Best of 2015
Last year this was a whole production, where I had a bunch of friends chime in with their top releases of 2014. It was pretty cool to see everyone’s lists and there were definitely a few that I hadn’t heard yet that those lists got me into. This year, things are a bit busy, so all you get are mine. But what a year for demos! There were some killer demos this year… Here we go; my favorite releases of 2015.
10. Vengeance, Fools Follow Rules – If you don’t know the deal, these are basically old Floorpunch songs that finally got recorded, but with Jay Pepito from Reign Supreme on vocals. Musically this is awesome. Has all the right things in the HC recipe, but includes some interesting different tempo’d breakdowns that spice it up a bit. On some of the songs, the vocals are a bit more on the metal-core tip than I’d like, but some of the other songs are just the perfect amount of scream vs. yell/growl. But that’s a nitpicky complaint. This LP is dope. Check it out.
9. Terror, the 25th Hour – this LP came out during a very crowded month, which also saw some other releases on this list. “Keepers of the Faith” was my favorite Terror record, but I wasn’t really feeling “Live by the Code” as much. It was good… just not as epic. 25th Hour is another step in the right direction, in my opinion. Again, still not quite up to KOTF levels of brilliance, but still really good. Scott’s voice sounds really cool on this record. Not sure what it is.. it just sounds a bit different, but in a good way. Maybe more crisp. To me, that’s what makes this record really stand out the most. Makes it sound really pissed.
8. Violent Reaction, Marching On – this style of boot-inspired HC is really making a comeback, it seems (particularly in the UK). I can dig that. But a lot of times these bands kinda start to sound the same. Violent Reaction’s previous recordings were cool enough, but didn’t really stand out from the others to me. This LP changes everything. Maybe it’s the better recording, maybe the songs are just a bit more interesting… whatever it is, this rips.
7. Forced Order, Vanished Crusade – This LP is CRUSHING. It’s really good. Weirdly, I’ve talked to a couple of Forced Order fans who weren’t really feeling this at first. I told them to give it another listen and both came back later and agreed that they were dead wrong. This record rips. It’s more of the exact same formula. Short raging songs, heavy as hell and brutal Clevo worship HC.
6. Rocky Votolato & Chuck Ragan, Kindred Spirits (split EP) – three songs each from my two favorite solo artists. LOVE IT. Only complaint is after seeing the Rocky & Chuck Cardinal Sessions videos, I really wish these two did a few songs together on this. I think I listen to the Chuck songs more than the Rocky ones, but this is a solid split from start to finish.
5. World Be Free, demo – around this time last year, Vogul texted me talking about how he was excited for me to hear his new GB/Dag Nasty-style band. At the time, I imagined it was probably him and a bunch of younger L.A. area dudes. Fast forward to a few months back, I went to see Terror and Scott pulled me into a room and forced some earbuds on me, so I could hear the new tunes they demoed. It was definitely not what I was expecting, but it was awesome. I asked him who else was playing in the band and he gave me the run down. For months, I pestered him, asking him to mail me the MP3s, but being the technologically challenged pit-creature he is, I never got em. In fact… I still don’t have this demo. I don’t have a working tape deck and still no MP3s… I’ve listened to the two songs streaming online a bunch and I love it. Can’t wait to actually own some tunes. Hope they make it up to Seattle sometime.
4. Free, demo – another bunch of dudes getting back together to make fantastic music again. Four (I believe) dudes from Have Heart playing a similar, but a bit harder edged brand of hardcore to their previous efforts. There are parts on this demo where you can hear some of those Have Heart slow build ups… but the music on this sounds more raw, with lots of feedback, less prevalent leads and a less clean recording. But it really works. This demo just came out in December, so I need to give it a few more listens to really get a feel for it. But it’s awesome.
3. True Identity, demo – this demo was very anticipated for me. Two of my best friends making new music together and doing it with three other guys I really like. Even if this was horrible, I was going to love it. But obviously with this group of dudes, there was no way this was going to be anything but solid gold. This demo is anthem music, packed with enough good straightedge and hardcore slogans to fill up an entire department store of hardcore shirt designs. “Dedicated to the Dedicated.” The simplicity of the truths in these lyrics are brilliant. Can’t wait to hear more.
2. Foundation, Turncoat – To be completely honest, I’ve always been a casual Foundation fan. Good band, nice dudes, awesome live… but never listened to them that much. I probably listened to the last LP once on Bandcamp. But they were always a band that when I’d see them live, I would wish that I was more familiar with their music, because they were always so impressive live. Well, I finally took the plunge and bought this EP when they posted it… and I absolutely love it. Like everyone else in the world, “Devotion III” is the standout track for me. The half-sung “every rope has it’s…. end!” (pit) gets me every time. Every track on this is a banger though. Great final EP from a band that I wish I could see play a few more times. RIP.
1. G.L.O.S.S., demo – Around the start of this year I started hearing some rumblings about a band from Olympia called G.L.O.S.S, which had members of Vexx. I missed a show that both bands played at Black Lodge, but enough people whose opinions I respected were talking about this band, so when the demo dropped I was eager to check it out. It was definitely not what I expected, it was way better. Five tracks of such unbridled rage.. the kind of rage that most hardcore bands can only aspire to capture in their sound. This band is pissed and the fury absolutely drips off every syllable screamed on this demo. On first listen, it instantly reminded me of “Roll with Punches” era Carry on, or American Nightmare’s first 7”. The sound isn’t necessarily the same, but that feeling.. it was the same. I instantly knew there was something special about this band. Musically, it actually reminds me a lot of No Reply (the singer of Suicide File’s earlier band).
Honorable mention: last year I put the Putrid Brew LP on my list (at #1 actually!) because I wasn’t sure it would ever actually see an official release. Now it’s out and it would definitely make it in this top 10 if I didn’t use it last year. I still listen to it a lot. It’s fantastic. Check it out if you haven’t already. For fans of Buried Alive and Ringworm.
Best of 2014
I always love reading “favorite records of the year” lists, so I’ve asked a few friends to share theirs. I’m posting mine first and I’ll add a new person’s list every day for the next week or two. I’m trying to add links to streaming tunes of all the bands/releases mentioned so you can check them out easily if you’ve slept on any of these.
Feel free to add your own faves of 2014 to the comments section!
Ron Guardipee – Brotherhood, Resolution, Digh Down
Boston Strangler -Fire LP
Red Scare – Demo 2014
The Drip – A Presentation of Gruesome Poetics 12″EP
Baptists – Bloodmines LP
Iron Reagan – Tyranny of Will LP
Paranoid – Crypts of Rays Demo 2014
M.S.E.Y.A.(Massive Straight Edge Youth Attack) – You Break Edge, I Break Legs Demo 2014
Excel – Split Image double 12″ reissue
Ossacrux – NOLA 7″
Hard Time – Demo 2014
Chris Wynne – In Effect Hardcore
Editor’s Note: In Effect has been one of my favorite zines for close to 20 years and the current web-based version is as awesome as the paper version was way back then. Every year, Chris does a super-comprehensive year end recap, which is always a blast to read. The list below is just one small portion of the entire recap. I HIGHLY encourage everyone to click on over to In Effect’s site to read the rest of this incredible post.
1: MADBALL “HARDCORE LIVES” (The Black ‘N Blue Label) – To me, the cream of the crop of 2014 hardcore as Madball spoke to me lyrically, musically and visually with an all around AMAZING effort here. This comes from a guy who always liked Madball but they never had that one album that shook the foundations for me… until now. They start it off with an old style instrumental intro that has you stomping your feet before the title track kicks in with a head nodding type of beat that has some of the slickest and well thought out lyrics I have seen in a while. The intensity of the first 5 tracks on this album is hard to match and carries “Hardcore Lives” to the top of the heap for 2014. STANDOUT TRACKS: “Intro/Hardcore Lives”, “Doc Martin Stomp”, “DNA”
2: SICK OF IT ALL “THE LAST ACT OF DEFIANCE” (Century Media Records) – Still spreading that hardcore reality all these years later is the mighty Sick Of It All showing that they got no quit in their bones 28 years after their formation as a band. “The Last Act Of Defiance” is the type of album that I knew on the very first listen that I was going to love the shit out of and play into the ground (and that I did). Musically there were no real surprises as SOIA pretty much sticks to the blueprint (If it ain’t broke…) that got them here but it’s lyrically where I was impressed with an overall eye opening political take on what’s going on here in the United States of America (and the world) in 2014. Music and message delivered loud and clear. STANDOUT TRACKS: “Road Less Traveled”, “Facing The Abyss”, “Losing War”
3: 7 SECONDS “LEAVE A LIGHT ON” (Rise Records) – Their first new album in 9 years comes out 34 years after they formed as a band. Somehow, someway 7 Seconds keep that youthful flame burning with 14 tracks that rivals some of their best work. If you were never a fan this will not flip you but for those of us who are… wow! STAND OUT TRACKS: “Slogan On A Shirt”, “Leave A Light On”, Heads Are Bound To Roll”
4: BANE “DON’T WAIT UP” (Equal Vision Records) – Leading up to the release of “Don’t Wait Up” Bane announced this would be their last recorded album and if this is true they got as close to a perfect sendoff as you can get with this 10 song banger. From the mixed tempo starter “Non Negotiable” to the classic finale in “Final Backward Glance” Bane holds nothing back with deep tracks that challenge the boundaries of what hardcore is all about. A final record does not necessarily mean that they are gone as Bane played a bunch of shows in 2014 and already have multiple dates set for early 2015. STANDOUT TRACKS: “All The Way Through”, “Hard To Find”, “Final Backward Glance”
5: COMEBACK KID “DIE KNOWING” (Victory Records) – Heavy, melodic and super catchy are all perfect ways to describe CBK’s “Die Knowing”. This album came out earlier in the year back in March and hijacked my iPod right from the get go with probably a months worth of it being on constant “repeat”. Even after that initial bump wore off I still came back to this album over and over and even dug into their back catalog a bunch as I admittedly had slept on this band in the past. WTF was I smoking? CBK is awesome and “Die Knowing” is just one in a line of solid hardcore releases from Winnipeg’s finest. STANDOUT TRACKS: “Should Know Better”, “Wasted Arrows”, “Somewhere In This Miserable”
6: SHEER TERROR “STANDING UP FOR FALLING DOWN” (Reaper Records) – The first new Sheer Terror full length in well over a decade and half showed that the Rev and crew are still a potent force to be reckoned with dropping 11 tracks that showcased the band’s strong music writing diversity. Straight up thrashers like the opener “Heartburn In G” and “Ain’t Alright” are mixed in with more melodic numbers like “Boots, Braces & Alimony”, “Did You Just Meet Me” and slower more brooding tracks like “Coffee, 5 Sugars” which features a catchy horn part that really gets stuck in your head. Like it or not they are here to stay. STANDOUT TRACKS: “Boots, Braces & Alimony”, “Did You Just Meet Me?”, “Heartburn In G”
7: RANCID “HONOR IS ALL WE KNOW” (Epitaph Records) – 2014 marched along with more of the names we have come to know and love taking charge in regards to new albums. Rancid is just another case of the old guard showing that they still got what it takes to win over people from all age brackets and whatever your punk rock lineage is. To me at least, you are cheating yourself out of good music if you just listen to one little niche of hardcore/punk or metal. “Honor Is All We Know” is a great mixed bag of sounds that is obviously rooted in a more traditional punk rock style but some nice tempo changes and cool ska type numbers break things up and separate Rancid from the rest of the pack. A great album that is easily played from start to finish over and over. STANDOUT TRACKS: “Back Where I Belong”, “Raise Your Fist”, “Diabolical”
8: ANGEL DU$T “A.D.” (Reaper Records / React! Records) – A breath of fresh air out of the Baltimore area with members of Trapped Under Ice and Turnstile teaming up to produce some catchy Ramones infused hardcore? If it’s hard to nail down and slap a label on it you know you got something different. 12 songs in 15 minutes makes you want more and although short, Angel Du$t makes a nice statement with “A.D.” showing that hardcore can be melodic and catchy while maintaining a “hard” edge. STANDOUT TRACKS: “Let It Rot”, “Big One”, “Set Me Up”
9: MODERN PAIN “SELF DECONSTRUCTION” (Six Feet Under Records) – The Dallas Kings of amazing EP’s follow up their 2011 “Cast Aside, Left Behind” EP and their 2012 “Reality Of The Pain” EP with their 2014 offering “Self Deconstruction”. Modern Pain again shows their uniqueness with a dirty and raw sound that mixes in elements of punk, metal, grind and hardcore that translates into a one of a kind band doing things their way. A perfect band for those who cry that hardcore has run out of new ideas. STANDOUT TRACKS: “Mind Grinder”, “Self Deconstruction”
10: CAUGHT IN A TRAP “GOODNIGHT NEW YORK” (Dead City Records) – Straight up NYC hardcore out of the Q Borough is Caught In A Trap who follow up their 2007 effort “Rats Get Fat” with a far superior product to its predecessor. In that 7 year gap between albums CIAT actually recorded another album that they felt had no “soul” according to their singer in an interview run on this site earlier this year. They put that album on the shelf and never used it. What we get in “Goodnight New York” is 12 tracks of the type of hardcore you would have been accustomed to seeing/hearing at a CBGB’s Sunday Matinee a long, long time ago. Blue collar through and through with heads up lyrics backed by a pounding beat that screams NYHC. STANDOUT TRACKS: “S.T.F.U.”, “The Daily Grind”, “Envy, Power, Greed”
10A: ALL FOR NOTHING “WHAT LIES WITHIN US” (GSR Records) – 10A? WTF? I thought this was a top 10? Yeah but I declare a tie between Caught In A Trap and “What Lies Within Us” from All For Nothing. Go start your own website if you don’t like it. The 2 year void between 2012’s “To Live And Die For” and this is behind us as Cindy and crew return with another kick in the nutz delivering a nice blend of old school and new school style hardcore DUTCH style!. Cindy’s vocals (and lyrics) again are strong with AFN backing her up with some well written tunes that have crunch, melody, moshability, and an overall infectiousness. Get infected with some AFN. STANDOUT TRACKS: “Five Leaf Clover”, “Burn The Lies”, “Luctor Et Emergo”
Andrew Neufeld – Comeback Kid, Figure Four
I narrowed it down to a dozen. I had to cut a few off.
Backtrack – “Lost In Life” – Started 2014 off with a bang last January!
Mizery – “Survive The Vibe” – Hard new groovy shit. Really excited to see what these guys do with the band.
Afghan Wigs – “Do to the Beast” – Greg Dulli is probably one of my favourite musicians and how consistently he puts out great rock records is impressive. The new Afghan Wigs is no exception.
Partynextdoor – “Two” – Toronto – Catchy as hell.
Angel Du$t – AD – Super fun punk rock songs. Album sounds great.
Banks – “Goddess” – Was waiting for this full length for a while. With all the songs from her previous EP and some new ones. I do think the EP songs are still the best though.
Bane – “Don’t Wait Up” – They know how to capture the feeling in such a unique way. This album was presented perfectly right down to the title and the artwork.. What a send-off for one of the best HC bands of the last decade.
Jeremih – No More EP – “Fuck you all the time Remix” is the sexiest song of the year hands down.
GS9 – Shmoney Shmurda – I really like the rest of this crew not just Bobby. Listened to this a lot this summer.
Travis Scott – Days Before Rodeo – Insane production R&B…
Expire – Pretty Low – I love how thick this record sounds. To me they are such a solid dialed in 4 piece where every member can really have their moments. Especially rhythm section wise.
Ryan Adams – S/T – Chilled out with this
Dustin Packer – Ill Intent, Putrid Brew
There are usually way too many releases for me to select a top 10 every year, so I just make a giant list and post it. There is way too much music to keep up with, but I do my best every year. Hopefully you find something you wouldn’t have heard otherwise and you dig it. These are some records I found myself listening to every day since they came out or frequently enough to remember them.
For the stinky kids:
New Gods – What Did I Say?
Band full of great dudes playing great tunes. A favorite local. Check them out on tour in the new year. Won’t disappoint.
Angel Dust – A.D.
This album makes me want to run around in a circle and hump the air.
The Flex – Wild Stabs in the Dark
I was fortunate enough to see this band this year and they ripped. Greasy.
Hounds of Hate – Hate Springs Eternal
I was late on this band. I need to see this shit live.
Only Crime – Pursuance
The super group not enough people fuck with. Favorite singer of my favorite band playing aggressive/melodic music with some hardcore heavyweights.
For the pitters:
Forced Order – Eternal War
Best new band. Great group of dudes. Can’t wait for the LP.
Sick of it All – Last Act of Defiance
Favorite HC band of all time. Favorite album since Death to Tyrants.
Mizery – Survive the Vibe
Groove. If Wreck refuses to bless us with more music, I will settle for this. Big time.
Punch – They Don’t Have to Believe
Bummer I won’t get the chance to see these songs live. Very fast, and very pissed.
Cold World – How the God’s Chill
I love rap and I love hardcore. Kool G Rap is on this album for fucks sake.
For the sissies:
Real Estate – Atlas
I pissed off every one I worked with by playing this every morning since this dropped.
Nothing – Guilty of Everything
Been waiting for this one since the A389 release. Did not disappoint.
Jaws – Be Slowly
Know nothing about this band. Stumbled on them and feel real good about that.
Whirr – Sway
Honestly didn’t care about this band until this record. This is what they sound like live, which I like.
Dissolve – Self Titled
Haven’t spent enough time with this one, but can already tell it will be one of my favorites. Shout out to Ole and Painter Man Records.
For the half way rockers:
Banner Pilot – Souvenir
This band has been the best substitute for Dillinger Four since they came out.
Fucked Up – Glass Boys
A Fucked Up record would normally be in the stinky kids section, but they are just getting more wild every release. I hope they continue to get weirder.
Cloud Nothings – Here and No Where Else
New band to me. A very upbeat, driving record. Fun.
Beach Slang – Cheap Thrills on a Dead End Street
Short and sweet. Looking forward to a new LP.
The Moms – Buy American
A slower Jersey sound. Fun band.
For the bangers:
Ringworm – Hammer of the Witch
This shit bangs. Hard.
Baptists – Bloodmines
Favorite group of Canadians. Dave Grohl approved.
YAITW – When Life Comes to Death
This band rips.
Triptykon – Melana Chasmata
At the Gates – At War With Reality
Out of all the metal bands not putting out shit, then hitting everyone in the face with a banger… This is my favorite since Carcass last year.
For the heads:
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Pinata
Best hip-hop collaboration this year (or ever?)
Cormega – Mega Philosophy
Nice to hear an old favorite over some classic Large Professor production.
Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron
Out of all the new guys, this is a favorite. Starts off hard, ends classic.
Ghostface Killah – 36 Seasons
Forever one of the best. A lot of Kool G Rap and AZ features always welcome. Nice production.
Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
A very fresh sound to come from the south. Nice.
Wayne Ballard – Toxicbreed website
The Coltranes “The Cat Of Nine Tails”: The Punk EP every band wishes they were able to bring to the table. Band has consistently upped their game each release and their new EP is nothing short of amazing.
Yautja “Songs Of Descent”: Absolutely crushing LP from three piece outfit Yautja. May be my favorite full length of 2014 due to sheer replay value alone. Crushingly heavy blend of Sludge and Grindcore.
Pallbearer “Foundations Of Burden”: 2014 has been Pallbearer’s year, with getting endless love being the band to hold the torch of modern day Doom Metal it’s easy to think they’re just another band to fall into the “overhyped” category, but that isn’t the case at all. Perfect full length front to back, perfect for those of you looking for a great modern day Traditional Doom band.
