Upon finishing my interview with A Wilhelm Scream, I entered the venue only to hear “The Decline” by NOFX playing in the background. Setting up any musician to follow that is silly, though I enjoyed the tune nonetheless. I found myself a seat near the stage to document my first evening in Seattle. I was alone and about to be shown a modern-day lesson in punk and hardcore.
Hometown heroes the Damage Done kicked things off with their flavour of melodic guitar-driven, fast-paced punk rock. The vocals were gruff and abrasive, bordering on screaming, though riding that line well. The pleasant, anthem-like background vocals complemented vocalist Ryan Koreski’s style. The dynamic worked especially well and couldn't have sounded any more appropriate than on “Mumpa,” a recent tune from (2009’s Scream All of Our Clichés). Chris Eligaza’s bass solo, a lost art, was the highlight of the tune and a favorite of the set. They will be playing the upcoming Seattle Greenhouse Showcase. I’ll keep my eyes open upon my return.
Seattle’s second set of locals and the first of three Paper + Plastick Records artists to follow, Shook Ones came out playing a heavier brand of hardcore. The songs, while fast and full of energy, came across quite noisy. While the bass stood out well, the vocals were very harsh, lyrics were mudded, and the higher frequencies of said vocals clashed with the rhythm and lead guitars. Though not necessarily the band’s fault, it certainly made for a less-than-desirable experience. Vocalist Scott introduced “Raised by Woofs,” a song in support of gay marriage. He suggested that if you’re interested in partnership rights and the legalizing of gay marriage to vote “yes” to keep referendum #71. The songs that followed carried a typical balance of skatepunk-like hardcore with the odd catchy pop hook, but I noticed abrupt, unfavourable endings on more than one song, “T.Monk” included. I’d be interested to see what their performance might be like another time, as I’ve enjoyed their studio recorded music more than I thought I would have, based on the nights’ performance.
The most enjoyable of the three opening acts, the Riot Before wasted no time expressing their discontent with Canada and relishing in their familiar surroundings. They gave me the Face to Face and Hot Water Music feel of the '90s while incorporating the desperation of American Steel and Against Me!’s post-millennium efforts. Although the vocals were slightly drowned at points, overall I heard a very clear live mix. “You Can’t Dance Sexy to Punk Rock” delivered the signature “palm-muted guitar with vocal only” bridge before a breakneck, forbidden beat return. “Words Written Over Coffee” was a strong, catchy though folky ballad with lyrics apologizing both to mother and father. It was introduced with guitar and vocals only, but later joined by the band, incorporating an enjoyable, melodic guitar solo. Kind enough words can’t be written about the tight, skilled drumming through their entire set. They closed by dedicating their last song to the strippers in Canada, who must hate the coins as much as they do.
The lovely friend I made throughout the evening came to see Living with Lions and she was surprised that I’ve been missing out. After all, both the band and I are from Vancouver, B.C. The lotus love and loyalty was evident as one of the tattooed guitar players appeared, sporting a Vancouver Grizzlies jersey. A very poppy brand of punk was played, turning me off almost immediately. The vocals were reminiscent, though a tad snottier than those of Bouncing Souls. They would stand better on their own without the constant, whiny background vocals. All songs seemed to tread a little too close to emo without much variation. Closing with “A Bottle of Charades” piqued my interest with its heavier guitars and catchy lead vocals, but became quickly watered down with too many “heya! heya!"s thanks again to the backing group. It seems there’s something the 20-year-old friend understood that I simply did not.
I missed A Wilhelm Scream the night before while at Gogol Bordello. I was hoping that the drive, the border dick-around and my anticipation were all worth it, to see them kill it at the end of the day. After the venue played an entire Propagandhi record in between opening acts, AWS were ready to do just that. The set opened with “The Kids Can Eat a Bag of Dicks,” and “Jaws 3, People 0” followed with its relentless guitar shredding. The guitars could have been a little more distinct in the mix, though hearing a different twist on the solo in “Get Mad, You Son of a Bitch” was a treat indeed. Some vocal clipping was brief, albeit apparent. Mike Supina and Brian Robinson both shared guitar and bass guitar tapping throughout “The Horse.” They even shared a quick high-five at hip level between scales. The tightness and intensity on stage was literally awesome, in the true sense of the word. Wilhelm showcased material from past, current and upcoming releases such as “Bodies and Suitcases” (a B-side cut) and “Skidrock” from their forthcoming self-titled EP. “Skidrock” sticks to the same ultra-fast tempo heard on 2008’s Career Suicide. Songs about “going to college, doing a lot of drugs and eating” and “drinking whiskey and beer until your body submits” rang out with tales of debauchery. “These Dead Streets” played amongst classics such as “Me vs. Morrissey in the Pretentious Contest” and “The King Is Dead” within their 20+ song set list.
Taking Iron Maiden-influenced metal guitar modes and blending them with furious skatepunk stylings, A Wilhelm Scream didn’t leave much room for error. The ferocious speed and energy, with melodic undertones ensured me that a hike across the border was worth it then and will be again.