Sick of It All
Saturday, January 22 2011
Hardcore veterans Sick of It All hold a special place in my heart. The first hardcore album I ever bought was the band's 1997 release, Built to Last (followed shortly by Scratch the Surface and Minor Threat's compete discography). I might be overselling it a bit when I say that they were welcomed like gods when vocalist Lou Koller greeted the crowd. But it's not exaggerating to claim that when Sick of It All opened with "Good Lookin' Out," the first song on Built to Last, there was an instant rush in the crowd toward the front of the Bottleneck.
The crowd pushed, shoved and threw elbows furiously, finger-pointing and yelling themselves hoarse. A crush of fans surrounded the mic every time Lou Koller proffered it to the audience. Case in point: Lou Koller asked everyone, "What time is it?" "It's clobberin' time!" shouted back the crowd, in full force.
Sick of It All does not look (or sound) like a band celebrating its 25th year together. The band was a little hoarse on the vocals, maybe; but Pete Koller was all over the stage with his guitar, like a kid after too many Pixie Stix. "We were too dumb to break up, and we're still here. That's the story," explained Koller.
The show was heavy on songs that referenced the band's earlier years, eschewing most of the band's recent releases: Death to Tyrants and Based on a True Story. "You want old school?" Sick of It All asked the audience. The band gave them "Injustice System" from their first full-length, Blood Sweat and No Tears. The oft-covered "My Life" was dedicated to a young kid in the front row, who was attending his second show ever -- which was also his second Sick of It All show. Now, that's hardcore.
The band's set was only an hour, but it crammed in so many energetic tracks that it didn't seem short. The fact that the band closed with "Scratch the Surface" and "Us vs. Them," back-to-back, was -- well, magical might be a bit hyperbolic, but powerful doesn't quite do it justice. Waking up Sunday morning with bruises, ringing ears, and no voice -- and filled to the brim with glee -- certainly tilts the scales towards amazing.
I've contracted a bit of a band crush on Outbreak. The band fills every little niche my punk heart could want. It has the snottiness of bands like the Criminals, the ridiculous catchy speed of Kid Dynamite, and an undefined quality that had the band's frontman swinging his microphone like a broadsword and loping across the stage. Some songs barely clocked in at thirty seconds, yet managed to make me grin like I'd just gotten laid. This a band that is the third coming of hardcore: a melding of the past, present, and future.
Mother of Mercy are your usual Bridge 9 metallic hardcore: guttural screams with vicious breakdowns. It was faster than the usual chugga chugga, though, which was nice. Mother of Mercy's set was also time I've ever seen an audience start a pit and maintain it for longer than half a song after a band said, "Let's get this goin'! Come on!" Good for them.
Locals Iron Guts Kelly have embraced a mixture of old-school hardcore and classic thrash. While their earlier material might have been a pilgrimage to the early East Coast hardcore sounds of bands like SSD, it now alternates between speed and power with a lot of finesse, rather than pummeling heaviness. Iron Guts Kelly's cover of Bad Brains' "Big Takeover" made that song faster and harder on the breakdowns, but slowed it down on the verses to give the audience a full lyrical beat-down. Frontman Boj stands in the pit, in front of the stage. It's a band that's one with its audience -- literally.
Critic's bias: I have the Sick of It All dragon tattooed on my right
Overheard in the Crowd: "There are a lot of surly young girls with beer bellies here."