Brooklyn got sort of a spoiled lineup this past Friday. Bridge and Tunnel are one of the most passionate live bands in punk rock. Paint It Black are one of the most articulately ferocious. And Propgandhi? They haven't even played here in eight years.
Consequently, this was a mixed but sociable crowd at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Punks in their 30s shouted along from staid positions around the venue while others slam-danced in a frenzy (we're talking Prop's set here, of course).
Bridge and Tunnel kicked things off a quarter after 8, sounding rather fantastic in the process. Their harmonies were spot on for the first few songs and sounding rather crisp, though they gained some audible vocal fractures as the set wore on and the band pushed through, clearly giving it their all every second. They actually had quite a few fans in attendance, all of which probably felt as overwhelmed as the band, who were on one of their biggest stages yet. Guitarist Rachel Rubino, way out on stage left, wandered over to her bandmates a few times to make the set feel a little more intimate.
Those aforementioned fans sung along, but weren't exactly packing out the front of the stage, instead dotting the floor along the edge of the stage -- some with space to boot.
The band managed to get in about half of the wonderful East/West, one old jam that garnered some surprised applause with the opening chords, and the unsurprisingly fantastic new song, "Loss Leaders." It starts with shockingly intense and absolutely frenetic screams from Jeff Cunningham and then, quickly, Rachel, the song slamming forward with a tempo we usually don't get from them. The little 7" should be a treat.
Hopefully the band gained a few more fans from this, as I'm sure there were people coming out of the woodwork for their first show in a while.
Set list (8:16-8:41):
- Call to the Comptroller's Office
- Loss Leaders
- Night Owls
- Location, Location, Location
- Dear Sir
- Wartime Souvenirs
- As Close as I Can
Per the usual, the band's set was a pleasant mix of all three full-lengths, though two new jams were included: the short, sharp burst of "Cipher" and one other mind-bogglingly long composition. It spans four to five minutes and, when released on the band's upcoming Bridge Nine EP, should be their longest song yet recorded. Yeems said it regarded bicyclists and the risks they run using such a transportive mode, as well as the horrible tragedies that tend to ensue for pedallers. It's got this one refrain that just pushes the song to epic proportions, but it sounds great and the band seem to be incorporating ever-newer textures.
Yemin must've had the mic bashed into his face at one point by an overzealous pile-on or something, because the behemoth suddenly started bleeding, and all of a sudden, we were all a lot more reluctant to help shout lyrics into the mic. It was funny to watch everyone rear back a little as a shirtless Yemin crouched near the edge of the stage with blood smeared over his knuckles; he used his already red shirt between songs to wipe himself off.
I definitely heard at least one "less talk, more rock!" heckle, which was probably to be expected here. Andy Nelson also gave encouragement to another heckler, who impressed Nelson with some lines here and there but seemed to wear thin by set's end.
I've heard from a lot of fans, even, that said the band played and sounded pretty awful here. I'd have to disagree, but I'm also pretty biased. They sounded great and I can't really think of many criticisms I'd have with the set.
Set list (9:00-9:34):
- We Will Not
- Past Tense, Future Perfect
- Womb Envy
- Four Deadly Venoms
- Exit Wounds
- The Ledge
- Missionary Position
- Election Day
- Pink Slip
- Atticus Finch
- new song
- Memorial Day
The banner was unfurled a few minutes after 10, showcasing the cover of the band's new album, Supporting Caste, and the band soon walked out onto the stage, accompanied by their roadie clad in a Montreal Canadiens T-shirt, prompting the crowd to chant, "Let's Go Rangers!", cheering on their hometown team, and soon, "U-S-A! U-S-A!" How sardonic anyone shouting the latter was is up for debate. The band fired back with some cracks at the NHL's "most hated" and celebrated Blueshirt, Sean Avery, then cutting into "Supporting Caste."
The band were tight and Chris Hannah's voice punctuated much better live than on record. Man, though, was he pissed when an errant crowd-surfer knocked the mic into his face. Hannah glared menacingly at the surfer, who was racing across the stage for a dive. "I'll bash you in the fucking head," he exclaimed in the middle of "Back to the Motor League." When he continued with the "cold, dead hands" lyric, it definitely sounded like he replaced that last word for "head," emphasizing his threat. Shit was scary, but the guy had already dove off into a mass of sweaty bodies, keeping both his anonymity and livelihood safe for the time being.
Forty minutes in, the band claimed things were wrapping up, and they played just a few more. A three-minute wait passed, with the crowd filling the time by shouting, in unison, the chorus to the band's "Come to the Sabbat" cover. Prop soon returned, getting in more Sean Avery jokes, much to the crowd's chagrin -- oh, and they played some songs, I suppose, totaling things at about an hour-ten or so. Dan Yemin did his usual bit, as he's been doing on this tour, providing lead vox for the manic "Fuck the Border," which momentarily helped the crowd participation feel. Also, during this particular segment of the show, a fan with a shit-eating grin came up on stage and simply gave Todd a bear hug. I couldn't really tell if he was a local, long-time friend of the band or not, but he was introduced to the crowd as being just a young boy when Prop last played NYC (even though this dude looked 20/21 tops), and then made to look like an ass when the band fake-started a song and had him stage dive to silence.
I have to say, I don't remember much preachiness or extensive in-between banter at all from them. Propagandhi simply let their songs speak their thoughts.
I also have to say, risking total crucification, I'm not that into Propogandhi on record. Shit, I've only even heard three of their five albums. However, they were pretty enjoyable in this atmosphere and I can't deny them that or their abilities as a compelling and musically interesting live band. Fun times.
Set list (10:10-11:17):
- Supporting Caste
- Tertium Non Datur
- The Banger's Embrace
- A Speculative Fiction
- ...And We Thought Nation States Were a Bad Idea
- Bringer of Greater Things
- Dear Coach's Corner
- Less Talk, More Rock
- Rio de San Atlanta, Manitoba
- Haillie Sellasse, Up Your Ass
- Back to the Motor League
- Mate Ka Moris Ukun Rasik An
- Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes
- America's Army (Die Jugend Marschiert)
- A People's History of the World
- Fuck the Border [f/ Dan Yemin]
- Purina Hall of Fame