I want to thank Hellfest for shitting the bed so that we can play some real shows!- Dan Yemin, Lifetime
The following text isn't so much of a review as it is a story of hope and anticipation bottoming out with no idea as to what the future held. Beaten down by big business and government, the scene in such short notice put together one of the most successful and enjoyable weekends in music history. A passion for unity and an even greater love for music salvaged a complete disaster into a lifetime of memories.
Around 6 o'clock on last Wednesday evening, rumors cluttered message boards that the 9th annual Hellfest was cancelled. The three-day event was to host nearly 200 bands, with a slew of big names such as Against Me!, Rise Against, Sick Of It All, the Bouncing Souls, and monumental reunions from Lifetime, 108, and Public Enemy. About an hour and much speculation later I received a phone call from Scott Heisel stating that Hellfest had officially been cancelled. The concert had the rug pulled out from under it at the last minute, based on the Sovereign Bank Arena requesting more insurance funds that could not be raised with less than a 12-hour clock ticking.
We found about about the supposed cancellation through the good old Bridge 9 message board. We were hoping it was a joke until Heisel called and confirmed that the fest was D.O.A. Needless to say, as Kirby mentioned, we were pretty much crushed. For the record, my streak of being unable to see Sick Of It All continues.*
* - Italics indicate an interjection by P-Fresh.
The cancellation was a disaster, affecting anyone who was involved with Hellfest. There were non-refundable hotels, plane tickets, vendors arriving, bands flying into town, and all were turned away, including many fans from overseas that hoped to enjoy a great weekend of music in New Jersey.
Confusion filled the minds of Josh (P-Fresh), my friend Jen, and I -- our frowns were a dead give-away of how upset we were. Our vacation plans and hotel were already booked and while the option to cancel them was valid, we decided to test our curiosity and enjoy a few days away from home. Thursday morning, we began our trek towards Princeton, New Jersey. Our phones ringing off the hook from people at home giving us updates -- word on the streets at the time was that several promoters and bands were setting up replacement shows in the Philadelphia / New Jersey area. Huge thanks goes out to Scott Heisel, Jeffy Railsback, Marlon, Sickboi, and Stef for keeping us updated with all of the incoming information as we were traveling on the open turnpike. Anticipation reached an all-time high when the announcements of three reunion shows were slated for the legendary Lifetime, along with a slew of other concerts popping up featuring Rise Against, Modern Life Is War, Ensign, Evergreen Terrace, Champion, Comeback Kid, and plenty others.
In the face of something like Hellfest being cancelled, it's refreshing to see the way this situation unfolded. The scene in the New Jersey / Philadelphia area came together, with major help from R5 Productions. This showed how a scene and the people in it can come together and make what would have been a major disappointment for many into something that would become a weekend they could remember for the rest of their lives. I know I speak for Kirby, our friend Jen and myself when I say the weekend contains fond memories none of us will soon forget. I want to personally thank all the kids in Jersey and Philly, and especially R5 Productions, the venues, etc for their hard work and dedication.
That evening we were fortunate to catch wind of Bear Vs. Shark and Horse The Band performing at Drexel University in Philly. A synth-based hardcore band Shark Shark was playing as we arrived and the lack of a human drummer really hampered the authenticity of their sound. Bear Vs. Shark took the stage next and shook the Newman Center with their spastic emotional hardcore. A good mix from Terrorhawk and Right Now You're In The Best Of Hands was played as the packed room sang along with every word. After Curl Up & Die (whom I didn't watch, but heard they tore a crucifix off the wall), Horse The Band were ready to pummel what one might consider sanity. Convulsive, atrocious, and insanely catchy are understatements when describing the Nintendo-core act. "Bunnies" and "Cutsman," favorites amongst fans, slayed, while new cuts "Birdo" and a newly recorded Christmas song put the crowd into a frenzy. The last time I saw this band it was in a basement and lead singer Nathan urinated in a man's mouth on stage, and while nothing that crazy occurred that evening it was still one memorable set.
