A Plea for Purging
w/ Shai Hulud, Cool Your Jets, Counterparts, Dead Icons, Willows, A Past Unknown
@ SLC Foursquare Church, 3.14.12
Alright cyber warriors, I'll try to contain this behemoth of a show review—not because I'm lazy, but because I know you've got a solid-booked day of scoring Craigslist dates and pirating music, and this show featured no fewer than thirty six bands (OK, so like...seven) on the bill. It was a lot to take in, especially since I'd nourished myself entirely on Laffy Taffy and had just come from my "real" job (where I teach fourth graders how to do long division). My brain may have been running on some frazzled fumes, and I'm not discounting the occasional hunger hallucination.
This gigger went down at the SLC Foursquare church (which I've dubbed "The Mosh Church") which is steadily becoming the premier locale for hardcore shows (y'all dig Trial?) in the area. Good sized stage, big room, acoustics aren't too bad. You get the idea.
First up was upstart Iowa metalcore outfit, A Past Uknown. I'll forgive their terrible high school name, the crabcore nonsense and the Affliction-esque shirt designs...but I struggle with the big rubbery "Jesus loves you, that's why we're all here, PLEASE 'like' us on Facebook" speech given at the end. Yes, we were at a church, but it was just so jarring. To each his own, I just don't think a hardcore show is the place for that kinda stuff (bla bla bla Ebullition Records can suck it). Regardless of my hang-ups, APU aped that Facedown records stuff that no one older than fifteen will cop to liking, and only played three songs. Slight reaction from the crowd and the singer seemed stoked on what he was talking about (even descending from the stage and into the crowd at one point). The last song kickstarted with a strange sample that derailed me and dragged itself into mosh-monotony, but at least it was over quickly.
SLC locals Willows warmed up with some snakey death metal riffs, and I got to hopin' that'd be their schtick, but I gotta stop getting my hopes up in this capacity, because (per usual) they played pretty standard chug-core. They looked like young-uns and a bizarre gaggle of parents and kiddies had showed up to watch and support. Cool parenting, but weird nonetheless. The speech about "a lotta distrust in the scene" could've packed a weighty punch, except the whole time the singer yammered about unity, the guitarist played some pre-arranged composition as background music... FOR HIS SPEECH. Jabroni-level gradeschool tomfoolery that I didn't want any part of. They insisted the set would be quick, but between the contrived 'tween cut speeches and extend-o breakdowns, I started to feel a little like I'd been dragging my donger through miles and miles of broken glass. Maybe an off night? Not sure.
Dead Icons come from my neck of the woods (well, about 90 minutes south) in Lexington, Kentucky, and though I've seen them before, they came as a slight refresher, being the first band to play real-deal fast parts in their songs and I was stone-sick of hearing open E breakdowns. I normally can't get behind singers who tell the crowd what to do (I once went to a show in high school where a local metalcore band literally distributed slips of paper with their lyrics printed on 'em so that people could sing/read along. oof), but a good commanding stage presence kept 'em in the game. Solid heavy core from the Appalachian hillsides and the land of horses and bluegrass. Check 'em out if that's your thang.
Counterparts sounded noodly in the warmup, so I wondered how they'd turn out. The rosey dose of melody led me to believe that these guys are quite heavily influenced by the likes of Shai Hulud, so it's cool that they got to play the show. Kind of mid-paced later nineties melodicore with some mosh parts...enough to make one of those pesky retaining walls topple over (Xibalba show review, check it) and then a fight broke out. Seriously. Whatever. Violent music for violent people, blah blah blah, but it kinda sucked out some of the set's momentum. Best line of the night was Counterparts singer rolling his eyes and saying, "Why not just go to a bar and fight someone who really deserves it?" to which some miscreant in the crowd yelled "Fuck you!" I love a good interchange and a good hockey fight. Thing is, Counterparts is actually a decent band, and even though they kinda sound like (ugh) Verse, I could totally handle them in this context. The reaction was potent, but it seemed like after the fight things got a little tense and tentative...but it subsided.
I ducked outside to get some Doritos and listen to the buzz surrounding the band coming up. Now, I'll admit, I'm not an SLC lifer. I've heard the name Cool Your Jets in passing and I've passively checked 'em out but never dug too deep into their catalog or backstory. That being said, I know they're a beloved institution at this point and so my curiosity drove me into this set. I'm not sure their status (active? inactive? scab lineup?) but damn, they had it tight. For starters, I can dig their aesthetic. I know the prospect of a meathead straight edge band from SLC might chill some hipster blood, but seeing an X'd up singer decked out in a Shattered Realm jersey got me nostalgic and in some weird alternate reality, it made my day. He had a unique presence too, at best sounding like a (slightly) screechier Stop and Think and the riffs were heavy and galloping...but what took the proverbial core-cake was the mosh olympics that ensued when they started. I know some of you are familiar, but this was my first time and I was completely INTOXICATED by the bedlam that erupted. "Don't break anything in the church, just hit each other!" said the vocalist before tossing three regulation sized dodgballs into the pit. It was like a war zone. At heart, I'm a jock (punk sucks) so pelting unsuspecting simpletons with dodgeballs in a church gym was kind of a dream come true. I saw some dude done up like Scott Weiland in the "Sour Girl" video get decked, and that wasn't too cool, but I mean...I ain't the "no fun police." My only fear was that I would step on one of those dodgeballs mid-skank and royally twist my ankle, but I walked away from that one, bruised but unbowed. Think a funner and marginally less threatening version of Bad Luck 13 Riot Extravaganza (or a slightly more dangerous Good Clean Fun). Let's hope there's more where that came from!
Now, I'm not sure exactly what I expected from Shai Hulud, but I definitely expected a bigger crowd than I saw. Maybe people just left after Cool Your Jets, which is their prerogative (the set ruled) but I thought 'Hulud had a bigger following in Salty City. The singer and guitarist both proved well aware of the emptying gym and kept urging us forward. They played well though and kids moshed (no dives though). "Set Your Body Ablaze," "This Song..." and "A Profound Hatred of Man" probably got the most vibrant reactions, but everything really seemed tame next to that CYJ set. I saw someone split their shorts on a spinkick (bad deal) but I've lost plenty of clothes to the pit. Singer said something about "playing in a town where no one knows your band" which seemed odd because I think lots of kids in SLC like Shai Hulud...I just don't know why they didn't come out. Disappointing on behalf of the supporters, but I really think the band pulled through with a great show despite it.
Now, why Shai Hulud wasn't the headliner and some band that I've never heard of was, is completely beyond me. I know I'm losing touch with reality, I don't have my finger firmly on the pulse of the youth movement...but it still seemed bonkers. A Plea for Purging had some of the dorkiest merch this side of Hot Topic. Justin Bieber rips, Notorious B.I.G parodies and a Terror spoof that said "Keepers of the Fat" (OK, that's actually kind of clever). The diminished crowd couldn't hide the fact that there were distinct individuals who'd actually stuck around JUST to see this band. I don't pretend to understand it, I'm just an observer. Either way, the band is not my thing. Heavily guitar oriented metalcore with plenty of riffs and solos...it just seems like the kind of stuff I "outgrew" when I first heard Age of Quarrel (pretentious? Fight me broh).
Still, amongst the schlock, I saw some real gems. Cool Your Jets had the best set of the night, and Shai Hulud is still scrappy and vital in an aging state...but I heard that in Austin SXSW Power Trip decimated a stage and some bouncers got beat up during a Cro-Mags set. What I wouldn't have given to be there. Hardcore lives dawg. You just gotta sift through the doggie doo to find it. Another success story for The Mosh Church.