Mischief Brew



Vocals / Guitar: Erik Petersen

Bass: Shawn St. Clair

Drums: Chris Petersen


Once upon a time, Erik Petersen confined himself to a basement with an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, a rickety assortment of drums, a four-track and some beat-up microphones to stir a bunch of ideas together into a stew of songs. The resulting concoction was “Mirth, or, Certain Verses Composed and Fitted to Tunes, for the Delight and Recreation of All” (2000), an eight-song demo cassette of acoustic punk influenced by Medieval danses and raucous Romany dust-raising ditties. It was to become the first Mischief Brew demo… and it was labeled folk-punk, Gypsy-punk, pirate music, circus music, hobo singing, Klezmer, Celtic music, Medieval Anarcho-Minstrelsy, and “good music to cook breakfast to” both here and abroad. It was compared to everything from Woody Guthrie to Crass to The Pogues to Tom Waits. You see where I’m going with this? I don’t.
Philly’s Mischief Brew rose from the undead ashes of The Orphans (who had carved a nice following of kids from the tri-state area before one of them was even old enough to drive), and mostly played solo acoustic in bars and basements at first. These demos, and all patches/T-shirts/goodies were manufactured and released at the home of Erik Petersen and Denise Vertucci, who were to embark on an ongoing quest of traveling, meeting new friends, and releasing punk records on their own Fistolo label. From the seed of the first demo came another demo, then some live recordings, then the first two official releases, “Bakenal” (CDep, Fistolo Records) and “Bellingham & Philadelphia” (LP/CD, Art of the Underground Records), a split with Robert Blake. The two releases showed an even greater range of Mischief Brew’s songcraft… demonic swing, a punk tango, and the whiskey-infused live favorite “Roll Me Through The Gates of Hell.” The shows started to get bigger and crazier, tours started to transpire, and the recordings were being passed around, bootlegged, sung around campfires, and blared out of boomboxes on the backs of bikes during Critical Mass rides (to name a few).
There was no real band at first, although Chris “Doc” Kulp (a friend from the Orphans days), was a frequent collaborator and wound up being the first official Mischief Brew drummer. With the help of Sean Yantz (Evil Robot Us’), the trio recorded the first official Mischief Brew LP, “Smash the Windows” (2005) with Tamir Muskat and Danny Shatzky at Vibromonk in Brooklyn, NY. It was a fun, anarchic, spontaneous experience, also featuring collaborations with Scott Sturgeon (Leftover Crack, Star Fucking Hipsters), Franz Nicolay (World/Inferno, Guignol, The Hold Steady) and Peter Hess (Balkan Beat Box, World/Inferno, Guignol). Vibromonk is a huge warehouse-type studio space in Williamsburg with lots of musical toys scattered about, which were used in the recording of “Smash.” Marching bass drum? Sure, use it! Bells, whistles, marimba? Why not?
At this point, no one was quite sure whether to pin Mischief Brew/Erik Petersen as a protest singer or a carnival barker… with songs ranging from the fife-and-snare protest folk of “Boycott Me!” to the barnburning Gypsy-punk of “A Liquor Never Brewed.” Welcoming this kind of mystery, immediately following the first tour on “Smash the Windows,” Erik began recording “Songs from Under the Sink” – an LP of older songs played in bars, basements, and protests in the early days, but never put down to tape. It was a full LP of songs haunting the cellars, begging to be heard. All in all, “SFUTS” is known as the more “folky” record (or, more acoustic, more political, what have you), recorded over a series of months at Permanent Hearing Damage in West Philadelphia. Thankfully/sadly, some of the more rage-fueled protest songs had not lost their relevance after a few years of sitting dormant.
More 7”s, splits, bootlegs followed, including split 7”s with David Dondero and Bread & Roses. Mischief Brew changed line-ups and eventually settled on Shawn St. Clair (Endless Nightmare, Lost Cause) for bass duties, and a wide array of drummers. Nowadays, drumsticks are whittled into brittle sticks by Greg Taylor (The Holy Mountain). There’s always acoustic recordings and performances, but at this point Mischief Brew had thankfully become something you might need earplugs for: an actual band with bass and drums.
With two European tours under the belt, the next Mischief Brew release became “Photographs from the Shoebox,” a split LP/CD with Joe Jack Talcum (guitarist/singer of The Dead Milkmen). Next came the acoustic ballad “Patches (For The Virgin Haus Punx),” released on a four-way split 7” with Wingnut Dishwashers Union, Endless Mike and the Beagle Club, and Guitar Bomb; and “Punx Win!” (electric and acoustic versions), released on a split 8” with Andrew Jackson Jihad on Pirates Press Records.
There’s more on the way, but it’s too early to blab about it all at this point. Isn’t this enough for you to take in already? Let’s recap what we’ve discussed: Mischief Brew has been around since 2000 in one form or another, has featured many members/collaborators, and continues to play raucous anthems to crowds of angry young miscreants all over the States and the European Union. They’ve played with everyone from Citizen Fish to Amebix to Nunslaughter (hats off to our poor pig’s-blood-soaked drum set). Feel free to come out and join up for a drink and a few songs, just whatever you do, don’t sit down. And always keep your head up: there’s always flailing bodies and dirty boots that are raining down from the front of the stage. This is not church, it’s not show-and-tell, it’s not school or work… it’s an inebriated release from the mundane, the ordinary, the tedium. And it just might be coming to a club, warehouse, or block party near you!

Sadly Erik Petersen is not with us anymore… His Music will live forever!



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