Zorn - live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick


live in Philadelphia (2022)

live show

During Zorn’s set, singer Eric Flea approached one of three already burning torches on stage, whipped out a sword, lit the sword on fire, and began waiving it all around as the flames grew up to some eight feet. I mean, that’s all I have to say about the Philly Vender Bender from October 28, 2022. What else can I say? A flaming sword!

I’ll admit, I was worried about Zorn. The band quickly released a string of excellent EPs which coincided with a string of excellent live shows (bandmembers jumping out coffins; people dressed like plague monks; chains being whipped at the audience; really kick ass death punk) but then, things seemed to go… silent. Was one of Philly’s most promising acts snuffed out in the bud before the flame could grow?

And yeah, they have played a few shows here and there this year, but there were all kind of quietly announced and quietly faded away. The Vender bender show was NOT quiet.

For one thing, Zorn was in raw and ragged and crazed top form. Their songs are as fast and as furious as ever. And, their strongest asset (aside from a great core concept) is that they’ve found that perfect sweet spot between metal and punk where the songs have the epic, grandiosity of metal as well as the slam-damn-heaviness, but they also have the unpredictable swing and danger of punk rock. A lot bands try to mix metal and punk and most of them are terrible. At the show, as the epics riffs swung upwards only for the screeched vocals to tear them back down, Zorn proved that it can be done and that the sum is greater than the parts.

The band also played some newish songs. the new tracks are more complex and frantic than earlier hits. This makes the band particularly effective because, while a lot of the spooky bands sound cool for a song or two, all their songs sound like those one or two songs. at the show, Zorn had a core style, but were able to flex it into a broad array of slashing. I’ll also add that the band has some degree of self-awareness, which, much likes Bauhaus, is the extra bit of pop that makes this band soooo good.

Also, did I mention that they started the show by having pallbearers bring out the aforementioned torches and a coffin, only for the vocalist to jump out of said coffin and throw said coffin lid at the audience? Now, THAT’S WHAT I AM HERE TO SEE.

Before Zorn, long running Philly art-punkers Northern Liberties came to add to the freak-out factor. Singer Jusitn Duerr was dressed in a sort of Victorian era dress and hat and he launched into his unique and striking wail-singing.

The band was clearly jazzed up and came to compete. While the band can range from the avant garde to primal punk pounding, here the band seemed to go for more post-punk side of things. While Duerr called out in long, broad strokes, the band slammed out loud, riffs that rippled through the open field. I was reminded of P.I.L. and OM at the same time.

Duerr seemed to be overcome with the ancient energy because at one point, he seemed to spastically roll around on the ground in a mania while the band drove on. Also, a tone point, he brought out his trademark marching band toms and banged on them creating a cadence that was both university and tribal. Honestly, that’s a pretty good way to sum up NL as a whole.

Before Nothern Liberties, a REALLY freaky band took the stage. The band was both black metal and minimalist. They had the classic scarry guy scream, but underneath the roar was instrumental that flipped from incessant drone to spastic freak out, ala Frank Zappa’s ‘70s period.

During the set, gigantic spooky puppets wandered around the stage, in slight homage to Alice Cooper, GWAR, and Iron Maiden. Because the puppets were so DIY amidst a street-level performance, they actually were creepy and not silly like Ed Hunter.

While most blackened bands lean towards the hallmarks, PRS seemed to wanted to deconstruct the genre. How many parts can you remove from black / extreme metal and it is still black metal? Can you replace a rumbling riff with what sounds like a mouth harp and keep it menacing? Frankly, most extreme metal is pretty blasé if you ask me. PRS was the antithesis of that.

Earlier in the day, Trash Knife closed the afternoon set. Um… Trash Knife was… ON FIRE. The band came to do damage, presenting some new tunes. As always, they were really noisy, really fast, and really rockin’. At the core of the band’s style is a first wave LA attack with some first wave SF humor. I loved how, as the band crashed down with their riffs, singer Lauren sang about parking tickets, how cool Rhonda Rousey is, and hating low tipping diners.

The band understands where musical power comes from. It comes from one place- hard hitting riffage. Also, the band understands where musical power comes from – it comes from kick ass, kinda funny vocals. Also, the band understands where musical power comes from – smashing drums.

That is to say, the band has locked together not perfectly, but shambolically, and that’s where the magic is. At the show, the magic transferred to the new songs, which are a bit more complex and a bit more crazed than the earlier stuff. I like where this is heading. However, the band is keeping a sing-songy bounce in the music. The fun of older tracks like “no one’s dancing” is that it randomly broke out into the “mashed potato.” Trash Knife was especially effective and exciting because you never know when they are going to make you laugh and when they are going to rip out your throat.

Before Trash Knife, Roadkiller tore through a hard rocking set. The band walks between Motorhead ripping, Slayer thrashing, and ‘80s metal woooo-yeaaaaahhhhh! At the set, they played tight and rocked hard. The crowd was into the band’s new take on the classic sound and they definintely mastered the style.

The event opened with Qlebras, a band that plays their own unique genre- psychedelic cumbia. The band mashed punk stomping with 60s garage trippiness with cumbia sounds for a set that tookm many by surprise. The interesting thing about the bands set was not only were they unique, but at how well the sounds meshed together… into something new.

This event was the first Philly Vendor Bender and it was a great symbol- in general, DIY event have been under attack in Philly for about four years or so. But alas, great art and great ambition does indeed bloom outside of the corporate context… it just had to move about six blocks north. So be it- the actual location isn’t what’s important, the spirit is.