Full Of Hell “Full Of Hell/Merzbow”: Full Of Hell has been one of my favorite bands for a few years now, so to see they were doing a collaboration LP with Japanese Noise king Merzbow I was more than ecstatic. Easily the best Full Of Hell full length to date, perfect production and an incredible use of Merzbow’s noise work.
Coffinworm- “IV.I.VIII”: One of the biggest surprised of 2014 for me, as I have never heard of Coffinworm prior to this full length. Indianapolis Sludge/Doom outfit threw everything on the table with this full length and fully blew my mind with it. Amazing way to be introduced to the band, fell in love with the full length right when Track 1 hit my speakers.
Jeff Caffey- Gag, Odd Man Out, Bricklayer, OIyHC.com
La Misma – S/T 7” (NY) : This bad boy was released in January so it’s a perfect candidate for first on my list of records that dropped in 2014. Infectious and exceeding of their contemporaries from the area. On constant rotation.
Coneheads – Total Conetrol Demo Tape (IN) : The Cassette demo that blew everyone’s minds. My introduction to this was three rough mixed tracks Mark sent me in the mail. Always pushing it; pure gold.
Vacant State – Chains 7” (BC) : One of my favorite bands from the Northwest and they always deliver. Five more stompers from the best in BC. This band does something to me man.
Technicolor Teeth – Can You Keep Me Out of Hell CS (WI) : I fell in love with the Sage 7” when it came out last year in 2013. Technicolor teeth did this cassette for a tour in 2014 which includes the 7” and other amazing tracks. The Midwest is blessed.
Ooze – 7” (IN) : I saw Ooze for the first time in 2012 before they had anything released and they solidified their title in my mind as “best band in America”. So excited they recorded an EP, the world has been waiting. They blow my mind live every time.
Big Zit – Electric Zit vol. 1 7” (IN): I have no words for how great this band is. If you ever have the chance to catch them live don’t sleep on it.
Glue – 7” (TX) : My Texas boys. I don’t have enough good to say about them but like every choice on my top 2014 list they are not to be missed live.
Supercrush – Lifted b/w Melt With You 7” Single (BC) : I’m letting this one get on here because it was technically released on Bedside in 2013 but the Grave Mistake press was 2014. I’ve probably listened to these two songs in 2014 more than anything else. Can’t get enough.
Institute – CS 12” Repress (TX) : Here’s another one that gets in on a technicality because the cassette came out in 2013 but the LP of the same tracks came out this year. I listened to this tape so much when Mose gave me a copy in Texas. Not to be missed.
Tercer Mundo – Ser Nosotros Mismos LP (Mexico City) : I was so inspired by this band’s 7” release in 2012 that I flew them out to the US to play the NW and tour down the West Coast with us. One of the most inspiring hardcore punk bands in recent years for me. The LP of this year, aptly titled, takes a slightly different direction and delivers. So much love for this band.
I know I shouldn’t choose my own bands but I gotta shout out to the BRICKLAYER demo tape (new Grimace) and the BAD BLOOD demo tape (long distance band I started with friends from Chicago) that came out this year. Download them both and all the releases I listed at sudsdenim.blogspot.com! Honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut because they were released in 2013: Violent Reaction “City Streets” LP (UK) and Belgrado “Siglo XXI” Lp (Barcelona), both are so incredibly infectious you’ll find yourself humming them when you’re zoning out. Had to throw those in there because of how much I jammed them. XXX
HIV – Summer Forever LP (WA) : This is a very special release because these tracks were recorded in 2007 and were never released until I put them out this year. Record release show coming soon but LPs are in hand. Dedicated to the memory and love shared between everyone and Samuel Satori Silverstein. He passed away May 4th of this year and will be dearly missed. This is by far one of the most inspirational hardcore releases I have ever heard in my entire life. The energy and passion behind this band will never be matched. Love forever.
John Pettibone – Heiress, Undertow, Himsa
Trap Them – Blissfucker Pure anger, all power!!!
Yob – Clearing the Path to Ascend 4 songs/62 minutes of beautiful heaviness.
Thou – Heathen Thick transcending brutally
At the Gates – At War with Reality Melodic death mastery.
Crowbar – Symmetry in Black Depressive riffs and rage.
Ringworm – Hammer of the Witch It’s fucking Ringworm!!!
Godflesh – A World Lit Only by Fire Fighting spirit and punishment.
Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden Warning worship.
Solstair – Otta Icelandic shoegaze
Bl’ast! – Expression of Power & Brotherhood – Till Death These are together because they’re reissued/re-mastered/repackaged and real important to my life!!!
Ned Russin – Title Fight, Disengage
Cold World “How The Gods Chill”
Maybe I’m biased, but I think Cold World are an important and interesting band. “Ice Grillz” was one of the best 7″s of the last decade, and since that initial push they have seemed to fluctuate between being an active and inactive band. While I like “Dedicated Bebs”, I think they still had some work to do to create the definitive Cold World LP, and HTGC does just that. These songs are better, harder, more diverse, and also sonically a kick in the ass.
Fury “Kingdom Come”
Fury to me seems like the perfect storm. They are band of kids who are willing to throw all ambitions to the wind and tour and write constantly, but they do so with such finesse and power that they cannot be ignored. Their debut 7″ may draw comparisons to other things, but it stands on its own merit as a strong, well-written EP that is full of great moments.
Merchandise “After The End”
This was probably my most anticipated release of the year. When Merchandise dropped “Little Killer” I was floored and wanted to instantly hear more. The album leaked pretty early, but the rip had one song cut in half or something so I waited until the album officially came out some two months later to truly digest their work. Merchandise’s departure into pop territory is a success in my eyes.
Praise “Lights Went Out”
I don’t know if any record is more urgent or honest this year than Praise’s debut LP. This record shows a band at their finest moment of songwriting yet. The lead in “Give Me The Pain” is just sick. That coupled with earnest lyrics makes this record work flawlessly capturing a “classic” style that is rarely seen these days with solid, modern production. Very excited to see what these guys cook up next.
Step Forward “Step Forward”
Step Forward’s sophomore 7″ is a record that has been at the top of my “anticipated records” list for the last 4 years or something. A record that almost was canned a couple times turns out to be some of the best hardcore in a while, but that isn’t a shock coming from this cast of characters. When I first spun the record and read the lyrics I felt somehow empowered and relieved. Here is an adult, a friend of mine, a man of many talents, who shares a passion for straight edge and hardcore well into his adult life and who is unashamedly sincere about it, regardless of the implications or trends. That, to me, is what a best of list should be made of.
Joe Hardcore – This Is Hardcore festival, Punishment, Shattered Realm
- Army of the Pharaohs – In Death Reborn
- Slapshot – s/t
- Bane – Don’t Wait Up
- Behemoth – the Satanist
- Code Orange – I am King
- Madball – Hardcore Lives
- Rude Awakening – Collateral Damage
- Army of the Pharoahs – Heavy Lies the Crown
- Homewrecker – circle of death
- Sheer Terror – Standing up for Falling Down
Cody Hoffman – NWHC Most Valuable Pitter
(in no particular order)
Counter – Shallow Words Crashing Down On Deaf Ears
This just released this month and it is so sick. I was all about this as soon as the first song started.
Reminds me of Culture and stuff like that.
Cold Truth – No Rules
This is my one of my favorite locals. They are great dudes that play some really cool music. I thought the demo was good, then they put out No Rules and blew it out of the water.
Skinfather – None Will Mourn
There’s nothing I can say about this album other than in my eyes, it’s perfect. Anything else would be an understatement.
Mizery – Survive the Vibe
I have been insanely hyped on this band since they released the two song promo.
I could not wait for STV to drop, When it did it was on constant rotation. I really hope these guys make it up to WA soon or I’m going to have to go down there.
Criminal Instinct – Fever
So I never really got into this band until this came out, just because I had never heard them.
The first time I heard Cowards Run I was hooked and this record has been heavily played.
I really hope they’re on Rainfest this year.
Drown – Dispossession
I can’t wait to see these guys three days in a row next month. This record is fucking awesome, check it out and hit the pit for 3 days straight if you’re in the NW.
Earth – Primitive and Deadly
This is some of the heaviest riffs and most beautiful music of 2014. Probably some of the best Album Artwork as well. I put it on as I lay in bed and attempt to sleep, often.
Big Takeover – Big Demo
A demo I feel should have been talked about way more. But I’m sure will get hyped eventually. Hope I hear more from them soon.
Shrapnel – Demo ’14 and Frenzied State
Both are so sick. Definitely my favorite band from the UK. Both releases have a cool mix of Mags inspired parts and some of that new punk vibes to them. It’s just really worth checking out both. Hope they make it to the states.
Greg Bennick – Trial, Between Earth and Sky
- Hollow Earth – “Silent Graves” LP – Panic Records Apocalyptic, heavy, intelligent, crushing. This is beyond hardcore.
- Run With The Hunted – “The Sieve and the Sand” LP – Panic Records Powerfully vulnerable, fast and insightful. I love this band and am sad they are breaking up.
- Ghostchant – various songs Zoli their singer basically built hardcore in Hungary over the last couple dacades. This is his latest band in a legacy of many great projects.
- Kovaa Rasvaa – En Ole Edes Olemassa 12” – Emancy Punx Records RAGING, and I mean raging hardcore/punk from Finland on one of the coolest labels in the world, Emancy Punx.
- Cymeon X – Animal Friendly 12” – Refuse Records How many bands are still vegan/vegatarian and straightedge after just a few years let alone TWENTY like Cymeon X?!? Another great label too.
Andy Norton – Praise, Peace, Champion
Cloud Nothings- Here and Nowhere Else
I thought the last LP they put out had some great songs on it but this record blows that one out of the water. I don’t know how you would categorize them but there are parts that remind me of the Replacements and Husker Du. The recording is perfect and compliments the songs and I love the way the drums sound. Choice cuts are No Thoughts and I’m not part of me.
Pianos Become The Teeth- Keep You
This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2014. I think Kyle is one of the best lyricists around and the lyrics on lack long after were amazing. There were a few parts on LLA and then the split they put out in 2012 where Kyle was starting to actually sing and I thought it sounded great. I was really hoping he would do more of it on Keep You, and he did. The song writing is next level, production on the record is perfect and Kyle’s lyrics are just as great, if not better, than the lyrics on lack long after. Choice cuts are Lesions, The Queen and Say Nothing.
Fury- Demo/Kingdom Come
Ok so I combined these two because it’s a demo and 7″. I was excited about this band before I even heard the demo because I knew the dudes who were in the band were into cool shit. Plus taking the name from two of my favorite bands didn’t hurt. The demo has a little melody and has parts that remind me up Bold, Battery and OC hardcore. Kingdom Come feels like it’s going even more in the OC hardcore direction a la uniform choice (listen to end is nigh). Had the pleasure of seeing them twice this year and are great live too. Choice cuts are Play (BAB), Royalty, and Reality Check.
Ryan Adams- 1984
10 songs. Each a minute long. Great melodies over simple but catchy riffs that sound like husker du and the replacements.
Ryan Adams- S/T
I actually put off listening to this because 1984 was so good. I’ll admit I haven’t had much interest in Ryan Adams since Love Is Hell, but 2014 was his year for sure. This record just feels natural and organic. All the interviews he has done where he talks about recording and writing this record make complete sense while you’re listening to it. Choice cuts are Kim, I just Might and tired of giving up.
True Love- New Young Gods
Another great Detroit band that reminds me of the early 2000s. Heavily influenced by AN and Count Me Out Permanent era. Excellent aesthetic as well. Choice cuts are non places and those days.
Pocketknife- Calluses b/w Freak
Sick single in the vein of late 80s early 90s Seattle bands. The vocals remind me a lot of Mudhoney, as well as some of the riffs with a little Seaweed thrown in the mix.
Step Forward- S/T
What else can I say about this band? Straight edge hardcore played at its finest.
The Pains Of Being Pure at Heart- Days Of Abandon
This record is so fucking catchy. Heavy New Order/Morrissey vibe with male and female vocals. Great production on the record too. Choice cuts are Kelly, Eurydice and Masokissed.
Freedom- Pay The Price
I didn’t really know what to expect from this 7″ judging by the cover of the record I thought it was going to be more in the vein of 86 Mentality or something like that but I was definitely wrong. If anything it reminds of Brotherhood. Fast, pissed and heavy in all the right places. Choice cuts are Voiceless and Life in a noose.
Give- Electric Flower Circus
This was another record I was really anticipating, actually for a couple years now. It was cool to finally hear Sonic Bloom recorded after hearing them play it for so many years. Great aesthetic. Cool riffs that remind me of Fugazi, Swiz and The Cult. Choice cuts are Sonic Bloom, Fuck Me Blind and Waiting For It.
Scott Vogel – Terror
- Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata
- Bishops Green – Pressure
- Your Old Droog – S/T
- Ringworm – Hammer of the Witch
- Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
- Code Orange Kids – I am King
- Bane – Don’t Wait Up
- Run the Jewels – 2
- Sheer Terror – Standing Up For the Falling Down
- Descendants and Nas – Documentaries
Hiroyuki Nagasawa – Stand United, Count of Strength
PRAISE – Lights Went Out
BANE – Don’t Wait Up
RED SCARE – 2014 TAPE
7 SECONDS – Leave A Light On
THE CREW – DEMO 2014
CRUEL HAND – The Negatives
Criminal Instinct – Fever
Die Birth – DEMO 2014
GROWING STRONGER – DEMO 2014
FORCED ORDER – Eternal War
Justice Tripp – Angel Du$t, Trapped Under Ice
Let me preface my list by saying that either I’m a dumbass and missed out on a lot of great releases, or a lot of records this year have just sucked. If it’s the first one, I look forward to seeing everyone’s lists and educating myself. I’ll probably blame it on the fact that I’ve lived in four different states in 2014 and I’m borderline homeless right now. Either way, my list only goes to five.
- Criminal Instinct – Fever Straight up the evilest release I’ve heard from a hardcore band in a long time. I was living with these guys in Atlanta while they were writing the record and it was cool watching it come together. The lyrics are angry but clever, written by a true maniac.
- Freedom – Pay the Price Eight songs in about 9 minutes. Pay the price is fast and manic. Sounds like what getting your ass beat feels like. Freedom is one of the coolest bands to see live.
- Hank Wood and the Hammerheads – Stay Home The only reason this isn’t number one is because I’m a poser and I don’t own a physical copy of the record. Songs are cool and sound like no other punk band ever. There’s like 12 members so you know that they’re not fucking around.
- Basement – Further Sky Only 3 tracks, but I’ll take what I can get. I met this band the first day of a tour we did with them a few years ago. They beat everyone’s ass in the pit every night. Complete gentleman otherwise.
- Mac Demarco – Salad Days I for real have no clue what this shit is about, but it’s rocking. You definitely can’t spin-kick to it, that’s for sure. For fans of jus’ chillin’ and the same riff being remixed on about 8 of the 11 tracks. The artwork is sick, my man just took a selfie and hand wrote his name on it in pink.
Chris Williams’ top 10 – Seekers Of The Core
- Putrid Brew – Return to the Valley LP This record isn’t actually out yet. But I don’t care. It’s so good, I need to put it in this list. This is Dustin from Ill Intent’s other band. When I first saw them, I was expecting to like it, just because I love Dustin, but no.. this band absolutely rules. Musically, it’s somewhere between Buried Alive and Ringworm. “World of Fear” is the track for me. It’s a heavy song about school shootings and other madness in this world. The music fits the lyrical vibe perfectly. I hope this comes out soon (Mindmelt records) because this LP is going to blow some minds.
- Noi!se – The Scars We Hide LP One of my favorite street punk records in years and it comes out of Tacoma! These dudes write some catchy punk hooks. The vocals remind me a bit of Youth Brigade (west coast) and the guitar player who sings occasionally has a more raspy voice, a la Matt from Rancid, which mixes perfectly with the more smooth lead vocals. This record is neck & neck with Putrid Brew for record of the year… and since the Brew’s isn’t actually out yet… I guess that makes this one record of the year, for me.
- Praise – Lights Went Out LP Love this record! These Dag Nasty riffs are incredible. The drum work is awesome. The lyrics rule and the vocals drip with sincerity. The layout is sharp. Everything about this record is perfection. The only gripe I have with it is that in the re-recorded version of “Afraid to Ask” the awesome guitar lead is buried a bit in the mix.
- Expire – Pretty Low LP This band has really found their groove. The title track is my fave here. The guitar break/drum break with the vocals before the end breakdown gets me pumped every time. “I’m at a crossroad where you choose. You either fight or you lose..”
- Cruel Hand – The Negatives LP This record is not what I was expecting it to be. Thought it was going to be more of a Suffer Survive vibe.. and that’s in there.. but this is different. It’s not just a rehash of the No Warning major label effort. This is more rock & roll than nu metal. My favorite tracks are the more rock ones “Pissing – Spitting” and “The Negatives.” But the harder ones rule as well.
- Angel Du$t – A.D. Love this band. They still remind me of early Seaweed (Despised era), though this record less so. I love seeing them live because kids freak out, but it’s not hard pit-warfare… it’s just kids losing their minds and freaking out. I dig that.
- Forced Order – Eternal War Clevo style HC done really well. Heavy and hard. Reminds me of a modern Confront, with some Integrity riffs sprinkled in for good measure. Awesome live too. Favorite track is probably “Cut Deep.” When the vocals cut in on that track they are dripping with emotion. Almost sounds like he’s spitting. Love it.
- Stand United – EP An actual straight edge band from Tokyo! Awesome. This reminds me a lot of the 90s European band Eyeball. “TALKING STRAAAAAAAAIGHT!!!” Fast, youth crew inspired HC, but played hard and pissed, like the original youth crewers meant it to be. Lyrics are in Japanese, so I wish I knew what they were singing about, but I think it’s awesome that they sing in their native tongue, rather than English like so many other non-English bands. One of the best bands in hardcore at this moment, played by some of the coolest kids from Japan.
- Fury – demo This demo is sweet. My only issue with it is the vocals are mixed a bit low and sound kind of tinny. Maybe that was done on purpose to make it sound more vintage.. and it does (which is kinda cool). But I just wish they were up front more. What I’ve heard of the 7” the vocals are up front more and I dig that. I still need to get that 7”… If I wasn’t slacking, that would probably be on my top 10 too. I love that these dudes are doing this style of HC. It’s really cool to hear a fast HC band that is more like Uniform Choice than Youth Crew. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that stuff too. But this demo is just a refreshing change.
- Beyond Repair – demo I never really listened to Code Red, so not sure how much this differs from these dudes’ previous efforts, but I’m really digging this demo. This won’t mean a lot to many people outside of the NW, but it reminds me of Left With Nothing at times. Maybe comparable to All Out War at times… First track, “At Both Ends” is my favorite. Love the chorus, “You burn the candle at both ends, you played with fire and you got burned, I’ll never fall for your lies again.” Their singer lives in Seattle now, so not sure if these dudes are doing this band anymore, but I hope they are.
Thanks for reading! Check in tomorrow, because I’m going to update this thread with another “best of 2014” list. And again, feel free to post your own in the comments, if you’d like to join in the fun.
Guest Post: Chris Wrenn – Champion Australia Tour Journal 2004
I’ve been hounding Chris from Bridge 9 records for a while about doing a guest blog post, but apparently he’s a busy guy (shocking, given the amount of stuff he has going on 24/7). But here it is and the timing could not be any better; 10 years to the exact date! This definitely brings back some memories, and there’s a tiny bit of crossover from my “Van Wars Down Under” blog post I published a about a year ago, so check that one out after reading Chris’ if you haven’t already. Thanks Wrenn!