After the hour ride back to the hotel and dinner I fired up my laptop to take advantage of the free WIFI connection only to find that four tickets to the sold-out Lifetime concert on Friday at the Trocadero were available!
I'm pretty sure after this occurred I ran around our hotel room like a madman, jumping on the bed, exclaiming that we "got fucking tickets to LIFETIME!!!!"
True If Destroyed, a female-fronted rock group took the stage first and received a solid appreciation. Following TLD as the special guest was Vision; the longtime running hardcore band showed their age, but still spot on during their set that set up the much anticipated reunion.
True If Destroyed do what they do fairly well. Indie rock in the vein of bands such as Tabula Rasa with a touch of keyboards to accentuate parts of songs. At times the guitar player switched places with their frontwoman, as she played guitar and he sang. The fact that kids were not booing or heckling this band made me very happy. They didn't necessarily fit in with the aesthetic of this bill, but they were definitely appreciated. Being a huge fan of Vision's Watching The World Burn record, I was definitely excited to finally see these gentlemen pump out some good old New Jersey hardcore. Highlights from the band's set included a cover of Stiff Little Fingers' "Suspect Device," fan favorite "Closed Minded" from Watching The World Burn, and "The Kids Still Have A Lot To Say."
The aurora in the crowd as Lifetime's instruments were set up was awkward, as everyone's heart was racing in eagerness for the exact same thing. Everybody there was feeling one of the highest anticipation levels that can be experienced. Scott Golley took the drums, and Dan Yemin, Pete Martin, and Dave Palaitis picked up their guitars, as Ari Katz took hold of the mic the crowd erupted and never let up as "Daneurysm" followed closely by "Rodeo Clown" filled the sold out theatre. The smiles on Yemin's and Palaitis' faces showed that reunion was truly for their love to play the songs. I am sure they have been practicing quite a bit, but for nearly an eight-year absence the band sounded unbelievably tight -- note for note, lyric for lyric, they were spot on! During a break in the action, Katz yelled out "How's the scene?" to which the guy behind me responded "Terrible, when you coming back?" The vocalist responded "Don't count on it."
No one is more entertaining to watch onstage than Mr. Dan Yemin. During Vision's set he was easily visible singing along to the aforementioned Stiff Little Fingers cover, as well as the rest of the songs from the band's catalog. In the midst of Lifetime's set, there was not one point at which Yemin did not have an ear to ear grin on his face. The same can be said for the rest of this band as well. These men truly have a passion for what they do, and it shows in the songs they've recorded, in the show they played that night, and in the smiles on their faces as they looked to the left and right of the stage, and behind them as family and friends looked on, in just as much of awe as those of us in the crowd. I can only imagine how elated they were to have so many people they care about supporting them. That has to be a high comparable to nothing else.
Ari yelled out almost every song before they were performed, running down the greatest hits list "Theme Song For A New Brunswick Basement Show," "Hey Catrine," "The Boy's No Good," "Turnpike Gates," etc... One might haven even deemed Ari useless, as the voices in the Troc never let up. Before I knew, it the ending chords of "The Verona Kings" were echoing away and the five renowned gentlemen exited the stage, but they were not hiding anything as roughly a minute later Golley lead off "Anchor" detonating another explosion in the crowd during an encore that also contained "Francie Nolan" and crowd favorite "Ostrichsized."
For the record, "Francie Nolan," along with "Turnpike Gates," "The Boy's No Good" and "Hey Catrine" are my favorite Lifetime songs.
After the house lights came on, I stood there and looked around the room, gauging the reactions on the faces of the crowd. Everyone was smiling ear to ear with a particular glaze on their expression as they snagged up Lifetime reunion shirts and other merch from Shirts For A Cure and Jade Tree.
