Have Heart and Verse: two of the biggest names in modern hardcore, both with new albums out this year on Bridge Nine Records, and both on the same bill. It seems like a given that anyone with a mild interest in hardcore will be in attendance as this tour makes its way across North America, and like many other readers, I was delighted to find out that it would be making a stop in my town.
The first band up was Bodyguard, the type of local hardcore band who makes up for a lack of songwriting skills with exceptional energy. Though their music was far from spectacular, and their vocalist a little grating on the ears, their vigorous performance was more than enough to keep me entertained.
The next band, Circles, has been gaining a fair bit of buzz around them as of late, and after their stunning performance it was easy to understand why. The band played a more melodic form of hardcore than any of the other acts of the night, at times bringing to mind earlier Comeback Kid or Crime in Stereo. Though the instrumentalists were fairly stationary throughout the set, the vocalist was all over the stage and was really working the crowd. Of particular note was the band’s new material that has yet to be recorded. They played a new song called “The Lives of Others” that absolutely blew anything they’ve ever recorded out of the water. The other new songs they played were also extremely strong, although all were sorely lacking backing vocals. I’m not sure if the tracks have no written backing vocal parts or if the band simply didn’t perform any due to a shortage of mics, but the tracks seemed to be begging for some. Regardless, the band’s performance was the surprise of the night, and I am eagerly anticipating their next recorded output.
Verse took the stage next, and the crowd was quickly worked into a frenzy. Vocalist Sean Murphy had apparently injured his foot the previous night, so he was notably less mobile than I had anticipated, which was unfortunate. He also commented numerous times about how awkward he felt, complaining about the height of stage at the venue (admittedly, it was much too high -- at least five feet up). Perhaps his injury and hate for the stage fueled his rage, because his delivery was unbelievably passionate. He stared above the crowd with a look of pure venom in his eye as the band played songs from across their catalogue. Sean also gave some good speeches between tracks, notably one before “Lost” about his current disillusionment with hardcore as it, in his opinion, is losing the punk ethic that attracted him to the subculture in the first place. The fans, of course, cheered on, even the ones who were perhaps fuelling his disillusionment. Murphy also launched into a good diatribe before “Unlearn” about the price of education and its effect on his family and friends (which reminded me, entering my fifth year of post-secondary, how fortunate I am). The band closed with “Start a Fire,” which had members of the crowd recklessly stage-diving into nearly empty areas, making my cautious self worry about the safety (and sanity) of the kids in the room.
- Hard to Breathe
- The New Fury
- Tear Down These Walls
- Weather to a Stone
- From Anger and Rage
- Start a Fire
Have Heart was the final performance of the evening, and despite vocalist Patrick Flynn having some obviously strained vocal chords, they put on a great performance to cap off the night. The band chose to only perform tracks from their two full-lengths (although you could nit-pick and argue that “Something More Than Ink” comes from the What Counts
EP), with most songs taken from The Things We Carry
. The new material sounded great live, with my favourite track from the new record, “Bostons,” being one of the highlights of their set. Although I was hoping for Verse’s Murphy to make an appearance in “The Machinist” for his guest vocals, he didn’t, but it didn’t stop massive pile-ons from taking place during that track and the closing number, “Watch Me Rise.”
- The Unbreakable
- On That Bird in the Cage
- Armed with a Mind
- Life Is Hard Enough
- Watch Me Sink
- Hard Bark on the Family Tree
- Something More Than Ink
- The Machinist
- Watch Me Rise
So, despite vocalists in both headlining acts suffering from injuries that ultimately inhibited their performances, both bands performed admirably and met expectations for all the kids around. It’s a shame that the venue was so ill-fitted for a hardcore show, but for quality like this, I’ll take what I can get.