Same band, different shows--a parable.
The CD was every bit as good as I expected from the live show, and had the added bonus of printing out their lyrics. There is one song towards the beginning of the album ("A Missed Chance For A Meaningful Abortion") which has lyrics that seem a bit too unquestioningly misanthropic for me to get behind, but by the album's last two songs ("(D)anger(s)" and "We Have More Sense Than Lies"), it seems that the singer has himself realized that his anger, unquestioned, is not enough to make the changes he wants to see in the world. From "(D)anger(s)": "I feel fed up every morning and let down every night. And in a world with so much wrong, there must be better things to fight. [...] There's more to fight than big mouth kids like me. Punch my face until your fingers break, but it's not me who's the real enemy." From "We Have More Sense Than Lies": "We need something to say. We need to start to care. And we can't just hold our breath, sit back and sing along. Pretend that it's all okay, when we know we're wrong. We must change ourselves." With those lines, the album ends, and a narrative arc that began with the first song on the album ("We Broke The P.A.", a song warning against hardcore losing its message through overcommercialization) is brought to a conclusion. I often like to find narratives within albums as a whole, even when they aren't necessarily there, but they definitely are in this case. For example, track 6, "My Wonder Years Never Got Cancelled", runs directly into "Break Beat", the next song, as if they'd originally just been one set of lyrics that were later divided across two songs. And "A Missed Chance For A Meaningful Abortion" is connected to "Gashing In" through the use of two different voicemail messages. Which reminds me, I want to say one more thing about "Gashing In." The lyrics, while harsh, express something I myself have felt in plenty of situations, something I'm not generally proud of, and don't generally want to talk about, but is there all the same. So here are the lyrics to this 30-second blast, in their entirety. Maybe I'm not the only one for which this will constitute some sort of insight. "Clits and dicks ruin every night. Hudson jeans and birth control. Perfume and the alcohol. Versus: Marshall stacks and sing-alongs. Myspace, dunks, male chauvinists. Estrogen. Testosterone. My hormones ruin every night, and I've no one to blame but me, myself, and I. Can't stand bars, shows, or my dick. Should have stayed home, read a book instead."
So anyway, I really enjoyed Dangers live, and I really enjoyed their album, so when I found out that some friends of mine who'd been on tour had played with them the next night in DC, I asked what they had thought of them. I was surprised by the response, which basically amounted to "What a bunch of assholes." When I asked for elaboration, my friends told me how, instead of talking about the lyrics to their songs, the singer from Dangers spent most of his time berating the crowd for not dancing, and when that didn't succeed in getting them to dance, running and jumping into the front rows of the crowd, seemingly in order to get revenge for their not moving. Now, I saw Dangers in a small but comfortable space in a restaurant. In DC, though, they were playing in a basement, and at the height of summer. Apparently it was sweltering in that basement, and it was no surprise to my friends who were there that kids watching the band didn't particularly want to move around. Besides, they said, it's lame when bands yell at the crowd for not dancing. And on this point, I couldn't agree more.
I've noticed that there are certain scenes within hardcore in which it is accepted to demand movement from an audience, as if the band is entitled to a certain kind of crowd reaction. The tough guy scene, the metalcore scene, the youthcrew scene, these subgenres of hardcore seem to see this sort of thing as OK. It's my theory that the amount of acceptance a particular scene has for this sort of behavior on a band's part is in direct proportion to how pronounced the disconnect between bands and audiences in that particular scene has become. I like basement shows better than big shows in big clubs with 500 other people in attendance, but I definitely go to both kinds, and I've noticed that at the bigger shows, especially in recent years, the line between the community-based subculture of hardcore and the solely music-based subculture of metal has become blurred. It's hard to know if those big shows even count as hardcore anymore. Or at least, it's hard for me, because in my mind hardcore was never so much about a style of music as a way of thinking. And to me, one of the most important tenets of hardcore as a mindset rather than a musical style was the idea that there's no real separation between band members and audience members. The idea of backstage passes and VIP lounges for bands is anathema to my idea of what hardcore is. To me, the band who is playing at the moment is just a smaller group of people who've emerged from the audience to briefly take center stage, in order to share their musical and lyrical ideas with the kids who are still in the crowd. Hopefully everyone will have fun, and everyone will be inspired to think about things they might not otherwise have considered. And then, when that band is done, their members will go back into the crowd and make room for other people in the crowd to come forward and share their musical and lyrical ideas.
It is a fundamental violation of my personal view of hardcore for a band to ever act as if they are entitled to anything from an audience. I'm not going to wage a crusade to kick every band out of hardcore who defies my personal rules for what is or is not kosher, but nonetheless, if a band demands a guarantee or a deli tray or a backstage area where they can hang out separate from the rest of the people at a show, I feel like they are acting in a manner that is inconsistent with the core values of hardcore. And that goes all the way down to a band who will stand on a stage and demand that the crowd dance to their music, as if they are owed that kind of response. This is hardcore, not metal or arena rock or anything else. The crowd doesn't owe you anything.
So where do Dangers fall on this particular continuum? How well do they really embody my personal idea of hardcore? It's an interesting question. If I only knew about the Richmond show, I'd answer one way, and if I only knew about the DC show, I'd answer completely differently. It seems to me that, since I know about both, the answer has to lie somewhere inbetween. Perhaps the only reason I didn't see Dangers act like rockstars is because the Richmond crowd gave them a response they deemed satisfactory. Or on the other hand, perhaps the stresses of touring were taking their toll, and they chose to take out those stresses on the DC crowd. Maybe DC was just an off night. But maybe off nights bring out a band's true colors. I really don't know, in the end. I'm not sorry I enjoyed their set here in Richmond, and I'm not sorry I bought and have been enjoying their album. But after hearing of their behavior in DC, I'm a bit more wary of giving Dangers an unqualified endorsement.
Dangers - A Missed Chance For A Meaningful Abortion
Dangers - Gashing In
Dangers - We Have More Sense Than Lies