Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Live: Jane Doe Fails Me Cuz She's No Hero
Woefully delayed by two weeks at least, and thoroughly dampened and ebbed away in my memory by weeks of time passed between the actual events and now, a motherfucking pair of live show reviews.
First up was the impeccably booked (and really, all tours at this point should be ridiculous package deals with say three great bands and some fledgling opening act) with Baroness, Genghis Tron, and The Red Chord opening up for Converge, who are pretty much my favorite band (passing my 3-album rule and not having any of the annoying quirks or traits that bothers me about most of the bands I like). My excitement was even more heightened by the fact that I'd only seen the band once before and it was in support of You Fail Me and was one of the most horrible experiences of my young life. Honestly.
It was November '05 and Christian, for my birthday, I think, or something, had gotten me tickets to see the Converge/Darkest Hour/Red Chord/Municipal Waste/Ringworm (already ridiculous line up) tour from that year. Unfortunately, like most decent hardcore shows, it wasn't stopping anywhere near the notoriously anti-fun and segmented-by-taste NYC venues and that's not where the scene is, anyway. Before metalcore officially died in mid-'06, NYC and our cadre of gullible, retarded, and often dangerous teenage scene kids and ex-goths ruled the roosts were a Gothenberg/spazz-core goldmine. So, forcing ourselves to accept the inevitable and think outside the box, we planned to go to muthufucking ASBURY PARK, NEW JERSEY to see the show at the Stone Pony.
Not that bad. Except just a day before I was supposed to head into the city and meet with my friends, I came down with a fever that persisted for two days. I felt like walking death, or really, a soggy polyester come-sock stuck behind a malfunctioning project radiator.
Oh, there were backsweats. I was a fucking marshland that weekend.
Inevitably, despite me sweating like crazy in Queens and struggling to sleep admist my inner hell, we made it to Penn Station and got on what I think was probably a NJ Transit bus to Asbury. We all slept comfortably, then got off the bus in front of this incredibly white working-class Jersey bar near what looked like a sea-front carnival, the kind of bar that doesn't sit right in the minds of two Hispanics and one vaguely-Hispanic-looking mulatto. Nice looking, but unfriendly and very preoccupied with being New Jersey-ites. From there, frustrated, we called a cab, which took about 40 minutes, and then took us two blocks forward after the cabbie was nice enough to let us know that we had been in walking distance of the Stone Pony the entire time.
To pile on further disappointment, the box of tomato & basil Wheat Thins I had been eating to make me feel better and the can of 7Up to quell my stomach since I couldn't eat much but was still hungry, were immediately grabbed by the cocksucker doorman and thrown to the side outside the club, without even asking whether I wanted to take a second and finish my snacks.
Now, I already hated New Jersey from my days of skipping school to go to Newark to see my ex-girlfriend senior year of high school, but this solidified the huge ball of fucking fail that is the "garden state". I would suggest napalming everything that isn't Teaneck or south Jersey.
Pissed but weak, we just made our way in, to find out that Ringworm weren't playing, and that we missed Municipal Waste and the Red Chord.
And, to Christian's chagrin and my delight, Darkest Hour only played about 4 songs, and Converge came on soon afterwards. "Sweet!", I thought smellingly.
The band were great and managed to defy the rigid confines of what's expected in hardcore and maintain that edgy, heavy and esoteric feel that makes people gravitate toward the band in the first place. However, Jacob Bannon proceeded to be a primadonna the entire set and, already tired of the redundant anti-art blue-collar Tony Robbins/Young Jeezy lyrical trappings of all hardcore (Summed up best by the retardedly cute hook of Throwdown's "Forever", "For myself!/For MY friends!/For My Fam-a-leee/FOREVER!!!"), I didn't want to hear some dude bouncing around the stage with every hardcore kid move I had grown to fucking despise quickly in my experience with the scene and metalcore and NYxHC tough-guys, lest over-explaining and proselytizing after every song. In fact, that night and for weeks afterwards, I would proceed to be baffled by the disconnect between Jacob Bannon's artfag tendencies and his behavior at this show. We also took pleasure in praising the band and ridiculing Jacob for his Baptist-ness that night.
