Sunday, March 28, 2010

Show Review - Wrench in the Works (record release), Robots and Empire (NY), The Lows, Sabotage, Gods and Queens (PA), Cold Snap

March 27, 2010

This is my first contribution to the CT Indie blog; I hope it will not be my last. Since I moved to Connecticut from California I have been firmly rooted in the punk and hardcore community, witnessing some of the most enjoyable and most frightening occurrences a young punk can imagine. I’m no stranger to VFW halls and dusty basements, just two days before I was packed into a living room of a West Philadelphia home with 200 other chumps to see Paint It Black play their first show of the year, to freshen up in their hometown.

It’s events like this that make me smile from ear to ear, when friends carpool to see their friends off on a long-winded tour, or to celebrate new material. Wrench in the Works has been a staple of the Connecticut Hardcore scene for quite sometime. They just finished up recording their newest full length “Decrease/Increase” so it’s no doubt time for a solid night of relentless intensity and friends helping out friends.

Cold Snap was the first band of the night. They play a blend of groovy and dissonant punk that reminds me of Into Another, without the moral consciousness or self-awareness that goes along with bands of that era. Their vocalist Jack snarls and barks at the crowd who were standing almost uncomfortably three to five feet away. Out of the handful of times I have seen Cold Snap this was definitely one of their tighter performances. The energy was high and started off the night with a clamorous bang.

Almost instantly, there was a second band playing. I hardly had time to turn around and see how many people had filled up the room, and then I heard someone speaking into the microphone. Gods and Queens are a three-piece band who’s sound rivals that of the demolition of a single family home. The band features members of some of my favorite Philadelphia bands (Lick Golden Sky, Cassilis) but rather than play a rehashed carbon copy of metal/hardcore, they tear apart the rulebook. I see a lot of bands from Philadelphia “subscribe” to a genre only to attempt to reinvent it. Their blend of punk and metal can be best described as “spacey” and schizophrenic, not to mention the fact that three people can create noise so severe out of two amplifier cabinets and a drum kit is truly phenomenal.

Appearing next was Sabotage, a local band plagued by line up changes and for the longest time failing to get its feet off the ground. They of course, were playing with a fill in guitar player, but you couldn’t notice. Their take on modern hardcore in the vein of Carry On starts off with an intro song to rouse the crowd, but no one moved. Sabotage pressed on with their party hardcore without being overbearing and stale. Short, loud songs emphasized by lightning fast circle pit parts and bookended with earth shattering breakdowns. This band could easily be replacing artists like Bitter End on big hardcore fests in the future.

By this point in the night, I’m ready to go home. Being barraged with power chords and distortion for nearly two hours straight isn’t easy. What was about to happen next I could have in no way prepared myself. The Lows come from the same scene that all of these local punk and hardcore bands, but play an interesting mix of melodic metal and hardcore which gets lost over the layers of guitar loops, technical drumming, and hook less vocals. They set up stationary lights to set the mood, and whatever momentum the show had was immediately halted as the crowd watched on stunned, lost even, trailing their singer across the floor as if he were lost in a supermarket. I looked at every member as they played their hearts out and sweat poured from their brow but it was almost too late for me as I trailed into the back of the room after about halfway through. It took The Lows until the end of their performance to find some sort of cohesion, and ended their set on the same page, when I stood on top of a chair to see the crowd finally bobbing their heads to the beat, a positive reaction in my book. I hope that The Lows quit wavering in and out of musical styles and find their niche because as individuals they are incredible musicians.

Robots and Empire is a band that I had only seen one time prior to the night, and when I saw them, I was very impressed. They did not disappoint me a second time. They start off with a very deep and tone heavy bang and sprints off into some very passionate vocals. They are bringing something very new to the table as far as “stoner metal” is concerned. Newer bands like Torche and Mono tend to have very static climaxes in their music, and it seems that Robots and Empire make it their duty and obligation to constantly throw your ears for a loop, and then shatter then with down-tuned guitars and loud cymbal crashes.

Wrench in the Works set up their wall of amplifiers and their bass drum trigger to showcase their new material with. Their sampler was set up, their guitars were tuned and the lights were off. Behind them a backdrop with the cover art of their new record and blood red lights. They sailed into their set with blast beats and off tempo guitar chugs. Occasionally there would be a sweep of some minor scale and then back into the blasting. Darrell bangs his head and dreads fly everywhere, then he sings. His voice, as if he were possessed by some demon, rattles the room and adds a layer of tone and furiosity to their madness. Andy Nelson blasts on and riddles the air with click clacks of the triggered bass drum. And after what seemed like only an instant of confusion, Wrench finds their middle ground and breaks down their beat faster and harder than a wrecking ball. The crowd finally breaks open and fists are flying, people getting knocked into tables, flying into the fake wall separating the billiard room from the hall. Intense mosh. Their set carries on fiercely and only for about half an hour, the perfect time to watch a band.

In the middle of their set, Darrell explains a few things, a project called Project AK-47, a Christian based ministry program that aims to free child soldiers in Southeast Asia for a small donation ($7). This is where I go on to explain that Wrench in the Works is a Christian metal band, which I find a little bit ironic. I can pick out some pieces of their songs that remind me of bands like Tragedy and other atheist Pacific Northwest bands. Wrench doesn’t shove it down your throat, they’re not trying to convert anyone, but this ministry they are supporting is for a really good cause, because if you’re an atheist, Satanist, Christian, Jew, whatever you are, no one deserves to be subjected mentally, physically, or sexually in the name of violence. Not only that, but Wrench plays metal and hardcore more aggressively and sincerely than most bands who sing about dismantling religion.

The turn out was a little bit weak and was missing some of that special something that makes hometown record release shows pop, just under 150 people including band members and guests, and it took almost four hours for anyone to get excited. DIY punk and hardcore is not a spectator sport, and no one really gains from it. Jamie from Gods and Queens spoke a little bit about this subject at the show. We go to shows because we have something fundamentally wrong with our brains that makes us smile when we hear that one chord or that one drum beat or that “fuck the president” rant we’ve heard time and time again. This section of Connecticut hardcore is certainly an anomaly, which I don’t think I’ll ever understand. However what was the most special facet about the evening was the fact everyone got together to celebrate an accomplishment of their friends, and when this occurs, it’s also a small victory for the scene as a whole.

more photos from this show here
more photos from manic shows here

1 comment:

Brushback said...

Mitch always takes the best photos.