Photo: Todd Pollock
Maybe I’ve become lazy in my show upkeep, or maybe this was just poorly promoted, but that’s not the point. What matters is that when a real deal hardcore band graced us, here in “Brovo,” with their raucous presence, I immediately put all my other pursuits (like patching together a broken relationship and finishing my linguistics essay) on hold.
The online flier directed me to the Death Star, an ex-skateshop which now sits smugly between Provo’s live music elites (hipster haven Velour and sandwich-bar-cum-venue Muse Music) and is no more than a spacious room with no stage and questionable acoustic quality…a premier locale for a hardcore show.
And so I’m here watching Mountain Man set up. This band that, as it turns out, are not named after my favorite Dinosaur Jr song, but after some inexplicable inside joke. Still, like the Mascis fronted powerhouse, they hail from Massachusetts and tonight, having lost their usual singer to unforeseen circumstances, they’re a power trio.
A lone guitarist plugs in and taps the microphone. He’s wearing black jeans, chunky motorcycle boots and sports a hastily dyed crop of hair roughly the color of mashed Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. He squints at the silent crowd. A silence that’s only broken by the flu-ish patter of intermittent coughing. The band’s been worn down by the road. The audience has been worn down by the winter.
I check my watch. Maybe I’m putting too much stock into this show. Too much responsibility on this hardcore band, expecting them to lift me out of my sordid College blues. I really should give up on these kiddy shenanigans and do the adult thing. Catch up on backlogged homework and eat some sleeping pills.
I’ve already been here for a while. I’ve sat through two endearing, but thoroughly underwhelming sets. Fever Dreams were tight, consistent and (despite some troglodyte kung fu moshing) elicited an admirable crowd reaction…a heady accomplishment for a new band.
Gunner’s discordant brand of ‘90s style noisy core did little for me, but their off kilter cover of Foo Fighters “All my Life” made me smile. Still though, and I can’t help but over-think this, is it all really worth it? Is it worth anything? Watching sweaty white males doing their best musical impressions of each other? Screaming at me unintelligibly? Beating fists on swollen chests to tell me how much they hate living in the suburbs? I’m 24…not 15. Bane lyrics don’t solve my problems anymore and I don’t have acne. I pay taxes.
Reese’s cup hair snorts, clearing his throat and bringing me back to the present.
“Everyone move up,” he says. “Please!” an urgent lilt cracks in his voice. The small audience lurches forward, inching closer to the trio of perspiring musicians.
A beanpole drummer with a tightly cropped crew cut taps a high hat gingerly.
Reese’s cup hair coughs again. “Closer. Closer. Move closer. Right in our faces.”
We edge up, cautiously, now close enough to see beading sweat, burgeoning zits and patchy peach fuzz. Close enough to catch some nasty road flu.
The atmosphere hangs in an awkward stasis and, save for the occasional twisting of a tuning peg, the band rides it out. The tension is finally broken when Reese’s Cup hair glances at beanpole drummer who, with a hurried stick count, snaps it all into gear.
Releasing a bludgeoning torrent of pent up anger, they literally blast back the first row of people. It’s a wicked blend of blistering noise that toes the power-violence line, but keeps itself rooted in the slower, darker, heavy hitting hardcore traditions. In all the sudden action, my petty anxiety begins to subside and an unseen reckless force takes control of my body.
It’s chaotic, not staid or formulaic. Kids stomp their feet, swing their fists and twist their faces into unsightly anguished grimaces and Mountain Man’s deafening roar is the rhythm track. It’s beginning to feel oddly “right.”
The first song stops quickly. Reese’s cup hair exhales dramatically, his unprepared pipes already exhausted. Sweating moshers grind themselves to a halt and linger in taut apprehension. They wait, counting seconds and looking around nervously until the rigid silence is shattered by the next song, just as vicious as the last. Bellowing vocals precede a haggard, unholy wall of swarming noise that bursts forth, as if broken out from inside a rock. They may be a member short, but you’d never know it. Completely in the pocket, they rollick around; eyes rolled back, hair flying, jaws askew and clutching fingers deftly coaxing desperate wails from the electric bowels of their instruments.
I’m swept up in the fury. Relishing the muted thuds of knuckles on flesh and the dull aching in my stomping feet (Though comfortable, casual and stylish, Vans sneakers provide no arch support). I’m convulsing back and forth like a beached flounder, pulling at my hair and spitting and as I’m doing so, I’m losing sight of all the nonsensical adolescent rubbish that’s been stressing me out. About how I have no real friends. How I’ll never have the job I want. How my parents are perpetually disappointed in me and my foolish pursuits.
Mountain Man’s music sort of does that. Having just released an LP entitled Grief, their work is rooted in misery and anger … but not stagnation. It’s a burst of caustic clarity that strives to exorcise those rotten thoughts. Those bad feelings. Right now, both the band and the crowd look completely purified by the music. By the loud, obnoxious catharsis.
Make no mistake though. This isn’t contrived. There’s no ninja line-dancing, no dorky spin-kicking and no aerobic tomfoolery so kids with stretched ears can feel “hard.” It’s unruly, disordered and messy. Dangerous, difficult to interpret and it starts and stops every few seconds.
After ten more blasts, the band stops and begins wordlessly packing up their gear.
“One more! One more!” A panting, defiant chorus rises from the battered spectators. It’s the kind of buffoonery that’s usually reserved for bonehead arena metal, but I can’t help but join in.
Reese’s Cup hair grins, wipes his shining forehead on a shirt sleeve and plugs back in. Beanpole drummer sits down. There’s a wink and a nod and they explode into “God/Fuck,” a song from the demo, which in addition to being my favorite Mountain Man song, contains a sly allusion to Neil Young’s “Old Man.” Knowing that this will be my last chance, I lose it, launching completely haywire, doing my best to expel every wretched college demon from my body in the ensuing riot.
I’m stamping, swinging, and gnashing my teeth until I feel the sickening crunch of my fist mashing into something brittle and unforgiving. Drywall. I pull my hand out slowly, a searing pain washing over it.
The trio has stopped now, finally finished, their ninety second encore stretched to capacity. I examine my fist sized hole. Evidently I’m not the first person to lose their mind here, as my hole is just one of many.
My hand’s quickly taking on a lovely purplish hue. I cradle it like a wounded sparrow and head outside to my car.
It’s starting to rain. My essay is still due tomorrow. I still have no girlfriend. I’m still destined for nothing career wise, my parents are still bummed on me and as of right now I have no immediate use of my right hand.
Regardless, I can’t help but think about the necessity of this night. I feel cleansed.
I fumble around for my wallet and retrieve my last $10 bill. It’ll be weeks until pay day and I’m practically cleaned out. Annoyed, I stuff my wallet back into my pocket, take a deep breath and start the ignition. My ballooning hand throbs. I’ll need an ice-pack to get it down to normal. An ice pack, some aspirin, and a few no-doz to carry on through the night. Still though, despite the hassle, this is all much cheaper than any therapy…and twice as effective.