Archive for 'Shows'

The streetwise aesthetic and raw yet danceable sound of Side By Side’s sole seven-inch EP has been raising my pulse for decades, and though a born New Yorker myself, I was all of seven years-old when they played their final show in 1988. When some of my pals wanted to go see them, I figured, why not treat myself to what has a good chance of being Side By Side’s only US show this century, with a bill stacked with contemporary (read: non-reunion) hardcore acts? We consolidated cars at the Woodbridge, NJ Walmart parking lot and charged the city.

I’m sure there are a number of readers who have never been to New York, and not only fantasize about the famed metropolis itself but its storied hardcore scene as well. While a gig of this capacity certainly doesn’t constitute the norm, if this was your sole New York hardcore experience, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s… kind of like anywhere else in the world. The Brooklyn Monarch is one of a number of old industrial warehouses turned grubby-chic Live Music Nightlife Entertainment Venue across the US, replete with a staff that couldn’t tell the difference between pictures of Flea and Harley Flanagan, nor would they care. That’s fine, I suppose, and if I was going to check out a modestly popular touring indie band like Real Estate or Wild Nothing, it’d be a perfect fit, but c’mon, this is Side By Side! Some classic NYHC folks were in attendance, thank goodness, though I can imagine they also felt the surroundings to be a little off, like a fancy terrarium mimics nature. Or maybe, in a landscape where every mom-and-pop has been systematically targeted and replaced by a chain, they’re already used to it.

Hudson, NY’s Dead Last opened and set the vibe, one of hesitance and modest engagement. The pit was opened and left empty by a couple valiant parallel moshers, and barring the singer’s Infest diss (which seemed a little cheap!) there wasn’t much to write home about, posi or negi. As it turns out, the Monarch is situated next to another venue (owned by the same folks as the Monarch, how about that) called The Meadows, where Sick Of It All were performing, almost at the exact same time as Dead Last were on stage. Sick Of It All would’ve been perfect with Side By Side for many reasons, but I understand that the money probably wouldn’t have worked that way, no matter how repugnant Born Against might declare it.

Brain Tourniquet were next, bearing the incongruous position of being the sole grind-core act on a hardcore bill. Desirable to some and awkward for others, the trio blasted out their set of power-violence faithfuls, clearly indebted to unimpeachable greats like Crossed Out and Terrorizer. I’m kicking myself for missing them at a smaller venue here in Philly over the summer, but they made it work here, complete with “…An Expression In Pain” to end their set, the twelve-minute doom/grind/riff opus that encompassed all of the second side of their 2023 Iron Lung album.

Firewalker took the stage next, and were the highlight of the night for me. This Boston five-piece delivered their flawless mix of NYHC grit ala Raw Deal and Krakdown with the first-wave cracked-teeth spite of Negative Approach and Last Rights. I was wondering how Sophie Hendry’s gruff, death-metal vocals would translate live, and they were as menacing as I could’ve hoped, stalking the stage in her practice-team pinnie / hoodie combo. Each song had all the proper parts – slow mosh, hard mosh, fast dive zone, shout-along chorus, internal vexation – and I was kicking myself for not reading along with a lyric sheet in preparation. I was feeling it all the way in the back, and the up-front crowd responded in kind. Raving to a friend about their set days later, we put on Firewalker’s 2017 full-length and it sounded better than ever – I love when you see a band for the first time and their recordings take on a different, brighter glow. Next time, I’m gonna lose it to “Don’t Cross Me”, that’s a promise!

Tired yet? Things were moving briskly, but then S.H.I.T. took a while to get started. My ex-edgeman friend shifted from vodka sodas to vodka Red Bulls, and found the frantic metallic sheen of S.H.I.T. to be his least favorite of the night, whereas I thought they did a noble job following Firewalker’s colossal presence. On stage, it became clear to me that their songs all utilized the exact same picking style, resulting in an imposing wall of heavy hardcore that might benefit from a little deviation. Don’t their wrists get tired with all those endless 16th notes, over and over? Probably a little too punk for the youth-crew crowd, especially one antsy for their beloved one-off reunion band, but I enjoyed their energy, and the fact that Brain Tourniquet called them “Shit” but they announced themselves as “Ess Aitch Eye Tee”, clearing up that matter. Two Iron Lung Records recording acts on the same Revelation Records reunion gig, what’s not to like about that?

