Hark, the herald rockers sing!

Photo Credit: Rick Wait Photo Credit: Rick Wait

HoliDayton celebrates 10th year of musical goodwill

By Tim Anderl

As is typical to individuals during the holiday season, the tradition of gift giving and receiving was paramount on the minds of the guys from The Story Changes during our December breakfast meeting at a café in Kettering. Unsurprisingly, Story Changes frontman and auxiliary Hawthorne Heights axeman, Mark McMillon, recalled a childhood Christmas during which he received his first musical instrument: a starter keyboard.

“It was a relatively simple Casio SK-1 keyboard – the kind with the prerecorded songs that you can play along to – but it did have the capability to sample noises and record live sounds to the tone bank,” McMillon said. “When my brother discovered that he could fart into the keyboard and play back the sounds …” McMillon paused to hum a simple tune, inserting the sounds of bodily function noises periodically, mimicking his brother’s past performance.

“It was the first musical instrument that I ever owned and I remember sitting around and trying to figure out what the scales were,” McMillon added. “I actually used it on the demos for our This Is Your Moment EP and it still sounds cool.”

Chris “Poppy” Popadak shared a significantly less cheerful story from his most memorable childhood Christmas.

“One year, when Transformers were really big, I got a handful of those under the tree,” the Story Changes drummer remembered. “Later in the day, my best friend and his four- or five-year-old little brother came over and he and I left the house for a while. I came home to find that not only had he taken them out of the package, but he totally mutilated and broke them. To this day I don’t like that kid.”

“I haven’t even met him and I don’t like him either,” McMillon sympathized.

“It said right on the packaging that the toys were for ages seven and up,” Poppy said indignantly.  “What is the going rate on a Soundwave Transformer these days? He broke that one and all the cassettes!”

Though their personal holiday memories are a mixed bag of disappointment and nostalgia, the boys agree that this year they look forward to celebrating with their annual Holidayton show, an event that they have curated together for the last 10 years. The concert, which has become a staple of the Dayton local rock calendar and a welcomed gift to Dayton music fans, takes place at Blind Bob’s on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 8 p.m.

In the past, the holiday season kickoff event has featured performances from internationally recognized Partisan Records artists Heartless Bastards, which is helmed by Austin-by-way-of-Dayton transplant Erica Wennerstrom. Celebrated Cincinnati indie pop group The Seedy Seeds participated a few years ago, as did the mouthpiece and guitarist of lauded Dayton alt-rock band Hawthorne Heights, JT Woodruff, who plays again this year.

McMillon said that this year’s event will be similar to previous years, in that he and Poppy have organized an evening that offers non-stop rock from the best and brightest bands and solo artists the region has to offer. HoliDayton features alternating sets performed on two, “dueling” stages.  Though the supplementary stage, which is set up on Blind Bob’s floor, traditionally offered a look at the region’s best acoustic acts, McMillon said that experimental, post-rockers Kuan changed the format a few years ago.

“Kuan was an instrumental band so they didn’t need a stage with vocal mics. So they just set up on the floor and blew everyone away,” McMillon said. “It completely changed the format of the stage; C. Wright’s Parlour Tricks, who are a raucous rock n’ roll act, have played the floor stage to a great reception the last few years.”

Bringing their fierce and fiery instrumental guitar wrangling to this year’s HoliDayton, C. Wright’s Parlour Tricks are seasoned local players with a penchant for delivering loud rock n’ roll that nods to Tejas-era ZZ Top, early Van Halen and Wired-era Jeff Beck. Their 2012 performance also serves as an introduction to the band’s new bass player, Tom Rastikis.

The Story Changes plan to use the annual hometown gathering as an opportunity to reinvigorate the band’s live performance. For much of 2012, the duo have been writing a new LP, which they began recording with Hawthorne Heights lead guitarist Micah Carli three weeks prior to their meeting with Dayton City Paper. McMillon and Carli have spent most of the year evaluating their approach for the forthcoming record while travelling the globe together as Hawthorne Heights toured Europe, Japan and Australia.

“The Story Changes is still very much active and I feel very lucky to be involved with both bands,” McMillon confessed. “The Story Changes made a deliberate decision to take some time off from touring this year to work on writing a new album. And I’m extremely excited about the new songs we have written this year.”

