The last three days have been quite interesting. On Tuesday, I finally was a proud owner of a copy of Botch's We Are the Romans on vinyl. An album - as I've been spinning in my car and at home on wax in the last couple of days - has stood the test of at least a decade of being not only relevant, but untouched. Listening to some of things going on in "Frequency Ass Bandits" not only still sound fresh, but it makes the entire metalcore scene look like a bigger joke than whatever that witchhouse fad was for a few months.
Yesterday, I finally sat down with Ben Weinman of The Dillinger Escape Plan to discuss Calculating Infinity and the scene for which he was a part of at one time for the book I'm "slowly" putting together. A lot of the bands that have already been interviewed have talked about being young, trying things for the sake of it and having influence in others. Weinman brought up something new to the conversation of the later '90s hardcore scene: attitude. It's not the attitude that we've come to know as make-up or a certain choreographed stage set-up, but more of an attitude to (a) do something different to turn heads and (b) never reaching for anything bigger than the bands that you looked up to that still had part-time to full-time jobs and played shows on the weekend. There was no agenda past that. The scene was constantly made up of kids who didn't fit in and formed bands and fed off their societal (ab)norms and the shitty regions and areas they grew up in.
We talked about the introduction of technology. Not just in playing music, but getting your music out there and being your own PR at times. Weinman certainly didn't discredit the new age of the digital medium, but we did talk about how it can ruin the mystique of things in way. Is the excitement lost in seeing a band when you watch x-number of live videos on YouTube? How good does your promo picture have to look to reach a certain demographic? Are there any questions as to how a record is made anymore because of countless studio videos being cock-teases and ruining a bit of the surprise in the slightest? Of course. The big one. Leaks.
Then there's the bit of afternoon news we got today. Two reunion shows for seminal hardcore band American Nightmare/Give Up the Ghost. Now, I'm not going to sit here and bullshit you that I'm a huge American Nightmare fan - but I do know who they are, I know their albums and I know why people will be trekking across the United States (possibly overseas) to see this band. The one important thing you must understand about American Nightmare is the sheer force that flows from Wes Eisold's lyrics through a band that was heavy without any sort of bullshit or gimmick. The band was part of a greater scene made up by many talented acts that surrounded them (and some that have continued to make music with a larger catalog and thriving legacy), but something has to be said about a band with only two proper full-lengths under their belt which has transferred a legacy into a technological "trend" not even thought of at the time of their inception/reception.
The life of a musician is not an easy one if you want to be something. You either die and are remembered only to do a few one-offs since you had to conform to society, you create a new band that's shun by your close-minded "core" fans, you make it big and slowdive around album three or four or you live so fast in becoming a trend that you end up barreling into a joke or "Why did I ever listen to that band?" heard from the thousands of fans you once had.
Sometimes you thrive. Last night I saw The Dillinger Escape Plan for the third time this year. Yet again they proved not only that they've earned the respect of the rest of the hardcore and metal community, but they also never give a half-assed show. Weinman said one of their first shows was to three people and if they play a show today to a thousand or those same three people - it would be the same thing. The Dillinger Escape Plan is one of the few bands that survived the small dream and crossed over into the bigger one of making it the career of music while holding the same integrity they've always showed.
Why do these albums, ten years plus later, sound like they've never aged? Why are all these bands that left a mark with one generation continuing to resonate years later with another? Is it because there are slumps that create times to go back and hear what influenced the best of the decade? Is it because people who really want to understand the nature of what they're listening to will yearn to know the history behind it? By knowing that history, does that mean that those surveyors of any genre (from hardcore to harsh noise to bluegrass and country) will be the necessary 1% needed to continue a good fight against 99% of the undying pop scene that continues to sprout up like mold in a new form every couple of years?
I think the thing we must all remember is this: We as consumers, listeners, concert attendees and even illegal downloaders are the ones that hold the most power when passing down the torch of what a minority of us will consider great music that may or may not have hit close to the masses. If you want the bands you admire to last (outside of any sort of internal strife) you have to continue to support them both financially and verbally - and what better time than using the new technology we have to do that.
A friend of mine once said that he's not much about seeing reunion shows. His favorite band is The Smiths, and he wouldn't pay to see that band now - ever! He said the time that the band existed and made an impact can't be recreated years later. As much as I'm stoked about seeing HUM, Cave In, Murder City Devils and Hot Snakes next weekend - my friend makes a point. There's nothing like the moment you're watching a great band blossom and play at their most buzzed about time in their career. Before you say, "I'm glad I get to catch them since I missed out years earlier," cherish the moment you see those artists at their truly brightest time in history. Cherish the fact that those moments you're a part of are few and far between these days.
