March 17, 2023 | ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT | By Caleb Hering

I usually work out at the gym. More specifically, a climbing gym. Occasionally, I go running. New York based rapper, Trippjones, has a different routine. Trippjones walked out on stage with two 20-pound dumbbells posted up at the mic and started curling while rapping the most incomprehensible lyrics I have heard.

He proceeded to do as many pushups as he could, stripped his shirt off, and then ran around the stage screaming adlibs and the occasional discernible word – of which 90% were “[redacted]” – between more incomprehensible lyrics.

Researching these same lyrics, the day after, “(? literally inaudible)” substituted in for multiple lines. Unfortunately, his performance felt closer to something of a comedy sketch or avant-garde reimagination of rap within the passive hardcore audience.

Then, only minutes after his set ended, a loud voice resounded over the crowd declaring with contagious conviction that, “THIS STAGE IS YOURS!” People scraped, crawled, and were lifted onto stage only to run, skip, and dance to the other side and uncaringly fling themselves into the mass of bodies which made up the crowd, all while a wall of growls pulsated from the amps on stage.

Zulu – a rising group from Los Angeles, founded in 2018, whose sound finds its home in the niche intersection of predominantly Hardcore, Powerviolence, Reggae and Deathmetal – were sparking a flame – no fire – no housefire – no, it was something more akin to an eruption within the crowd which would last throughout all three successive bands: SCOWL, Jesus Piece, and Show Me The Body.

If you are unfamiliar with what Hardcore or Powerviolence are, have no shame at all, Hardcore is what most people associate as the center of Punk. Powerviolence is a specific subgenre which developed in the 90’s and tends to layer revolving doors of feelings of intense, high tempo currents and syncopated slower, spaced apart swells.

In the chaos the crowd quickly separated into those who were pushed against the stage, those who were pushing against the stage, the no-man’s-land circle behind them, and all those who were responsible for creating its boundaries. And inside the no-man’s-land circle frequented a six-foot-nine-male-presenting figure with a foot-tall spiked mohawk, black tank-top, and tutu,  his propensity to kick high and tumble low very apparent.

Despite their size, they did not stand out. Between glances, my imagination turned this small world into the running of the bulls. Only substitute horns for elbows. Each song became equally a unique macabre performance as Braxton Marcellous, one of their two guitarists, would crawl along the stage while riffing and Dez Yusef or Satchel Brown helped onto stage – or encouraged off – various stage-divers. All while front-man Anaiah Lei dodged and growled. And with their final song, Lei climbed onto the balcony railing some five feet above our heads and front-flipped into the masses below.

And then all was quiet. Between the sets the lights came up and illuminated the various routes to water or wayward friends. The thrashing, moments before, now dissonant wandering. Now patient waiting. Now listening to Ice Spice on “Boy’s a liar Pt. 2.” But it was just what we needed. Some low consequence vibes before the storm which was:

SCOWL, another group from California who have quickly risen within the at-large Punk scene since 2019. And with the first song, the crowd quickly rose to the heights of a colosseum. They performed new tracks and old all while their sound lived within an addictive pocket where the audience thrived and continued to dive off stage into various arms.

Seemingly inspired by traditional Hardcore roots, it was exciting to hear a varied evolution between their generations of songs. The projected growth seen in their recent singles bears a future that has found ever-so-slightly slower pacing, addictive riffs, and an increasingly lyrical style reminiscent of the immensely influential Riot Grrrl group, The Breeders. Kat Moss (the green haired, commanding leader of SCOWL might just be the next Kim Deal). I only hope that, unlike The Breeders, their rapid success does not limit this growth and even end the group, all-together.

Despite the rest between each group, the lineup had almost been too exciting. As Jesus Piece began their set, energy waned and strain began to show within the audience. As another round of slam-dancing and stage diving began, a few unlucky characters who launched themselves into the crowds’ trusted embrace were met instead by the cold concrete below.

Many others, myself again included, missed sight of one or two who dove in our direction and were met with bodyweight blows to the head. Nonetheless, Jesus Piece continued to stoke the flame with their intense Philly sound. A sound at times industrial, noisy, and always metal. Aaron Heard, their vocalist, took the term ‘growl’ to the next level as though the sounds he emanated came from some infinite pit within his stomach.

By the end of their set, it was almost unimaginable to continue to experience the concert at any conscious level despite finally coming face to face, body to stage with the headlining group, Show Me The Body. Their name almost all too fitting. The three members dawned the stage: drummer Jackie McDermott, bassist Harlan Steed, and, of course, Julian Pratt, the lead-vocalist/banjo-extraordinaire. Banjo-extraordinaire? Yes. Banjo-extraordinaire. This extremely varied Hardcore band is fronted by a banjo. And it is beyond incredible.

Listen to “Metallic Taste,” and within the first three seconds anyone can understand the twangy appeal. Their sound, already limited by the number of members, flourishes within the polar-opposite restriction of their banjo/bass combination. Without being any more wordy, their performance enlivened the energy of every performance before, and possibly more.

None of these groups are to be missed. Each should be sought out.

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