There aren’t many all-ages music venues around anymore. They aren’t money-making ventures; more a labor of love. Phones and social media are massive distractions. People move away, or get different jobs. People in positions of authority tend to get nervous when there are large groups of young people in one place playing and listening to loud music.
In the greater Bangor region, however, there are two all ages venues. There’s The Kave, the venerable hardcore and metal venue in Bucksport, which for more than a decade has been a stalwart of the hardcore scene in Maine. And there’s The Swim House, on College Avenue in Old Town near the Orono line, a DIY basement vene which has played host to pop-punk, emo, hardcore and indie rock bands on a semi-regular basis for the past year.
Out of those shows at The Swim House comes the album by Bangor area pop-punk band The Banner Year, comprised of singer-guitarist Phil Boyce, guitarist Dylan Savageau, rhythm guitarist Aaron Blackmere, bassist Ryan Hibbs and drummer Travis Wibby. Members of the band help book the shows at The Swim House, in fact, and use the space to rehearse. It makes sense that the band’s debut EP, released in late February 2015, would be titled “The Swim House Chronicles.” The DIY venue is The Banner Year’s creative home.
The Banner Year makes no bones about the fact that it plays pop-punk. The band proudly touts it on the Facebook and Bandcamp pages. The choruses are soaring, passionate and impossible to ignore. The guitar riffs offer up that classic blend of distorted crunch and crisp pop accessibility, the hallmark of pop-punk from any decade. The lyrics deal primarily with girls, friends, the scene and heavy emotions. It’s pop-punk, in its purest, most distilled form; anthemic, melodic and pumped up with youthful energy. “Baby, This Ain’t a Fairy Tale” — is there a more pop-punk song title than that? — takes the lead straight out of the gate on “The Swim House Chronicles,” with a verse that’s as catchy as the chorus. Boyce’s vocals thankfully tread the line between screamo grit and melodic wailing — not too harsh, not too soft. Just right.
It’s nice to know that all ages venues, and the genres so often associated with them — punk, pop-punk, emo, hardcore, whatever — can stay afloat and, in The Swim House’s and The Banner Year’s case, vibrant and thriving — in this day and age. The kids are all right, aren’t they?
The Banner Year will next perform at 7 p.m. Friday, April 24 with Bangtown Timebomb, Holyfilth, Too Late the Hero and Friday Night Lites at the Bangor Comic & Toy Con at the Cross Insurance Center. The Swim House will announce its spring and summer show schedule in the coming weeks; visit facebook.com/theswimhouseme for updates.