What’s The Word? With Justin Sawyer

What’s The Word? With Justin Sawyer

Justin Sawyer is a Kenosha resident, with 15+ years in the food and beverage industry, as well as a former Tour Manager for national touring artists for 7 years. His interests and pieces will cover a wide variety of topics ranging from music & art, food & fashion, to mental health and self awareness. With an avid background and wealth of knowledge spanning several avenues, be sure to keep tabs on his pieces!”

Vintage Vice: Why is vintage clothing so popular right now?

If you haven’t been hiding in your house or living under a rock the past few years, you may have noticed a growing trend and popularity amongst everyone when it comes to all things vintage. Let’s dive into a few reasons why this has now trickled into the mainstream, the various reasons for it, and why YOU should be buying secondhand vs big box companies.

Let’s go on a little time warp, back to the 90s to give you some insight into this vintage head (that’s me, I’m the self proclaimed vintage head) as to where my love for vintage was birthed.

Growing up, I grew up in thrift stores and garage sales. Being one of 8 kids, that’s no easy feat to clothe all those kids, while allowing them to be fashionable and feel confident in their clothes. I learned from the best, as my mom was the queen of finding those hidden gems that were left on the racks and tables. I vividly remember being 10 and finding a Christian Dior scarf, as though that was common for a 10 year old boy to know who the hell Christian Dior was. My parent’s were the parents who drove past alleys and curbs, to find treasures that were discarded by their previous owner. As a kid, this was WILDLY embarrassing, as an adult, I’m now driving while rubbernecking curbs and saying “oh man, I wonder what’s in there!”

There’s something exciting about thrifting. It’s the thrill of the hunt, and like my old pal Lemmy Kilmeister said “the chase is better than the catch”.

From a more environmental standpoint, buying secondhand is very carbon footprint conscious, for several reasons. Did you know on average 80 to 100 billion new garments are produced globally, per year? Think about that, that’s A LOT of clothing. Sadly, only about 20 percent of those materials will be discarded and repurposed into new garments, while an even sickening less than 1% will be recycled.

Kenya, one of the poorest countries in the world, collected a shocking $460 billion dollars worth of discarded garments. To call it an epidemic is putting it lightly, as their water and soil are permanently contaminated by the plastic and non-biodegradable materials used in garment producing, which are toxic.

In closing, I implore you to skip the big designer stores and hit local thrift stores, and garage sales. Keep your finger on the pulse, as there are pop up vintage events happening both online and in person 24/7. I invite you, the readers, to my first pop up vintage event on November 11th at Sgt. Pickers in Kenosha on 63rd street. We’ll be celebrating their 1 year anniversary, which will feature artist Colin Roberston debuting his works all the way from Scotland, Food by Kenosha natives Hydn Cheese, and a live in person sale with yours truly.

Take care of yourself and your neighbor, try to spread light into these dark times, and we’ll see you next Tuesday for another blog!

Written by Justin Sawyer


Vintage boutique Spotlight

Avid fan of music, with a keen eye for men’s modernistic fashion touching on influences from the UK and the classic looks of mods and jackets that would give James Dean a run for his closet.

Opening on Veteran’s Day of 2022, Owner John Henken went headfirst into Sgt. Pickers with a clear vision of curation. Boasting time tested brands such as Ben Sherman, Florsheim, and Penguin, with a rack of pieces that complimentary look and wallet.

Sharing a brick and mortar location with Kenosha Vets “Deberge photography and framing, artwork is firing on all cylinders. A keen eye and hand for architectural design, you’ll find schematic pieces for various designs, but it doesn’t stop there. From iconic characters like Mickey Mouse to vintage motorcycle and marine artwork, there is a piece for every theme in your room.

The space is instantly inviting, with no detail overlooked. From the moment you walk in, you’re greeted with a warm smile and firm handshake from the owner. John takes a genuine interest in your style, in hopes of finding a piece within his curation to send to its forever home.

For myself, it felt like I walked into a friend’s sitting room, discussing and dissecting everything from art punk rock ala 1977 New York dive bar legends like David Byrne (Talking Heads) to obscure poets like John Cooper Clarke. Time seemingly takes a backseat while your time is spent within this boutique, with chairs that grab you and softly say “take me home, i park well with a glass of bourbon & vinyl”

Sgt. Pickers operates from 10am-3pm Thursday and Friday, as well as 10-4pm Saturdays.