I joined up with Champion on their first tour to Australia in December of 2004, which was exactly 10 years ago today. The tour was with Miles Away and Against, lasted three weeks, and was one of my favorites – I was close with the guys in Champion, we had just released their “Promises Kept” album a couple of months earlier. I haven’t done much journaling in my life, but when I went on that tour I knew I wanted to document it. Every night I detailed what had happened that day. I can’t say I ‘m much of a writer but this was my firsthand account of the tour, which is only now finally being released a decade later. It doesn’t seem like this much time has passed. I hope everyone that I met on that tour is still doing well and doesn’t mind hearing about it from my perspective all of these years later!
– Chris Wrenn
December 2nd, 2014
Thursday, December 2nd, 2004
My last connecting flight was in Brisbane to Perth, which got in at 8am. Customs was a bit tricky because I was entering on a tourist visa and I had to explain what I was doing with 300 “promotional” CD’s. They ended up changing my visa to a business one but I had to sweat it out a bit. Telling the customs guy that I had only $300 cash on me, was staying for 3 weeks, and didn’t know who and when I was meeting up with the person I was staying with didn’t exactly grease the wheels in customs. I came to learn that my next flight was ELEVEN hours away. I had to kill the entire day at the airport and was bummed. I called Ryan from Common Bond Records (he booked the tour) to let him know what was up, and he called Chris from Against, who came out and picked me up and took me into town. Instead of sitting in the airport all day, we went out to the mall, got lunch, checked out a record store and then the tattoo studio (Allstar Tattoo) that he owns, and went out to the movies and saw National Treasure. I got back to the airport in time to make my connecting flight around 7pm, flew into Perth around 11pm, and met up with Ryan and some of the guys from Miles Away, who we were going to stay with. 40 hours after leaving and I was finally here on the West Coast of Australia. We rolled back to their place, dropped my stuff off, and went back at 1am to pick up Champion, who were flying in from Europe.
Friday, December 3rd, 2004
Slept in for the first time in ages. Hung out most of the day with a few of the guys from Miles Away, who we’re staying with. The show tonight is a few blocks away from the Indian Ocean, so we walked down to the beach and hung out for a bit. The show was good – it was my first time seeing Miles Away and they were good – it was an 18+ crowd but there were a ton of people there. Perth doesn’t have a good hardcore music record store so kids were psyched that I had brought a B9 distro, ended up selling over 40 CD’s. After the show, we all went to some shot party, where we left to go get falafel, head back to Cam’s house and crash for the night.
Saturday, December 4th, 2004
Saturday’s show was at a skatepark, and was all-ages. The place was really cool and the weather was beautiful. Aram and I walked over to get some food soon after getting to the venue and I was almost hit by a car as I crossed the road. I keep looking the wrong way when crossing the streets (Australia has British style driving) and if I DON’T get hit by a car on this trip it will be because of dumb luck. The show was the biggest show in Perth, as it was the only all-ages one, and a ton of kids turned out. Tons of stage diving.
Sunday, December 5th, 2004
Final show in Perth – it was small and 18+. Aram and I broke out for a while and walked down towards Fremantle Beach. Fremantle is a large port so there were tons of huge tankers out on ocean. The show was fun despite the low turnout – during Champion’s set, I was asked to do guest vocals for their cover of SSD’s “Glue”. Couldn’t of been an easier song to sing (only 5 words, duh) but it was my first time ever singing anything on stage, so it was a trip.
Monday, December 6th
Day Off – PERTH
We had the day off today and our flights back to Brisbane weren’t until 11pm, so we decided to head back down to Fremantle Beach. It was probably one of the most amazing beaches that I’ve ever been on, which isn’t much considering I’ve grown up in New England. Big waves, bright blue water, clean beaches, and a strong sun made up the key ingredients. I came unprepared so I had to dish out tourist prices on flipflops and a beach towel. A few hours in the heat, and surprisingly no sunburn (50 SPF helped).
Tuesday, December 7th, 2004
Day Off – BRISBANE
After traveling all night and into the morning, we got into Brisbane around 10am. We met up with Greg Against and got some breakfast, and then went back to his apartment, where we ended up crashing and sleeping for the rest of the day. That night, we all ended up going out for dinner at Sizzler and got $18 all you can eat salad bar. I went to sleep full but woke up the next morning feeling like I hadn’t eaten in days. Soon after going to sleep, I was awoken by the commotion caused by the rain. The beautiful weather couldn’t hold out and a total downpour began, one that would end up lasting several days. We were staying in a basement apartment, and the water began flooding outside the door, and pouring into the apartment. We had to build a wall out of towels to keep the water from getting in.
Wednesday, December 8th, 2004
Greg’s girlfriend, Rachi, is a tattoo artist at All Star Tattoo, the shop owned by Chris from Against. We rolled over there early in the morning, so that Brandon and Aram could get tattooed. I didn’t want to get stuck at their house all day so I went along for the ride. The day was spent between the shop, the mall, and a trip down to a river a few blocks away, where I came face to face with a 3 foot lizard. Brandon ended up getting a kangaroo with boxing gloves, saying “G’ Day Mate.” Aram picked two caskets, one with a lock, the other with a key, for the tops of his feet with the words “Hard Times.” I thought he was crazy for tattooing his feet when he knew that he was going to be playing shows for the next two weeks.
Before the show we went back to Greg’s house to pack up the gear for the night. While I was waiting, I heard what sounded like cats fighting. I walked outside, and saw the bats that come to feed on their neighbor’s mango tree. Bats in New England are no larger than 6 inches wide, wings stretched. These looked like dogs with wings that were no smaller than 3 feet wide. Unbelievable.
This was the first of two Brisbane shows, this one being 18+. I missed the first band, Knife Fight Opus, but got back in for the 2nd band, Just Say Go. During their set I noticed that Chad and the rest of New Found Glory were there. Before the 3rd band went on, I walked over and said what’s up, cause we had been introduced at a Terror / Madball show in San Diego last year. We ended up shooting the shit for the rest of the show. Turned out NFG had just gotten into Australia that morning, heard about the show, and wanted to check out Champion, which was cool of them.
Thursday, December 9th, 2004
Today’s show was in Byron Bay, about 90 minutes south of Brisbane. We got up, watched the Lost Boys, and loaded up in two mini vans to head out for the show. On the way we stopped at some surf spot that is supposed to be one of the best in Australia… Byron Bay is a touristy community with tons of surfers and hippies – we rolled into town around 5pm and parked at the youth center that the show was happening at. We walked into town all got food – I opted for my 4th falafel kebab this week. Aram and I walked up to the beach to watch people surf. We then walked back to the center to prepare for the show. The first band was called New Kid, and the singer was wearing an Outbreak shirt. Real young band, and REAL sloppy. The 2nd band was too singy and screamy and after suffering through a few of their songs I opted to break out and walk back towards the center of town and check out the beach again. Way better listening to the waves than that band (sorry Ryan!). Hung out for a bit and then headed back in time to watch Against, who were good and got a great reaction, tons of singalongs. Champion played and kids went off. It was a REAL young crowd, but kids knew the words and danced a ton.
After the show, we headed back into the center of town, to get something to eat before heading back to Brisbane. We ducked into another Kebab shop that was across the street from a nightclub. It was about 11pm and there were tons of people hanging out on the sidewalks – all sorts of girls, some kids from the show, and these two really drunk guys, one wearing a shirt that said “World’s Greatest Street Fighter”. He was more drunk than his friend, and he was asking people to fight him, because he “was the best.” We stuck around because we figured something might happen. After a minute of no one instigating, we started to get in the van, and noticed that the guys had started talking to some kids from the show. We got in the van and pulled over on the side of the street next to the crowd, just in case the guys started anything with the kids. I rolled down my window, and watched the exchange. One of the girls with the kids from the show pointed at us and told the guys that we wanted to talk to them. The “Street Fighter” stumbled over to our window, and started asking if there were any girls inside the van. Once he realized that there was only guys, he started saying “you guys are fucked, you’re not going to get any girls, you’re all guys,” and out of nowhere, Jim grabbed the guy’s baseball hat off his head through the window, and Ryan hit the gas. The guy tried to get his hat back and held on to the van for a second, let go, and proceeded to run after us. We slowed down a few times, and then sped off, leading him in a chase for a couple of blocks, before we turned the corner and disappeared with his hat.
Friday, December 10th, 2004
This was hyped up to be one of the best shows, and it ended up being pretty good after all. Lots of horrible haircuts and eyeliner on guys. A band called The War opened up, it was their first show and they are a militant straight edge band. Lots of songs about killing emo kids, loving the edge, yadda yadda. I’m not sure if they take themselves seriously, and if it’s all fun and games, cool, but they actually believe what they’re preaching, they’re not going to last too long. The kids who preach sxe the loudest are always the ones to fall the hardest – it’s like an unwritten law. It was funny to see kids with eyeliner looking around nervously though. A band called Live Today played and kids went off. They played hardcore that was more in the ballpark to Champion, with tons of stage dives. The singer had a ton of energy. I missed the 3rd band, xWish For Wingsx, but saw Daylight Curse, which was very Trustkill-esque and little girls were sweating the singer the entire set. Against owned, since it was their hometown and Champion closed it out. Tons of stage dives. During “The Decline” Jim gave up the mic to the singer of Live Today, who is a big Champion fan and was psyched.
Saturday, December 11th, 2004
Newcastle was a ghost town when we rolled in… The drive took all day to get there, including a stop at a beach & a $200 speeding ticket. A band called Taking Sides played, who were pretty decent, but it’s evident that they draw heavy influence from American Nightmare. Since so few bands get to come to Australia, the ones that do seem to have a lot of influence on the local kids… Hopefully the next time Champion comes through there will be some more melodic, straight up hardcore bands. There is way too much metal in this scene. Ryan’s band, Perish The Thought played, which was cool to see him up on stage… They covered Gorilla Biscuits.
Sunday, December 12th, 2004
We didn’t wake up until after 2pm, since getting to bed so late. The area that we’re in is full of little stores and great restaurants – we got to meet up with Graham at Resist Records and check out his store, which is great. Jim and I went to an Asian restaurant called the Green Gourmet, which served good vegan food but didn’t have menus – the wait staff brought out trays of appetizers and we just picked what we wanted to eat. At 6 I met up with Graham as well as Dave from Stomp Distribution and some of their friends, went out for a Thai dinner and headed out to the show. The first band was called Strength Within, and were pretty good. They covered Ten Yard Fight’s “Hardcore Pride.” Against played 2nd and got kids moving around more. The third band is one that I wanted to check out, Last Nerve, because they had released a split 7” with Internal Affairs and were one of the few Australian bands that I knew about before this tour. They had a lot of energy and did a Bad Brains cover so they’re OK in my book. Champion closed it out and played a great set. The turnout was about 100 or so kids – which I guess was pretty good for a Sunday night in Sydney. After the show we went to an all-night Pancake restaurant just across from the Opera House in downtown Sydney with like 30 kids from the show, which included an Aram look-a-like photo contest and a mini food fight that some girl from Melbourne started. We left the restaurant and headed back to the hostile – on the way Chris was shouting out the window, and a few of us began screaming as loud as we could at people walking down the street.
Monday, December 13th, 2004
Day off… Slept till about 11, got up, and went and ate a tofu burger at Burgerlicious, the third time going there. Greg, Ryan, some other core dudes from Sydney and the rest of us drove towards the Opera House area of the harbor, to do touristy site seeing stuff. We first went to the Aquarium, to see the shark exhibit. Spent about 90 minutes walking around, taking pictures of sharks, crocodiles and penguins. Walked around the harbor taking pictures, until it began to rain. We headed back out towards the Newtown area of Sydney and during the drive it was raining REALLY hard. The streets started flooding and it was a mess. As we’re driving, Ryan all of a sudden says “There it is, this is the one” and cut across a lane of traffic towards the curb, where he cut through a HUGE puddle and sent a literal tidal wave over 8 or so people. It happened too fast to fully take in, it was just a blur of people who didn’t know what hit them and had no chance of taking cover. We all had a good laugh (note: we were total assholes) and Ryan reasoned that the work day was over so they were headed home anyway.
After getting back to the hostel, we regrouped and went across the street for dinner at an Indian restaurant. After dinner, Aram, Pete from Last Nerve and I hung out and shot the shit over ice cream. When we got back to the hostel, Jim and Brandon walked back up to the room, Brandon dripping with egg after an apparent hate crime. Apparently they were hanging out on the main road and someone tossed an egg at them from a moving car and said they were “gay.” Brandon didn’t even care because he figured it was karma after our screaming and splashing incidents.
After Ryan, Greg and then Pete left, we were still a bit stir crazy and wanted to go out and take in more of the city. We decided to take a train back towards the Opera House, but for whatever reason the trains went out of service for repairs 30 minutes before we got to the station. So, we hopped on a bus, headed towards the downtown area, and then walked about 20 blocks to the harbor. It was a clear night and the area down there is beautiful, so we wandered around, commenting that here we were in such a beautiful area, with couples wandering around, and we were each with a bunch of dudes. We headed back over to the Pancake house, and then hung out there for about an hour or so. By this time it was almost 2am, so we started walking back towards Newtown. We must have walked about 30 or so blocks, until we realized that we had no idea where we were going… After chasing some animal that looked like a lemur around a park, we hailed a cab and took it back to the hostile.
Back at the room, I made a phone call and afterwards could hear a bunch of people talking down in the pool area. One sounded American so I walked down to say hello. Turned out it was two people from England, one from Germany, and another from Canada, who had sounded American. I ended up talking to them for a while, and I happened to comment on how nice everyone that we have met in Australia has been. I told them about how the bus driver let us ride for free, and the cab driver didn’t want to make change for us so he took a smaller fare because we only had a $5 and a $20 bill. They agreed that everyone had been super nice to them too, but that there had been a few jerks. Apparently they had been walking down the road today during the fierce thunderstorm, and during the middle of all of the rain, some guys had shot across traffic to a big puddle on their side of the road, sending a tidal wave over them!
Tuesday, December 14th, 2004
2nd Day off in Sydney. We got up and were ready to meet Ryan at noon but he didn’t show till 4, I guess in the past day or so Posi Chris and Greg had been goofing off and dented the side of one of the mini vans, so Ryan spent the day trying to get the dent out at a body shop. We spent most of the day hanging out in the Newtown shopping area.
Wednesday, December 15th, 2004
Canberra is the capital of Australia, and is about 3 hours away from Sydney. It’s the smallest scene on the tour – we were told that in January TERROR only did about 62 kids, so we didn’t expect much. Driving into the city, we saw a homeless man washing windows, and tossed him some coin to clean off all the crap that we had sustained from Greg on the road. The venue was called the Green Room, and 3 bands played… Against took the night off and would be meeting us back in Melbourne. The show had a small turnout… but by the time Champion went on, there was 52 kids paid at the door, which was great considering the small size of the scene. I walked around the neighborhood before Champion’s set, just trying to get some time to myself and enjoy the fact that it was warm and I was in Australia. During the show, someone got a few loafs of white bread, and had layered the slices all over the front of one of the mini vans. After everyone was loading out, a bread fight spontaneously broke out.
Thursday, December 16th, 2004
The drive from Canberra to Melbourne was about 5 hours, and there wasn’t much to it. We got into town, and went directly to PBS, a local radio show. Champion was supposed to play live but ended up just picking the play list and doing an interview on the air. I met up with Dave from Stomp Distribution, and he took me across town to their offices, where I could meet up with the label manager, Ben. We hung out, I went into detail about the raw deal that Lumberjack had put us through, and left with everyone having a better understanding about each other. Apparently B9 is only the 2nd hardcore label to really come over here and meet up with people, so it was a great deal to meet up with everyone at Stomp. Dave dropped me off at the station to meet up with the guys, and we headed over to the hostile, to drop off our stuff. We left to go get pizza, and meet up with Against and the Miles Away guys, who were finally meeting up for the final leg of the tour. The food was ok but it was good company – and afterwards we headed over to the venue. It was called Goo, and we had been warned about it from kids leading up to the show. It’s a weird set up – over a thousand kids turn up for their “hardcore/metal” dance night, which is held downstairs, and the bands play upstairs, with their backs to a big glass window, which overlooks the dance floor. There is no stage, and a rail separates the band from the kids, but Champion made the most of it and from what I heard afterwards, had one of the best reactions of a band at that venue. Aram played his guitar while “crowd surfing”, Jim took the wireless mic outside of the upstairs room, onto the catwalk over the oblivious dance crowd, and back. After the show, we were looking for something to do, at first consisted of driving around yelling at people.
Friday, December 17th, 2004
The day started around 8am, and we faced an 8 hour drive from Melbourne to Adelaide. It’s a long drive with pretty much NOTHING to look at. We had to wait at first because Chris (Against) couldn’t be found, until finally they left a message on his cell saying “get the first flight to Adelaide” and we were off. I was already exhausted from not sleeping much the night before, so as soon as I got in the van, I was leaning over trying to fall asleep. It didn’t take long and as we drove off, I was out. About 2 hours later, I cracked my eyes open, and saw that we were in a city. I knew there was absolutely nothing in between Melbourne and Adelaide, so I came to find out that we had been driving in circles and basically still hadn’t left. I still slept a good chunk of the way to Adelaide, but it was a long drive and there wasn’t much to see. I counted about 5 dead Kangaroos, and had not seen one live since the Perth conserve. When we FINALLY made it to Adelaide it was 8 in the evening, 11 hours from when we left. There were a TON of kids waiting for the doors to open so the show looked really promising. Brandon and I broke out to get something to eat, and had to settle on some shot noodles dish. Getting back to the venue, we came to find out that it wasn’t ALL AGES like it had been advertised, so a lot of kids were turned away. That SUCKED. I also saw Chris (Against), turns out he had flown in from Melbourne and had planned on it, the girl he told to tell Greg never passed the message. There was still a good amount of kids at the show (including the ones the guys were able to sneak in) but it could have been way better. The show was awesome, I did the SSD cover, stagedove, and after the show got to talk shop with some vinyl collectors.
Fortunately the hostile was only a few blocks away from the venue, so we headed back there and dropped off our bags. A few guys went to sleep and I got up to go find a phone to call the states. As I walked out into the lobby, the guy behind the counter saw my “Believe In Boston” t-shirt and he said “You’re not a Red Sox fan are you”… Surprised that someone knew about baseball in a land full of cricket bullshit, I ended up chatting it up with him about the 04 season, as it turned out he was a born and raised Yankees fan, named after Mickey Mantle. I hopped online to check out airfares for the flight back to Melbourne, because if Chris was smart enough not to make that drive, I was down to join him. His flight was only $100 US so for cutting out 9 hours of driving, I felt it was well worth it. I bought the ticket and went to sleep.
Saturday, December 18th, 2004
I woke up with the Champion guys and headed over to the van with them, but as they left for the airport, Chris and I headed out for breakfast. We ate lunch under a tree in a park and talked about his shop, All Star Tattoo. We headed out to the airport and got on our flight, which lasted only 50 minutes. Better than an 8 hour drive! We went to the hostile, showered, and then headed out to the shopping district. We went to a record store called Missing Link, which was cool because it is one of the bigger record stores that carry hardcore music in Australia, and they had a ton of our CD’s. We got something to eat, headed back to the hostile, and slept for an hour or two, until the guys finally got back. The show was at a club called Arthouse, only blocks away from the hostile, and it has been considered one of the most consistent venues in Australian Hardcore. Every band comes through there, and the show looked promising. A band called Hit List played and stood out – Madball-esque hardcore done well. Miles Away and Against did their thing, and Champions set was one of their best of the tour. When it came for the SSD cover, Jim brought me up on stage, and had everyone sing “Happy Birthday” to me, cause it was my 29th. We went right into “Glue”, and I flipped off the stage into the crowd while the kids in the crowd finished the chorus.
