Verse / Have Heart / Down to Nothing - live in Providence (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Verse / Have Heart / Down to Nothing

live in Providence (2008)

live show

At the risk of a mass scoffing reaction, Verse's five-year anniversary show arguably collected some of the best hardcore bands New England has to offer in one, oddly laid-out room. It was well worth a three-hour-plus drive. Providence's Club Hell was said room, and though its layout was admittedly dark and awkward -- with a column structure DIRECTLY in front of the stage -- its staff seemed fairly lax about things. If you've been to clubs where "security" actually try to control stage dives and the sort (specifically and recently, those who've seen Fucked Up or Modern Life Is War at Club Europa know what I'm talking about), you know how much of a mess was ultimately avoided.

Arriving as Meltdown was finishing their set, I found them to be a little more decent than previously, though their liberal double-bass usage was a bit much. They had a rigorous reaction considering they played so early in the lineup (preceded by St. Jude and Rampage). Granted, residing from Boston, a mere few hours away, had to have helped.

The home town's Soul Control played an all-too-short set next, naturally showcasing tracks off the recently released collections disc, Involution. Their soulful, crunchy sound added a fresh flavor to the lineup in between Shipwreck and Meltdown's metallic flair and well-preceding the similar old-school tilt from Verse and Have Heart. Frontman Matt Amore seems to be settling himself a bit more to make sure the lyrics are actually shouted out loud in between his excited Terminator moves on stage. Those lyrics about inward analysis and self-reflection were screamed back into Amore's face by lots of kids that were probably not as genuinely philosophical or soul-searching, but were nonetheless psyched by the airy vibe and raw dynamic that was given a strong delivery by Club Hell's sound system.

Set list (5:49-6:06):

  1. On Survival
  2. Involution
  3. -----
  4. Beyond Man
  5. Dive
  6. -----
  7. Mindwalking
  8. -----
  9. I Struggle
  10. Touched by Fire
The first few times I'd seen Shipwreck, I was never particularly thrilled by their sound, and knew little to nothing of their lyrical content. Everything changed when small bits of hype started to bubble for their first full-length, Abyss, with its ambitious concept revealed and an incredibly strong song debuting from it ("Ascent"). Singer J.D. began by telling the crowd an abridged version of Homer's Odyssey -- seriously. And frankly, it's rather welcoming for a band to finally bring some mild intelligence and literary knowledge to a scene often stuck in stagnant seas. The band offered a nice balance of material for fans that have been following the band for a bit, as they played roughly half the material making up both their self-titled 7"s and just about every standout track off Abyss. Just like the album, they were loud, heavy and smothering without missing a beat.

Set list (6:20-6:50):
  1. Lotus
  2. -----
  3. Erebos
  4. old song
  5. -----
  6. Ascent
  7. Squall
  8. -----
  9. old song
  10. -----
  11. Heated
  12. -----
  13. Miasma
  14. -----
  15. old song
On my introduction to the First Step, What We Know, the band seemed entirely too complacent to rehash their youth crew forefathers without much of an identity of their own and the album bored me as a result. Unfortunately, their live set didn't alter that opinion much. They certainly played tight enough and had a splendid response, and while their frontman's posi banter bordered on parodic at times, it wasn't anything to be disgusted at. Still, everything about it screamed "generic" to me; you know the feeling you've heard a song 100 times before? That made up a large portion of my thoughts during the 27-minute set. Hardly a terrible band, but not one I can see worth investing my time in.

David Wood came out in his classic varsity jacket and Down to Nothing skated through (that's a compliment) a breezy 23-minute set splitting the songs from various points of their discography. The band mentioned an upcoming split with Australia's 50 Lions due out on California's 6131 Records, but oddly neglected to say a syllable about a new release on their own label: Unbreakable, which collects all the band's pre-Revelation material -- some or all of which is out of print -- onto one compact disc and was due to street just three days later (today). There are some ads on the band's MySpace page for it, so it's not as though they're ignoring it completely; regardless, it struck me as a little weird. In any event, the veterans of the bill further warmed up a heated crowd for Have Heart, stringing songs together well. But what's up with still neglecting to play "Up River"? It's arguably the most urgent, dynamic and imagerial straight-edge anthem the band's written to date, and Pat Flynn was obviously present and ready to give his guest spot. Oh well; the set was still a lot of fun.