Be on the lookout for details regarding the Sgt. Pickers 1 year anniversary party & sale, and keep up to date via Facebook & Instagram!

As always, take care of yourself and others, and stay safe out there.

Written by Justin Sawyer
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out
(This article first appeared in the 04/07/22 issue of the Smart Reader)


The State of the stage, and beyond.

Do you hear that sound? That low hum and whisper not too far off in the distance? That, my readers, is the lovely sound of live music back in full swing. It’s been a long 2 (going on 20 it seems) years since we’ve had some normalcy with live music.

Let’s rewind, it was a crisp and hopeful Tuesday afternoon in March, where everyone felt the itch of a warm plate of Irish fare, washed down with a pint of Guinness. Suddenly, those dreams were shut down faster than your mom saying your friend couldn’t sleep over on a school night.

All live music events went dead, thousands of people were out of jobs overnight with no clear idea of an end date in sight. Box offices, stage hands, road management and even those on stage sat and watched the run be ripped out from under them, with nothing but a shrug and an “I’m sorry?” from the universe.

I spent the better part of 7 years living out of a suitcase traveling the country, sleeping in vans and hotels, moving up to full sized tour buses. I saw 48 out of 50 states, and 3 provinces of Canada before I was 25. I can firmly say those were some of, if not the best years of my life. It’s hard work, long hours, a lot of sacrifice but it’s overall beyond rewarding.

For me, it was the sounds of the amplifiers, the glowing faces of those willingly trading their hard earned money for that t-shirt with tour dates, with a cold brew in hand.

As an avid music fan, and former road manager I couldn’t imagine something so important as music being put on hold. I felt for my friends in the music industry, I can’t imagine the fear and uncertainty they felt. I couldn’t imagine venues closing down, and never re-opening, bands calling it quits, and the biggest shift in the music industry since I’ve been alive.

Throughout all the struggles, we saw the strongest survive. Bands started offering live stream performances, getting on board with “Live from home” free sets on instagram and facebook, and finding new, creative ways to engage their fans. I saw friends pursue their own brands, falling in love with new industries like vintage clothing reselling, etc. It was a scary time, but also pushed the envelope in the creative department where an almost darwinism sense of purpose grew overnight.

Fast forward to last year, we saw tours slowly being announced, the smell of a cold brew and concert fare was no longer a distant pipedream as we started excitedly planning over calendars for various events.

I cannot applaud the people within the industry enough for always finding ways to preserve, to push on and keep their nose to the grind of something so passionate. Another exciting note happened during the Grammy’s where we saw the road crews not only being noticed, but applauded and thanked for all the hard work that no one seems to see. Without those stage hands, merch people, managers, drivers, assistants and so many more, the live show wouldn’t go off without a hitch. So from me to you, thank you for all you do, have done, and continue to do.

In closing, I want you to start opening up the newspapers, checking those flyers hanging in your local coffee shops, and start going back to concerts. I know, I know there are “new norms” that might be a headache, but I promise you there are few and far between feelings that are more rewarding than a live concert with great people. Buy that t-shirt, sacrifice the extra hour or 2 of sleep, and make memories that you’re going to look ack fondly on, because money comes and goes, but memories are timeless & priceless. Stay safe, check in on your friends, and be a little kinder to yourself.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This blog was submitted on 04/04/22)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out
(This article first appeared in the 04/07/22 issue of the Smart Reader)


How are you making 2022 yours?

Hello good readers, it’s Justin Sawyer coming back through with a think piece for you. I want to chat with you about how you’re taking in these first few months, and what you’re doing to make it a great year.

The winter seems to be for many people, the most lethargic & motivationally trying part of the year for many, including myself. You wake up, look out your window and chances are the weather just makes you wonder “ Do I really need my job? I could totally quit and have enough money to last until……next week?”. I know for a fact a thought like that comes along to my mind at least once or twice a month.

I think this time of the year is great for several reasons, if you take the time to utilize it from day to day. Take the time to reflect on what you accomplished last year, and what goals you didn’t get as close to as you wanted, and how you can transfer that to the following year. Just because last year ended, does not mean you need to abandon those goals.

