Every Labor Day, I spin Mischief Brew albums. I can’t think of another band to listen to today. Right now, I am listening to a 3-hour PunkNews.org podcast about the band’s legacy and front man Erik Peterson’s passing a few weeks ago. Here is something I wrote immediately after I learned about Erik’s death.
Over the years, especially when I lived outside of Philly, I saw Erik’s various projects, including his first band, The Orphans, his solo work, and of course, Mischief Brew. Only a few months ago, I saw Mischief Brew play a basement show in Allentown. By that point, the band was a three piece that included Erik’s brother on drums. In that cramped basement, still decorated with white Christmas lights, Mischief Brew tore through song after song. Erik’s power chords echoed from stacked amps, as he howled into the mic. By the time the show concluded and we were done dancing and fist-pumping to Erik’s rasp, we eventually found our away outside, into the raw January weather. Our hair matted with sweat, we trudged through half a foot of snow on the sidewalk, back to our cars.
That show reminded me of the first time I heard his music. It was another basement show, at the First Unitarian Church in Philly. With just an acoustic guitar, he opened for former Avail front man Tim Barry. Though Erik was the opener, the crowd swayed and sang along with their home town boy. After the show, I bought some of his music on wax, and he just nodded and smiled, handling his own merch.
On the drive back from the Allentown show, I played some of Mischief Brew’s earliest tracks. The quiet chords of “’Ol Tyme Memory” and “Dirty Pennies” carried us home, while our ears still rang. I was certain, however, that I would see the band again. In fact, I had planned to see them this month in Philly. Erik Petersen always represented the best aspects of punk rock. He engaged the audience, be it solo or with whatever band he fronted. He hung around after shows to talk to the kids. He was socially engaged, not only in his lyrics, but through the number of benefits he played over the years for Food Not Bombs, Occupy Philadelphia, and a number of other organizations.
Thanks for the memories and the music, Erik.
For your Labor Day listening: