Paint It Black / The Hope Conspiracy - live in Philadelphia (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Paint It Black / The Hope Conspiracy

live in Philadelphia (2008)

live show

Paint It Black practically orchestrated a weekend punk/hardcore fest recently with their "record release" shows, which actually preceded the street date of their new album, New Lexicon, by nearly a month and a half. However, the obvious highlight was Sunday's lineup, packed with a number of heavyhitters you can read about here.

Philadelphia's First Unitarian Church is not only a wonderful place to see a show, but they run a tight ship. LetxDown (or Let Down, or maybe even Let Down Straight Edge now) actually began as the line was still filing in, spitting purely angry straight-edge hardcore. They were quite decent, not entirely unlike a raw, unbridled Panic, if not a little unrefined in the songwriting department. They had a fairly sizable hometown reaction, as well.

Crime in Stereo was next and played fairly well despite their newly inconsistent crowd reactions. This is mostly thanks to Is Dead; it seems that many of the band's fans are taking quite some time to warm up to the full-length. Maybe it's also that after seeing the band perform the songs live several times and overanalyzing the album's content ad nauseum, it's clear that they will never, ever manage to replicate it in the live show 100%. Some of the tones are clearly off, a note occasionally missed, a transition sometimes sloppy and Kristian Hallbert failing to meet a pitch he greeted like an old friend in the studio. However, it's arguable one would take astoundingly written songs played at 75% over really fucking good songs played at 90 or 95; a good argument for another day, sure, but in Crime in Stereo's case, it's a present mix of both. The band was really crusing early on, busting through six straight songs without so much as a breath. Enough energy was there and they fed off what crowd response was there, which was mostly in the case of nearly every Stateside song and various parts of Is Dead songs. The set list was relatively predictable, but not everyone has seen the band over a dozen times like I have -- and that's just since The Troubled Stateside's April 2006 release.

Set list (7:19-7:54ish):

  1. Everything Changes / Nothing Is Ever Truly Lost
  2. Bicycles for Afghanistan
  3. I'm on the Guestlist Motherfucker
  4. XXXX (The First Thousand Years of Solitude)
  5. Third Atlantic
  6. ...But You Are Vast
  7. -----
  8. Sudan
  9. Gravity/Grace
  10. Almost Ghostless / Above the Gathering Oceans
  11. -----
  12. Animal Pharm
  13. Small Skeletal
  14. -----
  15. I, Stateside
Surprisingly, veteran D.C. metalcore act Damnation A.D. was next, playing prior to the younger Boston collective Have Heart. Comparing crowd reactions, it made sense in the end. Damnation wasn't particularly bad, but I was bored at times; fans of the band are likely to say they played well and perhaps with the same intensity and emotion as they did in the mid-`90s; I say they had a weird, vaguely nü-metal undercurrent in their sound that took me out of the game. They also had quite the bizarre interludes playing over the PA. 29 minutes after the set had begun, the band let one final breakdown die and my opinion of them hadn't budged from when I'd previously heard them.

Next to the headliners, Have Heart easily had the biggest response of the night. Kids went expectedly bonkers for the band, who actually mixed up the order of their set list well, offering dual surprises of "Armed with a Mind" and "The Machinist" so early on. The band put on their usual show: an explosive, passionate set that drew from the highlights on 2006's The Things We Carry (though I'd wish they'd include the superb "Old Man II," which I haven't seen them play in the States much). It certainly felt longer, but looking at my notes, I guess they only played eight songs, but it might've been the most enjoyable set of the night. Every chord was struck with expertise; pile-ons were a-plenty; stage dives were immense (Dan Yemin recounted during Paint It Black's set that for HH he had his own first stage dive in 12 months). Pat Flynn also had a fearlessly heartwrenching speech just prior to "Watch Me Rise" -- the song is powerful enough on its own and works as a devastating closer, but Flynn really drove home the song's point, as depressing as it was to be reminded how horrible the holidays can be some years. Overall, a vivid, captivating performance -- definitely one of the best times I've seen them play out of a half-dozen.

