Friday, June 29, 2007

Suburban Voice blog #43

NO WAY RECORDS FEST, JUNE 23-24, RICHMOND, VA
It was time for one of my occasional punk rock roadtrips. In the past few years, it’s mainly been the Pointless Fest in Philly but, last year, that got shut down after two days and the organizers had to scramble to put together a bar show at the last minute. In any case, a change of scenery wasn't a bad idea--check out a different city and all that.

I missed out on the huge Chaos in Tejas fest last month so there was no way (HA!) I was passing up this fine collection of bands in Richmond. The fest was put together by Brandon and Lauren from No Way Records (obviously) and took place over two days at the Alley Katz club, plus there was an “after-party” at the Incubate Warehouse space. I think the total of bands I saw was 22 and that was in a space of around 30 hours or so. Even with all that activity, I didn’t hit the proverbial wall until late in the second day. All that walking and exercise must have paid off.

I don’t want to attempt a band-by-band review. I mean, for the most part, these bands play old-school hardcore punk rock. That’s kind of a catch-all description and there are definitely some stylistic differences. Caustic Christ, for instance, have more of a raw, crust-inflected sound that still remains rooted in US-style hardcore. Career Suicide mix in snotty ’77 era punk and garage inspiration. The Inmates also have the snotty, antisocial punk thing going on. Deep Sleep operate in a slightly garagier domain. Double Negative have a COC-ish vibe and a crazed/damaged guitar sound. And Fucked Up are an entity unto themselves, I suppose—fusing fired-up rock ‘n roll to bellicose punk. Also, while not every band was a mind-blower, no one was downright awful, either.

I didn’t much care for the club—that’s due to my general dislike for rock clubs in the past few years. While it didn’t stop people from diving, the stage barricade is lame. At the beginning of the first day, the door-guy announced that “no bags of any kind” would be allowed into the venue. I didn’t stand by the door and see how strictly that was enforced. There was a large open window further down the building and I handed my backpack to a very helpful young woman, thus avoiding any sort of hassle. After having to plop down $3 for a half-liter bottle of water the first day, I added a large jug of water to my ‘pack the next day and thus avoided giving any more money to the club. While the club was lax about allowing people on the side of the stage to take pictures on the first day, they cracked down on that the second and eventually started hassling people to leave the “band area” towards the end of the show—although folks with cameras (myself included) were allowed to stay. It may seem like grousing or nit-picking but I really hate that kind of crap. I’m also glad I’m not under 21 since there were no “ins and outs” for those under that age.

I liked the warehouse space more, even if things got somewhat out of hand and there were some extremely wasted people at that point. At least I didn’t see anyone snorting coke, like I did on the third level of the club earlier in the day. I know it probably wasn’t feasible to do the whole fest there, especially since it’s basically in the middle of nowhere and probably somewhat difficult to get to without a car…

So, to keep this from turning into a novel, here’s a wrap-up of what happened over the two days…

DOUBLE NEGATIVE

BAND OF THE FEST: Double Negative, from North Carolina. As I said above, there’s definitely early COC in their sound. I imagine that could be a product of their environment but it’s not the whole story. I was on the side where Justin was playing and his bass sound was thick and distorted and that certainly adds to the fullness of their sound. Also, these guys are not kids. The baby of the band, their bass-player Justin, is 35 and the other guys are 39-42. I know I sometimes get hung up on age but it’s more a matter of feeling good about sticking around so long and realizing that I’m not the only person growing older in the punk scene. Also, I’m not privy to every conversation but, given the response those guys got (there seemed to be more buzz on them than any other band), I’d argue that their age isn’t an issue with the largely-younger audience. And, by my count, there were a total of four performers over the age of 40 and quite a few over 30. One cool thing about Double Negative is they seem genuinely surprised/humble about the response they’ve been getting.

INMATES

CRAZIEST SET: Inmates, at the warehouse. When a band from Cleveland plays, you expect shenanigans and, while I’m sure it pales in comparison to a show in their hometown, it still had an element of danger. Firecrackers throughout the set, flying milk crates (one of ‘em fucked up my right index finger a bit), hula hoops being tossed, a broken hula hoop used as a bullwhip (someone I know intimately was responsible for that) and a light fixture knocked down. In the midst of this tumult, the Inmates still bashed out one hell of a punk ruckus.

