Mallwalker – Danger
4.6.23 by Zach Mitchell
Learning about someone posthumously is a messy, beautiful process. It’s happened to me twice over
the past year: once when my friend Nick (of the wonderful band Spiral Rash) died and a second time
when Sarah “Underhill” Danger passed away. I didn’t know Sarah like I knew Nick, but what little time I
spent with her was spent with someone who treated me like I was her best friend even after just
meeting in passing a once at Gonerfest. When she died, I regretted not knowing to get her better. I saw
the tributes from people in Milwaukee and the people who knocked back beers every year in the
Memphis heat with her and felt a strange twinge of guilt along with the expected sadness. That’s
obviously selfish on some level, but that’s what’s hard about having a new friend in your life pass away –
you end up mourning the person and the friendship that never was at the same time.
Thankfully, Biff (the great bootleg head of Das Boot Tapes) over at Tetryon Tapes released Danger, a tape combining the Mallwalker (Sarah’s band) album that never saw an official release with an incendiary set he recorded live in Buffalo. Another funny connection here – the Mallwalker album was recorded by Eric and Stacy over at Sex Tape Records, who, at one point, tried to court my band Big Clown by telling us that they had the record ready to release. They sent us the album and I never listened to it.
This was the story of my experience with Sarah until summer 2022, when Big Clown made the trek up to Milwaukee to play a show at the fabulous Circle A with the equally fabulous Florida Brothers Band. Sarah was a Gonerfest regular but we never really had an actual conversation. I didn’t see Mallwalker when they played a 4 AM aftershow or when they played the festival proper; I walked in during MOTO’s set two bands after and was told I missed a great set from some band with a wild singer. I filed away the information for later. I saw Sarah, all dyed hair and provocative punk clothes, and knew she had to be cool. I didn’t feel cool enough to talk to her, so I didn’t. She obviously thought my band was cool enough to pump her fist and yell along to our songs at a sparsely attended show (and again at a very chaotic 1:30 AM Gonerfest afterparty that was better attended (we played better in Milwaukee though), so this was totally a me thing. Hindsight is always 20/20.
I wish I had listened to this album while Sarah was still alive. I want to tell her that “Parent Trap” felt
relatable in ways that punk songs usually don’t. I want to tell her that laughing about turning into your
parents is more worthwhile than hating it. I want to tell her that the sexcapade outlined in the first verse
of “Phase” is fucking gnarly and made me wish I could’ve/would’ve raised a Gonerbrau to it at the Hi
Tone. I want to tell her that it sounds like this is what she was born to do. Some people just make sense
as punk singers. It’s not about the costume (which she rocked, clearly) or the lyrics (which hit the
modern punk sweet spot of being funny, gross, and passionate). It’s the venom. It’s the confidence. It’s
the charisma. She sings exactly the same as she talked and that’s the kind of energy I crave in my music.
So what actually was Mallwalker? Who was Sarah? What did I learn from this tape?
- Mallwalker was a good band that absolutely earned their opening slot at Gonerfest.
- Mallwalker was the kind of band I don’t think I would’ve appreciated in 2019 if I saw them at
Gonerfest. This, again, is a me problem. I have become much more appreciative of energetic
performances and opportunities to live in songs than I was in 2019. Ironically enough, that
MOTO performance changed a lot for me.
- Mallwalker had an absolutely killer bass tone that more punk bands should rip off.
- Sarah could front any band and it would be worth listening to.
Mallwalker was clearly special among a heap of other scuzzy four chord floor tom pound punk bands.in my life. It’s impossible for me to separate this band from the context of the tape, its creation, and where I’m at, but I also just don’t want to. This is all I’ve got left of someone who was warm to me and
could’ve been someone I got to know better in years to come. It’s worth holding onto that for as long as
Tapes of the fabulous available at the Teyron Tape Bandcamp Page