Back at the hostile, no one but Jim seemed interested in going out, so we headed over to a bar that we were told had a large black flag poster (like 10 feet wide) on the wall. We sat around for a while, but it was depressing – people who purposely tried to look ugly, horrible music, we didn’t last long before bailing and heading back to the hostile.
Sunday, December 19th, 2004
Today was the last show – and it was an all ages matinee about 30 minutes outside of Melbourne. Van wars have escalated – and soon after arriving at the show, it became known that the Against van had their window smeared with shit. Apparently Greg walked over to the van, and with his bare hands, scraped it up and proceeded to smear it all over the Champion van, tagging it with the word AGAINST. I didn’t see this but was told that when called out on handling the shit, Greg said “Who cares, it’s just shit, it will wash off” or something to that effect.
A bunch of bands played – starting out with a young band called My Struggle – the kids are like 14 years old and have songs about cartoons and stuff. Miles Away and Against both played great sets, and it was sad to see their last sets… The band of the hour was Mindsnare. In every city, kids asked us if we had heard Mindsnare – they have been around for over 11 years and have the respect of pretty much all of Australian Hardcore. They played a good set – and the singer was wearing an old Slapshot t-shirt. They played good, fast hardcore, that seemed less metallic live than on the CD I had heard. Champion closed it out – and their set was great. This was Melbourne’s only all-ages show, so a ton of younger kids turned out. Their set was great but because there was no stage, diving was limited. Halfway during their set I pulled two chairs into the pit, so kids could run and jump off of them into singalong pile ups.
Around 7pm we headed for what proved to be the biggest “Show After The Show” I have ever seen. There was an open call to anyone who wanted to hang out for dinner afterwards, and about 70 or so kids joined in. We hit up an Italian restaurant and what proved to usually be a nightmare ended up being pretty organized dinner, with everyone being served in an orderly manner. Greg got everyone to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. We ate, then proceeded to take crew photos outside of the restaurant. We were against another building so I climbed up onto the window sill above everyone’s heads. As photos were being taken, I jumped off onto everybody but didn’t fully commit and ended up mostly landing on one of the younger kids from My Struggle. He was a bit shaken but took it pretty well. Sorry dude!
We went back to shower at the hostile, with plans to meet up at the Melbourne Crown Casino. We got there around midnight, and played a roulette for a while. I started out by losing $50 on red AGAIN but made it back and then some over the next hour. There were about 20 people from the show left around 1:30 so we all headed over to a strip club a few blocks away. We took over an entire pole dancing table area and threw $20s around to get lap dances for each other. We broke out around 4am, and headed back to the hostile. Jim and I didn’t want to sleep, so after a few phone calls home we headed out to talk around Melbourne in the early morning, watching the sun come up.
Monday, December 20th, 2004
Since I didn’t sleep at all Sunday night, I ended up walking over to Starbucks with Jim to download my email. I went back to the hostile and then walked back over to Starbucks with Aram. I was so shot from staying up all night that I was going to need at least two mochas. We got a late start to the airport, made a few wrong turns, and ended up getting to the terminal an hour before our flights. The Champion guys had one flight to Sydney and LAX, and I had another. As the guys divvied up their bags to be checked, Branden realized that he had one too many, so I ended up taking his cymbals. We checked into our respective flights, said our goodbyes to Greg, Tyrone and Ryan, and headed out. First flight was into Sydney, then an hour layover turned into 3, then a 14 hour flight across to LAX. Somewhere in customs I realized that the worst smell ever was coming from the cymbal case. I guess Greg had the last laugh this time around, because I opened up the case to find a dead fish wrapped in plastic in the case. I quickly dropped it behind some luggage left for flight transfers, and started to head over to my new terminal. On the way out, I heard a baggage handler say “Does anybody smell that? My God what is that smell???” I laughed and headed out.
I was slated for a 7 hour layover, which was shortened to about 5 because of the delayed flight out of Sydney. I figured it was no big deal as I could just go online on my laptop. The 5 hours stretched into almost 9 hours as the flights to Boston were delayed TWICE. I was going out of my mind pacing around, checking email, getting something to drink, and then doing it all over again. My final flight into Boston got in at 3am, and when I got off the plane the cold air knocked me over. 3 weeks of the Australian Summer had worn down my tolerance for cold. My first thought was why the hell do people even live like this? With places like Australia, why does anyone live in New England?
DIY 101: Becoming a Top Notch Roadie
So, you want to go on tour, but you don’t play an instrument and no one will let you sing in their band. You have a few options; throw down a small chunk of change on a cheap bass and start teaching yourself, or talk your way into roadie-ing for your friends band and do such an awesome job that they beg you to come back out with them again.
If you can get in a van, option two is actually a lot easier than it sounds. Most dudes who roadie for typical hardcore bands think that means they are the traveling mosh crew, who occasionally helps sell merch. If you can show your worth, not only will that band want you to come out with them again, but other bands will take note and try to take you out with them. I’ve seen a few HC kids kill it as roadies for part time touring HC bands and work their way up to touring with bigger HC bands that tour more often and I have friends who have even eventually ended up with full time, paying jobs touring year-round with bands like Rancid, Pennywise, Bad Religion and the Go-Go’s.
Load in/Load out: The second you get to a venue, find the promoter, or someone from the club and ask them where you should stage the gear. Then, when the band is ready, make sure you are helping them bring gear in. Nothing will make a band question faster why they even brought you along, than them loading in gear while you are out getting a burger or chatting up girls. Make sure you’re ready and helping when it’s time to load out as well.
Sell merch: for most entry-level roadies, selling merch will be priority #1. That means setting up the merch table. That means being there when kids want to buy stuff. That means keeping the merch area from being a complete mess. It’s always best to be slower with buyers and keeping stuff organized than trying to sell fast and letting the area become a disaster where you can’t find a specific shirt size in a specific design. Two quick tips for merch-slangers:
- #1 – When kids give you more than the exact amount, it’s a good idea to leave their cash on the table in front of you until you hand them their change. That way there’s no confusion over how much money they gave you.
- #2 – it’s okay to put out a tip jar at the merch table. You probably won’t get much in the way of tips when touring with younger bands, but anything can help when you’re out on the road starving. If the band you are touring with asks you to cut them in on your tip jar, that’s BS. Call them on it.
Most importantly, if you are trusted to keep the band’s money on you, keep a death grip on it at all times! Don’t let it out of your sight. I’d bet the most common places bands lose their money box/pouch is leaving it at a restaurant table or in a restroom. Losing the band money is the number one thing that can ruin a roadie’s reputation.
Mosh Crew: I know I joked earlier about worthless roadies being basically a “traveling mosh crew,” but in all honesty, it’s great to have someone you can count on to be the pit-starter each night. This is especially true for younger bands… the types of bands you will likely tour with as an entry-level roadie. So when the band that brought you out on tour starts playing, MOST bands will be stoked if you put a little sign on the merch table during their set that says “In the pit! Back soon!” If there’s a band on the show that you really like and you really want to stage dive for, don’t just abandon the merch table. Let the band you’re touring with know. Most bands will be totally cool with you pitting for a band you love, as long as they know you’re not just ditching the table.
Driving: I loved driving. I drove as much as I could. But even the biggest driver needs a break. Always be willing and ready to take over at the wheel. If you’re sitting shotgun, stay awake to support the driver. If you can parallel park a van with a trailer, that’s a huge score.
Intermediate Roadie skills
Change strings: One of the easiest things a roadie can do to set themselves apart is offer to change guitar strings. Most bands change their strings somewhere between every 2-5 shows. I personally kind of like changing my strings… it’s almost therapeutic… but I know most people hate doing this every few shows. You don’t know how to change strings? Doesn’t matter! Ask the band if you can help and ask them to show you how they like their strings set up. Everyone has different little ways of stringing and stretching anyways, so ask them to show you how they like it done and then be available to change them up when it’s time.
Drum/guitar tech: If you’re not stuck behind a merch table, help the band set up their gear. That means loading stuff up to the stage and help them set it up. Ask them first though, some people may like the routine of setting everything up themselves. Start with the drummer, he has way more odds and ends to set up than anyone else. During their set, watch out for technical difficulties. With kids running across the stage to dive and climbing all over the singer, gear gets displaced. Stuff gets unplugged. Some things to watch out for:
- Kick drum sliding out (away from the drummer): find something heavy to put in front of it. Or just sit in front of the drum set and hold the bass in.
- Lost drum stick: most drummers will have spare sticks nearby, but every now and then they forget to stock backups or they will lose a few in one song. If you see the drummer playing along with one stick in hand, with a lost look on their face, be a hero and grab the thrown stick and give it back to them.
- Cymbals tipping over (either falling completely or bending at the joints and tipping into the drum set): the drummer can’t play drums and fix this at the same time. Jump up to re-stand a fallen cymbal stand, or tighten up the joint that is bending out of position.
- Guitar or bass cables coming unplugged: Plug em back in! This is especially common for guitar players that have tuners on the ground. Sometimes a pedal merely got stepped on by an oblivious stage diver.
- Broken strings: If they have a backup guitar, help them swap the guitar out. If they need to change the string, help them grab the strings and tuner. Or just be there to hold their guitar up while they rummage through their gear bag to find strings.
- Something breaks (could be a guitar, an amp head, a drum head, a bass drum kick pedal): try to track down someone from another band playing and see if they are willing to let them borrow gear to finish the set)
Tour manager: Once you’ve built up some trust with the band and show your worth in other areas, they may ask you to act as the tour manager. This is something you can proactively seek out; tell them you’d like to do it. Once you’ve earned their trust, many bands will be happy to let you deal with some of the trickier tasks. Being a tour manager can mean many different things to many different bands, but I think the main thing it boils down to is settling out payment with the promoter at the end of the night. Hardcore isn’t about money, but stagedives and sing-alongs don’t fill the gas tank, so most bands are more than happy to let someone else deal with getting paid.
Sound technician: If you have sound board skills, this is a huge asset for bigger bands. Try to get some work in with mid-level bands and you can work your way up pretty fast.
Be fun: everyone wants to have fun on tour. If you have a personality and/or like to get into shenanigans, bands will like to have you around on a personal level. Be smart about this though, don’t cause any more shenanigans than the band is willing to get into. Don’t be the guy that causes the band to be the topic of a drama-filled B9 board thread.
Know when the band needs space: Sometimes things can get intense on the road. There are times when a band needs to have a “band meeting.” Know when they need their space and when to make yourself (temporarily) scarce. But don’t go too far that they have to come find you when it’s time to leave.
Be able to give it and take it: Again, touring with 5-7 dudes in one van for a month can be pretty intense. Most bands like to joke with eachother and give eachother grief to keep things light. If someone jokingly calls you out for something, it’s okay to dish it back, but don’t get too sensitive. If you really have an issue with something someone says, talk to them later in person about it. Otherwise, roll with the punches!
Van spot and food protocol: Some band members have their favorite spots in the van. Most will alternate the really prime van sleeping spots. You should expect to be rotated into those (depending often on driving shifts), but make sure you aren’t hogging the prime spots. The same principle applies to sleeping spots at night and also to drinks and food at shows. When there’s snacks and/or food backstage, go ahead and grab some, but don’t eat more than your share.
Most bands have established unwritten rules, so find out what those are and don’t break them!
But the first step is to tell all your friends in bands that you are interested in hitting the road with them. Let them know you’d be stoked to come along and help out. You likely won’t be invited if they don’t know you’re interested.
The above is by no means a complete guide. If anyone else has any tips they’d like to add, holler out in the comments.
“What Would Outbreak Do?” was a slogan that became popular in the Champion van after we played a few shows with these freaks from Maine.
Houston Texas wasn’t our first show with Outbreak. We had played with them once before in New Jersey. But in Houston, they joined a fun little tour with did with Comeback Kid, The Distance and Some Kind of Hate. When they rolled up to Mary Jane’s, spilled out of the converted ambulance shirtless, pushing their amps on skateboards into the club, you could tell there was just something about these kids.
At this point, Nate Manning (their drummer and current Cruel Hand guitar player) was still in high school, so they had a series of fill in drummers throughout the tour. In New Mexico, some kid they didn’t know volunteered–via Myspace–to play the set with them on drums, with no practice. They didn’t care. They loved hardcore and they just wanted to play it to whomever wanted to listen. Even missing one day playing their fast thrashy brand of HC on this tour was a tragedy.
The ambulance they were touring in was a mess. It didn’t have air conditioning and it was over 100 degrees in Texas, so they bought an apartment unit air-conditioner… you know… the kind you hang out the window of your apartment… the kind that crushed the poor old woman in Happy Gilmore… They bought one of those units and hung it out their passenger side window. Clearly that didn’t work… so they ditched the AC and drove with their van’s side door open. This wasn’t a sliding door, it was a gate… so basically they had a fin on the right side of the van pushing the vehicle to the left… until they were pulled over by the police and told they couldn’t drive on the freeway with their side door flapping open.
As mental as Outbreak was off the stage, they were even crazier with guitars in their hands. Their set at Posi-Numbers 04 was one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen in hardcore. Words cannot do justice to the insanity of that set. You’ll just have to watch the YouTube yourself… but just know there was plenty of craziness not caught by those cameras. Those hidden highlights are burned into the memories of everyone involved in that sweaty sea of bodies.
Their wildness wasn’t reserved for fests though. Outbreak was super energetic live and always gave 110% whether there were 300 kids or three. They gave no regard for their instruments, or their bodies, or eachother’s bodies. I’ve seen Linkovich climb up onto rafters or swing from hanging P.A.s while “playing his guitar” the guitar slung back over his shoulder. I’ve seen Ryan smash the mic into his forehead until it was gushing blood (before that move became trendy). I’ve seen Chuck throw his guitar into the crowd. I’ve seen Joey knocked out cold.
When their band stops playing those same wild animals went just as crazy for the other bands, flying off stages, dog pilling, two-stepping and floorpunching. I’ve seen members of Outbreak exit the back of many pits with bloody noses, lumped up foreheads and at times, carried out unconscious.
These dudes sweated and bled hardcore. They loved it and they lived it. So, What Would Outbreak Do? Whatever they did, they did it to the hardcore fullest. I couldn’t get enough of this band, or these dudes. Champion toured with them easily more than we toured with any other band. When we were out with them and Agnostic Front, Vinnie Stigma too fell instantly in love with these kids. When they played, Stigma would scream from the back of the room, “THIS IS HARDCORE!!!” The ultimate stamp of approval.
If you haven’t checked out Outbreak, I recommend starting with the “Failure” record. It’s got Bad Brains riffs for days. I’m not sure if Outbreak is a band anymore. I know they had some lineup changes and aren’t touring constantly like they used to, but some of the guys are in another great band called Cruel Hand. They also have another cool side project called DNA.
Post your Outbreak memories in the comments section, Go!
116: the Spirit of NWHC
In 2001, before the age of cell phones and gmail groups, Champion made all our band decisions on a private message board that only we had access to. Some of the posts were serious, some were inside jokes and most were a mixture of both. When we finished recording our second 7”, we took to this forum to brainstorm names for the new record.
Count Me Out had recently released the phenomenal “110” LP and someone suggested—jokingly, of course—that we call it “111,” as in, one more than “110.” From there someone joked about calling it 116, for the number of games the Mariners had recently won, tying the all-time record for most wins in a single season.
Backing up this story a bit, the Mariners went into the 2001 season as a unanimous underdog in the AL West. They had some success in the mid to late 90s, but in recent years, they had lost Junior, lost the Big Unit and had just completed the triple threat, with A-Rod skipping town. This team had some nice pieces, but they didn’t have enough firepower at the plate to compete with the A’s and they certainly didn’t have the aces you need in your pitching rotation.
The 2001 season was a magical ride for Seattle sports fans. The feeling in the air was VERY similar to this Super Bowl season for the Seahawks, with the obvious exception that the Hawks finished the job and won the title. But that feeling was the same through the Mariners’ magical 2001 season.
Everywhere you went, the Mariners were the kings of Seattle. I rode the bus home from work and strangers would ask other strangers with headphones if they were listening to the game and what the score was. Mariners shirts were on every back and M’s hats were on every head. It was a thrilling time for the city. Not only was this the best baseball team Seattle had ever seen, but according to win-total, this was (at least tied for) the best regular season baseball team in MLB history. The fact that they were underdogs heading into the season only helped this all seem so much more exciting.
At this same time, the underdog Seattle hardcore scene was churning out wins at a similar pace. Champion was starting to tour more consistently and putting out its first release on Bridge 9, a label that was releasing the best records in hardcore at that time. Stay Gold was talking with the almighty Indecision records. Himsa had a fresh lineup with John Pettibone from Seattle’s legendary Undertow now singing and was blowing up with their refined sound. Left With Nothing was at their apex, Contingent shows were tons of fun, Countless Sins put out an awesome demo and there were lots of cool young bands popping up. Excursion Records was experiencing a bit of a rebirth with a few new bands and its Power of Ten comp 7”s, which highlighted some of those newer bands.
We also had one of the coolest venues ever, in the Paradox (the one of the Ave). There were some incredible shows at this spot. But to give you an idea of the kind of excitement of this time period, Champion’s Count Our Numbers record release show at the Paradox drew 300 people. THREE HUNDRED… for an all locals lineup of Champion, Himsa, Stay Gold, Youth at Risk (a really good skate punk band with members that ultimately went on to Aiden, Murdock and Rat Path) and One False Move (young high school kids playing fast old school HC). It was insane… I remember distinctly, during Himsa, standing on the side of the stage and looking out on this crowd with such a sense of pride and enthusiasm that this many kids came to see five SEATTLE bands.
So with that context in mind, you can probably see how the “116” joke could have picked up legs and that the idea that the Mariners 2001 season could be metaphor for the exciting things happening in the Seattle hardcore scene at the time. We ended up calling our 7” “Count Our Numbers,” but the name “116” was used for the song on that record that was about Seattle and included guest vocals from Chad Repp from Stay Gold:
“And the rain keeps coming. I haven’t see the sun in days. I remember the kids that were there for me when I needed them the most. Because of them I’ll never leave this place. My heart dropped anchor, this is where I’ll stay. This is the one place I’ll never be alone, and the only place I can call my home. Coming from where my love gets its start. These grey clouds more than tattooed on my heart. From 15 kids screaming out loud that we want more. We won’t back down. We want more. I look at you and see how we fill these rooms. Can’t you see that it’s ours? Count the numbers, count the hearts. Can’t you see that it’s ours?”
Maybe a year before that 300-kid locals-only show, we were lucky to get 15 kids out. And since that time, there have been plenty of 15 kid shows. 116 is a song written about a time and a place, but the spirit of 116 is not just about a time and a place. It’s about the heart of this place. There was a lot to be excited about in 2001, but there’s just as much to be excited about right now. NWHC is doing some amazing things. At the top of the list, Rain Fest is one of the best three fests in this country. That means on a yearly basis, kids from all over the world WANT to be in Seattle in May. What?!