MAKING ROOM FOR YOUTH: Life Trap. Youthful energy doesn’t begin to describe their set. I mean, these gentlemen were born in the late 80s/early 90s, several years after the music that inspires them was created. That’s true with a lot of the bands here. Steve Blush from “American Hardcore” can moan all he likes about younger hardcore bands aping the past—when the music is played with this much passion and enthusiasm, I don’t give a shit.

OTHER STELLAR PERFORMANCES: Set To Explode. I don’t understand why these guys only have an EP out but they nail the Minor Threat-meets-tougher hardcore style. Dave Byrd paces the stage with agitation in his eyes; Wasted Time. Finally get to see this band and their boiling-over hardcore punk. Played with ravenous brilliance. Chronic Seizure. These guys just bring it with their thrash attack. Pat Kelly attacks his bass like a madman.; Deep Sleep. Differentiating themselves a bit with a west coast-influenced punk sound; Cloak/Dagger. Also differentiating themselves with a slight garage impulse; Career Suicide. Pure mayhem when they played and the band clearly fed off it. Direct Control. Always reliable with their searing, energetic hardcore.

BEST COVER VERSIONS: “Bad Attitude” by Articles of Faith (Life Trap)—AOF are a band who haven’t been covered to death and this is one of their best songs; “It’s OK” by Koro (Life Trap)—once again, not covered to death and Life Trap can stake a claim to it since they're Tennesseans; “Cult Band” by Poison Idea (Life Crisis)—if you’re going to cover Poison Idea, you’d better do it fucking right and they did, “New Age” by Blitz (Fucked Up)—it takes cojones to open your set with a cover and this singalong classic was stirring. Hell, I’m humming it to myself right now.

WORST COVER VERSIONS: “Just To Get Away” by Poison Idea (Fucked Up)—Fucked Up truly mangled this song; “Sonic Reducer” by Dead Boys (Sick Pleasure)—overdone, at this point.

GOVERNMENT WARNING

THE SHOW MUST GO ON AWARD: Kenny from Government Warning. Kenny fucked himself up pretty well the day before when he took a stage dive and landed on his tuchus. Or so I heard. I didn’t see it happen and have no idea if anyone quipped “Oh my god, they killed Kenny.” Sorry. In any case, that didn’t stop him from taking the stage with Government Warning, even though he asked people to be gentle since he was hurting so badly. What a trouper! And their set was frenetic.

BEST FASHION STATEMENT: The Budweiser Sweater, provided by Pat Kelly from Chronic Seizure. It was a big hit, as people took their turn posing while wearing said garment. There’s even a MySpace page for it (http://www.myspace.com/thebudweisersweater). If someone was enterprising, they could make a killing by selling photos to people wearing the sweater but, in the name of punk rock benevolence, the service was provided gratis.

DRUG REPORT: Well, besides the copious amounts of alcohol consumed, there was weed, the aforementioned coke sniffing and Percoset being sold at the merch table by one of the bands at the warehouse show. I’ll protect the guilty party here, lest they become inmates. Oops… Also, once again, I don’t care how cheap it is—I’d rather drink cat piss than another can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Ugh…

NUMBER OF WOMEN IN THE BANDS: Only one… Sandy from Fucked Up. I think that’s kind of sad, to be honest. And there were only a handful of African-American and Latino performers, as well.

BEST REUNION: (pictured above) Yours truly with Brian Walsby (drummer for Double Negative/illustrator and cartoonist) after 22 years. I almost wonder if he feels out of place in the hardcore punk realm or finds it odd that’s he’s involved again but harnesses that perceived sense of alienation into some kickass drumming. And, it goes without saying, in his drawings. Hell, he even sketched a personalized cartoon for me:


COOLEST THING ABOUT THE WEEKEND: This is strictly personal and it was getting to hang out with my friend Donna, who is one of the best people I know. She drove me everywhere, including to and from the airport, and showed me around the city. Spending time with her was just as enjoyable as seeing the fest itself…

*****

That wraps up the No Way Fest report. If you’d like to see a complete set of photos from the fest, check out my Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/photos/mralq/. I just have a smattering of reviews this time as I haven’t had a chance to scribble too many this week. There will be plenty more in the not-to-distant future. You have my promise…

