“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!
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: