Sometimes concerts in New York become difficult to distinguish from fashion shows, as pretentious scenesters flaunt their vintage tops and designer jeans and the bands merely act as background music. Luckily, places like ABC No Rio still exist. For years, ABC has acted as a community space for punk culture with shows, poetry readings, meetings, a community dark room, and even a computer room. At ABC, egos are left at the door as kids cram into a small room with a crumbling ceiling and no stage to get down to bands that play music simply because they love it.
Gospel and Anodyne were the first two bands to play at the all-Level Plane show. Despite some problems with sound (most recognizable in the buried vocals) Gospel played long and elegant hardcore anthems that started slow and psychedelic, before building into screamy fits. Some songs incorporated keys for an added atmosphere, but it was the technical and creative drumming that really made them stand out. Anodyne, who also suffered from sound problems, came off as being pretty indistinguishable from most hardcore acts. Their blast beats and melody-lacking vocal lines quickly grew boring.
Next up was Transistor Transistor. I didn’t recognize most of what Transistor Transistor played because I only own their split with Wolves and most of their set consisted of songs from their upcoming album, but their material sounded great. Transistor Transistor broke up the typical hardcore formula by throwing some rock sounds into their tone, which had some interesting results. The guitars had a lighter yet grittier distortion that allows you to really distinguish the guitar parts instead of a mass of thick, muffled noise that other hardcore bands employ. The band also seemed to focus more on melody and hooks, not so much in a pop sense, but just enough to make songs distinguishable and interesting. Their set also had a better sound quality vocally than the first two bands (maybe simply because of less screaming) and that helped the band put on a better performance.
ABC No Rio was still a bit cold (thanks to freezing temperatures outside and a lack of heating inside) when Hot Cross set up, but it didn’t take too long for things to warm up. There was hardly any space left to move in the small room when vocalist Billy Werner started his bouncy swagger back and forth in front of the crowd and the band launched into “Fortune Teller.” The band was able to nail every dueling lead and dynamic tempo shift, while still going through their spastic motions. Towards the end of the song the power to the vocals, one guitar, and the bass went out, but Werner still screamed his lungs out with the crowd as the lone guitar and drums finished up the song.
After fixing the equipment problem, the band went on to play “Prepare/Repair,” “Throw Collars to the Wind,” “Better A Corpse Than A Nun,” and “Consonants” from their Fair Trades and Farewells EP, “Lend Me Your Brain I’m Building an Idiot” from A New Set of Lungs, “The Eye Is A Tricky Machine” from their split with Light The Fuse And Run, and a new song called “The Coma.” While the band sounded great and put on an awesome performance, the set was strangely short and seemed to consist of a bit too much newer material. I would have loved to hear more than one song each from Cryonics and A New Set of Lungs, but I can’t complain about their performance. It is always a treat to see a band like Hot Cross pull off their harmonizing guitars and sudden stops while making it look easier than riding a bike with training wheels. The crowd also made the show worthwhile by dancing, throwing fists in the air, and screaming along with Werner as he pushed the mic in front of their faces.