Pissed, cold (about 12 degrees I think, that night) and hungry, we waited an hour afterwards for our bus back home. That never stopped. It went right by us, and to add more drama, we had to call a cab after we were informed that the NJ Transit stops at a certain time. And thus began a surly $120 cab ride into lower Manhattan, one which I felt terrible about because this had all been a present for me to go seem MY favorite band and we all had to suffer universally in the experience. Although I think we learned a lot that night. Like to never go to Jersey for anything except Six Flags, ever.
The night ended with horror survivor-bonding and snacking at a Canal street 7-11, but I think that was the night we realized we weren't just girls anymore. We were little women.
Luckily, the Converge show this year was nothing like that. When No Heroes came out, there was supposed to be a Knitting Factory gig in support, but Jacob had a family tragedy that would later be revealed as the death of his father, so it was canceled, as well as the Napalm Death gig that I had wanted to see to get out of the way (Much like Celtic Frost, Obituary and Slayer, past-their-live-prime albatrosses who have albums I love and just wanted to see once for the experience) because recent spats of violence (i.e.: NYC teenagers are fucking assholes and metalcore ruined everything) had forced a ban on "moshing" in the Knitting Factory and, even more hilariously when the metalcore/scene-tastic "Summer Slaughter '07" package rolled through, B.B. King's. Much more unfortunate, was the Converge/Mastodon tour that hit last year that was a wet dream for me, but unfortunately I missed all but two Converge songs that night and became privy to a Mastodon that was a lot more wanky and boring that when I had seen them destroy in 2004 when Leviathan had just come out.
Now, Genghis Tron I've seen twice already (at a sort of disheartening rare Pig Destroyer NYC show last year and my own college two years ago), so that was nothing new but I found it irritating that so many of those in attendance (not as many scene kids as I'd expect, although a few 04' metalcore and '08 br00tal deathcore kids were in the building) didn't get Genghis or how awesome everything from Dead Mountain Mouth is. I guess everyone's hung up on the rockist band set-up of gits/bass/drums. Their set killed, as usual, and they were followed by Baroness, who I have avoided like the plague for not being that great on record. But weirdly enough, they're fucking amazing live.
Only problem is, they're one of those sludge-y pseudo-metal rock bands that busts out Les Pauls and could clearly jam out on "Melissa" if you asked them nicely, but don't really have good songs. They have interesting ideas, major key guitars in pushing harmony, crackling the air and a masterful use of everything an electric guitar has to offer. It was a good lesson in dynamics and musicianship in an era where most bands, even my friend's bands, over-rely on new equipment and tons of stompboxes and sort of come off as too high-maintenance and disengaging live. No joke, all Baroness needs is decent songs to add to their complete mastery of every electric guitar trick and gimmick and nuance and they could be the most awesome thing in American rock right now. Which wouldn't be hard, because their competition would be Hinder.
The Red Chord I have seen maybe 5 or 6 hundred times before, so there wasn't anything new, except I noticeably tuned out when they played the songs from Prey For Eyes, which was a crappy album and seems to have, in terms of metalcore popularity and the scene rat race, stalled their ascent to leader position and now they're getting eclipsed by shit like Whitechapel and Suicide Silence. Ugh.
I was in the neat theater seat boxes for the first three bands, and then after pissing and copping a bunch of condoms and glow-in-the-dark lube from the now ubiquitous "Safe Sex" table at these kind of 16+ NYC shows, moved my way to the third from front row for Converge. What followed is something which rarely happens to me at any show, except TV on the Radio, Dillinger Escape Plan, The Hives, and the first time I saw The Black Dahlia Murder live. I freaked the fuck out and actually enjoyed the show. I mean, really enjoyed. Not digging the songs and just standing around, I mean leaping headfirst into that much-discussed zone of frenzy and ecstasy that is probably rarer than most kids and hippies would like you to believe from their over-dramatic tales.
Its usually math. With TV on the Radio, Dillinger Escape Plan, The Black Dahlia Murder and the Hives, the band played great, but more importantly, I knew every line, every lick, every stop and start, from their albums and really loved the album they had either just put out or were touring on. A weird misnomer is the one time I saw AFI live two years ago when Dillinger was opening and the combination proved too convenient considering I was obsessed with AFI in 2003 and had never gotten to see them play before. I was really disappointed and irritated with Decemberunderground and had pretty much already moved on to other bands, but during their set, I sang my little 2003-faggoth heart out. And Tv On the Radio, when I saw them for the first time for free in Prospect Park in '06, just happened to be amazing live, have flawless albums a fucking full brass band onstage and a sense of lightness and fun to the show.