Set list (7:49-8:12):
  1. Along for the Ride
  2. Conquer the World
  3. I Can't Believe My Eyes
  4. -----
  5. Smash It
  6. My Disguise
  7. -----
  8. No Faith
  9. Go Ahead Wit Yo' Fake Ass
  10. Well Deserved
  11. -----
  12. Save It for the Birds
  13. Home Sweet Home (?)
  14. -----
  15. Down on You
  16. -----
  17. Unbreakable
Expectedly, Have Heart had the biggest reaction of the night. This could be viewed as both positive and negative for a number of obvious reasons, seeing as they've clearly eclipsed their peers in Verse in about the same amount of time, but seemingly in Verse's own territory as well. But that could be likely chalked up to Have Heart's ferocious, cathartic live show of gruffly dynamic songs seemingly made for pile-ons and dives. As usual, they were wonderful, so I can save my words to talk about the new song they played. If I heard Pat correctly, it was titled "Hard Bark of the Family Tree," opened the set, and was fierce, as it builds on the bare knuckle, restrained mid-tempo moments of The Things We Carry; it was also rather Modern Life Is War-esque, but if that's the direction they'd like to go, it's hard to complain as they seemingly do it well. Overall, great set -- what else is new?

Set list (8:32-9:06):
  1. Hard Bark of the Family Tree
  2. The Machinist
  3. -----
  4. Something More Than Ink
  5. About Face
  6. -----
  7. Life Is Hard Enough
  8. Watch Me Sink
  9. -----
  10. The Unbreakable
  11. -----
  12. Armed with a Mind
  13. -----
  14. Watch Me Rise
Club Hell then cleared out considerably...a bit bizarre considering the circumstances. Still, many of those who actually remained there went off for Verse, attempting the best dives they could off a stage a few inches off the ground, or handrails weakly bolted to the ground nearby. Having scheduled a 65-minute set, I was a little surprised the band couldn't get in more than 13 or 14 songs -- after all, a Verse album with 14 songs would probably total 33 minutes or so. However, the set only ended up being 50 minutes. And while I don't remember Sean Murphy having that much to say, he took some time for sincere thank yous (particularly, one tear-jerking thanks to an Atlanta resident that came to the band's rescue, helping raise money during a summer 2004 theft on tour and eventually writing a genuine letter expressing his appreciation for their friendship). Additionally, the band screwed up in the middle of "Start a Fire" and restarted it later on. I'm not entirely sure what happened during that first take, but the band stopped playing all at once -- perhaps they were out of tune, or sync.

Despite these complaints (and seriously, would they start remembering to play "Stolen" at special northeastern U.S. hardcore shows?), the band did put on a rather solid performance. I don't think it eclipsed their set at This Is Hardcore 2007, but it was a good time and they matched the constant energy brought by all the bands on the bill pound for pound.

As far as those new songs they played, they definitely fulfill the promise of Aggression -- the title of the album (and Bridge 9 debut) they'll appear on. "Old Guards, New Methods" was a fast, blistering song that transitioned to a slower, more methodically delivered chorus of "no war, no kings," while "Scream" was Verse's version of a wounded animal's cry -- an intense, raging, desperate and emotional mid-paced unraveling where Murphy continuously screamed phrases like "I'm broken" to the point of listener uncomfortableness. Promising stuff overall.

Set list (9:32-10:22):
  1. Intro
  2. old song
  3. Hard to Breathe
  4. Tear Down These Walls
  5. -----
  6. Old Guards, New Methods
  7. -----
  8. Weather to a Stone
  9. From Anger and Rage
  10. -----
  11. Waiting on Revolution
  12. Let It All Rust
  13. -----
  14. Scream
  15. Start a Fire [messed up midway through]
  16. -----
  17. Saying Goodbye
  18. Start a Fire
  19. -----
  20. Follow Conform Repeat
Expectations were almost fully met here. Of course, now Verse has to put together a show that's twice as good in five years. I bet they're up for the challenge.

Photos: Zac Wolf | Future Breed