For myself, I like to tell my friends and family to focus on their health, finances, and mental health. Those are 3 of the biggest and important areas, and need to be consistently in your frame of focus. Starting this year, I decided to take everything day by day, and figure out how 6 months from now, where I would want to be.

Think of those interests and hobbies that you never seem to do often enough, the ones that make you think “ Why don’t I do this more often? I love this. “ THOSE, those are the activities you need to start doing more often. Remember, it doesn’t need to be anything over the top or grandiose, it could be as simple as having a cup of coffee and catching the sunrise. For myself, music is a big passion of mine, and brings me a lot of joy.

I firmly believe one item you don’t focus enough on, is reflecting on the people, places, and things in your life. You should periodically ask yourself “ Am I surrounding myself with people that benefit and support me? Where do we go when we spend time together? Am I around like minded people in those places that are trying to accomplish things themselves? What are the things I’m doing there?

In closing, I implore you to give more thought to the areas in your life you feel you have been neglecting, not giving enough time to, and the areas you’re spending too much time on that aren’t giving back to you. Life is too short and fragile to be spending time in a rut, as a cog in the machine of mediocrity. Be bold, push yourself to the edges of your comfort, and be brave enough to fail. When all is said and done, I hope you can continue to smash the goals you set for yourself, as ultimately you control your life, you’re steering the vessel toward the manifested goals you want.

Stay safe out there, tell those you care about you love them, and take care of yourself.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This blog was submitted on 10/21/21)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out
(This article first appeared in the 3/10/22 issue of the Smart Reader)

Putting those 24 hours to work!

New year, new you! We’re a month+ into 2022 and it’s time for a bit of reflection on your day to day routines, and short term goals. With “Dry January” wrapping up some of us have fallen off the health kick already. If there is one thing in life I’ve learned as I’ve aged, it’s that life gets in the way of living. That can make things like health, sleep, eating, and time management quite the challenge day to day.

When you think about it, 24 hours seems like more than enough time to get a lot of things accomplished. Now putting that into practice takes a little (or a lot) of fine tuning. The most common struggle I’ve seen people encounter is time management. What is time management? It’s pretty cut & dry, you have to think of your daily routine, and curate it around the time you have, in a more organized manner. This is pivotal if you’re looking to optimize your day, outside of your “down time”. There isn’t a straightforward set of guidelines for this, as we all are different people with various demanding areas of life. For me, things like utilizing my calendar on my phone, writing notes, dry erase boards help with organization and allow me to have a failsafe in case my memory is lacking. Think about systems and mini support systems that would fit best with you, and start little.

Most people are 1 of 2 types, there’s the one who hits the snooze button 10 times, and there are those who will get moving the moment that sound wakes you. My advice? Stop hitting the snooze button, allow yourself the required amount of sleep you need, and wake up in a more relaxed and less rushed manner. Take the time to enjoy your morning cup of coffee, don’t grab your phone right away and submerge yourself in that stress right out of the gate. That’s going to get yourself in a panicked and stressful mood, which can easily snowball into an overall tone of negativity for the remainder of your day.

Two areas I feel fall to the wayside as we become busy adults, parents, etc is your eating and sleeping habits. I understand not everyone has the time to sit down for meals throughout the day, but your performance day to day is largely based on what you’re consuming. A few easy to add to your daily routine is adding a multivitamin, drinking enough water, and ditching the fast food. Go for brain and body fuels, fruits and nuts, lean meats, and ease up on those added sugars and refined carbs. I know I know, I love pasta and pizza just as much as you, and that’s okay to have! Just practice moderation.

Sleep! This is so important and I swear it’s one of the hardest things to manage. It seems like we’re burning the wick at both ends, on less than an ample amount of sleep. 4 hours is the bare minimum you should be getting, but 7-9 is the most ideal for health and wellness purposes. Now that’s over a 24 hour period, so cat naps if possible, you should absolutely take advantage of.