There are some great established bands in the NW, like Power, Wreck and Ill Intent and there are awesome young bands like Safe and Sound and Singled out who are starting to do big things. Outlook recently broke up, leaving a whole in Olympia’s heart, but Hysterics and Gag and Blank Boys are carrying that torch and running twice as fast. There are sweet venues from Everett to Centralia, and more and more Portland and Vancouver are doing things with Seattle. It’s not just about Seattle anymore, it’s about NWHC.
Hardcore scenes are a fragile thing. There are so many things that can ruin a blossoming scene: violence, vandalism, trash talk, dishonesty… it takes so much work and so much time to build up a scene, but any of these selfish things can destroy everything in the blink of an eye. Like Jim and Chad wrote in 2001, this scene is ours. With that ownership comes the responsibility to make it what we want it to be. It doesn’t matter if there are 15 kids screaming in a room, or 300.
DIY 101: Book a Show
Guest post by Brian Skiffington
If you’ve read the “About” section of this site, you’ll know that one of the main reasons I started this blog was to create a forum to share stories and ideas. Hardcore is a shared ownership in the scene. “Getting involved” can look like many different things; starting a band; putting out a record; showing up at shows and jumping off a stage… This post is the first, in what I hope to be a series of guest blog posts from people who have done an awesome job in taking ownership and doing tangible things for this scene. These people have learned a lot from their years of learning-by-doing. Hopefully these guest posts can give some insights for kids looking to do more.
This first post comes from Brian Skiffington. He’s one of the trio of solid dudes that puts together Rain Fest and he’s been booking shows in the Northwest for years. Chances are, if you’ve jumped off a stage in Seattle or Tacoma in the last ten years, or were in a touring band coming through the northwest, you owe that experience in large part to this dude.
Portions of this post will appear in the next issue of his zine, Kick Start A Scene Issue: 3, as part of a much larger series about booking shows. He tells some of the early stories so you know where he came from, and he added some additional thoughts for anybody trying to book a show.
Four Walls and a PA
4 walls and a PA are all you need to book a show. Understanding that simple concept opens doorways to a million possibilities in every aspect of your life. If you are from a boring town you can create spaces for diy shows just as an artist or writer or photographer can find a coffee shop or space to show their work, start their own blog or print their own paper. Every living room, church basement, alleyway, Laundromat becomes a space in which we can exist. You can plant a seed and watch it grow. Even if you are from a big city that gets plenty of bands coming through, if there is some jerk like me, that tends to book all the hardcore shows, there is nothing that says you can’t book your own or challenge the so called order and shake things up. In the earlier days I made it a point to do that kinda shit. “What? You won’t book our bands? Fine, We are going to do a free all local show the same night as your cool kid bullshit show. Fuck you!” (Also a great way to sabotage a show when the band members playing are known rapists, racists, general turds etc.)
My peers and I stepped up and created spaces for shows to happen in Tacoma when the older scene was decaying and receding into sensible indie rock territory. We worked hard to bring hardcore bands to Tacoma. We had to. It was like our mission. We started venues here; hosted a festival here; did all kinds of amazing things here. I am coming to a place now in my life where my energy and passion need to be elsewhere. I am not moving on, just freeing myself up to do new and exciting things with my time and money and choosing to be VERY selective with the shows I choose to do. With the closing of the Morgue and the Redroom recently, it just felt like it was my time to take a big step backward. Sometimes the whole forest has to burn before its floors can see new growth. I began booking out of necessity and it took me on an interesting journey for close to thirteen years now. Learning how to organize people and promote events; learning how to manage myself and my time (still learning actually). The values I have learned here permeate through every facet of my life.
If you are reading this PLEASE! Somebody! ANYBODY?! Take over so I can fade into obscurity. I want to be a wallflower: a mere (drunk) participant. I suppose that is a pipe dream because I always get roped back into this shit, but really, I don’t really want to do this anymore. I hope this writing helps you.
The First 4 Years
As I write this, close to thirteen years have passed since the first show I ever booked, or that I remember booking. It was in May of 2001 on PLU campus in a student performance space called the Cave. Champion and Breaker Breaker needed a show. I was 17 at the time and had just joined a band called Sidetracked. We had an existing show with some random metal / punk bands and I was able to get the 2 bands added to our show as openers. I didn’t technically book the show. The singer of a band called Runt did. They were students @ PLU but I made some flyers that said “SxT Youth Crew Presents:” and had Champion and Breaker Breaker headlining while the real headliners were at the bottom. The show had about 40 or 50 people in attendance, most were hardcore folks who had driven down from Seattle. During Breaker Breaker’s set, Mark the singer leaned down and smooched this pretty girl wearing gothy go-go boots. The girl was the real promoter of the show’s girlfriend and he was furious. Immediately after this happened and totally unrelated, somebody in BB got hit in the head with a guitar and was bleeding from the forehead. Paramedics had to treat the wound. After Champion played, the whole crowd bailed and Runt was left to play to their friends. I remember the entire crowd drove from Spanaway to Renton and a sort of hardcore hangout party happened. This was the first time I met a lot of people who would end up being good friends through the years, even band mates, and all kinds of other people who booked shows, played in bands, took photos and all that kinda stuff. It was pretty overwhelming.
In 2001 I booked another show at the Cave, which had moved to a different building on campus. This time I knew a student on campus and was able to go through her to get the date reserved. This one I am both proud and embarrassed of. The show was Diehard Youth, No Return, To See You Broken, Reserve 34 (last time they ever played the states) and Blue Monday (very first show). I was pretty naïve at this point in time. I ordered “vegan” pizzas for the bands, which were just crust and sauce with no toppings. I didn’t know any better and certainly didn’t care about what vegans thought tasted good. The drummer of No Return was arrested for reckless driving on the way to the show so I had to fill in and play an impromptu cover set. I destroyed half the songs and kicked a hole through To See You Broken’s bass drum head. This show was well attended though and funny enough that I will always remember it.
In early 2002 I dropped out of Community College with a weeks notice to go on a west coast tour with No Return. A couple of months after that, my band Sidetracked went on tour. We played some of the same towns and venues, but were out for a longer time and went down to San Diego and back. Through these tours I met all kinds of people including promoters who were in bands that were planning on coming up to the NW and started exchanging contacts. This also really opened my eyes to different kinds of shows and venues. We played a church, an art gallery, a warehouse that distributed gym equipment, living rooms, garages, record stores. It seemed like all you needed was a PA and 4 walls.
There were some spots in Tacoma that did occasional shows and carried the scene but they were short lived or at various times opposed to hardcore / punk shows. I saw Against Me! Play in a Tacoma basement in 2001. There were some scattered shows at The Usual and The Kickstand Cafe but the bulk of everything was happening in Seattle: Graceland, RCKNDY, The Paradox, The Punkin House, Qyn’s Garage (editor’s note: this was actually in Lynnwood), the downtown YMCA, The Vera Project (on 4th & Virginia), Miller Community Center, 2nd Ave. Pizza… and the list goes on. In Tacoma we really just had the Lake City Community Center. The LCCC was a great spot while it lasted. I only booked a couple shows there. Most were around 2003 and 2004. Certainly got to play my fair share of shows though between 2000 and 2004. This space was a huge gymnasium in a community center and it always smelled like vinegar. You would be loading in for a show while karate lessons were going on. I have some wild flyers from here. LCCC definitely has some good Tacoma Hardcore history around the late 90’s / early 00’s but much of it was before my time. Pretty sure AFI played there! Ha! (editor’s note: Yep! It was one of Mark Manning’s “Unity Fest” shows)
Club Impact was a Christian venue on Puyallup Ave. owned by World Vision and would let secular bands play with a no swearing policy. Totally whack when I think back, but at the time it felt like it was one of the few things we had. I did a show there in December of 2001 for Figure Four, One Of These Days, Diehard Youth, Sidetracked and this Facedown Records band called Through It All. John Lockjaw from One Life Crew was in the band and the rumor was that they dropped off the show because Powerhouse was in the area and had a beef. The only other hardcore show I remember booking at Club Impact was a record release show for Sidetracked in March of 2002. The other bands were No Return, Brutal Fight and xWeapon Crewx (which you will have to ask Posi Chris about sometime).
In June of 2001 I did my first show up @ Ground Zero in Bellevue. Left With Nothing, Brutal Fight, No Return & Sidetracked played. It was great. In the beginning I used to cut out magazine clippings and my weird little doodles and do cut and paste flyers a lot. Before I explored the wonders of MS Paint.
1227: The New Era
Hell’s Kitchen was a bar on Sixth Ave. that opened around 2001 and did occasional all ages shows in Tacoma. Later on they would only do 21+ bar shows, but right off the bat they catered to punk & metal shows. I saw Mastadon and DRI play there. One of my bands played with Chiodos there to about 25 people. One of the first shows I remember booking there was in 2004 and had only 12 people paid… Annihilation Time, Knife Fight, Iron Lung, Sidetracked. I was given $18 to pay bands. When I think back about it though, I don’t think the turn out reflected my promotion as much as it reflected Tacoma in 2004. The night before, I had booked Annihilation Time, Knife Fight, Cold Sweat, Sidetracked @ The Vera Project in Seattle. There was a much better turn out. Closer to 50 attended.
I didn’t book another show @ Hell’s Kitchen until 2006. About 30-40 people were in attendance to see Lords, Ed Gein, Last Priest and Sidetracked. I wasn’t the only person booking “proper” Hardcore shows in Tacoma. Oddly enough, Staygold booked their last show with Champion, Terror, Allegiance and a band from DC whose name escapes me there in 2002 (editor’s note: This was actually Stay Gold’s second-to-last show: the one where they announced they were breaking up. I booked this one.). Around that time the established Tacoma bands like Harkonen, Divinity Of Truth and Left With Nothing were all on their way out. Things were starting to shift.
What originally inspired me and my peers to start booking shows in Tacoma, was that all the bigger hardcore tours and shows that we wanted to see skipped us and went straight to Seattle. It was always me and the same 3 or 4 people cramming into the canopy of our friends pick up truck and mobbing to shows up North.
In 2004 some things started to gel. There was a Tacoma crew that started to form around the 1227 house on N. Oakes. The basement room, which began as a jam spot for Greyskull and a bunch of joke bands, began hosting shows. The people that lived at or revolved around the house became sort of a DIY show collective that began hosting touring bands frequently. All of us were in the local bands that played these shows. We all supported each other and overnight a DIY house show community flared up. The 1227 house got listed as a venue on http://www.BYOFL.org (book your own fucking life) so we played host to many an odd duck. The Hill Street Stranglers anybody? Ripping.
That summer, Spencer who now plays in Trash Talk was a UPS college kid who came to a Hit The Deck show I booked there. By the end of the year he had moved into a house down the street called The Waffle House and began hosting hardcore shows in his living room and basement. One crazy show that happened there in 2005 was Set Your Goals, Animosity, Set It Straight & Stop At Nothing. All of us who booked at the 1227 house continued to book at a series of subsequent houses that kept springing up. The 1227 house moved to an aptly named spot called the 4511 house. We hosted Tacoma Fest there, which featured one of only 2 known performances by the band Universal Annihilation. Everybody from Seven Generations, Fucked Up, Daggermouth, Set It Straight, Iron Lung and so many more played at that house. We just kept booking shows. Things were set in motion that we couldn’t shut off. Too many connections and currents. People heard we did shows in Tacoma and the bands kept coming.
In the summer of 2005 several of us moved into a house called the Bunny Ranch on N. 8th & Stevens. We booked everyone from Lords, Daggermouth, Guns Up, Dangers, At Risk, Jealous Again, Set It Straight, Requiem and a ton of others. All the other roommates booked shows there too… and we pretty much spent the whole summer entertaining bands from all over the world. Taking them dumpster diving and getting into general mischief. At one show a firework fight erupted and the fire department came with lights flashing and threatened a $5000 fine. That ended that real quick. There was an infamous show I did that Dangers, Final Fight, Guns Up, and others were supposed to play. A crew/gang called FSU had a beef with Dangers that had followed them up and down the West Coast. They were forbidden to play the show in my basement backed up with threats of violence. Dangers and Final Fight opted to leave the show. It was a really weird and lame situation. Lords, The Helm & The Assailant would be the last show we ever did there. The landlord came during the show because of noise complaints and said he wanted us to move out in front of 20 people sitting on our front lawn.
On a positive note, these house show years… the way we treated bands, did payouts, gave people floors to crash and food to eat shaped the way I view touring and booking shows still. What my peers and I created in Tacoma from scratch, in my opinion directly led to almost ten more years now of All Ages DIY Tacoma shows. A few people filled a void and picked up where previous generations had left off. We set out to rob Seattle of their touring bands and overnight a little scene formed.
Starting A Venue
In October of 2005, myself, and two idealistic friends got a little in over our head. We signed a lease on a small building that had previously hosted open mic nights. It was a tiny hole in the wall in Midland in a completely blank boring space that had originally been a picture framing business. Midland is over 100 blocks from downtown Tacoma. We were literally going to park an all ages venue in an old timey farming community with zero history of punk / hardcore / DIY culture. I remember my band Barricade played a show the day before the Trial reunion in 2005 to raise money for Blake from Parallax and a group of his friends who had passed away in a terrible accident. We got invited to play this huge packed show and I remember announcing that we had just signed the lease and were opening an all ages venue in Tacoma and people erupted into applause. It was as if all the combined energy we had set into motion in Tacoma was finally focused and heading in the same direction.
The Frame Shop lasted for less than 6 months… (haha.) We hosted so many shows in that tiny room though. I booked Go It Alone, The Geeks, Champion, Health, Circle Takes The Square, Tera Melos, Set Your Goals, Alcatraz, The First Step, Bloodhag, Sinking Ships and so many more. We hosted every possible kind of music. I recall some particularly punishing harsh noise artists. Even an Italian pop band played! The venue staff was comprised of me, I mainly did booking and occasionally showed up to volunteer for shows that weren’t my own. Randy, our Sound Engineer just stopped showing up all together after the first month and Rachelle, who had been an accountant in a past life and booked a lot of shows. She also practically lived at the venue and volunteered at every show. What finally sealed the venue’s fate were direct complaints from the landlord saying we had violated our lease based on parking issues, graffiti and loud screaming in the bathroom on one particular occasion, which allegedly terrified a sleeping baby late at night. Rather than fight this, we pulled out of the lease due to the lack of overall participation and interest from the three of us and avoided any legal repercussions. It was fun while it lasted. A learning experience for the days to come.
Later that year a short-lived venture sprang up in South Tacoma called the Junkyard. They only did 3 or 4 shows in that big empty warehouse but were eventually shut down for having no toilets, fire exits or running water. I only went to one show there on my dinner break to pass out flyers. Even though the Junkyard was shutdown by the fire department a new group of young kids were beginning to organize shows. A VFW hall in University place called The Hall opened up and started booking regular shows. I did a few shows there including a cool Fourth of July show with Set It Straight and Shook Ones. I ended up doing a festival called Summer Hippie Fest because 5 separate tours needed the same date. Every promoter has probably dealt with a summer show like that and I haven’t agreed to book something like it since. It was a mess. The Hall brought a lot of new kids into the fold. People from University Place and beyond that I wasn’t aware of. There was a whole new generation of crazy punk youth organizing shows and starting bands. All this energy set the stage for the Viaduct and the Redroom in turn. I am glad to say I had a small hand in building that progression of events.
Booking A Show
Lets break down some very simple ideas here. For the most part, most DIY / hardcore / punk / indie shows have an identical format. You need:
-A simple PA set up
So you want to book a show? Start small and local. Don’t take on some big show with touring bands and guarantees. Book your own band or your friends bands first. Maybe bring a bigger band from next town over to play your show.
I like to keep my hardcore shows to 4 bands, pending it’s not already some dreadful 5 band, touring package as is the custom these days with no room for local openers. Lets say there are touring bands? My rule of thumb is if they haven’t been here before, they don’t get a guarantee. Often when dealing with bands or their booking agents someone is inevitably saying something like “well these 2 bands need to get $200.”
I know as a promoter that 50 people paying $5 accomplishes this. So I would be comfortable agreeing to that because I know I can get that with the right local bands. On the flipside, if they have never been here I would also feel fine saying, “hey this is a small town, we don’t get many shows, I will book a good show and the bands can take the door”, which is usually just called a door deal, and give them your honest opinion of how many people you think will come. In the end, the bands need the show more then you do. So fuck anybody that gives you attitude. Be assertive and honest and don’t roll over for anyone.
I like to book a clear and obvious headliner. This should be an established band. Just because a band is on tour does not mean they should headline. I like to sandwich out of town bands between a strong local headliner and solid opening band.
The band with the significant draw headlines. Don’t let the bands push you around and change the order the day of the show. What you print out on the flyer and advertise is the order of the show and the headliner plays last. The opening band in the case of an all local show, should be a young or newer band that hasn’t played much. This gives them a chance to strut their stuff, build a following and show you they are capable of getting people out early.
In the case of a big touring package, the opening bands should have a significant local draw and in my opinion deserve to play with sick touring bands. Local bands should be passing out flyers or telling people about their shows. Promoters will remember which bands work for it or not.
Just as a matter of preference If 3 bands are all slow heavy music, put a fast band on the bill, or something that brings a totally different vibe. Not like a fucking ska band, but mix it up once in awhile. I try and be aware of bands politics, whether they bring a straight edge or drinking crowd, whether the show is 100% dominated by male band members or not. You get a feel for how crowds and bands mix the longer you’ve been booking shows. I like to push for some element of diversity on all of my bills. As a younger kid I was always going to shows and often the band I thought I wanted to see was the worst part of the whole gig.
Physical paper flyers are still relevant. So are social media events. Anything and everything you can do to get people out to the show is valid and worthwhile. Actual tangible flyers are an integral part of our culture. Even if you think nobody is going to be persuaded to attend your show by handing them a piece of paper, there are still going to be those kids that take it home and pin it to their wall. The punk flyer is as iconic as punk itself. It tells our story, our art, our history. So make some damn flyers once in awhile will yah? Drop them off at local record stores. Find out when Hatebreed or some big band is playing a club in your town and go pass them out in the line before or after the show. I spent so many years passing out show flyers, that when I stand on picket lines or pass out leaflets it is second nature. You already know people are into punk or hardcore if they are at a show… it is not scary or intimidating to hand them a flyer and say “hey you punk, come to this show next week.”
2. A ROOM
As a promoter, you have to first know your audience. Know the type of people showing up to your event because you are the one the responsibility falls on. Know your room. Can I book the Champion reunion show in this storage room? No. Should I book Blood For Blood in the choir room at a church? Probably not. You have to be very aware of the room itself and the surrounding area. What goes on outside of the show can still come back on the venue and get it shut down and that ultimately falls on you the promoter. We lost a long running venue, The West Seattle Legion Hall a couple years back because band members and show goers threw up graffiti tags and pieces all over the neighboring businesses and work trucks. The same night holes were put in walls from people dancing too hard. There was no way to foresee this but ultimately it came back on me the promoter. I had to spend the money from a fund I had been putting together to purchase a PA for the venue in addition to taking a collection to pay a drywaller and buy painting supplies. Matt Weltner and I had to spend our time buffing walls to try and keep the space open to hardcore shows but it was of no use. The Veterans that ran the Legion Hall felt completely disrespected by our community.
How do you find spaces? Try a house with a basement. Start out by having a band practice there and seeing what it sounds like outside during the day. Try your first show on a weekend. Tell your neighbors about it before hand and make sure they contact you and not the cops when idiots inevitably piss or park in their driveways, light off fireworks, graffiti their fence and every other stupid thing that happens when booking events for renegade youth.
