themselves, and be interested in unique things. He’s very proud of who he is, and everything he’s built. “ I hope people come in, to see the shop and try the cafe.”

The Strange and Unusual Oddities Parlor sits at 467 Wyoming Avenue in Kingston, Pennsylvania. Now boasting a Harry Potter themed cafe called Steamy Hallows, serving cookies, Butter Brew coffee and hot chocolate covered in glitter, The Strange and Unusual is a little gem in a town that people seem to forget. Give the shop a visit, buy a skull or two with your coffee, and never be afraid to be a little weird.

Interview courtesy of Emily Sulkowski  | SHOP NOW :  The Strange and Unusual

Follow Josh Balz here

 

 

The Rockstar Disrupt Fest Unleashes in the United States | Top 5 Anticipated Sets

GcopivYZ

With the Vans Warped Tour coming to an end in 2018, a lot of us were wondering what we would do to fill that void. Well, the Rockstar Disrupt Fest was announced, and it is a game changer in the scene. Unlike a lot of festivals, you get the best of both worlds. The event starts off on an outdoor stage on the festival grounds and then shifts into an amphitheater concert at night. And unlike other festivals, there will only be one band performing at a time, so you don’t have to pick and choose which bands to see. The lineup is absolutely stacked, and bands include: The Used, Thrice, Circa Survive, Sum 41, The Story So Far, Atreyu, Sleeping With Sirens, Andy Black, Four Year Strong, Memphis May Fire, Trophy Eyes, Meg & Dia, Juliet Simms, and Hyro The Hero. Lineups differ from date to date so make sure to check your date on rockstardisrupt.com to see what bands are playing. The festival kicks off in exactly one week, Friday, June 21st, in Dallas, TX, and tours the country for over a month until Sunday, July 28th, in Albuquerque, NM. Two of our photographers will be attending the tour, and each have listed their top 5 most anticipated sets to see on the Rockstar Disrupt Festival.

Laura’s Top 5 Most Anticipated Sets

  1. Super stoked to cover Atreyu for the 2nd time. I had the unique experience of being a part of The Photo Odyssey with Porter McKnight (bassist of Atreyu) exploring downtown Denver with our cameras. That evening I sat through their sound check and photographed their set.
  2. Sum 41 were my middle school heroes and during one of their shows in 2012 was when I first crowd surfed. That night is one of my all-time most memorable shows I’ve ever attended.
  3. Memphis May Fire blew my mind when they toured with Atreyu last year. Their stage presence was a blast to photograph and I can’t wait to see them again!
  4. Sleeping With Sirens is with no doubt going to bring a contagious energy to the crowd that I cannot wait to capture through my lens.
  5. The Used is one of those bands that makes you sing along to all of their songs. It’ll be my first time seeing them play live and I already know for a fact I’ll “savor every moment of this” set as they close the night.

Jamie’s Top 5 Most Anticipated Sets

  1. Atreyu has been a band I have been listening to for several years since their song “Ravenous” was on Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock. The band has released nothing but excellence in their 7-album discography, with a perfect blend of metalcore, hard rock, and post-hardcore. I am thoroughly excited to see them finally and to photograph their set.
  2. Circa Survive was yet another band I got into from playing Rock Band as a kid, specifically through their song “The Difference Between Medicine and Poison Is The Dose” from their 2007 album “On Letting Go”. Throughout their career, Circa Survive has garnered a large following and has continued to evolve their sound, which is a mixture of post-hardcore, progressive metal, progressive rock, and indie rock. They are a unique blend and I cannot wait to finally see them.
  3. Sleeping With Sirens was one of my favorite bands in the post-hardcore and hard rock scene for quite some time. While I haven’t been a big fan of their last two albums, I cannot wait to see them again after several years and finally photograph them. Kellin Quinn’s distinct vocal range is a powerhouse to have in the scene and I cannot wait to see him showcase it again.
  4. Hyro the Hero is the first band on the lineup that caught my eye, since I had just seen them open for Nothing More, Of Mice & Men, and Palisades at The Belasco in February. The band is named after front man and rapper Hyron Fenton but includes a lot of musical talent from bassist Dave Gracious, drummer Troy Wageman, and guitarist Matty Mac. This four piece is going to be such a great way to kick off the Disrupt Fest with high energy and I cannot wait!
  5. Memphis May Fire has been a regular band in my daily rotation for several years. Their powerhouse metalcore sound resonates with me and pushes me through my daily life. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of their newest album, their discography as a whole has been impressive to me and have helped shape my musical taste over the years. They always have an incredible stage presence and I am stoked to finally see them again!

