Show review: My War, The Internet, Army of Fun, The Moon Boggles (aka The Astro-Nots).
The Astro-Nots played first. Upon arriving at the show, Margot, their singer, informed me that they had changed their name to The Moon Boggles, which is apparently a Gumby reference. I'd seen them the night before, at what had been their first show, but I had been pretty far back in the tiny basement they played, and couldn't really see much. I had a much better view of their set this time, which was great, because the visual element was definitely important. Casey, who plays synth, was wearing a dress with a lightning bolt insignia on it; Griffin, the drummer, was wearing a spacesuit and a motorcycle helmet, and Margot was wearing a black sequined skirt and a matching top with "NASA" written on it in blue masking tape letters. Their music was an interesting combination of dance music and hardcore--the guitar riffs all had basic hardcore structuring to them, but when combined with the new-wave sounding synth lines and a rhythm section that was straight up disco-funk, it added up to something quite different. Margot's voice reminds me of early 80s female new wave singers, the type who would have strange, futuristic MTV videos back when everyone's videos still looked really weird and ghetto. I can't seem to get more specific than that--I find myself thinking of a cross between Debbie Harry of Blondie and Nico, but that's not quite it. Also, that would give you the idea that she has a cold, standoffish stage presence, and nothing could be further from the truth. She smiled and danced around throughout the set, and on parts of songs where she didn't sing, she'd strike crazy poses that looked like futuristic karate or something. Meanwhile, Griffin pounded the crap out of his drums and Casey got all sorts of strange noises out of her synth. Everyone I could see during their set was smiling and and dancing, and with good reason. Whatever this band is called, they are a blast to watch. Catch them if you get a chance.
Army of Fun was next, and played on the same equipment as The Moon Boggles did, so the turnaround time between sets was almost nonexistent. Griffin from The Moon Boggles is also the guitarist for Army of Fun, and along with everyone else in his band, he's still in high school. I don't think any of the kids in that band are even 18 yet, and the crowd they brought out to see them were just as youthful if not more so. I've known Griffin for a while, and have hung out with Aiden, the singer, a few times, but this was my first time actually seeing their band, so I was excited, having heard a lot of great things from various friends of mine. I was not let down--they tore the place up. I guess I expected pretty standard fast hardcore, of the Gorilla Biscuits/Minor Threat style, but they were actually a lot more rock n' roll than that, and a good bit faster as well. Griffin's guitar playing is top notch, and though he doesn't write any riffs that are too complicated or tricky, he plays them in a distinctive style, throwing in plenty of little leads a la Black Flag's Greg Ginn. There are a lot of Army of Fun songs that sound like nothing so much as sped-up rock n' roll, and in that way they reminded me of 9 Shocks Terror, who take just as much from Chuck Berry and Little Richard as they do from old school hardcore. Add all of this to Army of Fun's ridiculously energetic stage show, and you've got one hell of a live act. The kids who came out to see them moshed it up and sang along with almost every song, even the ones that haven't been recorded yet; on a couple of occasions they came close to knocking over the PA stacks, but it was all in good fun and nothing got broken, so it was all cool. There were a few songs on which it seemed like one member or another of Army of Fun weren't too sure exactly what they should be doing, but if they messed up at any points it wasn't bad enough that I could tell. A highlight of the set for me was them covering "Young Til I Die" by 7 Seconds, which seemed especially appropriate on my 30th birthday.
The Internet was next, and since I sing for that band, I certainly can't write a review of the set. However, I will say that I felt like it was our best set so far, despite the fact that our bass player, Kyle, broke his collarbone in a bike accident the night before. We weren't sure if he was going to be able to play the set or not, and we were going to play without him if we had to, but at the last minute it was decided that he'd play sitting in a chair, which worked fine. So yeah, we played the five originals we have written so far, plus a Black Flag cover. It was fun. Hopefully it sounded decent to the kids watching.
My War were next, and my god. I've always really liked these guys, but I never really realized how good they could be until recently when they got (former) Setup drummer Gene Byard to play for them. Their old drummer, Brandon Ellison, was really good in his own right, but he has a very different sound than Gene's, and it just seems like Gene's sound fits with My War a lot better than Brandon's did. He's slowed them down slightly, which might seem like it'd be bad, but instead has been instrumental in clarifying their sound. His playing style is tight; every snare or cymbal hit is perfectly on beat and brings the songs into focus in a way that Brandon's more fast-and-loose style never really did (Brandon still plays in the band Flickerflame, where his style is a much better fit. Hopefully I'll have a chance to review them soon, as they are quite excellent in their own right). Gene's playing has helped me realize just how great My War's songwriting has become. They play a set of something like a dozen songs these days, and it's been so long since they last made a record that almost none of them have been released, which is criminal in my opinion. They're doing something that happens way too rarely for my tastes; testing the limits of hardcore as a musical form, without sacrificing any speed or heaviness in order to do so. The songs are dark and heavy in a manner resembling bands like Cursed and Tragedy, but also incorporate influences from many different genres, which is obvious by the wide variety of riffs they write. Despite this amount of variation, though, none of the parts ever seem ill-fitting; all of them are sonically of a piece. What's really interesting to me about recent My War material is the way some of their songs are minute-long blasts and others top out at 5 to 6 minutes. The longer songs are the ones with the most experimentation going on; there are points where things drop into a quieter lull, the band laying a hypnotic groove down as Braden, the singer, barks out intense lyrics. At times like this, his stage presence is reminiscent of Henry Rollins in his Black Flag days (which, to avoid confusion, is a high compliment in my opinion). Then the band builds up to a crescendo, sometimes pausing right before they get there for a couple of seconds longer than you'd have thought you could stand, before dropping into a super-powerful breakdown that crushes your skull. It's quite a thing to behold. These guys are apparently doing a demo soon, and I can't wait to hear that. I also can't imagine that it won't catch the interest of at least one or two record labels, because My War is one of the best pure hardcore bands I've seen in quite a while.