Along with the selection of SSE shirts (which included shirts from Kid Dynamite, the Loved Ones, Strike Anywhere, and Paint It Black), Jade Tree had a huge box of CDs, containing many of their releases. I picked up some awesome ones, from bands including From Ashes Rise, Pedro The Lion, and the Promise ring, amongst others. The Paint It Black shirt I picked up is damn sexy, if I do say so myself.
Saturday had us hunting down Ben (BizzleBrizzle) outside of the Starlight Ballroom in Philly, who had hold of our tickets. More eagerness rose as a group of FSU guys ushered us into the venue. Before the majority of the crowd was inside, Smoke Or Fire had already begun to play. There are times on their Fat Wreck debut Above The City when it blends too closely, becoming boring; however, their live show does not let up with their melodic hardcore punk that clearly takes influence from the evening's headliners.
I really can't decide if this is my favorite show of the 3 or not. I definitely favored this venue, as it had a very low stage, but a large amount of room as well. Smoke Or Fire played a very good set, and included a song or two from their previous album, as Jericho/JerichoRVA. I certainly hope being on that show will give them a big push, one they definitely deserve. I wasn't really impressed with 108.
The other projected return of the evening was for the hardcore band 108. The fans that packed into the Ballroom certainly enjoyed them; however, they were not exactly my fancy.
Pressed firmly against the small stage, I along with a few Western Pennsylvania counterparts Dan Rock, Mike Rock (Voice In The Wire), and Mike Torti (Hank Jones), awaited Lifetime's presence. Unlike last night's unveiling, there was no 10ft high stage and a barrier keeping the fanbase from the band, and it made everything feel so much more intimate, not just with the crowd but across the members of the band as well. With an identical set list from the previous night, Lifetime electrified the 1,000 people with "Danueryusm" and "Rodeo Clown" right off the bat. There was so much energy in the room at the time, being that close to the group made the experience much more electrifying as often Ari would put the mic into the crowd. I won't go into to much detail on this event, as its entirety was captured on video (link below ‚?? see if you can spot me in the blue Punknews.org shirt).
Sickboi was able to snag us two tickets for Sunday and perhaps the final Lifetime concert ever. However, we were without a third as we stood outside the Stone Pony begging everyone as they walked by for an extra. A few other kids beat me to those selling their extras and one guy offered me his for $100; I scoffed. My chances of getting in were looking bleak as people started entering the venue. Two older men and a female walked towards the entrance as my tired voice issued the phrase "Excuse me, do you have an extra ticket?" To which the tall gentlemen responded "Well‚?¶what's your name?" I told him and he asked me where I was from; "Pittsburgh, PA." He looked at me smiling and says "I'm in Lifetime." My face turned beat red as I realized I just asked Dave Palaitis, the bassist, for an extra ticket! Quite embarrassing, but he was kind enough to tack me on a plus one to the sold out concert! As I entered the building the Loved Ones had just ripped into "100K," and fists went into the air as the front row sang along. Of all the bands that opened for Lifetime this weekend, none wanted it more than TLO and they were perfect for the job. The excitement on Dave Hause's face was that akin to a child in a candy store, as he spotted Dan Yemin near the front singing along with "Candy Cane." Kudos to Hause along with Spider and Mike Sneeringer for pulling off the best performance of their young career.
Having seen the Loved Ones a week before with Rise Against, I was certainly excited to see them play again, with such an incredible lineup at hand. The band included "Jane" from their demo, one of my favorite songs of theirs. Also included In the set was 3 new songs, 2 of which they had played the previous week.
While the Loved Ones wanted it, no other band deserved to play before Lifetime's last show than Jersey's very own the Bouncing Souls. For those that do not know, a tour with Lifetime was the first step at essentially launching their storied career. Along with crowd pleasers "Private Radio," True Believers," and "Argyle," tBS went through a chunk of older songs to add to the rarity of the event, notably "These Are The Quotes From Our Favorite 80's Movies" (featuring Yemin on a line, who was also stage diving), and "The Guest." For good measure, the Souls also threw in their song entitled "Lifetime." On any given day, the Bouncing Souls could sell out a venue twice the size of the Stone Pony, but they knew whose time it was, and showed their appreciation several times before turning the stage over.