The Rockstar Disrupt Fest looks to be an exciting event and will help fill the void other tours once stayed in. The tour will also cover new ground with the festival and amphitheater mixture idea. Check out the dates below, pick up your tickets at the link below, and keep up with the festival by following their socials!

DATES

FRI.  JUN 21

DALLAS, TX

SAT.  JUN 22

AUSTIN, TX

SUN.  JUN 23

THE WOODLANDS, TX

TUE.  JUN 25

WEST PALM BEACH, FL

WED.  JUN 26

TAMPA, FL

FRI.  JUN 28

ATLANTA, GA

SAT.  JUN 29

CHARLOTTE, NC

TUE.  JUL 2

SYRACUSE, NY

WED.  JUL 3

TORONTO, ON

FRI.  JUL 5

MANSFIELD, MA

SAT.  JUL 6

HOLMDEL, NJ

SUN.  JUL 7

HARTFORD, CT

TUE.  JUL 9

BRISTOW, VA

WED.  JUL 10

CLARKSTON, MI

FRI.  JUL 12

TINLEY PARK, IL

SAT.  JUL 13

THORNVILLE, OH

SUN.  JUL 14

NOBLESVILLE, IN

MON.  JUL 15

MARYLAND HEIGHTS, MO

WED.  JUL 17

DENVER, CO

SAT.  JUL 20

IRVINE, CA

TUE.  JUL 23

AUBURN, WA

WED.  JUL 24

NAMPA (BOISE), ID

FRI.  JUL 26

CHULA VISTA, CA

SAT.  JUL 27

PHOENIX, AZ

SUN.  JUL 28

ALBUQUERQUE, NM

Go buy your tickets here!

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Architects w/ Thy Art Is Murder and While She Sleeps | Holy Hell Tour | Photos + Review | 5/20/19

On May 20th as I made my way past the line of fans literally wrapping around the punk-rock and heavy metal temple that is the Palladium in Worcester, MA, there was no doubt in my mind that the Architects show that night was going to be one for the books. Days later while the UK based metalcore band wrapped up the North American portion of their “Holy Hell” Tour in Chicago, I was still reeling from the show they put on. Whether it was the excitement buzzing through the venue, to the opening acts While She Sleeps and Thy Art Is Murder, to the granddaddy of them all Architects, the passion and energy felt that night was something I’ll truly always remember.

First up on the bill was While She Sleeps, hailing from Sheffield, UK. The metalcore band oozed energy and excitement and the crowd absolutely ate it up from beginning to end. From the very first song of the set “You Are We” the band came out packing a punch. Lead singer Lawrence Taylor delivered the highest quality of vocals and was backed by talented musicians Sean Long and Matt Welsh on guitars, Aaran McKenzie on bass and Adam Savage on drums. Seeing the crowd interaction with the band was one of the highlights of the night and you could certainly tell that each musician in While She Sleeps truly loved what they were doing. After this, I definitely put While She Sleeps on my list of bands I need to see again.

Next up was Thy Art is Murder. The Australian deathcore band came out swinging and absolutely delivered with every drop, strum and bang that they served us. Filling in for lead singer CJ McMahon was Nick Arthur from Molotov Solution and in my opinion, they couldn’t have picked a better vocalist. Nick’s vocal range, projection and energy was killer from beginning to end. For my first time seeing Thy Art is Murder, I was thoroughly impressed with the musical technicality the band brought and I can’t wait to see them again in the future.

