On paper, tonight’s show didn’t look like the most diverse lineup--the three biggest bands here are all rooted in hardcore, but they each bring their own nuances to the genre which was definitely visible in the crowd’s reaction. This Is Hell recently added elements of crossover to their brand of Long Island hardcore. Blacklisted have morphed into an entirely different beast from their earlier material, imbuing their songs with a thick grunge flavour, whilst Paint It Black’s kinetic punk rock continues to progress without losing the tropes of the genre--they’re fast, angry and put on an amazing live show. In addition to the diversity of the bands, punks, hardcore kids and one or two crusties of all genders were in attendance...definitely a great sign.
Local openers Hammers drew a fairly meagre crowd but made up for it with their ferocious sonic assault. I’m not familiar with any of their material, but Cursed is definitely a good reference point in describing their sound: Lots of sludgy parts mixed with D-beat and thrash elements made for a sound as huge as their bassist’s rotund size.
Off with Their Heads have been gathering momentum since their signing to Epitaph and recent appearance at the Reading and Leeds Festival over here, and with good reason: Their boozy brand of punk rock (again, check the diversity) brings to mind Hot Water Music and a gruffer, less optimistic Gaslight Anthem. They were well-received by both the punks and the hardcore kids--lots of pogoing from the former, while the latter earnestly pumped their fists in appreciation. Forgive me for not knowing any of their stuff, but I am definitely inclined to check them out on the strength of this performance. They did, however, afford one lucky fan the chance to sing on a Beltones song towards the end of their set.
In the back of my mind, I always knew This Is Hell would be the black sheep of the show; their stature in hardcore has fallen a lot since their Sundowning days, and if their performance a few days earlier at Leeds Festival--blighted by a threadbare attendance--was anything to go by, the audience were in for more of the same. Unfortunately, that was true. The band were tight and the new stuff literally shreds, but aside from a few scattered shouts from fans, the reaction was disappointing, with not even perennial crowd favourite "Permanence" inciting the same fevered reception it would have done a few years earlier.
Blacklisted seem to have split their fans right down the middle with their polarising No One Deserves to Be Here More Than Me, and that was evident over the course of the set. While material from Heavier Than Heaven, Lonelier Than God like "Stations," "Always" and "I Am Weighing Me Down" riled up the crowd, including myself, the newer material left the crowd dead. That was a shame, as the sounds the band produced sounded great; at times ethereal and at others crushingly heavy, it was replicated perfectly. They also played an even newer song that continued down the grunge path, with a quiet/loud structure evoking Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr. That said, it sounded awesome.
I’m not going to lie, I love Paint It Black. They are one of my favourite bands--not just because of their music, but because what they stand for is admirable and rarely seen nowadays in hardcore; tonight only furthered my love for them. Forgive me if I stray too far into fanboy territory.
At first, it seemed they would get the same reaction both This Is Hell and Blacklisted received. But having seen them before, I knew that Dr. Dan and co. would not let themselves go unappreciated. For a while, though, it seemed that way; as "Panic" rang out, the crowd were dead, but after a few words from frontman Dan Yemin, the crowd's "on" switch was flicked...well, on. Yemin created an extremely positive atmosphere for the remainder of the night, stating “you won’t catch a fist during our set” whilst also have some choice words for the thug mosh that seems to be prevailing nowadays; saying, “We didn't get into hardcore to wear Biohazard jerseys and mesh shorts.” For the rest of the set, Yemin was swarmed by the throng of kids, with plenty of mic grabs and pile-ons. Their set consisted of songs from all three albums as well as their recent EPs, and the crowd ate it up. "Womb Envy" was dedicated to the females in attendance and asked for the guys to step back and let the girls have some fun, which they graciously did; Yemin responded by saying it was “perfect.” Finally, Yemin was smothered by the crowd during the end of set closer "We Will Not"; “When your ship has run aground, don’t let the bastards get you down” shouted the crowd, with Paint It Black once again proving they are one of the best modern hardcore bands around.
After the set, Yemin again showed himself to be a class act at the merch table, asking people their names and handing out free samplers of Philly hardcore. They've set a standard that I wish more bands in hardcore would, or could, match.