Our community is always looking for spaces to be developed into potential venues that will house our angry, rambunctious music and audience. It is important to maintain good working relationships with neighboring businesses and communities. Since we don’t want police around, we have to police ourselves. We need to monitor where people are parking. We have to agree to clean up after our shows and repair any damage or vandalism; things that cast our community in a responsible light, because the sound of our music isn’t going to win many folks over. Another measure of responsibility is limiting the amount of strain any one venue has to carry. Move shows around between houses and DIY spots. Otherwise you will be lucky to get one good summer out of a space and it’s gone like that. We need to be thinking long term and developing open, safe, responsible spaces for our community.
What we are doing is truly revolutionary from a societal standpoint. Think about your co-workers or parents telling you about how they went and saw Macklemore or some dumbshit last weekend. How could you possibly convey the notion of a punk show with no rules, no bosses, no middle people, no barriers, no stage and you and your friends dancing and swinging from the rafters to your favorite bands?
A show where if you don’t have $10 but have $7 you are good to go, or better yet, you can help clean up after the show or help stamp hands at the door in return for entry to the show. I get that there may be an unspoken set of rules that tend to be the mantra of our scene… we are often reminded not to be sexist, racist, homophobic, violent, on drugs yada yada. Those I suppose are provisional rules but they are all laid out to make the most people feel comfortable attending a show and truly have the best interest and the long term in mind. Without a doubt, the majority of show spaces I have seen shut down over the years have all been due to violence, underage drinking or graffiti.
3. A SIMPLE PA SET UP
Find a local band with a PA and agree to book them on the show if you can use the PA. Borrow one from a buddy, or if you think you got this booking thing figured out, buy one. A PA is the Holy Grail of our community. If you are going to be borrowing one, treat it with respect and return it in the condition you got it in. Microphones and mic stands get broken, but more often than not this is because of drunk assholes or weird accidents. Make assholes cough up the dough or take a collection at the show. Also, if you own the PA and you book a huge show? Take $25-$50 every once in awhile for a fund to buy new mics or cables. We all collectively use the PA for our shows so why shouldn’t we all collectively maintain this necessary tool?
How about shows at “proper” venues you ask? Clubs with nice sound systems and security guards and all that jazz? Hardcore does fit in these spaces, and some of the more violent, thuggy kinds of shows I have booked I wish I had just dealt with the extra overhead cost for a club show for peace of mind to have paid security. These venues aren’t as common for hardcore simply because they cost so much more to operate. You are paying for sound techs, security, venue rental and there is a whole additional bureaucratic side that makes booking DIY shows rather joyless. I have to reiterate here that we all need to police ourselves and keep violence out of our spaces and community.
Some thoughts on Promoter Profit and transparency.
I believe in creating trust and transparency between promoters and bands. The moment a band is represented by a booking agent the dialogue between promoter and band has been severed. I am now having a dialogue with an agent that could really give two shits about me so long as I come correct for their bands. When this happens I have ZERO problem taking promoter profit from a show. If I have to sign my name and put the terms of a DIY HC show into a legal contract that spells out what a band is going to make, and what their agent is going to make it is like a slap in my face. So you better believe that the contract is going to spell out that I am taking 15% of any overages from the show. What a stupid waste of community and networking to have a middle person represent your band. This is the trend. It is what’s happening. Agents love hardcore bands because they know there is a MARKET here. I would suggest building a solid local reputation before willingly getting pushed around by these hacks. The irony is if bands were dealing direct with promoters and their agents weren’t pulling 10% and negotiating back end overages, the band would have walked away with more money. Suit yourself.
I am from Tacoma, so if I book a Seattle or Olympia show that has a huge attendance with more than enough money to go around, I will reimburse myself $10-$20 for gas and any posters, flyers I made. If a show is in my own town, or didn’t do so hot, I would never consider taking a single dollar. When I do payouts with bands, I always try and get a member of every band in the same room so I can explain the entire financial breakdown of the show. This is a great way to do this because if there are any issues, there are witnesses and open communication taking place. Also if there is extra money to pay local bands it gives them an opportunity to donate their money to the touring bands, which is one of the great parts of this community we are in. Many of us go on DIY tours and understand how it goes. Meeting bands in these spaces isn’t just about a show, it’s about making a connection and creating a bridge to a different city and scene; one that we very well might traverse down the road.
The older I get the more I understand the influence that I have established for myself as somebody that is responsible, trustworthy and occasionally books good shows. When I see things that I don’t agree with like pay to play promoters, or things that don’t belong in our community, I have a more direct platform to leverage my opinions than most people in our community. The more fed up I get with the schisms, middle people and drama inherent in our little community the more I see the importance in keeping my foot in the door to weigh in from time to time. I am more than open to talking to anybody about this kind of stuff, especially if you need advice about booking shows. You better believe I will raise a stink if you or your band are taking advantage of kids or pulling some weird shit. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, just what I have learned from my experiences. These days most of my energy goes into booking Rain Fest and occasionally a bigger hardcore tour or when any of my friend’s new bands roll through town. I get excited when kids pass me flyers at shows. Feels like it has all come full circle.
Best of luck!
Thanks Skiff! If anyone else has any tips to add for booking shows, please feel free to add to the comments section.
Guest Blog Over at Sparkfileblog.com
I wrote a guest post about the Seahawks and Seattle sports fan misery for a buddy’s blog. Check it out here.
Munich: A Place For Covers
One of the funnest shows I’ve ever played had the potential to be a huge bust.
Champion toured Europe with Comeback Kid in summer 2004. Promises Kept was fresh off the presses and Wake the Dead would be released shortly. Munich had a pretty small scene at the time and the show was in a tiny venue, which is usually fun, but the stage had a really weird setup. It was basically just a series of platforms of varying height set up awkwardly enough so that you couldn’t really move at all. The room was too small to play on the floor, so you had to play on these artsy platforms.
The show was supposed to be a three-band bill, but the opening band canceled. So it was just Champion and CBK. We were all a bit apprehensive about the coming show, expecting a really awkward vibe. As various members of both bands recognized the potential for a less than stellar evening, we started to discuss what we could do to make the night memorable.
We threw out the idea of doing some band-member swapping and maybe some punk rock karaoke, drawing out a list of potential covers that individuals knew. Here’s how the plan played out:
Champion took the stage and played two songs. Following which, Jim said into the mic, “We’ll be right back, CBK is going to play a few songs.” We all handed our guitars/drums/mic to CBK who played two songs. Then they handed our gear back to us and we played two more… then they played two more… We each played four of our own songs (two at a time), then the real fun began.
I don’t remember all of the covers we played, but various members of Champion and CBK morphed a number of makeshift lineups and tons of different people got to sing different covers. Marco from Avocado Booking/Paint the Town Red sang Chain of Strength, Peter from Team Killer sang Pride, by Madball. Our roadie sang Minor Threat… we also did Glue, by SSD; Alone in a Crowd; Gorilla Biscuits; Young Til I Die; another Chain of Strength song; Ready to Fight, by Negative Approach… I believe we were one person short of even doing Damnit by Blink 182!
It was such a memorable night. There weren’t a lot of kids there and the stage was a mess. But that didn’t matter. Every kid in that room had a smile from ear to ear as they piled on and sung along.
I’ve never been one to tout my own bands for greatness or anything, but one thing that I’m really proud of, when looking back at Champion’s legacy, is that we had a knack for turning potential bust situations into incredible memories. It was all about the attitude of; we’re going to put everything we have into this show no matter what the circumstance is and we’re going to make this night memorable.
I see so many bands that blow off smaller shows, or let their disappointment show from the stage and that bums me out. If there’s one kid that paid to see your band, or even made the effort to leave their apartment to come watch you play, you need to check yourself and check your ego at the door and play your heart out. If you want to be a rock star, learn a few more chords and play another style of music.
I can say with complete sincerity that Champion never mailed in one single show, out of the hundreds we played. In fact, some of the smallest shows we played, or in the weirdest venues, were some of the most memorable, Here are a few snapshots:
- At a show in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada we played in front of three kids. The opening band was a stand-up comedian…. who wasn’t funny. We were going off so hard at that show that I broke two tuning pegs off of my guitar, after the headstock ricocheted off of Aram’s forehead. When he regained consciousness, we picked up the song right where he left off (though concussed Aram definitely wasn’t playing the right song…).
- After missing a Ferry to Gothenburg, Sweden and arriving at the venue (a boat) hours after the show ended, Champion and The Promise played to each other and five kids who stuck around after hours, in case we showed up. I remember Aram (who had a wireless) running to the back of the long boat, mid-song, then running back and sliding in on his knees, Marty McFly style. Pretty awesome.
- We played a weird venue in Melbourne, Australia that was the upstairs of a dance club. There were tons of kids there, but the venue was set up so the band was playing behind a railing and down below the crowd. It was a very awkward scene and would be easy for any hardcore band to be discouraged by this set up, but I remember climbing the rail mid-song and stagediving UP to the crowd which stood three feet above us. Jim ran all over that club, popping up in front of random people and screaming in their faces. He even went out onto the catwalk on the other side of the glass wall behind us and above the massive thriving dance club. I almost expected him to pull an Eddie Vedder and swing from the rafters above the clubbers.
These are just a few off the top of my head, but putting 110% into tiny shows in tough situations was definitely not exclusive to us. If you have any fun memories of your band playing wild weird shows, please share them in the comments section. Or if you have good memories of seeing great HC bands kill it in less than ideal situations, please share. Would love to read em!
Thanks to Scott Wade for the photos!
UPDATE: Andy found this picture of our covers set list from that night.. We added a few more songs, as noted above, but here it is:
The Ojai Women’s Center
Ojai, California; population: 7,000. Not exactly a thriving metropolis, but in the early 2000s, this little one-horse town was the hotbed for west coast hardcore. The town was synonymous with Carry On, and the southern California hardcore scene’s rise to awesomeness paralleled and symbiotically elevated that band, as the band elevated that scene. And the Ojai Women’s Center was thee venue for that exciting time.
There were other venues; The Chain Reaction in Anaheim, the Living Room in Goleta, Headline Records in Hollywood… but none of those venues quite rivaled what was happening in Ojai.
The Women’s Center was in the middle of nowhere; Ojai was probably a 30 minute drive from the 101, between Santa Barbara and Oxnard. No one was from the town, aside from Graham from Annihilation Time and the young skater kids that were pulled into the HC scene as a direct result of that venue; bands like Beartrap and Built to Break consisted of 13-16 year old kids from the town. But the location was somewhat centralized, as kids from Thousand Oaks to Anaheim called it home.
The first time Champion played there, we played with Whatever it Takes and there were maybe 30 kids there. But, every one of those 30 kids were moving the whole show. Fast parts; 30-man circle pit. Breakdowns; everyone scattered and 30 kids stomped the floor in unison; the Ojai Earthquake. The whole room shook.
Carry On’s “A Life Less Plagued” record release was held at that venue. American Nightmare’s first shows on the West coast were there. Some of Terror’s earliest shows were there. And Champion had a ton of memorable shows there.
The last time we played there was with Bane, 25 Ta Life, Over My Dead Body and more (can’t remember if Terror played that one…). There were easily 500+ kids in this venue that held 300 max. When Bane played, you couldn’t even walk into the room. It was so packed, you had to be floated in.
My favorite Champion set there was maybe our third time. Our van had broken down that morning; we were in Thousand Oaks jumping off cliffs and our transmission blew. It was our first transmission failure (of three!) and we found out before the show that the repairs would cost $2,400. I don’t want to get into exact numbers, but we didn’t have anywhere close to that kind of money.
We called Chris from B9 and he agreed that after the show, we’d figure out how much money we were short and he would float us the money we needed to repair the van. But it was still a depressing situation. We didn’t want to go into more debt beyond the money we owed for merch, not to mention, having to worry about figuring out how to get money wired to us (this was pre-PayPal).
We piled all our gear into the back of Corey Williams’ truck and headed to Ojai. That cloud over our heads was something you can only understand if you you’ve been in a touring band that experienced a breakdown, wreck or van break-in. And it’s not something you want hanging over you as you head to the show that you’ve been looking forward to the most for that tour.
It was definitely a dark feeling. As we watched and pitted for the opening bands we tried to put on a good face and leave the van problems at the door. But that’s a hard thing to do when you’re 1,000 miles from home and don’t know how you’re going to be able to afford gas to get to the next town. We set up our gear that night, still in the worst of moods.
From our opening note that night, the climate change was immediate. 150 kids simultaneously rushed to the front of the stage piling over eachother to get to the mic and to jump off the stage. To that point, it was the craziest reaction we had ever received… by a mile… For 30 minutes, the van and money problems were gone. It was an amazing feeling. While we’ve played many bigger shows since, to this day, that show is in my top favorite sets ever.
After our set, the money problems returned to mind, but the cloud was much might lighter. We were all so stoked on the insanity that had just transpired. Again, I don’t want to get into money numbers, but that night we sold probably 8 times as much merch as we’ve ever sold at another show. We actually made enough to pay for the van repairs and for gas to the next town. What an incredible feeling.
Looking back through my tour photos, I don’t have ANY pictures from this amazing venue… maybe because I was always having so much fun at those shows, I couldn’t be bothered to snap a single picture.. Most of the pictures and flyers from this post are courtesy of the homie, Marlon Moreno. I was also able to dig up some old YouTubes of some memorable sets there. Check them out below.
A few micro stories:
- One time, our roadie Mark Kelly was MIA. No one knew where he was. He wandered into the club at the end of the show. He had broken his finger moshing. I guess he didn’t want to be an inconvenience, so he walked a mile to the hospital to get his finger X-rayed and splinted, then walked back.
- Our drummer Todd once walked straight into the end of an open door, knocking himself unconscious. It was so abrupt and violent that I thought he was faking. Nope, he was out cold.
- When we played with 25 Ta Life, Rick took a Champion hoodie that a girl had bought and returned it, saying it was his girlfriend’s and she couldn’t afford to eat if we didn’t refund her. He then gave the girl a Comin’ Correct tape and her change from the refunded money. Haha Classic.
- Once a girl baked Jim a pie with X’s and hearts. Aram called it “The Straightedge Love Pie.” Jim had it sitting in the front seat and someone, not seeing the pie, flung a water jug into the front seat, smashing the pie. Jim lost it, to a hilarious level. He was so mad that it was impossible not to laugh… which made him even more furious.
- A million Graham stories… the time he realized his parents were wife-swapping (not really..); the time he told us about how he beat up a 13-year old at his work (the skate park); the time he chased some teenage kids who had allegedly squirted him with piss-filled squirt guns; the time he realized (audibly) “Double the tax, that’s the tip!!!” The time Aram convinced him that some indigenous cultures kill people and skin them, filling their carcass with feces, and using it as a poo-filled piñata. To which Graham responded, “That’s barbaric!”
I have way too many good memories of this place to include them all, but feel free to chime in on the comments section if you have any favorite memories or shows from this venue!
Van Wars Down Under
General Douglas MacArthur (and Vizzini, in The Princess Bride) once famously said, “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” I, not so famously, learned in Australia a few years ago, to never get involved in a van war with descendants from a prison colony…
In December 2004, Champion toured Australia for the first time. I can’t begin to emphasize how amazing this experience was. We toured with Miles Away from Perth, and Against from Brisbane. All three bands had a van each and a fourth van hauled around all the gear and merch. Greg, the singer of Against, drove the gear van.
This story begins at an undisclosed gas station off the freeway in the middle of a long drive. Someone—I honestly don’t remember who, or from what band—bought some spoiled yogurt and after one bite, realized that this bad yogurt needed to get launched out the window… at one of the other three vans in the caravan. The yogurt was hurled and a four-van all-out war had begun. Any and every food within reach was a potential weapon.
Thus began an epic van battle that lasted beyond the end of this two-week tour and spanning two continents.
Enter the city of Canberra. Jim and I wandered out of the club and down the street. We found a huge plastic bag filled with bread and roles. So naturally, we covered Miles Away’s van in bread. It was a stupid prank, but stupid pranks are sometimes the best form of tour entertainment.
After the show, a giant bread fight broke out. Every kid at that venue was running around trying to pelt each other with bread wads; everyone but Greg, who was dutifully loading our gear into the van. I felt bad that he was loading our gear, so I called a timeout in the bread war and went to help him load. Greg turned to me with a sinister grin and said, “Ay mate… throw this one…” handing me a wad of bread that was too heavy to be just bread. “Nah, I better not,” I replied, weighing this bread-covered rock in my hand, “I just called this truce to come help you load up!”
At that point, I was beaned in the back of the head with a bread-projectile… all bets were off. I turned and asked evenly, “Who threw that?” A somewhat intoxicated show-goer raised his hand slowly, with a sheepish smile on his face. The truce was broken; it was not only my right, but my responsibility to lob this bread-padded stone, right into his jaw. He frowned, hilariously, and raised his hand to massage his sore jaw.
A few days later, someone in Champion found a dead bird and put it in the glove box of the Miles Away van. They found it the next day and gave it back to us at a stop light. The windows were down and one of the MA dudes ran up and tossed it into my lap.
There were other things that happened in that van war, including a roll of toilet paper tied to Miles Away’s van, which made for a pretty amusing few minutes as the roll unraveled to form a good 50 foot tail that survived a few good miles… But the culmination was Melbourne. We played an awesome day-fest with the legendary Mindsnare and a bunch of other bands; maybe 10 in total. It was a warm one; 100+ degrees F.
We arrived at the venue early and Jim was bored, so he dropped a deuce into a glove he found, then smeared it all over the windshield of Greg’s van. The smell was something out of a horror film. The van was parked half a block from the venue, but on this hot mid-summer day, you could smell it from the front of the club. And the flies… apparently, every fly in the city of Melbourne had heard about this windshield turd and they all showed up to party.
Brandon and Jim followed Greg around for a while, waiting for him to head to the van. When he did, he discovered Jim’s present on the windshield. Greg looked at the windshield, looked back at Jim—who was grinning from ear to ear—looked back to the windshield and scooped up a handful of Jim’s feces with his bare hands, then walked over to our van and crammed the handful under our door handle. Jim’s smile faded quickly.
That wasn’t the end of the story though. The score was not settled in Greg’s mind. He bought a raw fish from the street market around the corner and put the cellophane wrapped dead animal in the pocket of his cargo shorts, waiting for the appropriate moment of revenge. We were all terrified by the possibilities.
The fish, which was not well-wrapped, sat in Greg’s pocket all day… On a 100-plus degree day… in a venue that was hotter inside than it was outside… as Greg moshed for nearly every band on that 10-or-so band bill… and played a set with his own band… through all that, the fish sat in that pocket, it’s rancid-smelling oils seeping through the cellophane and permeating into the fabrics of those cargo short pockets.
Back to the fish in a minute. At some point during the show, Greg decided that it would be a fun idea to draw a curly mustache on his own face with a Marks-a-lot pen (you can make out this mustache in the picture below – white “Drug Free” shirt). He later told me that his tour stubble made it impossible to fully clean the drawn-on mustache from his face… so apparently this grown human man had a Marks-a-Lot mustache on his face for a week or so after the tour…
The Melbourne day-fest was the last show of the tour and that night, we all went out for a celebratory Italian dinner. Greg apparently wasn’t within reach of a napkin, so he used his white t-shirt to clean the red tomato sauce from his filthy face… So, this dirty animal had a drawn-on mustache, tomato stains all over his white shirt, human feces remnants behind his fingernails… all the while, smelling like he spent the night in a fish hatchery.