Finally Architects graced the stage with not only amazing vocals and stage presence but a pretty kick ass light show, if I may say. The band never let up once during their sixteen song set, delivering hit after hit. Lead singer Sam Carter performed with such emotion and power that it was hard not to rock out with the crowd and scream all the words along with him. Architects never fails to put on a show that sends you on an adventure from beginning to end and if there’s any adventure I want to be on, it’s that one. The show simply was one of the best that I’ve ever been too and if you ever get the chance to see Architects in person in the future, don’t hesitate to buy your tickets because you won’t be disappointed!

Architects | Thy Art Is Murder | While She Sleeps

Photos + Review courtesy of Linette Ray

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Stitched Up Heart w/ A Trigger Within and Darling | Spring U.S. Tour | Photos + Review

Stitched Up Heart Comes Home to Southern California

Venue: The Slidebar | 5/28/19

When Stitched Up Heart announced they were finally playing a show again in Southern California, I jumped on the opportunity to photograph them and finally see this band that I’ve been listening to for several years. When I went to go see them at the Whisky A Go-Go in 2017, the venue for the first time had to cancel a show due to them not being able to get the sound system up and running. So, when I found Stitched Up Heart was playing in Southern California again, I knew I just had to go. As the final date of an 8-week tour, they came through The Slidebar in Fullerton, CA to headline for the first time in California in almost 2 years, with local support from A Trigger Within and Darling. This show was a blast.

First up was Darling from Los Angeles, CA. Darling is an acoustic artist who also mixes in pop and rock. She and I met the first time at the whisky but actually seeing her showcase her talents was amazing. She has such an amazing voice and plays the acoustic guitar amazingly. She played 6 songs, which included her new single “Misery” as well as a cover of Bullet for My Valentine’s “Tears Don’t Fall”. She was joined on stage by Stitched Up Heart’s James Decker on drums and her husband and bassist of Stitched Up Heart Randy Mathias. She put on a breathtaking set and I cannot wait to see her again!

Next up was A Trigger Within from Los Angeles, CA. A Trigger Within came to The Slidebar to bring us some good ole Heavy Metal with an emphasis on symphonics and screaming anthems. Fronting the band is Jimmy Trigger, who commands the stage with a force. The rest of the band consists of bassist Eric Sinful, drummer Dylan Roy, and guitarists David Bruno and Tyler Morgan. The band played a powerful 7-song set, which consisted of new songs, as well as songs from their debut 2017 EP titled “I”. From just one listen to the band, you can hear just the melting pot of styles and inspirations this band has blended together to make powerful music. They are certainly enjoyable live, filled with a lot of energy. I cannot wait to hopefully see them again soon!

The final band up was none other than Stitched Up Heart, local to West Hollywood, CA. This band has been going since 2011 but didn’t release their debut album “Never Alone” until 2016 via Century Media Records. To my pleasant surprise, a majority of their 11-song set consisted of brand new songs most have not heard yet and only played 4 from “Never Alone”. It was so cool hearing the band’s new material and also being able to hear some fan favorite songs like “Finally Free” and “I Can’t Breathe”. The band consists of vocalist Alecia “Mixi” Demner, drummer and backup vocalist James Decker, bassist and backup vocalist Randy Mathias, and guitarists Merritt Goodwin and Jeremy Kohnmann. The band had so much energy on stage and even played around with me while I photographed them, constantly posing and jokingly covering my camera at times. I was so happy to finally see them and will certainly be making my way out again once they play Southern California again.

SETLIST

  1. This Skin (New Song)
  2. Warrior (New Song)
  3. Catch Me When I Fall
  4. Darkness (New Song)
  5. I Can’t Breathe
  6. Finally Free
  7. Lost (New Song)
  8. Dirty Secrets (New Song)
  9. Problems (New Song)
  10. City of Angels

ENCORE

  1. Crooked Halo

This was an amazing show from start to finish. I’m glad I was able to see Darling play her heart out. A Trigger Within was a great band to have for direct support, with dueling guitar solos and high energy. And finally being able to see Stitched Up Heart was exactly what I’ve wanted for over 2 years. Check out all of these amazing bands and artists.