In closing, there are several ways to optimize those 24 hours of every single day, it just takes a little motivation and willpower. Remember the 3 most important areas to focus on are people, places, and things. If nothing is changing then nothing is changing. It may be a little irritating in the beginning, but I promise getting on a better routine even in small areas of your day to day, will be overall beneficial to your physical and mental health. It’s a new year and every day you wake up is another opportunity to crush those goals no matter how big or small they are.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This blog was submitted on 10/21/21)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out
(This article first appeared in the 2/10/22 issue of the Smart Reader)

The awareness of men’s health

Yes my readers, you read that title correctly. Here’s an astounding factoid for you, did you know that every minute of every day, somewhere around the globe a male is committing suicide? Men are dying at a rate of 3.5 times more than women. Read that again, let that sink in. There is a very real mental health pandemic going on, that is seen and also unseen.

Mental health is in my opinion at times very fragile, easily jarred, and also seemingly one of the most difficult things for people to discuss. I will say, in the past decade we’re seeing more and more people advocating for mental health & suicide awareness/ prevention than ever before. We’re seeing everyone from your favorite musician or athlete, to your next door neighbor seeing this happening and FINALLY saying “Enough is Enough”.

The month of November has been coined “No shave November” ever since I think back to high school. For the longest time, I thought this was just a silly thing to do where guys would grow out ridiculous beards & moustaches just for fun. As I got older, I realized this month is actually Men’s Health Awareness Month. This month is to bring awareness to a multitud of topics and issues, everything from prostate & testicular cancer, to mental health and suicide prevention. Every November, men all over are raising money to help fight these issues, and raise awareness to the topics at hand.

These topics hit home for me, for various reasons. I have had several friends get diagnosed with and beat testicular cancer. My grandfather passed from prostate cancer in a very rapid fashion, and as a teenager witnessing this was very much not an easy pill to swallow. Cancer is such a nasty and aggressive disease that can take the strongest of people down, in a manner you’d never expect to see.

Moving forward, let’s tackle mental health. This is a topic that really hits home for me. I very openly advocate for mental health awareness as well as the importance of taking care of your mental health. I suffer from anxiety and depression, something that I have grown to be open and honest about. I find that one of the hardest hurdles for men to get past is being able to talk. I don’t mean shooting the breeze in the garage over beers complaining about the last football game. No, what I’m talking about is those days you wake up, and you struggle to physically get out of bed because you just can’t seem to do it, the days where everything seems off, you seem to have a shorter attention span and patience. This very much is an issue that plagues men across the world. Mental health does not adhere to a certain race,creed,sexual orientation, or occupation.

Growing up, many men were told things like “toughen up, boys don’t cry” or “be a man, men don’t talk about their problems”. That ideology is vastly outdated, and detrimental to the advancement of people. More men need to be told it’s okay to talk, that people do care and do want to hear what’s bothering you. That it’s okay to have bad days, to have days where you just want to say screw those errands and binge watch 90’s comedies. Downtime is just as important as keeping busy, and burning the wick at both ends leads to a quick burnout.

In closing, check in on your buddies. Ask your husband or boyfriend how they’re doing when they seem irritable or just not in the best moods, hell ask them when they seem like they’re on top of the world. You never know what someone is hiding underneath the apparent strength and smiles. Less men need to be passing away, less men need to stop taking their lives, more men need to know that it’s okay to feel things and closing off only makes it worse.

Take care of those you love, and remember it’s okay to not be okay.

For more information on suicide awareness, prevention and help check out www.hftd.org

Or call the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK if you need a open ear.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This blog was submitted on 10/21/21)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out
(This article first appeared in the 11/4/21 issue of the Smart Reader)

Passion in the time of Turmoil

Passion, what is it? What does it mean? The Latin root “Passio” means to suffer or have an intense desire. To borrow a quote from one of my favorite cinemas “ Did you know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries? They asked one question after a man died, “did he have passion?”

So as the author of this piece, I pose the same inquiry, do YOU have passion? What is your passion? Are you actively chasing, honing, and creating with that passion or desire? If not, why? These are all valid questions I feel we should be asking ourselves on a regular basis, and then answer them honestly and without bias.

For me answering that question begs for a complex, yet all the more simple answer. For me, my passions are pretty cut and dry. I have a passion for music, art, fashion, family, and a deep rooted passion for the food and beverage world. I find that my passion and interests for these things come very organically, in various ways throughout my day to day life.

