When I first heard the news that Rorschach was playing a string of reunion shows, I was intrigued, but was doubtful that they would come anywhere near me. But sure enough, a Richmond date was announced, and I knew that I had to go. For those who aren't familiar with the band, Rorschach are a five-piece from New Jersey who were around from 1989 to 1993. During their time as a band, they put out some of the most intricate, unique and terrifying music to be classified as hardcore punk, paving the way for bands like Deadguy, Coalesce and Converge.
The drive up to Richmond was about two hours from Old Dominion; I arrived around 7:45. When I walked up to the venue, the Alley Katz, I could hear the opening band, Forensics, finishing up their set. I paid the $12 cover charge, and headed into the venue. To my surprise, there were only about 50 or 60 people at the show, hardly the turnout I expected for what was being billed as the Southernmost Rorschach Reunion Show.
After Forensics was Baltimore band Pulling Teeth. Now, while I'm not exactly a huge fan of their style of Integrity-worshipping crossover hardcore, I was pretty impressed with the band's live set. The live sound was very raw and aggressive, but still very catchy and riffy. Vocals sounded scratchy and raw, which really complemented their metallic sound. A lot of the kids were going apeshit, doing their karate moves and moshing around, but it didn't get out of control. Towards the end of their set, the vocalist talked about how glad he was to be on the bill.
Then, after about a half-hour of setting up, the moment had arrived. I could hardly believe that I was about to see Rorschach play a live set, and, dear reader, I assure you that I was not alone in my excitement. The live show was a complete jam, an unbelievable experience that words cannot justify. Starting with opener "Pavlov's Dogs" and playing a massive, massive set, Rorschach ripped through most of their entire catalog, playing a healthy number of songs from both full-lengths.
Ladies and gentlemen, this was some intense shit. Let it be known that Rorschach have still got it after 16 years. The set was unbelievably tight; the band went through all the complicated riffs and bizarre time signatures without a hitch. Drummer Andrew Gormley effortlessly knocked the skins about with clarity and precision. Guitarist Nick Forte and bassist Tom Rusnak played to a 'T' as well. Vocalist Charles Maggio brought the house down with his unearthly wailing. But what impressed me most was guitarist Keith Huckins' stage presence. He wielded the guitar like a madman, swinging it around like some kind of weapon, beating on it, and shredding it to get the weird feedback that you can hear on some of their songs.
The icing on the cake was how clear the sound was. The drums were not too heavy on the bass or snare (I was afraid that would be the case, because Protestant had this problem with the bass drum), the guitars sounded crisp and distinct, the bass had a good lurching sound without being too overbearing and the vocals were clear and audible.
Long story short, each song they played sounded exactly like it did on the album, except even better (which I did not previously believe was even possible).
It's difficult to pinpoint highlights throughout the set, because almost every song Rorschach played was unbelievable. However, they did throw a curveball by adding in a cover of "21st Century Schizoid Man," which was longer than the one they did for the God's Chosen People compilation album. Finally, after about a half-hour of playing, with only brief pauses for tuning and friendly stage banter/reminiscing, vocalist Charles Maggio told the crowd about his experience with throat cancer, and the band went into closer "Recurring Nightmare #105."
After the show, I went to the merch table and bought a shirt for myself and my friend (who unfortunately couldn't make it). The band had a limited edition (150, a different color for each show) double LP of Remain Sedate and Protestant, but I was too broke to afford one, so I passed. Then, I drove back home.
Although there was a fairly low turnout, everyone who came to that show knew that they were witness to something incredible. I am so glad to have been a part of this once in a lifetime experience, and I would urge anyone who has a chance to go to make the effort. This one was for the history books.
- Pavlov's Dogs
- Raw Nerve
- Drawn and Quartered
- No One Dies Alone
- Cut the Wheel
- In Ruins
- Skin Culture
- Bone Marrow Biopsy
- 21st Century Schizoid Man
- Lightning Strikes Twice
- In the Year of Our Lord
- Recurring Nightmare #105