Stitched Up Heart | A Trigger Within | Darling

Photos + Review courtesy of Jamie Kaufman | Instagram

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The Veer Union w/ NeverWake, Saved By Skarlet, and Cross The Divide | 10 Year Anniversary Tour 2019

Cross The Divide

Saved By Skarlet

NeverWake

The Veer Union

The Veer Union | NeverWake | Saved By Skarlet | Cross The Divide

Photos courtesy of Amanda Spring | 5/14/19

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Sylar w/ Cane Hill, Varials, and Bloodline | Seasons Tour 2019 | Photos + Review

Sylar Changes the Seasons at Chain Reaction

Venue: Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA | 5/26/19

Sylar has been a very important band to me since I got into them in 2016. Their distinct sound that mixes together nu-metal, metalcore, post-hardcore, and rap metal has helped them stand out in a music scene that can sometimes be filled to the brim with soundalike bands. With their newest release “Seasons”, Sylar hit new ground, going a bit more personal, which received critical acclaim.  After several years of touring as the supporting act for many tours, Sylar finally embarked on a full 2-month U.S. Tour, with supporting acts Cane Hill, Varials, and Bloodline. With a stacked lineup at one of my all-time favorite venues, I knew this would be a fun show.

The first band up was Bloodline from Dallas, Texas. Bloodline has been on my radar for quite some time. This fourpiece band is a perfect mix of metalcore and hardcore, with some sweet melodies and slamming breakdowns. The members of the band consist of vocalist Joseph Todd, drummer and backup vocalist Matt Dierkes, bassist Jake Jones, and guitarist and clean vocalist Titus Kirby. They had very high energy from the start of their set to the end, and truly kicked the show off with a force. I was thoroughly blown away. Their newest release “Better View” came out in March of 2019 via Stay Sick Recordings and truly shows off the band’s wide range and variety from song to song! I cannot wait to see them next time they come out to California!

 

Next up came Varials from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I’ve wanted to see Varials for quite some time but scheduling just never worked out for me to make it out to one of their shows until now. Varials is good ole fashioned hardcore mixed with metalcore. They had such a high level of energy that had the crowd going absolutely bonkers. In fact, a guy cartwheeled off the stage onto the crowd at one point. This five piece consists of vocalist Travis Tabron, guitarists Mitchell Rogers and James Hohenwarter, drummer Sean Rauchut, and bassist Mike Foley. The band played a 6-song set, 5 of which came from their 2017 release “Pain Again” which was their debut LP on Fearless Records. I was thoroughly impressed by their stage presence and their ability to control the crowd at the snap of their fingers.

SETLIST

  1. God Talk
  2. Anything to Numb
  3. D.A.
  4. Stigmata
  5. Pain Again
  6. Empire of Dirt

The biggest supporting act was up next, that being Cane Hill from New Orleans, Louisiana. I remember seeing Cane Hill as the opening act for Attila, New Years Day, and Bad Omens at Chain Reaction in 2017, so seeing how far they’ve come has been impressive. The band is the perfect mixture of Nu Metal and Metalcore. The band played a whopping 11-song set with songs from each of their releases: 7 off their 2018 album “Too Far Gone”, 3 from their 2016 album “Smile”, and 1 from their self-titled 2015 EP. The band was on fire and truly showcased their full range in sound. This four piece consists of vocalist Elijah Witt, guitarist James Barnett, bassist Ryan Henriquez, and drummer Devin Clark. Cane Hill has been a band I have been listening to consistently since Warped Tour 2016 and they continue to blow me away each time I see them!

