Following a 10-hour southbound trip from Salt Lake City to Mesa, my girlfriend and I basked in the freedom from Utah’s polluted air and spring snow in the warm Arizona sun. We started toward the venue and, just outside the entrance, we stumbled upon Greg Bennick (Trial, vocals) exchanging dialogue with a group of his friends. As we walked downstairs to the Underground, which was the basement of the venue Nile, we were told that it was going to get hot. The humidity definitely hit hard—there were quite a few people already in the venue and Cloak had just started to set up their gear. We approached Run with the Hunted’s merch table where vocalist Drew Wilkinson was sitting. We conversed with him on the overwhelming anticipation for the show and he knew it was evident. The overall vibe in the venue was a mix of excitement and melancholy—people were excited for the show but were also at disdain that this would be RWTH’s very last one to play.
Cloak, La Bella and Seizures all did an excellent job warming up the crowd with their metal-tinged hardcore sound. Then Hollow Earth took the stage and were on fire. Vocalist Steve Muczynski stomped all over the floor while the other band members continually headbanged onstage. During a break between songs, Muczynski told a story of how a show they played the night prior in San Antonio with only two attendees, and how it enhanced his feelings of being a 30-something-year-old vocalist for a hardcore band who was jaded with the hardcore scene, which ultimately led to him not performing at his best. However, he said, when Die Young took the stage, their vocalist The Rev. White Devil said, “Fuck it,” and got both of those kids to move. It made Muczynski feel young and excited about hardcore again. I reached out to Muczynski after their set and complimented him on his story. He added that when Die Young relit his fire, it made him recall when he first built his relationships with the members of Run with the Hunted. He described to me that when he was young and eager to tour, RWTH not only gave him the opportunity to do so, but friendships with each member blossomed in the process. It showed him that the object of hardcore is not to become a rockstar, but to reach out and connect with people.
Die Young took the stage, opening with the blistering “Fuck The Imperialists,” and just like Muczynski’s story, The Rev. got the crowd to start moving. They played a brutal set, each song getting a bigger response than the last. The Rev. could feel a lot of the mixed feelings from the crowd—he recalled that, ironically enough, the last time they played with Run with the Hunted was at their very first show in 2008. He had since admired their music as well as their zero-ego attitudes. He lightened up the mood by saying they were too good a band to break up and that he had already started a poll on when they will get back together. They continually praised them through songs like “Chosen Path”—making the ultimate decision of ending their band—and “Trail of Tears”—how playing music gives this fucked up world some solace. The members of Die Young not only praised each band for playing good music, but for backing up their words and statements with action. They dedicated their final song, “The Message,” to them. The Rev. opened his mouth, “It’s time to revive the idea!” then the audience piled up and joined in, “Rekindle the spirit that brought us here! To live in silence is to live in fear, so I’ll speak my mind… LOUD AND CLEAR!” The venue erupted—people clambered over each other for mic time, the floor persisted with a display of spin kicks and crowd kills, and the Underground still reverberated with the lyrics, “It’s time to revive the idea,” long after they left the stage.
It wasn’t long before the venue’s onslaught of dialogue was replaced by the clattering of a hi hat cymbal, followed by domineering guitar riffs combined with the rapidly increasing, pulsating drum beats. Greg Bennick cued the audience by sticking the mic into the crowd and they answered with, “The wreckage of humanity has been strewn across the land, now the hour of desperation is at hand! We the maggots feed off the dead, seeking solace in a bed of broken glass!” Trial’s live staple “Reflections” had successfully stirred up the crowd, and continued with vigorous insanity through “One Step Away,” “When There’s Nothing Left to Lose” and “Are These Our Lives?” Bennick called back to Muczynski’s remark of feeling jaded with the hardcore scene and commented that feeling jaded or numb or bored simply meant being so overwhelmed with emotion that even if it feels like nothing, you are feeling everything. Fresh off that comment, they traversed fittingly into “Unrestrained” with Muczynski in the middle of the pile up for mic grabs.
A portion of their set was given to guitarist Tim McIntosh, who told his story of how his relationship with Run with the Hunted came to fruition. Years ago, he received an email from the band telling him that Trial had been a great influence for their music and that it would mean the world to them if he’d come check out their show when they came through. Unfortunately, a two and a half hour drive from Seattle to Longview kept him from making the show and he asked for them to send him a CD so he could still check them out. He stands by his statement, saying that he wished that he had made that drive to Longview to go see them. Keeping in touch with them, he insisted that he sign them to his label Panic Records and release their first LP. What followed was the formation of an everlasting connection—beyond their working relationship. McIntosh said they evolved into the greatest band that he’s had the pleasure of working with. They concluded with dedicating the song “War by Other Means” to them and the insanity continued to escalate—Bennick was bombarded by crowd members whose intense fanaticism bolstered the vocal buildup of, “The struggle is not over—it assumes new forms. For no matter what the face, no matter what the name, it’s still… WAR!” The climactic turning point caused an eruption of slam dancing while the lyrics, “The laws are silent in times of war!” thundered throughout the venue.
The audience’s anticipation had peaked when the band of the night walked on the stage. The crowd huddled to the front, Wilkinson held the mic up to his mouth and the whole venue released the lyrics to “Magna Cum Laude,” followed up directly by “Double Zero,” “For British Eyes Only” and “Destroy All Calendars.” In the midst of the flailing fists, ascending pileups and raw, emotional output, guitarist Ian Lanspeary invited his girlfriend up to the stage. He told the audience, “I couldn’t think of a better time to do this, so…” and he grabbed hand of his woman, got down on one knee, and proposed to her. She responded by pulling him up to his feet and answered his question with a kiss. “Let’s give it up for love! Because that is what really matters!” Wilkinson shouted, followed by a massive roar from the audience. He switched gears and put his hand in on what hardcore meant to him. Even though it’s a genre that continues to have its share of shortcomings, it has had so much influence on the world, even beyond the music itself, reinforcing The Rev.’s comment on backing up words with action. Wilkinson’s monologue carried well into their song “Red Queen,” followed by “Occam’s Razor.”
Wilkinson finally addressed the elephant in the room and spoke on why they made the decision of not being a band anymore. There were a number of reasons—they felt that they were privileged enough to be a band with the same, consistent lineup for eight years. They returned the favor to McIntosh by thanking him for signing them to Panic Records and releasing their debut album as well as giving them the chance to tour Europe with Trial. “We feel very content with where we are now—we feel that there is nothing left for us to do as a band and we are ready to try new things.” While I know their fans are dismayed that they were breaking up, at least they can take solace in the fact that their reasons for doing so are not negative. They concluded by saying that, if there’s anything to take away from hardcore, is that we should stand up for what we believe in. There is always something left that’s worth fighting for. They shifted into their final song, “Of Course It’s Dark, It’s a Suicide Note.”
The sound of distortion and feedback continued to propel from the speakers. As it diminished, members of the audience, most of who were so filled with emotion that it leaked out of their eyes, reached out to each member with a perpetual embrace. I recounted what Steve Muczynski, The Rev. White Devil, Tim McIntosh, and Drew Wilkinson had all advocated in this show—that hardcore is about making music with the intention of reaching out to people. No matter how far the reach is, or how many people they connect with, if they’ve managed to make one person walk away from a show feeling something, then they were successful. Judging by the huddle of fans with their arms wrapped around each band member, Run with the Hunted are the living example of connecting with their fans on all emotional and personal levels. The band Run with the Hunted may have run its course, but I know I speak for every one of their fans when I say that I hope they find happiness in all of their endeavors, whatever they may be.