The Bouncing Souls? Opening for Lifetime? What can you say that hasn't run through your head fifteen times during the course of reading those sentences? This band has worked very, very hard to get where they are now. Lifetime, and longtime Lifetime / Bouncing Souls booking agent and friend Margie Alban helped out considerably as well. Seeing the band take their stage was awe inspiring. Pete looks as excited to be onstage as ever. Greg has grown his hair considerably longer, and wears the stubble of a man not shaven for a few days. Brian looks to be growing a Lemmy type beard. McDermott plays those drums as hard as he ever has, and with a bigger smile than ever before. These gentlemen wear the look of men worn, but also the look of 4 guys who have come into their own, and stand as the elder statesmen of punk rock right now. I wish the Bouncing Souls many more wonderful years making music.
The roar that echoed through the Pony was the loudest it had been in three days during the "Danueryusm" / "Rodeo Clown" intro. Perhaps that was because Geoff Rickley (Thursday), Adam Lazzarra (Taking Back Sunday), Scott Wade (Comeback Kid), members of Silverstein, and I'm sure other scene notables were present. Even though the band played the same sequenced set list for the third night in a row, the songs maintained their remarkable brilliance covering my body is goosebumps, as if I had just bought Jersey's Best Dancers and Hello Bastards yesterday.
I apologize for my lack of detail, but much like Sickboi expressed a great level of giddiness in his review of Kid Dynamite's last reunion show, everything became a blur as the weekend's events came full circle and I fully realized what I had just experienced. I felt that Saturday's show was paramount of the three, but that would be controversial pending on whom you talk to, especially the kids straining their vocal chords on Sunday evening to "Ostrichsized," the last Lifetime song ever performed.
I would like to give a huge thanks to the venues, promoters, and bands that worked diligently to pick up the remains of Hellfest and were able to set up several amazing shows within such a short period. Specifically R5 Productions and Lifetime.
Not many people in the world have the privilege of saying they got to see the legendary Lifetime live; fortunately, I had the ability to do so three nights in a row with a bunch of great friends and I would not trade that in for anything in the world.
On the ride home Monday morning, it hit me. I had seen the legendary Lifetime. Not once, but three times, in as many days. I've never seen so many people in one place, so happy to be where they are, with who they were with. That weekend was something no one will ever forget. If you were there, you will always remember the face of the person standing next to you, or who got the mic when Ari threw it into the crowd for "Turnpike Gates." This was a landmark in punk rock history. I can't begin to explain how happy I am that I was able to be a part of this with Kirby and Jen, two wonderful friends. Not to mention Sickboi and Ben, whom I hope I keep a friendship with for a long time to come. Thanks guys.
Pictures / Video from Friday:
- True If Destroyed
- Lifetime (Photos by Jen Shaffer)
- Lifetime (Photos by Adam Tanner)
- Misc. Videos (no source)
- Smoke or Fire
- 108 (Photos by Adam Tanner)
- Lifetime (Photos by Adam Tanner)
- Lifetime (Photos by Lisa Hrichison)
- Daneurysm & Rodeo Clown
- Neutral Territory
- I Like You Ok
- Full Show Torrent (Video by Hey_Suburbia)
- Bouncing Souls (Photos by Jen Shaffer)
- Lifetime (Photos by Jen Shaffer)
- Lifetime (Photos by Keara Sexton)
- Loved Ones - Candy Cane (Video by Keara Sexton)
- Bouncing Souls - Private Radio (Video by Keara Sexton)
- Lifetime - Daneurysm & Rodeo Clown (Video by Keara Sexton)
- Lifetime - The Boy's No Good (Video by Keara Sexton)