(Ed. note: I'm on vacation in Wisconsin now, so I have the fierce-fab writer and photographer AJ Dent sitting in today -- always an honor to host her work here! I send her a thousand thanks!)

Was the week of June 14th-20th extra difficult, or what? At first I thought it was just in my head,, but the news was full of utter awfulness. Social media feeds of my friends and colleagues were bleak as well, making my heart go out to them so frequently I thought it wouldn’t be able to find its way back.

By the time Thursday the 18th came around, I felt nigh on guilty for my plans to hit a show that night. How dare I try to have a good time with all the abysmal BS flying about?

Well, I soon remembered that places like the Funhouse exist for such times as these. For a few hours, my head was rattled by rock and roll rather than the world’s political, racial, and gender inequalities. It felt fantastic.

Up first that night were The Heels, a four-piece group that’s equal parts cigarette smoke and glitter lipstick. They’ve been cranking out foreboding, whip-tight rock since 2006, but this was my first time catching them. It made me laugh to see toy ponies onstage as lead singer Paula Boldyn joked about wanting to bang the crowd after the show. If the sound of violet wands turns you on, you like this band.

I hate to admit this, but you know the rubbish I mentioned earlier? Well, Thursday was in the throes of the Charleston shooting. Earlier in the evening I’d shared a couple articles about it on Facebook, the beast that too often bites the hand that feeds. Between the first and second set of the night, my phone began blowing up with some good ol’ fashioned hate mail from people in my past. I should’ve kept my eyes on the prize, looking to the gods of rock and roll, but I foolishly went out for a stroll to verbally combat the nonsense pouring in, aiming to make it back for at least a couple of the next band’s songs. You know what happened next. I dash in, phone already dying, only to find the set ended earlier than expected.

I’m sorry, Turbulent Hearts! I dig your sound and aesthetic. And the fact that the drummer of the next band up wore one of your merch shirts.

Thankfully, The Two Tens bonked me back into the right head space. The duo were all electric attitude onstage, grinning at one another between bouts of ripping tunes open. Drummer Rikki Styxx (who makes Sonics drummer Dusty Watson a happily married man!) is one of those drummers who makes it look far too fun and easy up there. It’s as if she just sits on the drum throne and exhales. It was a blast to watch her go to town alongside guitarist and lead singer Adam Bones, whose bouncing hair and commanding voice carry the energy of a kickboxing fight ... on a trampoline. 

Feeling miles away from the drama of the day, I was ready for the final set of the night. The Piniellas were just as I’d been promised by a pal: feel-good punk, pop, and more punk. All the fun of the Ramones, the fever of the approaching Solstice, and hooks so suckerpunchy you’d think you were in your childhood home’s basement, fighting with your brother.

Many thanks to each group that brought it to the stage that night, helping me shake a fist at the filth and flim-flam in the world. Next time I feel like crawling under a rock and dying, I’ll head for the Funhouse instead.