We took pictures after dinner—as all bands do at the end of a tour—and returned to our hostel. Greg was staying with a friend that night, instead of joining us in the hostel. But because we didn’t want to leave our gear in the unsecure vans in downtown Melbourne, we had to load all our possessions into our hostel for the night.
Before bouncing to his friend’s house Greg helped us load the gear up the elevator into the room. He still had the fish in his pocket some 12 hours after buying it. While loading gear, I jumped on an elevator going up, right after he came down. The elevator smelled so much like rotten tuna, that I was certain he had hidden the fish in that elevator. Nope, that was just the leftovers of his essence from spending 20 seconds on the elevator previously…. And it was unbearable.
We thought for sure, that he was going to stash the fish in our room. But after he left, there were no traces of a smell. We were safe for now… A few minutes later someone opened the front door to our room and before taking a step into the hostel hallway, noticed that Greg left a surprise on the floor in front of the door. Nope, not the fish. This Brisbanian monster apparently squatted and dropped a turd right in the hallway… no glove needed. Classy!
The next day, Greg took us to the airport and we left that beautiful country behind. Thankfully, nothing came of the fish in Greg’s pocket… or so we thought…. But remember, I said this war lasted beyond the tour and across two continents.
We were flying home for a few weeks before starting a tour in Boston and had extra merch that was printed in Australia and needed to redistribute some luggage to get under the two-bag-per-person requirements. Chris Wrenn, from Bridge 9, lived in Boston and was kind enough to take Brandon’s cymbals, which we would pick up at the start of the next tour.
Chris was on a different flight than the rest of us and when he transferred at LAX, he had to pick up his bags and take them through customs before setting them to be put on the connecting flight. He later told us that when he set the bags down he smelled something a bit… fishy…. “No… he didn’t…” thought Chris. He unsnapped the cymbal case and popped it open. Out flopped Greg’s fish onto the floor. The putrid smelling carcass instantly stank up the entire airport. As Chris told, instantly, hundreds of airport travelers started to gasp and cough and curse, “What the $#&@ is that smell?!”
Chris kicked the fish behind some other bags and scooted off to his connecting flight, leaving the LAX janitorial staff to deal with the hazmat situation.
Well played Australia…
12.10.13 edit – Against has a new record! Stream it free here: http://againsthc.bandcamp.com/
7.13.15 edit – Bread fight story updated to remove the names of the innocent.
When you are in a touring band, you will do anything to pass the time on long drives. Headphones and iPods will only get you so far. When listening to music or watching movies on a 3 inch screen becomes too tedious, the earbuds come out and interaction starved, claustrophobic, sleep deprived van dwellers will yell out the windows at pedestrians, set off smoke-bombs in the van, or stagedive on fellow band members.
During one such van ride, a beautiful game was created. We were in Germany, our Sprinter van had been on the road for a few hours, and there were a few hours still left to travel.
I have no idea how this idea was sparked, but I begin to invent a tour game. It wasn’t something that I had thought out completely, in fact the rules sort of took shape as I verbally layed them out to my fellow travelers. I could see the horror in their eyes as I explained how the game worked, and the violence involved. I could also see their curiosity and intrigue. I knew that a classic was being born: Classic Combinations.
- Classic Combinations requires a minimum of three people to play, although four to eight is ideal
- It is played in rounds, with each person in the circle having a chance to alternate between the three roles: “the Aggressor”, “the Impartial Third Party” and “the Chooser”
- The round begins when the Aggressor chooses three separate classic combinations. A combination is any part of their own body, and any body part of any playing member (with the exception of the Impartial Third Party). EXAMPLE: the Aggressor could say, “My fist, and person A’s thigh” or “My heel and person B’s foot” or “My open handed chop to person C’s sternum.” The only combinations not allowed are closed fists to the face, or anything involving the genitals.
- The Aggressor then turns to the Impartial Third Party and whispers either the number “one” or the number “ten” into his/her ear. This number represents the “Power Level Scale” (more on this later).
- The Chooser then has to choose one of the three combinations layed out by the Aggressor. The Chooser also has to choose the “Power Level”, which is a number between one and ten. EXAMPLE: the Chooser can say, “I choose your heel and person B’s foot at a power level of seven.”
- The Chooser has no idea if ten is the hardest or if one is the hardest. If the Aggressor had whispered “ten” into the Impartial Third Party’s ear, then ten would be the hardest and one would be the softest, so a seven would be a fairly hard strike. If however, he had whispered a “one” into the ear, then one would be the hardest and ten would be the softest, so the seven would not be a very hard strike. The Impartial Third Party is there, solely to keep the Aggressor honest.
- When the Chooser picks their combination and power level, the Aggressor then, must strike their body part on the other person’s body part at the power level chosen. The beauty, is that only the Aggressor and the Impartial Third Party know exactly how hard the person is going to get hit. If a ten was chosen, and the scale was a one, then the Aggressor could wind their strike up, like they are going to stomp on the person’s foot as hard as they can, but deliver a strike that consists of barely brushing the victim’s foot with their heel.
- Classic Combinations is a game of violence, but it is also a game of politics. Since it is played in rounds, every person in the circle will have the opportunity to be the aggressor and chooser. Choosers have the option to play it safe by choosing safe numbers around five or so, or choosing combinations that involve themselves. Any Choosers that go aggressive; choosing a one or ten, or even a two or nine, can regret that decision later in the round when people are seeking revenge. Aggressors can play it safe too, by choosing body parts that won’t hurt too bad if they are struck together with maximum force. The Aggressor is also allowed to choose their own body parts as the second part of the combination. EXAMPLE: the Aggressor may pick, “My fist, and my own shin” if they want to play the politics game.
I know what many may be thinking, and no, this game is not the reason Champion broke up. That is probably because Jim refused to take part. He definitely had the shortest fuse in the band, and I could easily imagine scenarios where escalations caused problems. Luckily, he watched from a safe distance under the guise of his fake religion he made up; Pagan Pacifism. The sole tenet of Pagan Pacifism being “Thou shalt not play Classic Combinations.”
We took this game all over the world and spread it to any who would listen. Some joined in delight, while others shook their heads and said we were idiots.
Some Classic Moments in Classic Combination History:
I once slapped Todd in the face at an 8 out of ten. He had a pretty good hand print on his cheek for a good chunk of the drive.
In Germany we toured with a band called Under Siege. Their bass player was a giant human being whom everyone called “Doctor Pain”. One afternoon, before a show we were at a friend’s home in Germany and I was in a bedroom checking my email, while members of Champion and Under Siege were playing a round of CC in the front room. I heard a loud boom and felt the whole house shake. Aram screamed and there was a chorus of laughs. Apparently, Doctor Pain had stomped on Aram’s foot at a power level of seven. If it had been any harder, we might have had a chance to see how Germany’s health-care stacked up against Canada’s.
One tour, the band was playing a round in the back seat of the van. I was driving, so I was sneaking peaks in glea, through the rear view mirror. Our roadie, Justin Thunderlizard was the Aggressor and had to administer a strike which consisted of an open-hand slap to Todd’s face, to be immediately followed by a backhand to Aram’s face. I believe the power level was seven out of ten. The following is slow motion footage of the results ( I wish this was real-time instead of slow-mo, because it doesn’t look very hard in slow-mo, but you can see that the open hand slap caused Todd to fly out of the picture):
Pic of the Week: COUNTERVAIL and the AUBURN ANNEX
Countervail was one of the more important bands for late 90’s Seattle hardcore. This group from Thousand Oaks California, was one of the few bands who consistently came back to the Northwest time and again.
The twelve hour drive from the bay area to populated areas of the Northwest is one that is still rough for touring bands, especially in the winter. Even so, Countervail never waited too long between trips up here, and as such, gained a lot of love and respect with the NWHC.
Their shows were always great, and the band members were always fun to hang out with, and were so gracious about the intensity of the crowd at their shows. This picture was taken at a show they played at the Auburn Annex.
The Annex was a venue that pretty much kept Seattle hardcore alive for a year or so. The only other venues for shows at this time were; the Velvet Elvis in Seattle; Ground Zero in Bellevue; The Firehouse in Redmond; Club Impact in Tacoma; and Big John’s house in Fall City.
I know this sounds like a healthy amount of venues, but each of these clubs had their own problems:
The Velvet Elvis was awesome, but it was hard to book shows there without months of notice because of show volume and conflicting dates with the theater group that used the club.
Ground Zero and the Firehouse were both really cool, but also had to be booked months in advance. Also, both clubs went through weird phases of frowning on stagedives and aggressive dancing, because they were teen centers.
Club Impact was a Christian club, and had a bunch of weird rules, like: no swearing, and had a weird overall vibe. They also loved to throw on weird ska, or indy bands who really didn’t fit with the lineups.
Big John’s house (actually his parents’ house) was an awesome spot for shows, but it was in the middle of the woods, way out in Fall City, and he couldn’t do too many shows either because, well… it was his parents’ house.
The Annex in Auburn was pretty much the only club where you could throw together a hardcore show with only two months notice, and ensure that you could have the lineup you wanted, and that stagediving and other hxc wildness wouldn’t be frowned upon. Plus, at this time a pretty significant portion of the hardcore scene lived in Auburn. It was also a halfway point for commuters from Seattle and Tacoma.
The Annex eventually shut down, and the owner Grady, turned the club into a Jazz Record shop. But shortly after, Seattle got what I believe to be the single best venue in Seattle HC history; the Paradox on University Ave.
Gauntlet Roof BBQ
My friends Jeff and Juan rented an apartment on Capital Hill that was formerly a tattoo parlor called the Gauntlet. Located between Olive Way and Denny, a block and a half west of Broadway, the apartment was in a great location and was a really cool hangout spot. When the owners decided they were going to cash in and sell the property for new condos to be put up, Jeff, Juan, and their neighbors were all given two months to move out.
Jeff and Juan were the last to relocate, and had a few weeks where they basically occupied the whole apartment complex. They smashed down the dividing walls and had this huge bachelor palace for almost an entire month. We had band practices, we had parties, and most importantly, we had rooftop BBQs.
When Fastbreak came through town with Ten Yard Fight and Built to Last, the other two bands bolted town on their day off to break apart the long drive. Fastbreak stayed and chilled at the Gauntlet Palace. We had a huge rooftop BBQ with maybe 40 kids up there roasting Boca-Burgers and enjoying a perfect Seattle summer day.
We hung out all day and into the night on that roof. About the time it started getting dark, someone found a stuffed animal cat that Jeff had. This thing looked like a real-life cat. Toonces; was the name Jeff had given it, named after an SNL driving cat skit.
Someone tied dental floss around this stuffed animal’s neck and threw it over a telephone wire into the alleyway below. Brian Redman, at street level, set the cat up on the far side of the small road (Boyleston St.) where cars would come every few minutes. Once a car would approach, the person rooftop, who was holding the other end of the floss, would start to pull the string slowly.
To the driver coming the down the alley, it looked like a cat was shuffling across the road. Boyleston wasn’t big enough at this point for a driver to maneuver around the cat unless they drove up on the sidewalk. This is exactly what the drivers would do, one after another. After they waited for a few seconds, they would honk, and wait some more. The stubborn “cat” would not move, so without fail, the drivers would drive up over the curb onto the sidewalk to get around this alley-cat roadblock.
At this point the floss holder would yank the string which went over the telephone wire and down to the cat below. The cat would jump about four or five feet up into the air and land on the hood of the creeping car, prompting the driver to slam on the brakes. The driver would inevitably look up to see a rooftop of about 40 kids staring down, laughing at them.
It worked every time and was a great source of entertainment for a good hour until the cops came: “Yeah, we’ve had reports of animal cruelty…” they said. I guess someone thought that we had strung an actual cat up over the telephone wire. We showed the stuffed, FAKE cat to the cops and pointed out that we were eating veggie burgers and the cops peaced out, without a word about dangling things into traffic. As long as we weren’t hanging live cats, they didn’t care.
Two post notes:
This was the day that Champion was born. Jim, Ben, Eagle, Jeff and I were really inspired by the show the night before, and we wanted to start a band that was doing what Ten Yard Fight, Fastbreak, and Built to Last were doing. So we did. Jim and I were about to leave on tour with Left With Nothing, so we decided we wanted to make Champion stickers to take on tour with us, to spread the word… Yes, before we ever wrote a song, before we even had our first practice. We went downstairs to an empty room and took pictures of each other jumping up in the air with guitars and bass guitars. One of the pictures we used, we had forgotten to plug a cable into the guitar. So, when we made the sticker at Kinko’s I hand drew a wavy cable into the picture.
Finally and most importantly: two close friends, who were major players in this evening, are no longer with us. We lost both Juan Parlan, and Brian Redman in the coming years. I’ll never forget times like these, hanging with those two dudes, and just enjoying life to the fullest. They were both so full of life, and I really wish they were both still here, continuing to live it.
Pic of the week: AMERICAN NIGHTMARE
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that American Nightmare was the most important band in hardcore while they were at their peak. Whether you love them or hate them, you can’t deny the impression they left on hardcore.
For good or for ill, I can’t think of another band since Earth Crisis who really affected hardcore so drastically. It seemed like every band wanted to sound like AN, and every band wanted their merch to look like AN’s.
From blood splatter logos and suicidal lyrics to mod haircuts and Fred Perry track jackets, AN definitely wasn’t the first to do any of this, but they sure made everyone else want to do it too. In a perfect world Wes would get royalty kickbacks for the jump in Joy Division record sales in the early 00’s.
Champion’s first east coast tour was with American Nightmare, Death Threat and Striking Distance. The D.C. show, where this picture was taken, was also the record release for Desperate Measures’ first 7”. The club was a really classy ballroom in Old Town Alexandria with chandeliers; definitely too nice for a hardcore show.
DM played first. The police showed up about half way through the set and gave the promoter (Tru, formerly of Malfunction Records) an hour to shut it down. Striking Distance volunteered to not play since they were close to home and would be playing the area again soon. That left about an hour for three bands.
Champion played three songs, one and a half of which without me, because of a broken string.
When we were finished, the police started sweating Tru more. They told him that if the show wasn’t ended ASAP he would have to go to jail. Tru talked the cops into letting one more band play and pointed out that if the kids weren’t allowed to see the band they paid to see, they would have 300 extremely pissed off kids roaming the streets of Alexandria.
The cops agreed to let American Nightmare play, but unfortunately Death Threat wouldn’t get to play. There was a small group of jersey clad kids who were making a stink out of the situation. One clever kid in a One Life Crew Jersey kept saying, “Death Threat isn’t going to play because of American Night-QUEER.”
Wes walked up to the stage, grabbed the mic, and kicked off the set with, “Hi, we’re American Night-QUEER..”
Pic of the Week: BUILT TO LAST
In the summer of 1998 I was roadying for Left With Nothing and got to see Built to Last play with Trial at the Empire Club in San Diego.
This picture was taken during Built to Last’s cover of New Direction, by Gorilla Biscuits. The reason I love this picture so much, is because all these kids are going crazy, piling-on and screaming along to the GB classic, and front-and-center is Rob Moran squeezing the life out of a… stuffed banana???
Also, the look on Don Diego’s face (in H2o shirt) is priceless, like: “what the hell is Rob doing with this pink banana?”
Another thing that needs to be said is that I absolutely fell in love with San Diego from this first trip. The kids there were great, the weather was awesome, and the show was so much fun. We played baseball with Palpatine and Set Up crews, had a pool a party with Swindle dudes and their crazy pitbull Toby, ate great mexican food, and had the first of many hangouts with soon to be solid friends Don and Lara.
Every time we went back and played the Che, Empire, the Scene, or Soma, it was always a blast hanging with all the rad kids in SD, and the shows would never disappoint. Seattle to San Diego connection. Love it.
POST NOTE: Justin Miller, currently of the band Noi!se, was singing in the opening band that night: “Damned From Day One”. He moved to Seattle shortly after this show and played guitar in Guideline, which is a band I sang in circa 1999.
When I was seventeen, I went to the King Theater to see Seaweed who was, and still is, one of my favorite bands. Their set that night was incredible, but it was their main support; Vancouver BC’s Sparkmarker, who left the larger mark on me that night.
I had never heard of Sparkmarker, as I’m sure was the case for most of the 1,000 plus in attendance that night. They had no CDs available at the merch booth, no shirts… in fact the only form of merchandise they had were stickers which they couldn’t give away before their set.
As they were setting up, I noticed a few things. First; one of their roadies had an Undertow shirt on. I had never seen, or actually heard Undertow, for that matter, but I knew who they were and my friends who were lucky enough to have caught them live had nothing but great things to say about the intensity of their shows.
The second thing I noticed, was that their guitar player was setting up a chair on his side of the stage. Immediately I wrote this band off as some sort of fruity acoustic band. MTV’s “Unplugged” performances were very popular at the time, due to sets from Nirvana, the Cure, and in fact, Seaweed would do one shortly thereafter. This is what I imagined, was in store for me for the next thirty minutes while I waited for Seaweed to play.
To add to this impression, I remember very distinctly, their singer wearing brown corduroys, and a yellow crew-neck sweatshirt with a green polo underneath. The yellow crew-neck had a drawing of a cat on it. This whole “green-yellow-brown-cat” vibe definitely threw me for a loop. As a skater-punk kid from Kent, aside from Seaweed, I listened to mostly Suicidal Tendencies, Minor Threat, and Dead Kennedys. Had it not been for the comfortable stadium style seating at the King Theater, I probably would have passed on their set and went outside to hang with the smokers.
From the first note of Sparkmarker’s set I knew I had misjudged this quartet. Every member of the band exploded with energy as hardcore kids flew off the stage left and right. It was an infectious energy which swept over every punk, skater, grunger, and random person in the club. And their singer? The yellow sweatshirted Canadian was a total freak. His eyes bugged out as he screamed, and the mic stand he was swinging all over the stage stood no chance. Even the guitar player sitting on his acoustic style throne (apparently he sprained his ankle stagediving the night before), was thrashing around in his seat.
Withing seconds of this musical onslaught, my friend and I turned to each other with, looks that said more than any words possibly could. We were floored, we were stoked, and we were instantly in love with this band. We scrambled from our seats and rushed to the pit to be a part of this insanity. We circle pitted like this was the last band we would ever see, as stagedivers landed on our heads, straightedgers windmilled and giant skinheads ripped seats out of the floor to make room for the quickly growing pit.
At the conclusion of their set, their singer again came to the front of the stage to hand out stickers. Now in high demand, people were fighting for a sticker to take home and put on their skateboards.
Because they had no CDs, I went home that night with only a sticker and the stories I would tell my friends about this amazing band from Vancouver. I had no idea what a hardcore scene was, and I had no clue how to find Sparkmarker’s music. For well over a year, every time I went into the crappy local record store in Kent, I would walk straight up to the database computer and type in S-P-A-R… to no avail. The lone option in suburbia for punk rock records, had no access to whatever releases Sparkmarker may, or may not have had.
It wasn’t until at least a year later, while combing through the pages of The Rocket (a bi-weekly, Seattle based, alternative music newspaper similar to today’s Stranger), that I came across a review for Sparkmarker’s Products & Accessories CD. At the end of the review was an address for No Idea Records. I immediately wrote them a letter and asked how I could mailorder the record. By this time I was getting into more old hardcore, it started to come together for me that this band was related in some way to the Gorilla Biscuits, Youth of Today, and Sick of it All records that I loved so much.