Set list (9:14-9:43):
  1. Armed with a Mind
  2. The Machinist
  3. Life Is Hard Enough
  4. Watch Me Sink
  5. -----
  6. Something More Than Ink
  7. -----
  8. About Face
  9. The Unbreakable
  10. -----
  11. Watch Me Rise
What a wonder I'd actually get to see the Hope Conspiracy. Two-fifths of the band sported beards as epic as their merchandise and artwork; not that it really helped or deterred at all, but the intensity was certainly there in spades. It had to be -- those towering, monstrous songs would be lost without it. And frankly, when you play as sporadically as the Hope Conspiracy do, you really have to bring it. Luckily, it was brought. The audience participation actually wasn't as overwhelming as I'd envisioned it, but there was still plenty of excited activity from the floor. The band played a healthy number of songs off their most recent album, 2006's Death Knows Your Name and plucked a few from their earlier releases, saying very few words in between. As a precursor to "So Many Pigs So Few Bullets" however, there was some requisite hate given towards tabloid whores and our material desire of everything said celebrities have -- in fact, Kevin Baker had some choice words for Britney Spears, bluntly telling her to kill herself. Overall, they offered up the longest set of the night, going nearly 45 minutes, and I questioned whether Paint It Black's percussion backbone (Jared Shevelson) would have anything left in him for his other band's set.

Set list (10:04-10:48):
  1. Hang Your Cross
  2. Defiant Hearts
  3. Deadtown Nothing
  4. A Darkness in the Light
  5. -----
  6. Fallen
  7. Animal Farm
  8. So Many Pigs So Few Bullets
  9. -----
  10. Truth and Purpose
  11. ?
  12. -----
  13. Suicide Design
  14. ?
  15. ?
  16. Holocaust
Somehow, he did, and Paint It Black managed to deliver a rousing half-hour of their signature hardcore punk without a hitch. Prior to taking the stage, the lights were killed and a spate of industrial-tinged, electronic programming went over the PA, sounding like something Dälek may have put together for the band's release shows. The band then came out, with Yemin hooded and in a matching, black forward-facing baseball cap; he very much resembled the MCs he admires so much (seriously, listen to the diction, syntax and general flow on New Lexicon). They then busted into "Past Tense, Future Perfect," which must have garnered a ton of plays on MySpace, since every fan in attendance seemed to know it. It was then obvious the band's set would be more about pushed-up-front sing-alongs and less advantage taken of the spacious floor; the fans really packed out that front part of the stage.

Paint It Black bursted through batches of songs, deriving from all three full-lengths. They showcased two more songs off New Lexicon: "So Much for Honour Among Thieves" and "We Will Not," the latter of which has one of the the most brutal, well-integrated and angry breakdowns the band's written to date ("so you better step up to bat / before your dreams get hammered flat"). They even threw in "Goliath," a B-side from Lexicon which was pressed onto clear vinyl for anyone who bought a ticket (and showed up) to that night's show. It's a raw, punishing and blistering number that's actually faster than anything on Lexicon. Things obviously mellowed down when the band showed off those Lexicon tracks and "Goliath," but for the other 14, kids were pretty off the wall.

Yemin also offered the usual banter, supporting the outcast character, damning disclusion and encouraging everyone to help him win a stage-diving bet with guitarist Andy Nelson (Yemin wagered this night would beat out the previous night's total).

"Memorial Day" found Yemin swarmed for the last few sing-along lines, but by the end of the set, he had driven the point home that it was our stage too, and the audience acknowledged it well -- by the end of "Atticus Finch," nearly every front-end monitor had fallen to the floor as a few dozen had climbed onto the stage to sing along with Yemin.

Set list (11:07-11:37):
  1. Past Tense, Future Perfect
  2. Pink Slip
  3. The New Brutality
  4. -----
  5. So Much for Honour Among Thieves
  6. Exit Wounds
  7. Athiests in Foxholes
  8. Womb Envy
  9. -----
  10. Goliath
  11. Ghosts
  12. This Song Is Short Because It's Not Political
  13. Cannibal
  14. -----
  15. We Will Not
  16. The Pharmacist
  17. CVA track ("Why Film the Carnage"?)
  18. -----
  19. Head Hurts Hands on Fire
  20. Memorial Day
  21. Atticus Finch