The Month In Hardcore: January 2022
Hey, remember shows? Shows were fun. I’m glad I got to go to some of them.
Shows are still happening, of course. Hardcore dutifully shut down for the worst days of the pandemic, though there were a few guerrilla events and then some grand-scale spectacles that started up sooner than a lot of people wanted. But hardcore hasn’t shut down for Omicron. Instead, it’s become an inconsistent patchwork. Some shows are still happening as planned. Some are not. Nobody’s sure whether the Omicron threat is serious enough for people to stop gathering en masse and throwing haymakers in each other’s general direction.
I’ve got kids who would like to see their grandparents, so I’m back to the frustrating and endless grind of spending every night in, trying to find things to watch on streaming services that aren’t so boring that they make my eyes bleed. I haven’t even been out to see than dang Spider-Man movie, and I’m definitely not ready to go back to the sweaty rooms where dudes are walking on each other’s heads. But I don’t begrudge those dudes. I’m glad hardcore is still happening, and I’m looking forward to the moment when it feels OK for me to jump back into it.
In any case, live hardcore is still happening. This past weekend, a couple dozen amazing bands and a whole lot of devoted knuckleheads descended upon a Jewish community center in Tampa for FYA Fest, one of the hardcore world’s biggest annual throwdowns. The footage from the festival is beautiful. One of those knuckleheads, a committed stagediver and stagecrawler in a FUBU jersey, immediately became a cult hero in certain online circles.
In the past couple of weeks, many of the bands from the FYA bill have come through Richmond on their way to or from FYA Fest. The bills for those shows were crazy. Traditionally, Omicron or no Omicron, January has been a shitty time to go see live music. But just in the first half of this month, I’ve missed Vein and Year Of The Knife and Restraining Order’s second Richmond show of the past few months. Ordinarily, this would drive me nuts. But skipping those shows is a choice, and I’m at peace with it. I’m looking forward to the moment when local numbers are low enough that I feel OK returning to those rooms.
If my last show turns out to be the last show I see for a while, at least I went out on a good one. Last month, Show Me The Body headed out on a pretty extensive East Coast tour with Candy and Regional Justice Center — a truly inspiring triple bill of grimy, frenzied music. On the first night of that tour in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Show Me The Body didn’t play. Instead, during Candy’s set, someone did a front-flip off of the stage, kicking a sprinkler irrigation pipe in the ceiling. The pipe broke and sprayed water down on everyone, and Candy kept playing for at least a little while while the place flooded. The show quickly ended, and the fire department had to come in and shut the water off.
A few nights later, that same tour came to a DIY space in Richmond, and I could see how some shit like that busted pipe might happen. Show Me The Body are huge, and kids go off for them. Before the band played, I was talking to Regional Justice Center’s Ian Shelton, who described Show Me The Body as “a cultural phenomenon.” He’s right. I’d never seen Show Me The Body before that night. I’d listened to their records, and I didn’t get them at all. I still don’t get their records. But Show Me The Body’s live show is a massive, convulsive experience. Something about that band’s whole spazz-lurch noise-rock style really speaks to people. Motherfuckers were hanging from the ceiling while they played. It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.
The rest of the show was great, too. The two local acts added to the touring bill, Tempter and a new band called Earth To Heaven, were as nasty as the touring acts. Regional Justice Center’s frag-grenade onslaught is dizzying to behold. I have no idea how Ian Shelton bashes out complicated drum parts with that level of coordination while screaming his head off. I bet he’s really good at video games. Candy, returning Richmond heroes, were squalid and chaotic and triumphant. When the band started their set, there was one guy standing at the back, sort of glowering and looking intimidating. A few songs in, he ran forward to the center of the stage, and Candy’s bassist handed his bass off to that guy. The guy took the bass, played on the song’s breakdown, rocked out hard, and then handed the bass back to the bassist and jumped into the crowd. I have no idea why this little instrument hand-off happened, but it was cool as fuck, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.
The crowd at that show was bigger than the crowds I’ve seen at most Richmond hardcore shows, but the whole night felt less like some bands coming through town and more like a community coming together. And it is a community, one that supports its own. The next night, the same venue hosted another show — all Richmond bands, raising money for the drummer of one of those bands to get surgery. That’s a beautiful thing. I can’t wait to be a part of it again.
Big Boy – “Identity”
It’s hard to find a lot of info on the Bay Area band Big Boy; Google mostly points me to stuff about early-’80s Austin legends the Big Boys. (Man, the Big Boys were a fucking great band. “Sound On Sound”? “We Got Your Money”? That party-time cover of “Hollywood Swinging”?) But Big Boy, who have nothing to do with the Big Boys, have an impressive midtempo crunch, and that line about how everyday is exactly the same and it ain’t worth my time lands hard. [From Winter Promo 2021, self-released, out now.]
Cavalerie – “Face The Charge”
This Paris trio sounds utterly deranged. When they’re playing fast, which is most of the time, they sound like Discharge, if Discharge found out that they could somehow stave off nuclear war if they played fast enough. When they slow down, they sound like Discharge, if Discharge were overcome with disgust and if they decided that humanity wasn’t worth saving. I like it better when they slow down, but both are awesome. [From Hate Remains EP, out now on Delivrance Records.]
