School Drugs/Comrades - live in Trenton (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

School Drugs / Comrades

live in Trenton (2018)

live show

After a short drive into Trenton I park and scramble over to the Mill Hill Basement. To describe the venue as a tiny dive club would be... just about right. The “stage” as it is is delineated from the audience by the monitors on the floor and nothing else. A support post sits right in the middle of the floor (which, not surprisingly, tends to serve as the axle for the inevitable circle). It’s perfect.

Ostensibly I am here at the invitation of NYC’s Comrades as they make their way on tour up the east coast from Florida to their hometown. I’ve never heard of any of the other bands and had only done a cursory search on Facebook so I could at least recognize them, where I learned that tonight would mostly be an evening of unabashed hardcore.

Kicking things off is Tough Shit, an enjoyable 80s hardcore style act with a fast sound, tight music, and a catchy rhythm. Lead vocalist Bil Doe spends most of his time in front of the “stage” with a can of beer in hand, taking swigs when not belting out vocals. The beats are plenty, the vocals loud. A great start to the evening.

Following them up is Sick Shit, a scream/hardcore act that is extremely aggressive and tight. Interestingly, the band spends a majority of the time facing each other, including the lead vocalist facing away from the crowd- screaming wholeheartedly while alternating vocals with the drummer. As tends to be the case, it is slightly amusing how soft-spoken and pleasant they all are when thanking the crowd for their applause after each track. Also, guitarist Bobco wears a mask when he plays. I first thought this was a theme related to the band itself, but found out later that’s not the case.

Pennsylvania’s Hashgrinder are up next with what is the first big swing of the night style-wise, as they tear into some pretty hard grindcore. Super-fast and gravelly, they are hit with a bit of a pothole a few songs in as vocalist/guitarist Gary Crit shreds the strings on his guitar. Another guitar is found on loan but, when you have a thirty-minute set, any downtime sucks. Hashgrinder quickly gets back on the horse, and finishes out their set.

Next up is the band on tour. Comrades takes the stage and swings the pendulum the other way after Hashgrinder’s pummeling onslaught. Comrades is known for a wide array of crusty ska, punk, folk, and anything else that tickles their fancy. While the band hits multiple genres, the live act tonight constitutes primarily their ska and punk selections (they only played one of their folk tunes). That being said, the mood was vibrant and the crowd was having a blast. Sharing vocal duties, Snikt and KV (guitarist) keep the action going while Levi’s bass bubbles along just as much as he bounces, and Two Tone’s drumming keeps a rapid staccato beat going. The crowd was active and having a blast, just as much as the band.

Rounding things out is School Drugs, also featuring Bobco from Sick Shit and, once again, he is wearing his mask. I guess I was wrong about it being a theme for his other band? Regardless, we end where we started with Tough Shit: a very 80s hardcore sound. The primary difference is Tough Shit’s vocals are aggressive and straight-forward, School Drugs’ lead singer is a bit more melodic and dramatic, bringing to mind the style such 80s hardcore mainstays as HR of Bad Brains (including the stage presence).

All –in-all, five bands in three hours of blisteringly fast and incredibly fun punk. Sure, at least half (if not more) of the crowd were members of the other bands, but it was nice to see the scene support as just about everyone stuck around to see all of the acts. A great gig all around.