Let’s break those down a bit, as I’m sure you’re thinking “ hey man, I like all those things too!” So let’s start with music.

Music to me is a language that supersedes any other other language. At a young age music came and spoke to me in a way that nothing else had. That feeling has grown with me for decades. When many other things seem to fail me, I can scrounge through my vinyl collection to find the perfect song or album that speaks what I can’t always seem to convey into words.

Moving on, let’s tackle family. Now I know I’m not alone when I say, family is absolutely a huge thing for many people, as it should be. I come from a big family, which means I grew up with people all around me. Christmas was my favorite holiday, because it meant I got to see everyone and it wasn’t always as often as I had hoped. Sisters, brothers, cousins all are our first friends; even if they didn’t have a choice. Family is your first support system, the ones you bonded over sports, food, gatherings, and hardships with. This passion is as organic as they come

Now, let’s chat about arguably my biggest passion (sorry mom, sorry records I still love you!) food & beverage. Man, I could go on and on about this topic. To be frank, if you’ve never had a sip of a drink or a bite of food that dead stopped you in your experience, and made you go “oh SHIT” then you haven’t experienced it. Yes, in the beginning food and drink were forms of sustenance, a means of survival. As time went on, we found ways to create, to adapt, to elevate. We took something basic from an animal, or a “scrap” like the liver and suddenly you have a phenomenal patte. Patte is a spread, you can find it amongst many charcuterie items. The smells, the heat, the instant release of dopamine and serotonin that for me, makes me rush back for more. For centuries civilizations have been literally breaking the bread, for many reasons. The act has ended wars, built friendships, and signed off on business deals in a manner that a stuffy conference room could never.

My personal favorite drink, wine. There is something of an old school, forgotten romanticism of wine. This is one of the oldest drinks, this was at one point considered safer to drink than water in many regions many, many moons ago that is. There is something about being able to walk into a bistro or bodega you’ve never stepped foot in, and you can pick the EXACT, perfect liquid for the occasion. You can take the local politician and a bricklayer, two people you would never in your life imagine would have a thing in common. Now take a bottle of lets say, Cabernet Franc, between the two of them and by the time that bottle is empty, the bricklayer is now the new contractor for the local park being laid down.

My point in closing is simple, passion has no face. It has no color, creed, race, sexual orientation, or motive. Passion is organic, passion is one of the strongest emotions you could ever feel. If you haven’t felt that strong push of desire, you need to search for it and keep searching. Once you’ve found it, never lose it, keep chasing it. A life devoid of passion is in my opinion, nothing short of a slow crawl of existence, a means to an end.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This blog was submitted on 10/21/21)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


Mental Health Check in

Are you there Guys? It’s Me Justin Sawyer. We’re just over halfway through 2021, and I think it’s necessary to do a mid-year check in on the ol’ noggin.

For many of us, myself included, we’re still reeling and feeling the effects of the hellacious year known as 2020. So ask yourself, where is my mental health and overall psyche doing?

I see so many friends, peers, and loved ones struggling with everything from anxiety & depression, to an overall feeling of just “lost”. If you fall into this category, my heart and soul go out to you, as I know those struggles all too well.

I feel for myself and others one of the most beneficial things to do, is to take an open and honest inventory of our lives. Ask yourself questions such as: What are my goals? What are my hobbies? Who do I find myself spending time with? Is what we’re doing providing hope, inspiration, or overall enjoyment?

Don’t feel bad for being more exclusive or “selfish” about your time, remember as we all get older life gets in the way of living, your time is precious. In the rate race of life, we juggle work, friends, family, and so much more. It’s immensely important to make sure you’re finding some “me time”. Whether that’s going for sunrise yoga, reading a book over a cup of tea at the local cafe, or browsing for that gem in the record store, you absolutely HAVE to do it.

This year is all about growth, within yourself, your career, your family and friends. I once heard a quote “ I’m like a shark, if I stop moving I’ll drown” There’s some truth to that that I sympathize with, as I find I am the happiest when I am almost too busy, where the candle is burning at both ends. As I’ve gotten older, my advice to you is this; Take the day off, go on that day trip, check out that new eclectic food spot. These are the moments that will keep you moving through the day to day, the times that you crave. Remember, life is about the journey, not the destination.

