Foundation. Photo: Peter Anderson
The prospect of seeing one moderately decent hardcore band in Provo’s cultural vacuum is enough to give me goose-pimples and a fluttering heart. The prospect of seeing four of them? Well, it’s enough to send me into full-blown histrionics … which ain’t good for my aortic stenosis (my doc says), but it’s great for my parched adolescent soul. I’m not too far off the mark when I quote Side by Side in saying, “You’re only young once, so ditch school and mosh your brains out.” It was a quadruple header in the key of awesome (sextuple if you count the locals) and if you claim to be a fan of hardcore in any fashion, and you weren’t at this show? Well, I’m sorry, but you don’t really like hardcore and your credibility is in serious question. Please remove your Judge hoodie and allow Raybeez and Scott Vogel to see you to the door.
This isn’t about me and my immature hardcore fantasy world where bands only release 7”s and never play longer than twenty minutes. It’s about the music of the underappreciated cretins and the anthems for the inexplicably pissed. It’s about the eighty or so souls who trekked to The Deathstar (Provo’s newest music venue) to see a handful of bands when they could’ve been pirating Eastbound and Down or buying expensive tour shirts on Ebay. It’s about that dorky magic springing up in our guts when an out-of-town band rolls up and completely lays waste. It’s about hearing cover songs that aren’t by Joy Division or the Stones and about witnessing something you’ll blabber about nonsensically for months. Yeah, it was THAT good.
Everything has a beginning, however, and this one began where every hardcore show since the dawn of the Reagan-era has begun … forty-five minutes later than anticipated. Regardless, things got off to an adequate start when local ragers Throwing Bricks set if off with a staid (but competent) style of mosh and a Ringworm cover and Brigham City’s Steadfast jammed through a quick but groovy style of imitation tuff dude hardcore, that’s admittedly “not my thing” (the exception being No Warning), but they’re doing it better than many.
Locals aside … this was a stacked touring bill and of all the bands, Atlanta’s Dead in the Dirt was the only one I‘d never heard. I tried to predict what they’d sound like when I saw four dudes sporting tight black jeans, ratty black shirts and inverted crosses on their guitars (evil and sludgy) and I was pretty much right on the money. They tore through a quick set riddled with swampy Think I Care-esque slow burns and hyperfast blast-beats … like Terrorizer or something on Prank Records. Unruly and loud, they inspired some dancing … even the kung-fu elephant ear moshers joined in (to the chagrin of many). Top it all off with a vocal barb against Christianity, and they played a pretty potent set. Too bad no punx weren’t there … they would’ve dug it.
Wilkes-Barre PA’s Stick Together, an unashamedly straight edge unit with a heavy late-NYHC vibe, was the band I was most excited about. They’ve been making waves for just over a year, but I’ve been a fan of singer Hoodrack’s other musical projects (and his stage-dive notoriety) for a while. I saw his band War Hungry (at the first United Blood Fest in ’07) open with Black Sabbath’s “Into the Void,” went ballistic, got kicked in the head and cut my eye. Sure, it was magical, but I’m not trying to wax too nostalgic. I’m just saying that seeing Hoodrack and Co. setting up in a pair of mesh shorts and a Disengage shirt … well, it got me stoked on the core and conjured up powerful acne-faced hardcore memories.
Of course, they were on point, playing most of the demo cassette and new 7”, No More Games, and infecting everyone with their energy. Guitarists were posi-jumping left and right and Hoodrack was mobbed during each and every sing-along. Plenty of low skank mosh and funky stepping, reminiscent of a Lockin Out showcase circa 2004, and grins all around. Visibly elated, Hoodrack had plenty of awesome things to say between songs, too (stuff about straight edge, Seinfeld and being normal) and even addressed the elephant ears’ violent dancing “ruining it for everyone else.” They got bummed and sat out the set to jeer. It wasn’t really their thing anyway … not enough bad vocals and open-E buffoonery for them to spin-kick to and they wouldn’t know good hardcore if it came and yanked down their basketball shorts. Stick Together ruled though, and even played a perfect cover of Agnostic Front’s “Blind Justice” which despite my excitement, didn’t go over well with the crowd. Not everyone’s a scholar, but that’s all right. The set was a treat.
Now, I said I wouldn’t get too nostalgic, but I lied. Philly’s Mother of Mercy wells it up inside of me. They’ve always been excellent and come from an awesome pedigree of great hardcore bands (notably Let Down), but that night they were especially deep in the pocket, slaying with the tightest execution I’d ever seen and digging into the rawest grooves this side of November Coming Fire. Ripping, sweating and pounding through their set with all the subtlety of a nail gun to your forehead, they kept laying it on at a blistering rate, nursing a roiling dilemma in my brain: do I mosh or do I headbang? Twenty minutes of crushing lead riffs and ear splitting vocals elicited a bastardized version of both, and I stomped my shin-bones into dust. The elephant ears felt it too and got a little unruly with their caveman dancing, but singer Bob Wilson called ‘em out hard (to riotous applause) and then sent shout-outs to Insight, Iceburn and The Used (“the best Utah bands!”) before the band launched into a tongue-in-cheek medley of feedback and ‘90s AFI riffs. Having swiftly smashed everything into oblivion, they hurriedly packed up their gear and hustled off the stage, leaving a caustic buzz hanging in the air.
At this point, two of the elephant ears had picked a fight with each other and a scuffle ensued, carrying them outside. Other troglodytes followed to cheer and scratch their crotches, which was just as well. No one wanted them there anyway. Still, it was a bizarre sight to see the neatly coiffed Velour patrons, stylishly smoking cigarettes, staring in horror as a herd of shouting salami necks spilled onto the sidewalk.
Now, purged of all relative impurities and giddy with anticipation, everyone watched as headliners, Foundation set up. These Atlanta stalwarts have been cursed with terrible Utah shows (a 21+ show at a bar with Desolation that no one showed up to, and once to a dead crowd in Ogden) so they all looked a bit taken aback when a horde of eager kids circled them during their sound check. Evidently, their excellent (and arguably best) new record, When the Smoke Clears, had been heard and the band had finally been greeted with the recognition they deserve here behind the Zion Curtain.
It’s hard to explain how out of control their set was. It should’ve been captured on a nature documentary for future generations to watch and study. From the first riff of “Purple Heart” to the last cymbal crash, the entire band was mobbed by hysterical kids clamoring to grab the mic and pass it around, screaming all the while. Anarchic and exhilarating, the line between audience and band wasn’t simply blurred … it was rubbed out completely. Haywire … it resembled a human earthquake, leaving bodies strewn everywhere, amidst flying fists, stomping Nikes and broken teeth. Amazingly, throughout all the madness, the band stayed on top and as as coherent as if on record, never missed a beat throughout the fiery maelstrom.
At one point, singer Tomas Pearson sheepishly held up a smashed piece of black plastic. Apparently the rowdy pile-ons had left the microphone bashed and unable to transmit vocals. Undeterred, he threw it aside and the set continued without it. With damn near every kid in the room bellowing along, it was hardly necessary.
They plowed through plenty of old favorites, and a nice array of new cuts (though not my favorite, “Anthem for Redemption”) with the highlight being a throaty and bombastic version of “Devotion II” which had everyone going bananas.
Somehow it all drew to a close with everyone gleaming and content. Hoarse and bruised, but euphoric and somehow renewed. It was all part of a magnificent show … a show I consider a triumph. I’ve long held true to the notion that the best hardcore shows happen in spite of circumstances, not because of them, and this was an unsullied example. It raged through PA problems, goons in the crowd and bad acoustics. It happened despite setbacks and it happened in Provo, a veritable hardcore wasteland. It happened because good hardcore will always prevail and because kids … well every once in a while, they’ll have their say.
I may be accused of using this show as some perverted kind of nostalgia trip, masturbatory and presumptuous … maybe this review reads like one. Maybe I’m just coming to terms with my own adult meaninglessness and trying to find my way through my own nonsensical hardcore history. Still, I can’t help but think, sitting here with a my ears still ringing and my shoulders still sore, that this silly show had some sort of lasting impact. Maybe it’s a symbol for what we all want: to see things get out of control and to be part of it, to watch things get crazy and for the “regular world” to grind itself into dust. Call me a sentimentalist, but after surveying that grinning crowd of panting, sweating, hardcore show-goers, I know that I’m not the only one who gets off on this crap … and that’s plenty comforting to me now. A hardcore show for the ages––seriously, why weren’t you there? Check out more of Peter Anderson's photos from the show here.