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Ugly Pop – Skating Polly @ KFN 7/7/23

“And he knew how he wanted the music to sound. He wanted it to be like the music he loved: raw and hard but with pop hooks and lyrics you could hear over and over and still find oddness and interest in them. As much like the Beatles as Black Flag.”

Spiotta, Dana. “How Kurt Cobain Dealt With Being the World’s Most Famous Outcast.” Pitchfork, 29 Nov. 2022.

I talked about this show a few days in advance. To be fair, I get excited about most performances. However, I was telling people to tell people.

“Skating Polly. They’re out of Oklahoma. Two sisters and a brother. They’ve been making music since 2009. Kelli was nine, and Peyton was fourteen.”

Pause and no comment.

“It’s at Kung Fu Necktie. They’re going to be loud and fun.”

"Kung Fu Necktie?”

“Yeah. It’s my first time. But it’s in Fishtown. Or at least on the outskirts. You should tell your Philly friends.”

Pause and no comment.

“Go Birds.”

“Go Birds.”

It may not have gone entirely like that, but I am in Reading, about an hour and fifteen minutes from Philly.

Because my photographer could not make it, I reached out to secure a backup, but it didn’t happen. So, I had to take pictures and pay attention. As a human proud of his ADHD diagnosis, I usually love multitasking. However, listening to music, trying not to dance, AND taking pictures can be a little overwhelming, especially if I enjoy the show. Give me a loud, punkish band that demands bouncing, and it is nearly impossible for me not to be there entirely for my enjoyment. Yet I am an adult man and should be able to do my job.

Sometimes, I get to the show way too early. Then, I have to wait, which is awkward at a bar venue because I am just under one thousand four hundred days alcohol free. Yet, if I were a true journalist, I would interview the people around me, but I am a fiction writer; Aggressively chatting up the audience is not in my nature. (Michael, I promise I am working on this. I want to be more assertive and fun.) So, I waited around my house, got most of my things ready, and left Shillington later than usual.

Goddamn, I am socially unskilled. All I have to do is show my ID and say I have a press pass. Yeah, that’s simple, but not in my reality. Instead, I act like it is my first time every time. Or maybe I feel like I am a fraud with imposter syndrome. Either way or any way, I made it into the venue.

The opening band was playing but on their last song. When they finished, their fans cleared out enough for me to make it to the front. But off to the side. Out of the way.

Settled into my spot, I was able to look around. It looked like a punk venue. Intimate, eclectic, and a little worn, the type of place where I would have seen many shows had I grown up in Philly during my early twenties.

Not usually doing the photography, I tested the camera to ensure the flash wouldn’t go off. Nothing gave me more anxiety than unintentionally drawing attention to myself.

I did not check my watch, but Skating Polly started before I thought they would. That is not a complaint. I have just never seen such a fast change-over.

They started with “Hickey King,” a song from Chaos County Line. Loud and slightly aggressive, they dove right in. But again, I am not complaining. When I told my editor about this show, I wanted it to be in my face and non-apologetic. And there they were, right in front of me.

The music was raw, and Kelli growled and snarled. However, it was also clean and on point, the antithesis of OG Punk. They were talented musicians who understood their craft on a finer level, exactly what punk purists would never claim to be. Yet, they call it ugly pop, and I am just a music appreciator, so I enjoyed it. Until I remember that I was there as a reporter AND a photographer. So . . .

Three of the first four songs were from their newest album, Chaos County Line. However, Skating Polly took it to the next level with “Little Girl Blue and The Battle Envy.”

The song started with the bass line and Kelli’s vocals, but I knew it was going to grow into something else. And did it. Showcasing lyrics that could exist next to those of James Murphy and musical talent as experienced performers, Skating Polly creates the type of music Kurt Cobain was looking for. Angst with vulnerability, and hard but clean. They capture a wide range of emotions without alienating themselves and those around them.

Although Skating Polly focused on songs from their newest release, they shared material that covered the band’s entire music catalog and performance repertoire. Kelli was the most theatric, bouncing around the stage, kicking, and stomping, but she did not need nor want all the attention. Peyton control moments with her lyrics and guitar work. But don’t forget about Kurtis. He may have been in the back for most of the show, but fans kept yelling, “I love the drummer.” And then they swapped instruments, with Kurtis eventually coming forward to play the guitar while Peyton drummed.

The band took fans from Philly on a little journey throughout their history, and I did not look at my watch once or question how long they were going to perform. True musicians and entertainers, Skating Polly kept my interest without the help of a big venue and fancy lights. It was about being loud, in your face, and releasing anxiety and tension, so the band and audience could walk away a little lighter. And if that isn’t punk, I don’t know what is.

Final Thought: I hope a lot of people read this review so they can see the name Skating Polly. This was one of my favorite performances of the year if not my favorite. I hope they find what they are looking for.

Favorite Songs: “All The Choices,” “Little Girl Blue and The Battle Envy,” and “I’m Sorry For Always Apologizing”

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