Northwest Hardcore


The Ojai Women’s Center

Carry on Photo Courtesy of Kyle Whitlow's blog, Seeking the Simple

Carry on Photo Courtesy of Kyle Whitlow’s blog, Seeking the Simple

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.

Wes from American Nightmare pitting in Ojai

Wes from American Nightmare pitting in Ojai – photo by Marlon Moreno

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.

Graham, TxJ and Ryan from Carry On

Ryan, TxJ and Graham from Carry On – Photo by Marlon Moreno

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…

Koala Crew

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.

Greg Against, getting filthy

(Greg Against, getting filthy with the sea-life)

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.

Champion, Miles Away, Against Crew

(Champion, Miles Away, Against Crew)

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.

Chris Wrenn (top) and Jim (bottom) taking a break from van wars to maximize on Australia's December Summer weather

(Chris Wrenn (top) and Jim (bottom) taking a break from van wars to maximize on Australia’s December Summer weather)

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:


7.13.15 edit – Bread fight story updated to remove the names of the innocent.

Classic Combinations

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.

Jim battles stircrazy boredom by pestering Ben

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.

This is a shirt design that I drew up in honor of this great game. It was after the band had already broken up, but if we were still a band at that point it definitely would have been a real shirt.

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.

Doctor Pain and I, brandishing our Classic Combinations instruments

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.


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.

Thanks to Mark Holcomb for this pic

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.

Sparkmarker's set list from the 2nd time I saw them: 9-29-95 @ the S.U.P.

After Sparkmarker:

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?!”

Us: “Champion”

Bro: “Never heard of it…”

Us: “What band are you in?”



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.Photobucket

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.