In closing, I leave you with this quote, one I hope to feel in my bones when I look back on my life.

“What a long, strange trip it’s been” – Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This blog was submitted on 7/28/21)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


Finding Comfort in Yourself

  That’s right, we’re going to dig right into a somewhat sensitive and often avoided topic amongst adults. I remember the days when I was a teenager, growing up I was the poster child for street punk. I had the 14 inch colored mohawk, patches and studs everywhere, with a scowl on my face that would make Billy Idol jealous. I felt invincible, like nothing and no one could touch me, yet I always seemed to struggle with being comfortable and content with myself.

 As I exited my teen years, and stumbled blindly into adulthood, I found myself still struggling with those same issues that I had when I was that angry, punk rock kid. I could put on a front and jive with the best of them, but internally I was asking myself “ What are these people thinking? Should I be doing this? Did I say something stupid? Does this shirt look stupid?” Oftentimes I could shrug them off in the moment, only to have those thoughts creep back up later in the night, usually when I wanted to wind down and catch some sleep.

 Finally, after some heavy thinking, I started asking friends and family if they struggled with these same notions, and if so how were they able to manage them? I found the more and more I asked, people of various walks of life and age ranges this was something they currently or previously had struggled with. I started to realize this very well could be something that many, if not every human being will face at some point in their lives.

 As I entered my late 20s, I started finding myself thinking and reflecting a lot more than I had prior, I’ve always been an analytical person, but this was different. I was trying to solve issues within my mind that seemed to be knocking more often then I had wanted them to.

 No longer did I want these issues to keep becoming a manifestation that came out like self doubt, low self confidence, self worth, and trust amongst those around me from platonic to love relationships. In my mind, these were issues that should have been resolved years prior, and I was ready to cut the poison out.

 I started waking up, every day with the thought that all I needed to do was make it through the day, and if something happened that threw a wrench in the works, I would simply try to laugh it off and say “ So What” . If I was running late to dinner plans because I was trying to make sure what I wore I liked, then So What? Was it the end of the world? Not even in the slightest. I started embracing the things that I liked that were out of the “Norm” for someone like myself. I stopped thinking, “well maybe I’m just weird?” and started thinking “ If this is weird, then this is cool, and I’d rather be unique.”

 I think we as adults need to remember that it’s okay to take things day by day, moment by moment. Your parents once were just like you, just trying to make it through the day in the best way they could. It’s okay to make mistakes, they’re a learning process. If I can leave with one last sentiment, it’d be a quote I heard not too long ago, that I remind myself of daily.

 “Nobody Truly Interesting, is Universally Liked.”

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This article first appeared in the 3/25/21 issue of the Smart Reader)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


The New England Sound

Let’s chat about tunes shall we? For years I’ve had a rather odd connection to the East Coast. Growing up, my folks used to pile all of us kids into our conversion van, and we would escape to Rhode Island. My father’s family is from there, so it made sense for me to fall in love with that area.

Aside from the obvious notion and reasoning, what’s rather odd is I’ve had this slight obsession where I feel drawn to the East. You know how some people think they’ve lived past lives? I feel like I was a sea salted fisherman, spending nights on the deck of a fishing boat staring off in the distance, thinking of a love back home.

I think for me, It’s the music. Something about that area has given us (in my personal opinion) some of the greatest American songwriters. That little nook of the country has birthed artists such as; Aerosmith, The Cars, Donna Summer, James Taylor, Boston, The Pixies and of course, the man, the myth, the legend himself, Mr. Bruce Springsteen. In more recent decades we’ve seen acts like The Menzingers, Defeater, The Hotelier,Sorority Noise, and my personal favorite, The Gaslight Anthem.

Something about that working class, true grit and salt of the earth type of folks just….seem to get it more than anything. There’s a subtle overtone of romance, loss, love, hard work and spirit that radiates from the Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey area that just cannot be replicated.

Bruce Springsteen, first and foremost captures the heart & soul of the classic working class American life, and makes it sound like a romantic story that anyone would strive for. Peeling back the pages of his nearly 60 year career, you find there is much more to this artist than “Born To Run”. My personal take, Start with The River & Nebraska. Most recently he released “Letters to You”, which dances into the folk Americana side that we don’t see often enough. Most artists have trouble with avoiding the plateau and fizzling out, for The Boss it appears even at 71, there is still plenty of kerosene left in the tank.