Which brings us to Side By Side. Cheers erupted as the group plugged in, as well as jeers from at least one guy who took umbrage at Hate5Six’s presence – he hit the videographer with “do a pushup!” and “Rage Against The Machine sucks!” before being thrown out. Though the group doesn’t need to be rated on an age-based curve, it was impressive to see the energy and presence of vocalist Jules Massey in particular, who admittedly hadn’t been involved in hardcore in nigh thirty years. (He’s now a practicing maritime lawyer in Florida, one of the happier outcomes of the late ’80s NYHC diaspora.) Wearing a Terror t-shirt over a hoodie, he spoke at length between each song, thanking old friends, rejecting the modern practice of crowd-killing, segueing into lyrics, and explaining the purpose of the gig: a benefit for The Alex Brown Foundation, an art residency program put together in memory of his departed friend and bandmate. Touching and sincere, long-winded and (self-proclaimed) corny, Massey is a natural frontperson who seemed bemused to be playing hardcore again, with energy to rival S.H.I.T.’s sprightly Ryan Tong. The guitar tone was dead-on for the EP, and the crowd reacted with plentiful tumble-roll dives and fist-in-the-air sing-alongs, even if the nostalgic-terrarium feel continued to loom, somewhere between a 1988 CBGBs matinee and a Las Vegas Punk Museum simulacrum of one. When they struck their first chord, a sea of cell-phones popped up. I know we all talk about hating phones at shows, but in this context it felt particularly unpleasant. Clearly, no one was going to watch their little videos later; rather, this significant number of show-goers wanted to broadcast their attendance to their social-media followers, a clout check-in of sorts rather than active participation. Makes sense if you’re going to see U2 in the Orb or Taylor Swift on an aircraft carrier, but hardcore is meant to be experienced first-hand with one’s full attention, at least in this writer’s opinion. My friends were thrilled by Side By Side’s set, too up-close to even pull out their phones, and I watched them race to the merch line for fresh Side By Side longsleeves as the venue security screamed at everyone to leave. None of us took a single pic.

Trying something new, and by new I mean something that’s already been done for at least a hundred years – a show review! Gonna see if I can share some thoughts about live shows on what will surely be an intermittent basis, now that they’re more or less back in action. Let’s start with this one…

It was a perfectly crisp early-Fall evening for the soupy swirl of Glass Band, the trio of Bill Nace, John Truscinski and Steve Gunn. I arrived half an hour early, walking through the foyer’s tight curation of avant-garde printed matter and bespoke free-jazz reissues towards the bar to greet some friends, both those with pre-purchased tickets saved to the Dice app on their phones (a tolerable annoyance, we agreed) and a couple inveterate psych-rockers who didn’t even know the show was taking place. When I explained to one of them that tickets for the show cost something like thirty dollars, he told me about his band being asked to open for Animal Collective in a larger theater some eight years ago, and politely declining when it turned out their show was also thirty dollars, not wanting to subject his fans to what he felt was exorbitant pricing at the time. Now, of course, we dolefully accept that the entry-level starting price for anything on Earth is thirty dollars, though I don’t think he ended up making his way into the 150-cap room in the back where Glass Band performed.

Playing without an opener in support of their Three Lobed full-length from earlier this year, the three men shuffled on stage in staggered order. Truscinski was the first to visibly produce sound, bowing an unlucky cymbal as Nace and Gunn sat and knelt respectively in stoic contemplation. After a few minutes, Gunn plugged in, and the sonic dust started to accelerate like one of those mini trash-tornados that kick up on certain city streets, looped moans and crackle emanating forth. Nace initially contributed to this dusky sonic vista with some harmonica – though never approaching a full John Popper frenzy – and then draped his taishōgoto on his lap, his primary mode of performance in tonight’s trio format. If any other white American noise/psych guy starts brandishing a taishōgoto, they better be paying Nace royalties, as it’s quickly becoming his signature style. The taishōgoto bears similarities to the families of pedal-steel, dulcimer and guitar, but Eddie Van Halen’s guitar most in particular, Nace ceaselessly tapping its effected strings to form a dramatic, nearly violent pulse. By this point, Gunn was standing upright, guitar strapped on, wearing a Captain Jack Sparrow-level of metal finger picks and unleashing exuberant chords before joining Nace in the finger-tapping firework display. Is this what Godspeed You! Black Emperor by way of Musica Elettronica Viva would sound like? They buoyed this dazzling release for what must’ve been minutes, Truscinski transferring from drone-rub and tappy improv to the rollicking percussive flurry suitable for this thrilling moment.

Soon enough, the group found a break in the blinding sunlight and slowly began their descent, though Gunn was clearly so enthused by the moment that he was hopping from leg to leg in a fighting stance, surely a muscle memory from his high-school straight-edge hardcore days. Trusinski, taller than most NBA point-guards, stood up from his kit to move to a nearby synth and bopped his head on the overhead mic. (Amusingly, he mentioned after the set that this happened to him during the previous night’s performance as well, just in a different moment. Perhaps it’s become an official part of the show?) In perhaps the most perplexing moment of the performance, Nace then picked up what appeared to be a small metal doggy bowl, attached at the end of an electrical cord, and proceeded to blow vicious raspberries into it, dig his fingers around inside of it, and even swing it like a lifeguard’s whistle, though I could not discern how these enjoyably visual maneuvers shifted the crunchy feedback emanating from his Fender twin. Regardless of sonic properties, his enthusiasm wasn’t wasted.

As the intensity steadily dissipated, Glass Band found their feet once again in the dry dirt of their physically-rendered drones before coming to a final close, a brief moment of silence hanging in the air before Nace gave a wave, signaling “we’re done”. One piece, a robust and engaging thirty-plus minutes, and that’s that. The multitude of couples surrounding me (one of the best date-nights in town) offered their appreciative applause as I lapped the final drops of my Grüner Veltliner (found under the “Skin Contact” section of Solar Myth’s wine list), turned room-temperature from either the warmth of my palm or the ragged and radiant sounds of Glass Band.