Slingshot Dakota at Human BBQ | Photo by Kate Bracaglia |

Human BBQ XXXVI, Penn punk-rock frat Pilam’s annual celebration of live music and food, took over the DIY venue this Saturday with an epic line-up of bands. Power chords were strummed; cymbals were smashed defiantly; and burgers were consumed hungerly and with fervor. Read on for a full recap of bands and good times.

  • ‘90s influenced post-punk/emo jams are back in a big way this year, and I am actually kinda on board with it. There’s something about honest, angst-y rock that sounds best when blasted full-volume from a tiny basement packed with sweaty fans—and standing inches away from the neck of a bass guitar as its owner flails about, liable to smack you in the face at any second—is what punk rock is all about.

    Roof Doctor at Human BBQ

    Roof Doctor at Human BBQ | Photo by Kate Bracaglia |

  • Bands this year with post-punky tendencies include locals Roof Doctor, whose jangly anthems resonated thanks to Mark Harper’s confessional-style vocals + live sax; fuzz-punkers Mumblr, who ricocheted between word-y, punky nugs and grungy, gnarled emo dirges; and aggressive rockers Secret Plot to Destroy the Entire Universe, whose intense, brooding jamz packed the multi-colored basement.
  • The biggest surprise of the evening for me was Philly’s Alex G, the solo project of Alex Giannascoli, who on record sounds laidback and earnest, but whose live, full-band setup reminded me of going to emo shows in the early aughts, the crowd surrounding Giannascoli excitedly, and shouting along to the lyrics.
  • Best party vibes of the evening goes to Cold Fronts, whose feel-good rockers invigorated the evening crowd, and whose new material (from their forthcoming debut on Sire) will probably be my summer soundtrack.

    Cat Jack at Human BBQ

    Cat Jack at Human BBQ | Photo by Kate Bracaglia |

  • Best duo of the night is a tie between Bethlehem, PA’s Slingshot Dakota, featuring Tom Patterson’s emphatic drumming and Carly Comando’s alternatively breathy and searing vocals—and Washington, DC duo Cat Jack, featuring brothers Jackson and Zach Velli, ages 13 and 11, who totally blew me away and shredded harder than most bands twice their age.
  • Blayer Pointdujour and the Rockers Galore had a tough spot to fill, taking over for scheduled headliners Total Slackers when they cancelled at last-minute. They did a formidable job closing out the evening, blanketing the late-night crowd with funky grooves, drawn from the Haitain kompa music tradition.

    Laser Background at Human BBQ

    Laser Background at Human BBQ | Photo by Kate Bracaglia |

  • Laser Background probably had the coolest live set-up, featuring multi-instrumentalist Andy Molholt crouched behind a pane of glass. His psych-tinged set showcased several new tunes, getting me super-psyched for his next release.
  • Told Slant was the favorite of many of the Pilam residents I talked to, who described it as “beautiful and sad.” This description was pretty much on-point, although I’ll add that their live show had a playful energy too.
  • The early part of the festival also featured sets from Heat Thunder, Teenage Bigfoot, The Interest Group, Memorial Gore, No Stranger, Is and of The, David Phosphor Walrus, and Scooterjinx. All in all, a pretty solid line-up.

    Wall art at Human BBQ

    Wall art at Human BBQ | Photo by Kate Bracaglia |

  • The bros at Pilam have really upped their paint game. The basement looked trippy as hell.
  • As far as I can tell, no humans were barbecued at this year’s Human BBQ … unless you count bbq’ed ear drums, fried from too many face-melting tunes. But that is just the nature of the beast, and the sign of one epic party. How many days til BBQ XXXVII?