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.
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!