Not So Whatever: Brown Jug Liquor Hosts Whatever Fest

A recap of the August 11 event

Zoe Jensen


The "whatever" of Whatever Fest was chaos. It was ridiculous. It was absurd. It was whatever bubbled to the surface for the mosh-pushing, beer-spilling, hair-thrashing, chain-smoking, raucous-cheering crowd – which was a lot more than just a blasé "whatever.

Whatever Fest's second installment was at Brown Jug Liquor, a lauded long-time warehouse venue located in the depths of Meriden, Connecticut. Through the warehouse, one passed different jacuzzi jets of smoke alongside vendors dotting the walls, dancers on the rug-lined floor, and bands in the back. Connor Rog, vocalist and guitarist of Vvebs (a band that could be easily mistaken for part of the 2013-era Burger Records roster), organized the lineup to feature artists similar to their Dada-esque sound – punk and stupid, sad and silly, rock and roll.

The first act was The Infinite Wet Secret, a Boston-based band led by linguist, tarot-card reader, singer, and lead guitarist Patrick Murphy, who did gymnastic jumps into the air while reciting their poems somehow still into the mic. The bassist and drummer were the consistent and stable needle holding Patrick's cascading and looming thread of vocals. The talk-singing band sounded like a polycule baby of The Leanovers, Dry Cleaning, and The B-52s.

VVEBS was next, with Connor giving the obligatory "whatever" between songs of controlled yelling. Owen Bigler stood almost still while his bass bounced beats in disorderly order, ricocheting with Reena Yu's quick drumming.

The punk kept going with FAFA. Once lead singer Allie Tracz walked onto the stage, the room was hers. Water bottle in hand and thong hugging over gym shorts, she commanded the stage, somehow flawlessly transitioning from a heart-wrenching song about multiple friends dying from overdose to "Poppin Titties at the Beach."

SCAVS brought all of the silliness and satire left in the room to a rumbling boil – shirtless wrestler on drums, crab-walking guitarist, filterless bassist. The room could not be still. Everyone was in on the Dada, not caring about anything except to shake their bodies and scream.

It was a dream for Brown Jug Liquor to welcome people into their home studio and for Connor to organize such a wonderfully “whatever” show. Here are some interviews from the night.

All photos by Pasquale J. Festa

You just got off stage. How are you feeling?

REENA (VVEBS): I feel good. I feel sweaty, I feel hot, I feel stinky. I think I played a good show. It was fun. It was drunken, good fun. I also play in a studio in a warehouse, so this was a really comfortable space to perform.

Owen Bigler and Reena Yu of VVEBS

Connor Rog of VVEBS

What was your role in this thing?
CONNOR (VVEBS): Well, I play the guitar, and I sing the most in Vvebs, and I brought the people, the arena together.

So you organized this?
CONNOR: Oh, yeah, yeah. Tonight. Whatever.

Why did you do it?
CONNOR: Because you can, you should be whatever you want to be at this thing. You should feel however you want to feel, and you should be wherever, whenever and, and whatever at the fest, I don't know, whatever was like–

REENA: Be your freak self!

How did it feel playing up there?
CONNOR: I lost my voice up there. It was really, really fun. I love the amount of people here. I love the energy.

How did you choose the bands?
CONNOR: Many kinds of bands here fit this "whatever" caricature and culture. These are bands that are down with whatever.

So you own the place?
JACOB: Oh, yes. I'm one of multiple renters. We have about five renters in total that have this space. It's like a venue, art, studio space. We have bands here. We have artists here.

How is it to have shows here?

JACOB: A couple of the renters here actually started shows here ten years ago. I used to come to shows here about eight years ago when it was called "Super Position." It's the same space, same guys running and stuff. It's always been a great place. I always loved coming here for shows and the groups involved. I was a big fan of the space and had a band that would practice in the hallway in one of the smaller rooms. We always came over here when they had a show or just came to hang out sometimes. And then, I eventually joined the space with some of the other guys.

How'd you like the event?

JACOB: Oh yeah, this is great. Whatever Fest, it was quite the antithesis of whatever. Quite engaging. It was good. I cared, I cared. It was good. No, it's just a fucking fantastic night.

Kurt Trembeczki of SKAVS

Patrick Murphy of The Infinite Wet Secret

How does it feel to have played Whatever Fest?
PATRICK (THE INFINITE WET SECRET): I feel like I rolled myself into the comfiest blanket and was loaded into a car. And then I came out in Heaven. It was a stacked bill the whole way through. I couldn't fucking believe it. It has been an absolute pleasure to come out here and see all the vendors and everybody. It was our third show, first out of state, and holy shit, what an incredible time.

Why The Infinite Wet Secret?

PATRICK: I wanted a name that was not two-part, noun-noun. I'm a linguist by training, so I wanted a name with three words or more that gives you no immediate image, and all the words have abstract things.

The secret part, people will be like, Ooh, what's the wet secret? It's very generative. I went on a mushroom trip earlier this year, and I thought a lot about it, and I was like, life, death, the infinite wet secret. But also sex. Or, I don't know, the brain.

It's a wet thing. It's governing how we are, where we're at, and our emotions. I don't know. I could go on for a long while.

Allie Tracz of FAFA

Why are you here?
BIAGO: My buddy put on the show, and I wanted to come check him out.

Any standouts?
BIAGIO: It's been really memorable. I really like VVEBS. They kind of stole the show. I like this moment from Reena, the drummer. She comes off as shy and a little tight-knit, but when she drums, I feel like all of that goes away. It feels like she's kind of the artistic voice of the band, kind of low key. I know the devil horns are her thing. There was a moment when, while she was drumming, her devil horns were clearly falling off, and you could tell she was trying to shake it off. But it spiraled into her leaning into the music.

Alex McCloskey and Dylan Royka of SKAVS

How's it going?
ALEX (SKAVS): Awesome.

Why awesome?

ALEX: Because there's great people here, great people who organize it and Brown Jug Liquor is so much fun.

Have you been here before?

ALEX: This is my first time here. It's really cool. I got to smoke cigarettes inside, which was really fun.

How was it to play here?

ALEX: We missed our good friend Ryan, who plays the keyboard. But it was nice to get back to just being a three-piece because we haven't played for that as a three-piece in months.

Reena Yu and Connor Rog of VVEBS

ALEC: SKAVS is good.

Yeah. Why?

ALEC: Because they run around on the carpet barefoot while shoving guitars into the backs of the other players and spitting on the ground. And I like that. And the drummer was fucking nuts. I want to be able to jam that way. And he's got a very cool mask on while he performs, but no shirt. The other guitarist had no shirt, but the bass guitarist had a shirt. They all looked great.

VVEBS was my favorite. Like you said, Connor has a voice for screaming. I felt like during one of their songs, I was just floating, even though I was sitting down.

What did you think of FAFA?

They had me going LALA. They had a command of the room that no other band that night did. I felt the vibes through the floor even though I was sitting down.

What did you think of the space?

I was intrigued walking into that place, seeing satanic doors and just being in Meriden. It surprised me in a pleasant way. But the vibes are very calm there. I mean, as calm as that kind of music is, with a lot of fun.