I had the opportunity to see Sparkmarker once more before they broke up, but to my dismay, their old singer was no longer in the band. While their guitar player Kim had a great voice, he also had to play guitar, and the energy just wasn’t the same as it was with the corduroyed psychopath Ryan, flailing all over the stage.
Ryan (vocals), most recently sang in Owl Drugs and the now defunct Deadsure.
Kim(guitar & vocals) and Jason (bass) are currently in a great band called San Angelus with Mark from Undertow and Larry from Pelican.
Jason also plays guitar in Sabrael.
Rob (drums) plays in Red Vienna and was previously in The Black Halos.
Stigma Sings the Hits
I don’t know how I can do this memory justice but I’ll try…
To set the stage: Agnostic Front, Death Before Dishonor, Full Blown Chaos, Champion U.S. tour. Half way through the tour, Death Before Dishonor dropped off and Outbreak joined up. Pittsburgh was the last night for DB4D, and after the show, all the bands and a few local cores had a late hangout sesh in the club’s bar.
There was a piano in the bar, and someone discovered a small PA and mic. Turns out, Frankie, the bass player (now guitar) of DB4D is an incredible pianist. I’m not talking about a dude that can play a few songs, the guy is like a giant, tattooed Beethoven from Boston, serious skills.
At this point, Vinnie Stigma grabbed the mic and asked Frankie for a request. The pianist obliged and the duo proceeded to perform the fifties doo-wop classic “Earth Angel”. I’ll tell you right now, this was a sight to behold! The Penguins never looked this intimidating as both men, covered in tattoos and each respectively, members of two of hardcore’s most notorious crews, belted out the classic tune, that was definitely heard at the “Enchantment Under the Sea” dance in Back to the Future.
The entire tour crowded round, cheered, took pictures, and sang along. After the song, Jamey Jasta from Hatebreed grabbed the mic and turned this into an event, like he was the evening’s emcee. He thanked Stigma and Frankie for their performance and told the crowd to tip their bar-tenders. He encouraged Roger to share stories which can’t be repeated in print.
Jamey also roasted the crowd, calling Aram (who has a bit of a distinctive nose) the bargain-bin Porcell. “For only 99 cents, you can have 1988 all over again!” he added. He then moved on to the next band, “I’d like to thank all the king’s horses, and all the king’s men, for putting Humpty Dumpty back together again, so Full Blown Chaos could join us on this tour”. He was brutal, he was on a role, and everyone was in stitches. I could definitely see why MTV wanted this guy to be the host of Headbanger’s Ball.
Jamey turned the time back over to Stigma and Frankie, and they were off again. This time they played Wayne Cochran’s 1961 classic, “Last Kiss” (“Oh where, oh where can my baby be, the good lord took her away from me”). I think everyone on hand that evening knew how special this night was. I texted everyone I knew to try and paint a picture of the scene before me, as hardcore legends swapped stories, and sang songs that my grandparents probably listened to.
At the conclusion of the performance, Frankie played a piano rendition of the popular Oi!-era Agnostic Front song, “Gotta Go” and everyone sang their goodbyes to Death Before Dishonor. “FROM THE EAST COAST TO THE WEST COAST! GOTTA GOTTA GOTTA GO! TRUE SOUNDS OF A REVOLUTION, GOTTA GOTTA GOTTA GO!” There were pile-ons like it was an actual show, and I have to say it was almost a bit of a tear-jerker moment. It was definitely the coolest send-off for a band, that I’ve ever seen.
Champion: Japan Tour ’05 Journal
Cleaning my house today, I came across this journal I kept in Japan, and it brought back some great memories. Anyone who has ever been lucky enough to be able to tour Japan, knows that it is a pretty special place with incredible hardcore kids, and some awesome bands.
Champion Japan tour journal 2005
Mar 17 – Arrival at Tokyo Narita Airport
We flew into Tokyo in the evening and were picked up by our drivers, Kenta and Daiki from Alliance Trax (who booked the tour). Immigration was a breeze, no questions asked, they stamped the passports and we were through.
While we were in line, however, we ran into another American band… When I say “ran into”, I mean that we were bombarded with questions from the world’s most bro-est dude ever:
Bro: “DUDE! What band are you in?!”
Bro: “Never heard of it…”
Us: “What band are you in?”
Bro: “NEVER HEARD OF IT! HAH!!!”
They were definitely from So Cal. Not only were they loud and annoying, but they were totally drawing attention to us when it would be best to just slip through immigration. These guys were held up for over an hour because of problems with their work papers. We didn’t even have work papers… No problem though, we were granted access to Japan with no questions asked.
After being picked up, we were driven an hour to Hiro from FC Five’s house where we slept for the night.
Mar 18 – Nagoya
We were scheduled to leave at 9 a.m., but I woke up at around 6 in the morning because of pain in my bursitis ridden shoulders. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I decided to shower before everyone else woke up. Unfortunately, the showers in Japan have a separate control panel where you have to turn on the hot water before you can shower. The buttons were labeled in Japanese obviously, so I had to wait until Hiro woke up to help me out.
The toilets in Japan are out of this world! They look like the captain’s seat on a rocket ship! The seats are heated, which is the best idea ever, and they have all these buttons that operate heat and the bidet, which shoots warm water up into your crack.
The drive to Nagoya was about 6 hours. The backseat of the van is ridiculously uncomfortable. Fortunately, our bros in the Promise warned us to take pillows to sit on, because you can definitely feel the metal frame of the seat through the cushion. Even sitting on the pillows you could feel the springs and bars, at least until your butt goes numb altogether. So the 6 hour ride was hell.
The Nagoya show was AMAZING! The first thing I want to say is that Japanese people are the best! Everyone is SO nice and polite and always smiling and bowing. It’s been one day, and I’m already totally in love with these people.
The Venue “OYS” was very small and it was packed! Maybe 75 to 100 kids, who brought the energy of 500. From the start of the opening band “Courage For League”, to the last note in our set, kids went bonkers. It’s awesome to see this kind of excitement from kids, and the support for the opening locals: CFL, No Limit, and Last One Standing (who were all great bands).
When we played, kids lost their minds. Our Promises Kept record had just came out and every kid knew every word to the first song (Promises Kept). The rest of the songs, kids didn’t know as well, but they still went crazy. Cores were stagediving, skanking, and floating on the crowd kicking the ceiling.. it was intense. It totally had that vibe of an early 80’s minor threat video, where there were all kinds of different kids just skanking and smashing eachother, and loving every second of it! At the end of our set, we had to do two encores, because kids refused to admit that our set was over. The second encore, we didn’t have any songs left so we played Promises Kept again, and kids went even crazier the second time!
Afterward, we were swarmed with hugs, handshakes, and “arigato’s”. Autographs were signed, pictures were taken, and I talked with tons of kids about Ichiro, who is like the Michael Jordan of Japan.
I guess Jim was talking to Hiroyuki (our third driver), and asked if there were ever fights at shows. Hiroyuki answered, “Never.” “Never?” Jim asked. Hiroyuki’s reply was, “No, at shows… we are just… happy.”
Amazing. Japanese hardcore rules.
Mar 19 – Fukuoka @ Kiethflak
Today we drove 8 hours. 8 hours of hell.
When we got to the show there was a pack of smiling kids surrounding the van. No matter how rough the ride is, and how grumpy of a mood you’re in, it is impossible to not be instantly humbled by these sincere and happy kids who are so excited to see meet you and are so excited about hardcore. It is something else.
The show wasn’t quite as wild as last night’s, but it was still fun. “Friends Forever” was awesome. “Set Off” was good too.
Our set was fun, the stage was slippery and small, so it was hard to go off, and the drums were sliding all over the place.
After the show we got to hang out a little before we went to the hotel. I learned some useful Japanese phrases, like “Good evening”, and “I’m sleepy”. I always like to learn a few phrases in every country so I can at least say “thank you” to kids in their own language. I don’t know, I guess it’s just my way of showing respect to kids for hosting us and making us feel at home even though we are on the other side of the world.
Mar 20th Okayama @ Tsuyama
When we woke up, the Mariners game was on, so I got to watch a few minutes of that before we shipped off. Ichiro got a double, then stole 3rd base. Beltre knocked him in.
We checked out of the hotel where we stayed on the 8th floor, and went to Kinko’s to use the internet. While we were there, there was an earthquake. It was pretty crazy, I’m guessing somewhere in the 6.’s (*later found out it was a 7.0!). It lasted maybe 20-30 seconds.
When the quake started, I rushed to the doorway, but the door was made of glass, and I just imagines this door shattering and spitting glass at me. There were no empty desks to get under, so I went to stand against an interior wall, but by then it was already over.
It all happened so fast, but there were a few things that I distinctly remember: First I remember thinking, “Whoah! An earthquake! This is cool!”, then I realized, “Wait… this could be dangerous… get somewhere safe!” I also remember the looks on my bandmate’s faces as it was happening. It was a look somewhere between amusement and fear.
After it was all over, I took a few pictures, the Starbucks across the street got rocked! Then, since we were at Kinko’s, I emailed my parents and girlfriend, to let them know I was safe… just in case the news made a big deal out of it.
On the way out of town a van full of adorable little Japanese girls pulled up next to us and started waving at us. We blew them kisses and they all started giggling and waving more. Cutest thing ever.
Our 4 hour drive took all day because the bridge and highway were both closed because of the earthquake. We were stuck on the island for about 4 hours. When the highway finally opened up, traffic was brutal. We got to the show late and missed half of the bands, but we did get to see Notice, My Own Change, and Last One Standing, who were all good.
The Bass Player of Notice’s sister had a young kid, maybe a year and a half old, who had a Champion youth large shirt on. He was so cute it was ridiculous! We all got pictures with him giving the peace sign and high fives.
After the show we drove 2 hours to Kyoto.
Mar 21 – Kyoto
While eating breakfast I found a newspaper that said the earthquake yesterday was a 7.0! That is insane.. I guess we were only about 20 miles from the epicenter. Fortunately, only one person died in the quake.
Kyoto is a beautiful city. It’s large and modern, but still has a lot of traditional architecture and culture. We had a lot of time before the show to wander around and check out all the old temples and cool little shops. I bought a few souvenirs, including a ninja throwing-star! We threw it around a bunch backstage at the venue… ninja practice.
The show was small, but fun. Last One Standing, and Courage For League both played again, and tore it up. Our set was pretty cool. Kids went off. The stage was so hard though, and destroyed my shins. I’ve been suffering through shin splints a lot lately and hard stages, and concrete floors really make them flare up big time. I could barely walk after tonight’s set. Brutal… I need a good soft wooden stage tomorrow, or I’m going to be in major pain.
Mar 22 – Hiroshima
3 hour drive to Hiroshima, then we went to the A-bomb Dome. Basically this was pretty much the only building that was left standing when the bomb was dropped. So Japan has preserved it as a memorial to those that lost their lives. I can’t begin to tell you how sobering it is to be an American tourist visiting this monument.
The show was kind of rough. Lots of technical problems. We played with mostly mosh-core bands. GFN (no idea what that stands for), was pretty good. They sounded kind of like Madball and had a good live show. Our set was pretty sloppy and full of technical difficulties. The monitor mix kept changing, so it was hard to get in a good flow. A few kids were into us, but I think they were more into the mosh-core stuff. They were still tons of super nice kids (and one painfully annoying British dude of the non-core variety).
After the show 3-4 hour drive to the hotel. I got the Japanese water torture. That’s what we called it when, after drinking tons of water at the show, you have to pee real bad, but our drivers wouldn’t stop the van! You would wait until you were about to burst and tell the driver you need to pee… then the driver would drive for another 30-60 minutes before pulling over. This was my first time experiencing this torture, but I have seen both Aram and Andy’s eyes turn yellow on a few occasions already.
Mar 23 – Saitama at Kitanrawa
5 hour drive to Saitama. It seems like every drive is supposed to be a 2 hour drive, but ends up being 4-6… hmmm
The venue was set up kind of weird, but cool. The show was on the 4th floor. The backstage room was on the 5th floor and the merch area was on the 3rd floor. Kids had to take elevators to each floor. Kind of weird, but it worked. Basically, when the elevator opened on the 4th floor, you were right in the back of the pit looking at the stage about 10 meters away.
Tonight’s show was incredible! “Count of Strength” played, which was our driver Hiroyuki’s band. They were really cool and had a Side by Side meets H20 vibe. Really good live show too! It was awesome to see our new friend Hiroyuki on stage rocking out! The man is as good on stage as he is at eating ice cream 24-7.
There was another really good band called “No Choice in This Matter”. They were great live!! So much energy and their singer had a really intense stage presence.
The Venue was really small, and totally packed. It was ridiculously hot, but so much fun. Kids went off when we played. Lot’s of stage dives. Probably the best show of tour so far!
At one point in our set, I kicked Andy for fun. So he kicked me back. Only he kicked me right when I jumped, so I was in the air and he kicked my hip, which kicked my legs right out from under me. I went end over and my headstock smashed into the stage knocking me so far out of tune that it was useless to try to quick tune. I hit the mute button on my amp and dove into the crowd with my guitar.
When we played Glue by SSD, we got everyone up on the stage. It was super rad! Kids were moshing on the stage, then jumping off and circle-pitting around the room and then climbing back on stage… it was such a fun show. Big thanks to Hiroyuki for booking the show.
Mar 24 – Niigata at Club Junk Box
The show tonight was the smallest of the tour, maybe 20 kids tops. But it was still fun because those few kids were all really into it and made it a good time. The bands were really good too. I know I’ve said this about every band, but to be honest, in Japan every band is actually pretty damn good! Maybe it is because of their work ethic. Those kids practice a lot! The first band, I forget their name, were young kids, but played a cool mid 90’s style hardcore similar to Unbroken meets Earth Crisis, meets Snapcase.
The 2nd band was the singer of Count of Strength’s younger brother’s band. They were called “Stand Again”. They sounded kind of like Side By Side. The singer had a real cool voice. Then “The True Path” sort of sounded like Santa Sangre, really good and tight. “Commune” was Japan’s answer to Stretch Armstrong.
Mar 25 – Sendai
Sendai was a pretty cool city. The area we were in seemed like a huge outdoor mall. I got a little bit of shopping done before the show.
The show was awesome. “Break of Chains” was good, like Agnostic Front. Then “Make Mention of Sight” was awesome. Sean O’Leary (our red-headed Canadian roadie) did a stage dive, which was amusing to everyone.
Our set was nuts! Kids went off and even knew the old songs! It was probably the funnest set of the tour!
After our set, I met the singer of “Total Fury” and talked to him for a while. His band is so rad. Nice dude too.
Mar 26th – Yokohama at Club Lizard
This morning we woke up and a huge feast awaited us! So much food!
The drive was supposed to be 4 hours, but ended up taking 8. We had to drive through Tokyo, and traffic was just ignorant.
When we got to the club, I missed “Silence Kills the Revolution” because I was starving and had to get food, but they are playing tomorrow so I’ll catch them then. Nice kids in that band though! One of them had a Rosary (Seattle HC band) shirt on.
The other bands were all mosh core, except “And Believe”, who were really good fast HC.
Our set was fun, the venue was really cool and the kids were into it.
After the show we stayed with a kid named Jun. We watched Ghost Ship, which was absolutely horrible, of course. Jun’s dog definitely wanted a bite of Jim’s sandwich.
Mar 27 – Tokyo at ACB
One thing that needs to be said about Japan, There are cartoons on EVERYTHING. Everywhere you look… cartoon characters. There are even people dressed up in cartoon costumes. Tokyo was a really cool city. I got to do a bit of shopping. I saw a man riding a scooter with a dog…
The neighborhood the venue was in was kind of sketchy. It was a cool club though. The show? ABSOLUTELY REDICULOUS! “FC Five” played, they were great! “Silence Kills the Revolution” was also really cool.
Our set was NUTS. Kids straight lost their minds. There were about 300 kids. When we opened with Promises Kept, the “BREAK!” part was so loud that I almost forgot what I was playing. Jim had his back to the crowd for the “BREAK!” part, and I watched as he turned around to look at the crowd in total disbelief. When the verse started, kids were crawling all over Jim. They were literally hanging off him the entire set, screaming along to every word! At one point Sean picked up some kid and ran off the stage into the crowd with this little Japanese kid raised over his head like a WWE wrestler.
At the end of the set we played Promises Kept again, and again kids went bonkers. It was probably the craziest show we’ve played since Posi Numbers fest and definitely in the top 5 shows we’ve ever played. It actually reminded me a bit of that first Posi Numbers set we played, just how crazy kids went.
After signing tons of autographs we went out and ate with FC Five.
Japan is awesome and the kids there are truly amazing. I’m definitely going to miss this place.
Mar 28 – Day off in Tokyo
We went shopping in the rain and ate Mexican food, of all things.
Mar 29 – Fly Day
We almost missed our flight. The immigration line was pandemonium. It wasn’t even a line, it was more like a mosh pit. We fought our way to the front after about an hour, and after we were through, our gate was going to close in two minutes and it was all the way on the other side of the Tokyo airport. We had to run about a half a mile, “Home Alone” style, clutching carry-ons and pillows. Dripping with sweat, we barely made it. They closed the gate behind us and off we were.
Here’s a video from I THINK our first show in Japan. Shot by my friend Gai.
“Do a fanzine, start a band, we need your support, your helping hand…”
Riding home from a Gravemaker show in Tacoma the other night, Paul DC and I had some great chats. We swapped stories about when we were kids, we talked about the stupid things we did and the troubles we got into, and we shared different experiences about growing up in a mid 90’s hardcore scene.
I kind of wish we had a tape recorder rolling, because I think alot of great stories and thoughts came out of that half-hour car ride.
We talked about how hardcore now, is something that is so easy to get into and to be a part of with this modern communication age of the internet and smart-phones… We talked about how, when we stumbled into this scene there weren’t message boards, or band Myspaces, or even cell-phones. If you wanted to find out about new bands you would comb through distro lists, highlighting in VERY or LUMBERJACK, descriptions of bands that you might want to check out. Or you would buy a CD based on the fact that the singer of a band you liked wore their shirt in the layout of their record.
If you got the record and you hated it? Too bad, either you would force yourself to like it, or you could try to sell it to a second hand store for about five percent of what you paid for it.
Another problem for seekers of the core was there were certain records that you, as a hxc kid had absolutely no access to. If you wanted to listen to the Antidote record in 1994, you couldn’t go to iTunes or Soulseek and download it, and you couldn’t buy it on Ebay. Either you paid big bucks for the 7″ you were lucky enough to come across in a record store, or you had a friend dub you a copy, of their copy, of someone else’s copy.
I’m not trying to be one of those “I walked 30 miles to school, uphill, both ways” kind of guys… I’m just saying, things are alot easier now than they were even five years ago. There were many before me, that had it even harder. I, for example, have never had to book a tour by writing letters and licking postage stamps. I was lucky enough to be able to make contacts through Yahoo and AOL hardcore chatrooms to book the first Champion West Coast tour. Still, by the time Champion broke up four years ago, we had never toured with a GPS.
The point of this all, is that this is a new era for hardcore, but getting involved and taking ownership of your scene is just as important today as it was when Brotherhood wrote the lyrics to “Get Involved”.
There are lots of advantages to hardcore being so accessible and easy to navigate, but there are also disadvantages when kids take hardcore for granted. This isn’t just another style of music. It’s a community and a lifestyle. The fact that hardcore is easier to get into, shouldn’t cheapen what this is about.
I guess this Blog is my effort to make sure I am not taking it for granted, and an opportunity to share some experiences with anyone who cares to listen… Seekers of the core.