Trial, Powerwolves, Cool Your Jets, Despite Despair and No Empire @ Foursquare Church 04.27
I’m sort of a newcomer to hardcore, compared to everyone I know. My boyfriend was wearing an Earth Crisis hoodie to school while I was still wearing light-up Scooby Doo kicks. Even though I know my way around a couple of the classics, it is totally necessary sometimes to just sit back and enjoy everybody else’s nostalgia, which is what I expected of Trial’s most recent visit to SLC.
No Empire (formerly Hellwalker) opened the show with a heavy set of breakdowns and foot-stomping rhythms straight off their new demo. The vocalist, a giant dude with a Madball-style growl, added the extra punch into the mix, getting the audience pumped for Cool Your Jets, famous for their longtime presence in Salt Lake City.
Armed with two new guitarists (members of Hitchhiker), Cool Your Jets has returned to Seventh Dagger Records and their old antics, tossing around dodgeballs during their set. Combining high-tempo bursts with slower jams (perfect for arm-swinging, picking up change and the resonant sound of balls against walls) and throwing in a couple melodic pop-punk sections for good measure, Cool Your Jets is extremely catchy. They even threw in a cover of “Rather Be Dead” by Refused, causing half the room to rush the stage, screaming along.
Utah County natives Despite Despair followed up with a short set consisting mainly of songs from their recent split with Gunner. I’ve seen Despite Despair several times, and I always find myself impressed with the emotion in each performance. The frontman’s words encouraging positivity fit in well with Trial’s longtime message, backed by guitar riffs sometimes rolling in Southern flavor, sometimes tasting more of post-hardcore. I had one complaint about the set, and that was the run of only four songs, knowing that the band is working on a full-length album.
Panic Records newcomer Powerwolves brought the show a militant style of hardcore, muddy and bass-driven. I had to hand it to them for catching the eye of the label, as this tour is their first (ever, seriously), and they didn’t even seem nervous. Sensing that the audience was geared up hard to see the headliner, Powerwolves’ vocalist kept his words short and ran through their set just as fast as the drumbeats. He did, however, ask for a circle pit to open—practically an impossibility in the Salt Lake scene.
Finally, with anticipation mounting, Trial began setting up. The crowd filed back in early, leaving an ominous empty space in the middle of the room for the inevitable mosh pit. The mix of characters was incredible, from kids my age to folks with kids of their own, most likely there for the first time Trial played, in 1995. The band took a couple minutes to sound-check, and then immediately blasted into “Reflection,” quickly finding out that microphones were totally unnecessary.
The crowd shouted every single word, some guys climbing up onto the stage and holding singer Greg Bennick by the shoulders, screaming into his face before jumping down. The energy spread throughout the room, even affecting those of us opting to stay on the backside of the ever-expanding mosh pit. Bennick noted at one point that, “Salt Lake City is the only place you see people actually stretching during the fast parts, getting ready for the breakdown.”
Unlike some bands touring through Utah, it was clear that Bennick and all of Trial’s members were familiar with the state and the music scene. He took time out of the set to talk about a letter-writing party for local animal-rights activist Jordan Halliday, and dedicated “Legacy” to him. Covering all the bases from community support to survivors of sexual assault, Bennick peppered Trial’s set of meaningful hardcore with words of encouragement and wisdom.
The band explains in their Reunion/Retrospective DVD insert, “We were after that one moment, that one intimate and intense exchange, that one flash of passion and agony colliding and intertwining that left us all reeling and realizing that we’d just experienced something very real.” Even after nearly twenty years, Trial is still able to create that intimate moment for audiences, between cathartic chants and moments of intensity. I found myself not standing on the outskirts of nostalgia, but genuinely feeling it in the room—one profound emotion and experience that each one of us in the audience shared.
Trial closed with “War By Other Means,” everyone releasing the last held breath, and, surprisingly, nobody shouting for an encore. Some people began filing out, others lined up around Bennick to shake hands and listen to what more he had to say.
By all definition, it was a great show, only marred by the poor sound of the venue (a combination of a big space and hardwood floors) and All Teeth dropping out due to a thumb injury. The usual tension of Salt Lake hardcore was completely absent. There were no fights or tough-guy posturing; just a good time, a good message, and plenty of reason to take just a little more pride in the place we call home.
For a schedule of Trial’s upcoming dates, you can follow their Facebook page, or check out Panic Records’ website for info about Powerwolves. Cool Your Jets has a new album in the works. You can get the Despite Despair split (and check out their merch) at http://despitedespair.bandcamp.com.