Eightfold Path – “Asphyxiate”
“Every breath that you fucking take, you creep closer and closer to your demise!” I sure do! “There’s no light for you anymore! And now you’re powerless!” I absolutely am! “Feel the weight of a thousand waves crashing down on you!” That sounds kind of pleasant, actually. “With my hands around your throat, I steal your life!” Well, that sucks, but you have to do what you have to do. San Jose is not playing around right now. This metallic head-stomper was going great even before the breakdown, which has Sunami’s Josef Alfonso screaming all over it and which sounds like five apocalypses happening at once. [From Divinity In Suffering EP, out now on Slam Records.]
Gel – “Mental Static”
That song title is the realest thing in the world. For a few years now, New Jersey’s Gel have been paragons of mysterious, chaotic, reverb-drenched basement-punk, but “Mental Static” still feels like a band leveling up. That smeary central riff has a weird majesty to it, and singer Sami’s feral bark hits with the sudden, jolting intensity of a kitten waking you up by clawing the fuck out of your toes. [Stand-alone single, out now on Convulse Records.]
Kill Your Idols – “Simple, Short And Fast”
New York/Long Island greats Kill Your Idols broke up in 2007 and reunited six years later. They’ve been intermittently active since then, but this is the first new song that they’ve released in 15 years, and whoof. This kind of ripshit fast/melodic hardcore hasn’t been in style in a long time, but maybe that’s because nobody has been doing it this well. I hear absolutely no rust on this band. They don’t sound like a legacy act. They sound snotty and anthemic and urgent, and that little folky acoustic-guitar bit at the end somehow makes all the other parts sound that much more intense. Imagine what else the reactivated Kill Your Idols can do. [From Kill Your Idols/Rule Them All split 7″, out 2/4 on Flatspot Records.]
Method Of Doubt – “New Language”
Florida’s Method Of Doubt released their LP in early December without any warning, and they really fucked up the year-end list that I thought I’d already nailed down. “New Language” is the first song on the album, and it’s so immediate and purposeful that I knew I was hearing something special within seconds. This band definitely draws a lot of push-pull dynamics from mid-’80s DC hardcore, but a lot of bands take inspiration from that sound. Method Of Doubt stand out because they take motivation from that stuff, too. “New Language” is a song about figuring out that all the priorities that you’ve learned since you were a kid, the metrics for success and happiness, are pure bullshit. That’s a frustrating thing to understand, but it’s liberating, too. In “New Language,” I hear the anger and the excitement fusing together into one. It makes me feel things. [From Staring At Patterns, out now on IOU Records.]
Restraining Order – “Times Up”
Back in November, I saw Restraining Order headline a wild show in Richmond with Combust, Worn, Raw Brigade, and Cutdown; that was a great night out. Combust are doing gooned-out old-school New York hardcore chug better than just about anyone else right now, and they had people moving. Still, Restraining Order headlined for a reason. That band’s ’82-style fast-hardcore blitz should be played out, but they make it vital and catchy and fun and deeply satisfying. Every song hits like an anthem. The two Restraining Order songs on the new split with the all-star band Warfare aren’t the best Restraining Order songs, but they’re better than just about any other band’s best. [From Restraining Order/Warfare split 7″, out now on Triple B Records.]
Slowbleed – “No Shepherd (Of Wolves)”
Oh my fucking christ, this shit is so goddamn heavy. Slowbleed come from Santa Paula, California, and their version of hardcore is on that Xibalba level where it might as well be death metal. That weird filter all over the grunted-out vocals? The screamingly triumphant guitar leads? The almighty trudge of this thing? It’s mighty Conan The Barbarian music, music for staring down goblin armies and thanking your chosen deity for the gift of glory in battle. [From The Blazing Sun, A Fiery Dawn, out 1/15 on Creator-Destructor Records.]
Spaced – “Bad Energy”
The Buffalo band Spaced just released their demo last year, but they’ve already got so much swagger in their sound. Spaced’s style is an angry time-honored chug, and it probably would’ve hit hard at any point in the past quarter-century. But in the anthemic brightness of a song like “Bad Energy,” I can’t help but think of Turnstile. Spaced aren’t anywhere near as polished or melodic as Turnstile, but the reach of this song gives me that same kind of feeling. That’s a great thing. The level of potential here is off the charts. [From Two New Joints cassette, out now on New Morality Zine.]
Vein.fm – “The Killing Womb”
Vein’s return is imminent, and the first single from their long-awaited Errorzone follow-up takes them even further into math-splattered nü metal insanity. “The Killing Womb” is so stupidly heavy that it honestly just makes me laugh. (The perfect gore-overdrive video makes me laugh, too.) How can something be so smart and so stupid at the same time? How can something with all that complex riffage still land like a slab of concrete on your brain? I love it. It’s the best. [From This World Is Going To Ruin You, out 3/4 on Closed Casket Activities.]