While the band is energized from their time in the studio, Poppy isn’t looking forward to putting together their HoliDayton setlist.

“We have four records of material to play from. Even when you eliminate the songs from those records that were studio songs, that’s a lot of material to evaluate,” Poppy confessed. “I am fairly sure that we’ll play the first song we ever wrote together, ‘Hockey Temper,’ because I still love playing it.”

McMillon said that part of the appeal of the event is the opportunity it presents for Oregon District regulars and local music fanboys and girls to commune with in-town friends and family, as well as those visiting from out-of-town for the holidays. “I’m always really stoked for the chance to catch up with all my musical, and non-musical friends for evening of fun and rock each year.”

“We don’t have many annual events and HoliDayton is always right before Christmas when a lot of friends who moved away are back in town,” Nate Mendenhall at Blind Bob’s said. “As a venue we love a good party and I’m stoked that they’ve chosen to work with us the last few years.”

Between bites of Bob’s pickle soup, patron Dirk Roburn weighed in on the annual event. “With X-Fest being cancelled this year, I was worried that HoliDayton may not make it either. But I’m glad it is still on. My friends and I have been waiting all year to rock out.”

Who else is playing?

The 1984 Draft: Over the years, “the draft” has had many faces and sounds. While Joe Anderl’s songwriting project has always leaned in folky, singer songwriter directions, the duo that currently features rock drummer Justin Satinover behind the kit, debuted a decidedly more punk and emo direction at the 2012 Dayton Music Fest.

“Many of the performers are veterans; Joe Anderl’s bands have been involved every year that we’ve had the event. If he’s around and willing to play, we always extend him an invitation,” McMillon said. According to Anderl, the band is in the midst of recording a full-length, which they plan to release in 2013.

Invitation To A Bullfight: Dayton’s premiere post-grunge outfit makes a repeat performance at this year’s HoliDayton. Expect that they’ll showcase material from their recent five-track effort, Midwest Therapy Sessions, which the band released in September.

King Elk: The band’s primary songwriter, Andy Smith, is a seasoned wordsmith of the highest order. Weaving tales of “love, depression, drunk nights, and strange mornings” with Beatles and Elliott Smith-esque musical sensibilities, the band released their stellar album Making Buildings Out Of Everything via Gas Daddy Go! Records on cassette this past June.

Me and Mountains: According to organizer Mark McMillon, these guys are “doing D.I.Y. rock n’ roll right.” Having spent much of the year supporting their latest long-player, Feral, the band deliver the polished sounds of sophisticated, pop-centric indie rock. But don’t spend all your cash on beer. You’ll want to pick up a copy of the album, which the band released on vinyl this past spring.

Neon Warship: Performing at HoliDayton for their first time, Poppy invited Neon Warship to bring their behemoth metal chops to the ring. The band spent much of 2012 capturing fans locally and abroad with their big, arena-ready rock sound that delivers influences as broad as forefathers Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and contemporaries like High on Fire and Mastodon.

The New Old-Fashioned: Dayton’s The New Old-Fashioned – a harmony-rich Americana-leaning quartet fronted by former HoliDayton participant David Payne – perform rootsy rock in the vein of The Old 97s, The Gaslight Anthem and Ryan Adams and the Cardinals. Formed in 2011, the band released their debut record, recorded by former Daytonian Patrick Himes at his Reel Love Studio in Nashville, earlier this month.

Vifolly: The Eaton, Ohio based rock act, formed by twin brothers Matt and James Prather in 2009, will perform a rare acoustic performance at this year’s HoliDayton. In 2011, the band performed 100 shows in 20 states. To date, the band has shared the stage with a variety of nationally recognized acts, including Tantric, Sick Puppies, COLD, Kip Winger (!), Brent James & The Contraband, Taproot and Hawthorne Heights.

HoliDayton 2012 takes place Saturday, December 22 at Blind Bob’s. The show begins at 8 p.m. and features music by the Story Changes, Invitation to a Bullfight, JT Woodruff, Neon Warship, C. Wright’s Parlour Tricks, King Elk, Me and Mountains, Vifolly, JT Woodruff, the 1984 Draft, the New Old-Fashioned. Admission is $10 for 21 & up. For more information on HoliDayton, visit www.facebook.com/events/310478669057363/

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