But I snapped during Converge. I became That guy. Not like when Christian and I went to see Unearth, Terror and Bleeding Through with the specific purpose of acting like hardcore kids for the one and only time before we turned 20 via two-stepping and etc, but I was screaming the entire night. Every lyric that I had actually remembered, considering I never read the lyric books for any album I bought after 2004, came out in this raspy, Fear Before The March of Flames-y snarl. Its hard to enter that zone of "I'm going to freak out and look and sound like an idiot and not give a shit" when you're not an extrovert, but put me at a Converge show in a room full of fellow Converge Cult-ists and I will do shit like nearly break my neck to "Concubine/Fault and Fracture" and "Lonewolves", start a circle pit during "Hellbound" (and regret not doing one during "No Heroes"), offer to boost the crowd-surfers throughout, and nearly lose my voice during "First Light/Last Light". And also doing a Cedric Bixler impersonation during the Latin-y break during "Last Light"
I wish there was video of me being that guy and screaming "THIS IS...FOR ALL THE HEARTS!!! STILL!!!?!?!?! BEATING!!! BEATING!!! BEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATIIIIIIIIING!!!!".
Everything's more intense when you stack the cards like that. I own three albums and illegally own a bunch of assorted songs from their other albums that are great, find nothing about the band as annoying as I do with Queens of the Stone Age or Mos Def or anything else I like, plus there's actually a good visual aesthetic to the band and their visual art. And conveniently, Jacob Bannon was a complete showman, wasn't preaching the gospel of -core from the Hot Topic pulpit, was actually funny, and took time to greet everyone afterwards and give a sincere, puppy-eyed "Thank you" and hold court. I, wanting give consolation on his father's death or say something cool, awkwardly shouted "Your awesome!" then left. Fandom is weird.
So I left the show, after having an awkward conversation with Colin from Behold...The Arctopus about when they played Purchase, picking up free condoms and a great t-shirt, walking around awkwardly a lot and just feeling awkward socially in that environment, saying hi to a Purchase alumni in the audience (and failing to say hi to some other Purchase kids I saw there, who are apparently legion at my school judging by the merch and word-of-mouth about the show the next few days), I copped some drank from Walgreens in my sweat riddled white-T (Vitamin Water, because I fall for advertising and "replenishing nutrients" sounds really plausible when you feel like a damp ragdoll) and hopped on the train to Grand Central, then ran into this interesting 24-year-old scene alumni in an Every Time I Die shirt that I had seen in the show earlier and recognized my freshly purchased Converge '08 Tour tee. We talked shop and shit for a bit and I brought up Zao since I was feeling nostalgic and am disappointed with how unfair it is that metalcore as a whole genre from the late 90's to now became so maligned that no one is properly documenting, as evidenced by the pathetic metalcore Wikipedia article. I got schooled pretty thoroughly, since I'm at heart a metalhead and love punk but hate the people who are into punk and hardcore and spent the last three years ignoring more metalcore than I had actually listened to, which usually leads to this guy John or Christian dropping names I hadn't even seen blurbed in magazines, lest heard of.
I called a friend at the White Plains stop to pick me up, and he promptly arrived maybe 10 minutes later and we proceeded to, maybe half a mile from the school, run over and kill a possum. Then nearly kill another possum 30 feet from the school parking lot. There's a lot to be said about the bonding that rendering a North American marsupial will do for two grown boys.
And that was it. An amazing night that eventually, with the combination of the windchill, my wet t-shirt, and my raw throat, would give me walking pneumonia for a week and a half, hence the tardiness of this post.
Hopefully Maryland Deathfest and Rock The Bells can match it.
Top Live Experiences:
1. TV On The Radio @ Prospect Park Bandshell Summer '06
2. Converge Spring '08 @ Blender Theater
3. The Roots and Lupe Fiasco @ Nokia '07
4. The Black Dahlia Murder Fall '05 @ The Knitting Factory
5. The Hives Fall '07 @ Irving Plaza
6. Dillinger Escape Plan/AFI Summer '06 @ Roseland Ballroom (or some other venue around there)