Are we back? Is this thing on!? Alright where did we leave off…..RIGHT we’re in the car racing south to Pilsen from The Dollhouse to mt. Happy! Need to be caught up – Check out part one!

Ears ringing, and still trying to keep my equilibrium juices from spilling, we managed to drive 20 minutes south to good ol’ Pilsen. As my brother and I walked up there was a definite shift from The Dollhouse environment to mt. Happy. The dress code changed from top knots, to shaved heads, and liberty spikes; it seemed we had arrived at mt. Happy, a frequent punk house venue. A few staircases later, and location had changed to a dark, grungy basement that had me feeling “cool” to be invited. A warm vibe was shared amongst many excited faces in the crowd as they had seen, or will see their favorite acts that night. The likeminded spirits all around gave off the high intensity needed for a successful folk-punk show.

It had already been a packed night with Spooky Tarantulas, a folk-punk duo, Ventra, a psychedelic grunge act, and Glamour Hotline, purely a punk trio at The Dollhouse. Now I was ready for the switch to Highway Ruger Bandits, a folk-punk quartet, and Arroyo Deathmatch, experimental folk-punk at mt. Happy.

mt. Happy

Currently on rock star time, we caught the middle to the end of folk-punk quartet, Highway Ruger Bandits. Four bearded men, in jean jackets, and interchangeable stringed folk instruments lined the concrete basement wall. Trading vocal lines, and harmonies, as well as mandolin, to melodica solos, HWB stole my attention on the spot. “I wouldn’t work for justice, even if it existed”  was belted across the ensemble with such sincerity and dedication, that we nearly burnt our draft cards right then and there! And for their last song, a few guitars, banjos and a standup bass joined HWB to cover a Dead Kennedys tune that made us proud to have such talented musicians in the area. Highway Ruger Bandits sparked the thought of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young getting really into Black Flag.

To close the night, Arroyo Deathmatch, an Albuquerque based experimental folk-punk group, absolutely annihilated their set, and blew open the genre. Weird tempos, intricate band hits, clean blend of harmonies and instruments, as well as prophetic lyrics that spoke about emptiness, with hints of optimism was only the surface of the group. Arroyo Deathmatch played mostly songs off their new album, Hidden Histories, along with a handful of other originals that the crowd was already familiar with. The roller coaster ride of emotions left little room for excuses that were eventually overpowered by frustrated realizations, “It’s like I don’t even have the tools to see, a part of any of this that could possibly be me,” leaving the basement dwellers in a moshing wave of an empathetic nightmare. Another intricate, and head bob worthy song of the night was  “A Language that goes Unspoken”, which took on the challenge of having multiple time signature, and tempo changes, while collectively making it feel as one whole. Climaxing instrumentally to the line “she asked me what my favorite fantasy of death was, I told her anyone you can’t get up from” left a reflective crowd in awe. The amount of thought, and time that went in to each song was very apparent to the audience.

While we may have missed a few bands I badly wanted to see (sorry Suburbanists), and driving to Chicago and back was a bit of a haul (sorry mother earth), the evening was fantastic, and the music was dynamite. Each time I attend a DIY show in the Midwest there’s this magic about it all that makes me feel so fortunate and excited to have such a loving community who is willing to constantly provide and go out of their way for the artists. If you ever have the chance to attend a show at a DIY venue do it! If you ever have the chance to play host to a DIY venue DO IT! It’s an amazing experience with amazing people and always a good time. Listen and support these local acts now, they’re blowing up quicker than usual these days!


Mitch McLauglin himself is no stranger to the Midwest Music scene and had played everything from basements to the House of Blues. Keep an eye on him as he continues to rock various venues and states and keep checking back here at Midwest Action. You never know what you’re going to find.

Mitch McLaughlinHighway Ruger BanditsArroyo Deathmatch

Mitch McLaughlin

Mitch McLaughlin