DIGITAL LEATHER-She Had A Cameltoe/Abrasion (Goner, 7”)
After hearing this cool 7”, it’s inspired me to go back and give his (it’s one guy—Sean Foree) “Monologue” album another chance. Getting to the record at hand, “She Had A Cameltoe” would be memorable for the title alone but the song itself is an enjoyable bit of synth-driven new wave whimsy with distorted vocals. Flip it for “Abrasion” and you get a muddier, darker ambiance with a repetitive keyboard signature and it sounds as though it could have come of the artsier Clevo or SF scenes of the 70s. (2152 Young Ave., Memphis, TN 38104, www.goner-records.com)

FINAL SOLUTIONS-Songs By Solutions (Goner, CD)
Hyper punk minimalism done with a variety of styles—for instance, there’s the stomping garage punk of “In A Coma” and they follow that up with the mechanical drum drill-press of “Lightning Bug.” The whompalama of “Rubber Stamp Test” begins with a hearty 1-2-3-4 as the drums bash (provided by the always-busy Jay Reatard) through the floor. The single note piano plink for the final song, “I Am the Now,” momentarily conjures the Buzzcocks’ “Something’s Gone Wrong Again” in a different jarring and thumping setting. Nervy, driving and buzzing a hole through your brain. (2152 Young Ave., Memphis, TN 38104, www.goner-records.com)

RAKKAUS-Kuolevan Maailman Kirious (Tuska & Ahdistus, 7” EP)
Raw, crusty hardcore that goes from thrash into double speed and, as I’ve opined a million times before, works better at the slower tempo. Also, Katri sometimes has difficulty fitting the words into the musical framework. The power and impassioned delivery are immediately apparent but they come up a bit short, unfortunately. (Papinkatu 7 B 57, 33200 Tampere, FINLAND, www.elisanet.fi/tuskajaahdistus)

JAY REATARD-I Know A Place/Don’t Let Him Come Back (Goner, 7”)
A somewhat quieter effort than Jay’s recent “Blood Visions” album. There’s a semi-twisted pure pop impetus here and the melodies are engaging but I prefer the more savage side of his repertoire. (2152 Young Ave., Memphis, TN 38104, www.goner-records.com)

RED HANDED-s/t (Rivarly, 7” EP)
Bruising hardcore that hits the right buttons. Red Handed mix up thrash and heavier (but mosh-core free) parts, along with chanted vocals. There’s an appealing roughness and anger in the sound that gives it presence. Those sentiments are expressed immediately, with the opening salvo of “You look at me, you fuckin dick…” and warns to “never fuck with Red Handed.” OK, not exactly subtle nor all that posi but hardcore wasn’t always meant to be a love-fest, I suppose. (www.rivalryrecords.com)

SIGNAL LOST-Prosthetic Screams (Prank, CD)
The second (and final) album for Signal Lost continues in the somber, melodic vein but is a bit more polished, for want of a better term. And that’s not to say this is quiet music, by any stretch—a punk burn remains part of their sound, especially on the quicker-paced “Stop Motion Reality,” “Casualty Routine” and “Therapy,” with a cool guitar line from Stan. Ashley’s voice retains a hint of roughness and her singing is a good accompaniment to the band’s textured sound. I said it wasn’t quiet but there’s an understated power here. (PO Box 410892, SF, CA 94141-0892, www.prankrecords.com)

VIOLENT MINDS-Eyes Of Death (Parts Unknown, LP)
If this album had come out in either 2005 or 2006, it would have been a contendah for record of the year. When this year wraps up, it’ll receive similar consideration or at least be on my best-of list. A long delay—“Eyes Of Death” was supposed to come out on another label and I’ve had MP3s of it for two years. Finally, Parts Unknown have unleashed this hardcore punk rager. Most of the songs have a jogging rhythm—what I mean by that is they fit in perfectly when I pick up the pace for one of my walks, as I try to keep up with the driving drums/bass tandem. The guitar riffs possess a brilliant simplicity, throwing in the occasional lead line. There’s a perfect balance between the instruments and Zach’s hoarse vocals. The last track, “Wolfblood,” flexes some New Wave of British Heavy Metal muscle. The only complaint is the smidgen of surface noise on the colored vinyl in my possession but, dang, this was worth the fucking wait. (PO Box 4835, Toms River, NJ 08754, www.partsunknownrecords.com)

2 comments:

GRAVE MISTAKE said...

kenny definitely landed on his HEAD, not his "tuchus!"

Suburban Voice On-Line said...

ah, so I was given incorrect information! Either way, it's pretty impressive...