I'm not sure how I wanted to separate in entries/words/pointless dribble about some of the last 48 hours of my life. Well, I worked hungover for about five of them and slept about four, but most of my time was spent seeing some of the most insane shit this year. The most insane was seeing The Dillinger Escape Plan demolish a crowd of about 300 people in the same place where hipsters tore down gates and were sprayed (ironically?) with pepper spray in the great riot of South by Bullshit 2011. So how crazy was it that in the midst of one of the countries biggest punk and hardcore festivals, everything went off without a policeman on horseback…
But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself here.
Cut to earlier Saturday evening, and I'm standing in one of the longest lines I've ever waited in to get into Austin Music Hall. The Deftones (skate punk somehow lumped into the nu-metal category) were about to headline a sold out crowd with Dillinger and the beautiful Le Butcherettes as openers.
"Swooning" is probably the correct word to describe my glare during Teresa Suaréz's (Teri Gender Bender) empowering set. It's like Janis Joplin pulled the devil from inside herself and formed the relentlessly barking front woman. Only backdropped to the chaos of drummer Gabe Serbian (The Locust) and bassist Jonathan Hischke, Le Butcherettes' set the mood for a very aggressive evening ahead. Even with all that instrumental skill, Teri's vocals still sit front and center and command the entire performance, even as she leaves the mic for the crowd, it's just as domineering in presence as it holds attention to the entire 1000+ attendees in the giant warehouse.
Climbing, jumping, swinging cabs around and enough strobe to kill an epileptic in a matter of seconds, the Dillinger Escape Plan didn't give a damn if it was a huge concert hall or a 500 cap room, they brought it. Now, that's only comparative to the band's second show that night. So, for more words on that, and not to flush out my feelings too soon here, we'll move on to the night's headliner.
There's been some talk over the past few weeks among the users and I about "lasting" or "holding up" over time. Bands will come and go (and even as overheard from some Chaos in Tejas patrons this weekend, sometimes reunions don't live up to the hype), but it's really just about grasping some sort of longevity. Even though the Deftones did gain notoriety during the era of nu-metal, there's a polar difference between the anticipation of last year's Diamond Eyes and this year's Gold Cobra. Deftones can still make deafening thrash rock that bridges the sonic gap between melodic crescendoing and heart racing thrill. The band's live show only expands on that sound. Unfortunately, I had to cut out before the end of the band's set, missing my favorite song by the guys. But I headed for Beauty Bar before things got too crazy over there for Dillinger's second show of the night.
Opening up for the Dillinger Escape Plan was Ceremony, who in 30 minutes made me feel like I was part of an archaic live '80s hardcore video. Bridging the lines between hardcore and glam, vocalist Ross Farrar is an absolute mad man for the entire set. Between climbing speakers, moving lighting as he sees fit, climbing over the barricaded fence for whatever reason and singing through his t-shirt half the time, it's quite an exhausting set to experience. For any fan of hardcore, Ceremony are more than worth checking out.
I can't imagine that Dillinger Escape Plan plays too many small cap venues anymore, but a tent that holds about 300 seems about par for the course of a good time, right? As soon as the band launched into it, attendees lost their shit with them. Not much was contained besides the "muscle" holding the monitors up from being pushed over. Vocalist Greg Puciato climbed everything he could find, holding on to the top of the tent (surprisingly not pulling it down) and stage diving off the main speakers. As there was practically no light besides green dim lit ones from the stage and flashes from the dozen or so cameras, it was a darkened scene of chaos, and was very refreshing. There were bloody faces and enough body heat and sweat to qualify a hardcore sauna of aggression and anguish. For one hour, it felt like 1999 again as the band lit one of their cabs on fire, Puciato standing over it and yelling into the flames before guitarist Ben Weinman put most of it out by smashing his guitar into it. I overheard bassist Liam Wilson apologize for all the kids that "probably got hurt." But you know what, that's the way it was, and the way things are beginning to sort of run again.
At some point, these bands broke out and began to play bigger venues with more rules. Less fun was had. In a sense, punk became safe for the masses. It started to become commercialized in the '80s when no-wave was packaged as pop new wave. It seems today, there's no room for a contemporary G.G. Allin or Iggy Pop. Sure, Bert McCracken puked on stage (and then probably again when he was dating Kelly Osbourne) and we all looked for a brief moment, but who really cares now? Anyone remember Artwork?
Most of you who I've offended with the last few statements probably know or don't know that one of the reasons Dillinger got big was because of their live shows, so the argument of "substance over show" is certainly debatable. But as the show continues to go on, The Dillinger Escape Plan don't even come close to losing substance in their writing (the band's last two records more than prove that alone). Yet, still the subjectivity for the argument of authenticity and gimmicks will probably start after reading this, but I assure you, it was a different time ten years ago and it was an incredibly different time 20 and 30 years ago. There was no money in this scene. To see a band like Dillinger Escape Plan (albeit only one original member left) still completely destroy one hour of my life is unforgettable. Sorry to say, I don't think that happens too much these days. There's too many rules and too many stunts that lack the reckless behavior of living in the moment.