Let’s drift away from rock for a brief moment, and discuss the melodic hardcore powerhouse that is Defeater. Forming in the blooming Boston hardcore scene amongst the likes of Bane & American Nightmare, brought something uncommon within the scene and genre. From their formation in 2008, they’ve consistently continued to be a concept band. With stories of family, drug use, and the pains felt by veterans of World War II, main writer and frontman Derek Archambault paints a very vivid and real look into these harsh topics. I’d strongly advise looking into their ever growing discography, the stories hidden within alone are worth a listen.

Let’s jump back to that Asbury sound briefly, in the form of The Gaslight Anthem. Described by Bruce Springsteen as “One of the last great American songwriters” is frontman Brian Fallon. The Gaslight Anthem is exactly what I would picture if Bruce walked into CBGB and decided to try his hand at punk rock. My take, start with the 59 sound. This album gives the quintessential peak into the masterminds of 4 guys from Jersey.

In closing, if you haven’t dabbled into the New England sound, where you pictured yourself inside a greasy diner at midnight over a cup of coffee, you owe it to yourself to take a glance, as the genius there is very much alive.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This article first appeared in the 2/25/21 issue of the Smart Reader)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


Local Eats

If there is one thing that brings people together more than anything, it’s a great meal. People all over the world have been breaking bread together for centuries, it’s one of my personal favorite past times. Right now more than ever, the food and beverage industry is hitting hard times with brands that have been around for decades closing its doors for good.

For this edition, I’ll be featuring some amazing local Pop Up talent with people who took the hard time and turned it into an opportunity to make a love and passion of theirs into hard earned greenbacks.

“Mr. Wings”

Let’s talk about chicken. We all have had a good wing and bad wing experience. These wings are nothing like your Buffalo Wild Wings experience. The brain child of Manuel Ramirez, in the early spring of 2020 was formed by a chicken wing joint visit in Colorado “The Rock Inn Mountain Tavern” Known for their wings. Upon returning in mid february 2020 the idea came to fruition, where he put 2 months of Research and development.  April 2020 saw the first friends and family wing orders going out, with June seeing his first public appearance at Rustic Road, where over 700 wings were sold in less than 2 hours.

Let’s get back to the chicken; the magic begins with fresh, never frozen wings where bone in reigns supreme. Half the sauces and rubs are created in house, where influences stem from New York in the creation with a more true to style buffalo sauce brimming with a velvety vinegar base. My personal favorite comes in the form of Gold Digger, a southern style tangy mustard based bbq sauce. His newest mastermind? The cereal series, where chicken wings marry together with cereals like cinnamon toast crunch & a scratch made donut glaze. It sounds weird, but in the words of Chiddy Bang “Serial style, Cereal aisle needed checked.” With flavors and quality like this, it’s no surprise why in his first year he took home Kenosha’s Best Wings of 2020. He’s available for all your wing needs every Monday & Wednesday at TG’s Cocktails & Eatery (4120 7th ave) and Downtown R Saloon (707 56th st) Thursday & Friday, sunday.


It’s the love child of In & Out, meets White Castle.Everyone makes their burgers differently, and everyone thinks a burger should be done in a different way. David Nolder is No Different, when it comes to his brand “Phatman’s”

Starting in the food industry in his teens, working everywhere from Culvers to Abbvie, to the Local restaurant “The Red Oak Inn” David found a passion for food, and has never looked back.

Covid-19 hit many of us, and being a husband and father David knew he needed to make sure to provide for his own. Stemming from the inspiration of Mr. Wings, David tried his own brand June 1, 2020 introducing a pop up style breakfast experience at Sunnyside Club. After several pop up events, he decided to take a dive and go for something he loved more, Smash Burgers.

December 2020 saw Phatmans pt. 2, the pop up and smash brand, serving scratch made smash burgers. The recipe is simple, yet has you wanting more than just one. Starting with a brisket & chuck beef blend patty, topped with classic melted american cheese that would give the most Wisconsinite a smile, crisp pickles, and a secret sauce that is absolutely addictingly good.