SETLIST

  1. (The New) Jesus
  2. Lord of Flies
  3. 10 Cents
  4. Ugly Model Mannequin
  5. Fountain of Youth
  6. It Follows
  7. Hateful
  8. Why?
  9. Gemini
  10. Singing in The Swamp
  11. Too Far Gone

The almighty Sylar from Queens, New York came out on stage last to finally bring a headlining set. After being a supporting act for many tours throughout the years, they finally got the opportunity to headline their own tour, which was so cool to see. The band opened up their set with fan favorite song “Assume”, which is such a banger. The band truly went all out for their headliner and prepared a jampacked 15-song set, which consisted of 9 songs from their 2018 release “Seasons”, 4 from their 2014 release “To Whom It May Concern”, and 3 from their 2016 release “Help!”. It was surreal to see them play such a widespread set, with songs from each release. The band has evolved their sound with each release and they proved just how far they’ve come with their headlining set. This five piece consists of vocalist Jayden Panesso, guitarist and clean vocalist Miguel Cardona, guitarist Dustin Jennings, bassist Travis Hufton, and drummer Cody Ash. The band is super tight and together on stage, with high energy that had the crowd jumping and moshing like crazy. Sylar is growing more and more as a band as the months go by, and I’m so happy they’re finally headlining.

SETLIST

  1. Assume
  2. SHOOK!
  3. Same Dance
  4. Wait For You
  5. Sickminded
  6. Open Wounds
  7. No Way
  8. Seasons
  9. To Whom It May Concern
  10. Prescription Medication
  11. Live / Breathe
  12. All or Nothing
  13. Soul Addiction

ENCORE

  1. Dark Daze
  2. Golden Retreat

Sylar’s Seasons tour was filled with moshing, crowdsurfing, nu metal, metalcore, hardcore, and a lot of fun. I’m so honored to have been able to see this band grow over the years and see them many times in that time.

Sylar | Cane Hill | Varials | Bloodline

Photos and Review courtesy of Jamie Kaufman | Instagram

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Interview with AMMO

What inspired you to start a career in music?

I was working a corporate job in New York and flying around doing shows for MTV. My whole life became about climbing the corporate ladder and cheap, fleeting fame. Both made me incredibly unhappy. So I started writing music again. First, in private. Then, after I had more confidence, I started sharing it with friends. Writing and performing made me so happy I quit my job in New York, stopped making TV shows with MTV, and moved to Nashville to make a record.

How would you describe your music to someone who’s never heard it before? 

It’s got a lot of heart, a lot of soul. I like Bossa Nova, Soul, Funk, Jazz, Rock. There’s a lot of those influences in my music. 

To a new listener, what song would you suggest they listen to?

My favorite song I’ve released is ‘Macy.” I love the writing, the style, the production. I was lucky enough to work with Mike Wuerth who is an incredibly talented producer in New York. Together, we made something I was really proud of.

 What is your biggest goal for this year, musically 

Keep pissing people off and causing trouble and making art that hurts, helps, and heals. 

 What is the meaning behind your most recent release?

The next song I plan to release is called “Blue Eyed Blues.” It’s about ‘white tears.’ While I was writing it I thought to myself: what does Donald Trump cry about at night? Missing out on a yacht sale? How stupid. People are dying all over the world from illness and starvation and we have all these rich, white people in control, whining and complaining about shit that doesn’t matter at all. That’s the Blue Eyed Blues.

What inspired the the song Macy?

My ex girlfriend. I’m a queer person so I don’t align myself with gender or sexuality. This song is about discovering as much while I was in the middle of my relationship with her.

Will there be any upcoming new releases or tour dates in 2019?

Oh god. I have terrible anxiety and any time I think I’m feeling brave enough to release music I freak out and put it off. Luckily I just signed with Revel Relations for my PR and Twin Crest Entertainment for my Management and they are helping me find the motivation and the courage release music and start scheduling shows.

Something you want your fans to know? 

Be yourself. Unapologetically. Make people angry. For every person who hates you for being brave enough to be yourself, there will be another person who is inspired. Life isn’t about getting everyone to love you, its about finding the courage to love yourself.

Name a 501C3 you are supportive of.

National Center for Transgender Equality. They are incredible. I would encourage anyone who is in the process of transitioning or considering doing so to check them out. You have rights. You have people who will stand up for you and fight for your right to live however you’d like. No one can take your choice from you! Your body, your life: it’s yours to do whatever you want with.

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Questions courtesy of Cristine Trimarco

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