As a steady supporter of Sound and Fury for many years it seemed hard to top the joys of celebrating hardcore punk, hundreds of sweaty over aggressive individuals hoarding around swarths of intricately designed merchandise and records who worship the collective spirits of those on stage, in any other way. But Rain Fest 2014 proved to me that there is hope outside of California and a lot of it. Held at Neumos from May 24–26 in Seattle's Capitol Hill district, it was a merry occasion that this writer will not soon forget.
As a venue Neumos is hindered by its size, especially in comparison to the vast halls of the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara, home of the S & F's final run in 2012 and one of its best in 2008. But what it lacks in size it completely makes up for in everything else. The sound system is amazing, everything came up clearly, vocals easily heard and only one malfunction occurred when things got a little too rowdy during Dangers and the mic was disconnected. As un–punk as it is, the lights we're magnificent. Main lights lit the stage as a series of alternating globes flashed on and off far above, creating a dazzling effect. The stage was the perfect size for any five piece hardcore act to comfortably roam and every fan to get a good dive or two in. A small bar sold snacks and refreshments. If one was looking for a more adult beverage, Moe's was attached directly to the entrance and has a great selection of local WA brews as well as food from neighboring Pike Street Fish fry that offers a delicious vegan field roast and two dollar tacos during happy hour. A variety of dipping sauces are available for anyone's taste. I recommend the Curry Ketchup. Finally downstairs lies Barboza, a cold, dark, almost wet venue that dwindles in comparison to Neumos. Perfect for much smaller shows. A full bar is provided here as well. The perfect playground for any punk aimlessly run around like a chicken with its head chopped. Enjoying everything the venue has to offer all the while giggling like an idiot with a field roast in hand.
Before I begin examining let me start by saying I came down with a terrible flu the day before, which forced me to miss the Seaweed/Comeback Kid pre show. So my experience was both hindered and enhanced by that. Friday offered the most lucrative line up. Replica, a 3/4th female punk group who shook the crowd by the throat as their singer, a small vicious woman, stomped around the pit without any shoes, snarling in onlookers faces. Their version of aggressive Oakland punk played off strongly with many fest goers. Seattle straight edge heros Clarity energetically trampled the stage next. Bringing to mind the golden era of Youth Crew revival with the likes of such bands as Carry On and Battery. Discourse took things in a different direction with their version of 90's metallic hardcore, brutally crushing their predecessors. It was hard in comparison to Turmoil rather than Integrity. This set the stage for the rest of the night as it only got heavier. Expire then blew every other NYHC based band i've seen out of the water. Their energy and showmanship was on point. Covering Inside Out helped immensely as well. While this was happening I conveniently slipped downstairs to Barboza to watch one my favorite acts, the industrial hardcore duo Youth Code and catch part of the up and coming Nothing' set as well. Whirr played, but I was too busy watching Converge.
Opening with one of my personal favorites off their latest album, "Trespasses" was a barrage of double bass and over bearing guitars that rattled my congested chest cavity. Playing a mixture of songs from their catalogue they focused mainly on All We Love We Leave Behind but ventured into Axe To Fall, Jane Doe and You Fail Me. Watching them with a high fever and hopped up on Dayquil proved to be an invigorating and excruciating experience. Only raising the levels of intensity provided by J. Bannon and crew.
Day two got to a late start for me, after rushing to Neumos from work I only managed to catch local Oly punkers Gag. I've seen them once before and was throughly excited to do so again. This time around their energy levels were only enhanced as the crowd ate into their style of early 80's hardcore. Dirtry, sleezy and weird they mashed around the stage and had everyone questioning what they just saw while wanting more. The party only elevated from their as Minus took the stage. Heavily and slowly bringing the mosh to all. Coke Bust brought the speed back to the crowd immediately with their politically minded, straight edge fueled version of hardcore punk. Bay Area legends, who I had never heard of until recently, Bl'ast followed after, taking things in a different direction. They progressively drilled the core into the crowd with movements that would start and stop in an instant, staying heavy yet torrentially uplifting. Inside Out meets late era Black Flag. At this point my fever and Dayquil intake had a reached a boiling point. I knew this as my girlfriend declared I was pale, looking weird and had a crazy look in my eye. She then forced some food and water down my throat and the color returned to my face. I sadly knew however it was time for me to retire for the night. Consequently missing Down To Nothing, Modern Life Is War and 7 Seconds. She said it was one of the best 7 Seconds sets she's ever seen. So we'll go with that for today.
Day three proved better on me physically as my strength and spirits had returned. Local rock n roll punks New Gods opened the day. The Sheds blasted their unique hardcore ska, which was unimpressive by many and completely loved by few. The Banner, NJHC stalwarts put on a hilarious and energetic showcase with their brand of dark D–beat hardcore. Ending with the classic "The Wolf", the crowd went off. For whatever reason Day three seemed to have the most and all the fights. Limited to two, it was a small number but still relevantly a bummer. Dangers had the best set of the whole fest. Hands down. Playing only a couple tracks off Anger, most off of Messy Ain't It– and that catchy tune off their latest release Five O Clock Shadows at the Edge of the Western World. Backtrack bored everyone but those in the pit with their over played version of NYHC. Andrew W.K even seemed bored. By contrast, his band put on an amazing show all the while he was isolated in the middle of the stage. Speaking once to unenthusiastically say "Thank you everyone for having fun with us tonight. This is a lot of fun." The stages dives however were endless and it was beautiful. If there is one thing to sum up the weekend I would say it is the previous statement and I'll leave it at that. Till next year Rain Fest.