This isn’t your typical large beef patty, lettuce, tomato and onion, on a potato roll bun. This is your “It’s friday night, I’ve had a few too many brews and buca bois, and I need food STAT.” This is a one handed, smash through it like a wrecking ball, burger experience that you cannot miss. My take? Phatman’s is serving up his burgers every Friday & Saturday at The Factory, located at 5014 7th Ave.

Written by Justin Sawyer
(This article first appeared in the 2/11/21 issue of the Smart Reader)
Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


Self sabotage

Let’s talk about your new favorite coping mechanism. It’s called “let’s destroy everything we love”. Yeah you know that feeling of self destruction? It’s not good.

 The path of course is easy, we’ve paved it that way for along time. No one said self improvement was easy. Is it worth it? Of course. But you’ve got to be willing to do the work.

 Self sabotage comes in many forms, from destroying friendships and romantic relationships to hitting taco Bell too often.

 Any time you think “I don’t deserve this” that’s self sabotage.you cannot cover it up and toe the line.self sabotage ends when self care begins.

 Look I get it, it’s hard to look at bad habits and figure out why you do them. We all self sabotage, even in the smallest size. not every act is grandioso, more often it’s so small you’d be surprised to see it.  

 Personally the worst part about the ordeal? You actually mess up what you truly want. 2021 is all about self love and care. Stop harming you, because the world needs more of you.

 Remember to take it day by day. It’s not always going to be easy, but I promise it’s worth it. Keep fighting the good fight, your corner bigger than ever.

Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out


Mental Health

I know, you’re thinking the same thing I was “That’s two words, pal.” Let’s face it, 2020 was a roller coaster version of a year long mid 20’s hangover that kept hanging around. You’re confused, queasy, tired, hungry, and afraid to open the blinds to see what havoc may be lingering from last night’s shenanigans.

The biggest question we need to ask ourselves as the year 2020 ends is this, plain and simple, “How is my mental health, and what’s my plan for it going into 2021?”

Society programmed us decades ago with the understanding that suffering from mental illness wasn’t real, that you shouldn’t talk about it, and that IF you did seek & accept help, it was a ​BOLD, ​flashing sign of weakness.

Going into 2021 we need to continue to break that stigma, especially amongst men. Growing up we heard things like “ Boy’s don’t cry” & “Walk it off, be a man, be tough”. This doctrine is, at its core, wrought with false teachings that ultimately lead too many young boys to grow up and become closed off, brick walls of men.

2020 has shown me personally that not only do I not always know how to handle every situation, but at times I still struggle to open up and discuss triggers & traumas. This doesn’t mean it’s always something “Over the Top” such as the loss of a job you held down for 5 years. It could be something as simple as “ I woke up late, but I’m still in a good mood. I then spill coffee all over myself when I slip on the sidewalk, and I instantly just want to crawl back in bed.”

It’s moments like those, that can completely throw our entire day right down the drain. This isn’t uncommon, in fact most people would have the exact same reaction. The problem is, we don’t discuss these times, or even begin to figure out how to cope with them.

These little things, slowly or rapidly, can and absolutely will add up. The straw that broke the camel’s back isn’t always something large. So take time to stop, close your eyes, drop your shoulders, and just take a breath. Sometimes that’s all it takes, 15 seconds of calm breathing and clarity.

2020 has also shown me another pill that is at times, difficult to digest. “When People Grow, People Go”. Now at first glance, that seems to have a somber, yet negative connotation to it. That I believe to be in the eye of the beholder. As with every challenge, we ultimately have a larger say in not only how we react, but what that outcome may be.

Growth is important, we as individuals, groups and a society at large, need to continue to crave and strive for progress. If you’re not progressing towards a goal, you’ve become stagnant. You should set short term, but attainable goals, that will ultimately become part of one large goal. Take it day by day, one step at time. They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, so why are you picking out the color of the drapes when you haven’t even laid the first brick of foundation?

As we take steps into the new year, I implore you to continue looking at what you have, and being appreciative of it, and striving for one common goal; to find comfort in yourself. Be safe, be self aware, and remember, if you’re not at your best, what service are you to those around you?

Also check out Justin’s new line of hair products at Washed Out