It's no secret that Nitro Records has been one of my favorite record labels this past year. Between putting out good-to-great records by the likes of the Letters Organize, Bullet Train To Vegas, A Wilhelm Scream, the veteran Aquabats (whom, while I don't personally care for, have seen an overwhelmingly positive fan reaction), and signing personal favorites No Trigger and Crime in Stereo, it's been, generally speaking, a storm of great punk rock they're investing in. So it only made it wholly appropriate to showcase four of their most promising acts at this year's CMJ showcase; shit, they may as well have titled it the Brian Shultz Jocks These Bands Like Whoa showcase.
I had been pretty indifferent on the Valley Arena (on tour with Bullet Train) when receiving their recent Astro Magnetics debut, but live they provided to be a pretty interesting act. They were energetic and moved about plenty, and the lead guitarist/singer's more high-pitched voice gave it the "arty" edge more or less. Aubin probably put it best in his review with how the band "effortlessly take the twin influences of Dischord greats Fugazi and Jawbox and synthesize them into a simpler, but still energetic whole; it's not quite Dischord-lite, but it's in that vein." Pretty enjoyable stuff.
No Trigger was next, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to it mightily. While the band was the first to fall victim to apparent Set Lists Cut Short Night at NYC's Tribeca Rock Club, the band still served up five rather spectacular melodic punk/hardcore songs. Two came from the band's "official" debut EP, this year's (North American-released, anyway) Extinction In Stereo (or last year's self-released split EP with Wasteland, however you see it), the songs in question being "What We Became" and "Earthtones." As the band was leaving that night to drive to Colorado to begin recording at Bill Stevenson's illustrious Blasting Room Studios, we were also given three choice new songs. All of them contained rapid fire speeds, a raised aggression in the vocal area, dynamic changes and individual instrument stop-starts aplenty. The set was energetic, uplifting, rousing, and plenty other savvy adjectives. Be prepared, because No Trigger's debut full-length will, for lack of a better metaphor, knock you on your ass when Nitro gives it the release treatment in early '06.
Hometown favorites Crime In Stereo brough forth some fantastic melodic hardcore anthems next. A fill-in guy at right stage guitar was necessary with the normal band member's "penis cut off and being held hostage by his girlfriend," according to the singer, Kristian. The dude did his job on short notice rather well. While most of the band's fans there didn't show up until there was about two songs left, the rest of us were treated to another great, albeit shortened, set. The band even announced that their new twelve-song record is complete, and should be out some time early next year. Sure, it would've been nice to hear a song or two from it played, but I'm not complaining with "Long Song Titles..." as an opener, as well as "Amsterdamned!," a flat-out amazing rendition of "Warning: Perfect Sideburns Do Not Make You Dangerous," "If You Think We're Talking...," "It Ain't All Hugs And Handshakes," and "New Harlem Shuffle." Possibly a few others. Oh, and some guy named Tom, who was a friend of the band more or less and recently home from Holland, kept shouting shit. Yeah. I think that was his name.
As if all this wasn't enough, A Wilhelm Scream then played for all. The same set list that was planned for the show at the Downtown earlier that week was played (viewable here), though this time around, "The Kids Can Eat A Bag Of Dicks" was the song cut out. Still, the set ruled, especially when the slaughterhouse trio of "...Morrissey...," "Mute Print," and "The Rip" closed it out. A few kids in the front were quite into it, and rightfully so; AWS is easily one of the top 5 punk acts going currently, as their records are improving greatly, and their live show is fully energetic and ridiculously spot-on with some rather sound musicians at the respective helms. Melodic punk rock never sounded so great with AWS closing out the label's triple threat showcase.
As the Valley Arena's brand of arty rock opened the show, it was actually massively appropriate for Bullet Train To Vegas to close it out. While it was mind-boggling for them to "headline" over AWS, they played what had to be a shorter set anyway, and I wasn't complaining, as their fierce, spazzy Blood Brothers / At The Drive-In hybrid of indie rock / post-hardcore...probably confused the audience more than anything. It was okay, though, as I was previously familiar with their superb material and thus enjoyed myself, and a few drunk members of their tourmates in the Valley Arena seemingly enjoyed it as well. The band moved around well enough to cuts like opener "The Camera Eye Backbite," "On The Disclosure," a nice rendition with the flawless tempo changes of "RFLCTR BTZ," "Prescription For The Blind," and "Cut The Party To Pieces." A new song was even played, that was more atmospheric in its soft spots, but its existence altogether was strange considering the band had just released their debut full-length a few months earlier. However, there really isn't a need to sulk over new material from a band as creative as BTTV.
And that was when we'd call it a night. Nitro Records: You keep this up, and I'll eventually be an owner of 90 percent of your catalogue .