by Charlotte Force
The back room of Branded Saloon is an intimate burgundy space with neon signs and pseudo-gas lamps. It’s a dark room, even on days when the sun is smiling, with velvet curtains hugging the jam-packed people around a low-rise stage. It was the venue of Planet Panic!, an Earth Day benefit concert organized by Thomas Warner Perriee and Venice Ohleyer. For three hours, seven excellent bands played excellent music, as a projector screen hung in the back screening The Lorax, psychedelic cartoons, videos of nature, Alice and Wonderland, and dream-like fractals.
Planet Panic was Thomas Perriee’s idea. In the past, his family has gone out to pick up garbage on Earth Day, but this year, he wanted to get his friends involved. “But I knew my friends wouldn’t do that,” he laughed about garbage cleanups, so “one night, [he] was up really late doing homework, and realized that Earth Day was the next month, so [he] got really scared. [He] wanted to do something.” There was one issue: he had never organized an event like this before. “I was sure it wasn’t going to happen. And then I told Venice.” When he told his co-organizer, Venice Ohleyer, about his idea, things started to take shape. “Thomas told me in photography club,” she recounts, “and I thought that was such a good idea, and we should get it to happen.” Thomas adds, “We were both unsure it was going to happen, but once I found people who were behind this, and they were backing us…” They emailed lots of venues – including Silent Barn (“We emailed them three times but they never responded…”) - but to no avail. “We tried a bunch of places, and by then, it was really late – less than a month ago. Everybody had this date booked.” Finally, Thomas asked his older brother, who works at Branded Saloon, if they could use the back room of the bar. “He said ‘Yeah, yeah, let me ask right now.’ And ten minutes later…” they had a venue!
The purpose of the event went beyond celebrating Earth Day - all of the event’s profits, including ticket, button, zine, and t-shirt sales, went to the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) - the bands actually performed for free. Maya Greenberg designed t-shirts and Malach Molaksa designed the buttons. The NRDC “works to safeguard the earth—its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends” (NRDC website). This true Earth Day spirit was Tomas and Venice’s ultimate motivation for pushing the event through. The band Foam, in fact, got wonderfully environmentally conscious lyrics from the children’s book The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, which is a well-known allegory for what the planet has to offer. They were actually one of the first groups scheduled for the event – Thomas recounts, “They were totally okay with it. I asked, ‘If I don’t get any bands, can you guys just play for three hours?’ and they just said ‘Yeah sure’.” Eventually, Thomas and Venice were able to unite seven bands. The lineup was:
Every Man Jack
Ginger and the Snaps
The music, in one word, was great. The musicians, in four words, were having a good time. Before the last song in their set, Little Creek played Yellow by Coldplay good-naturedly, after popular demand from the crowd. Ginger and the Snaps invited the audience to dance, so by the end of the show friends were dancing in each others' arms. Ginger and the Snaps added a raspy, swinging vibe to a generally rock n' roll atmosphere, and Gruesome Twosome contributed a sprinkling of punk charm. Foam's gradual crescendos enchanted everyone in the room. Ginger and the Snaps ended the event with the song DNA, and the enthusiastic crowd jumped along, bouncing so hard you could feel the floor move.
Cool characters filled the room. A girl with blue and green light-up platform shoes. Bleached hair and black hair and the rainbow between. Mom jeans and stressed jeans and skinny jeans and combinations of the three. The members of Ginger and the Snaps accounted for three button-downs, a fur coat, and a tie-dye bandanna. Gruesome Twosome sported fake blood, representing the earth’s suffering, and Earth Day pins (in support of the event’s charity). The lead singer of Foam wore one of the Planet Panic shirts on sale. The crowd broke out their short sleeves for the first days of spring weather this year, and some spaghetti straps could be seen for those summer enthusiasts.
The back room of Branded Saloon filled up almost immediately – so fast that some people had to be turned away. Performers took refuge in the lounge underneath the room, where the music echoed down the poster-plastered staircase and the main sounds were tuning and the billiard “plonks” coming from the pool table. Upstairs, casual listeners bobbed their heads to the music, while avid fans and friends made their way through the crowd to the front.
Two teenagers, a few guitars, a call to a brother, and an enthusiastic crowd later, the event was a huge success.