Last Night: Shai Hulud at Backbone Music, Delray Beach
Better Than: Feeling old in a place with no live music....
The Review: Backbone Music, in the heart of downtown Delray, got the Broward-Palm Beach New Times' Best Record Store nod in 2007. But because Delray seems like the end of the earth for many people who live in Miami, and is far even for those who live in south/mid- Broward, Crossfade had yet to report on the store's recent expansion. And while there is nothing like an early-Tuesday-evening, all-ages hardcore show to make someone born in the mid-Eighties suddenly feel ancient, at least the kiddies now have a nice place to hang out.
If you find yourself in the southern reaches of Palm Beach County, Backbone is well worth a look. The main store space is small, but in a cozy way, well-lit and well-organized. The focus of the merchandise here is largely vinyl, and the music represented is mostly guitar-based, and further, much on the punk/hardcore spectrum. (OMG, was that actually a Throwdown DVD for sale?). The space next door, the venue, is a true punk-rock-style, bare-bones affair, with soundproofing scraps tacked to the walls, and a bathroom that must be reached by walking across the plywood stage. It's definitely not a bar type of environment, which means no booze, but also means no cigarette smoke, and bottled water and sodas for a nice round buck. Yay!
(Okay, Grandma, but what about the show itself?)
Oh, right. Well, first of all, props to the bookers for keeping things very sanely organized. Although there were some six bands on the bill, things started promptly on time, there was little time wasted between bands, and sets were limited mostly to about 20 minutes. Those are short sets, sure, but this ensures that by the time the headliners play, there will still be an audience.
A couple local bands opened -- the Midnight Life, Vanquish the Weak.... Frankly, I'm not sure which was which, because nobody was very good at properly introducing themselves. Much about their general sound can be inferred from those names, and it seems grossly unfair to further nitpick about bands of teenagers playing in a Florida suburb at 7 p.m. Suffice it to say those kids deserve props for putting themselves out there in the first place and actually playing music, rather than sitting at home with Guitar Hero, or standing around bored, tapping into their Sidekicks, like many of their peers in the audience.
The major out-of-town openers here were After the Burial, from Minnesota's Twin Cities, and Born of Osiris, from Chicago. After the Burial boasted some awesome clean, almost math-y riffs, but of the two, Born of Osiris garnered a more explosive crowd reaction. If relentless breakdowns are your thing, this is your band, and plenty of athletic-shorted guys were busting out their aerobic-style hardcore-spazz moves.
Finally came Shai Hulud, now based in Poughkeepsie, New York -- "but really a South Florida hardcore band," they reminded the crowd at one point. That's sort of true, although tenuously -- of the current lineup, only guitarist Matt Fox
and bassist Matthew Fletcher have has stuck it out from the beginning.
From the outside, it may have appeared that only the front half of the room was engaged at all. That, however, is just part of the law of the concentric audience rings at a hardcore show, which has been proven in nature since time immemorial. At the very front of the stage are the diehards who know every word, standing poised for pile-ons and mike props. Behind them come the serious pit dwellers, and around the side, the floaters who are unsure of commitment. Finally, the back half is usually devoted to the bored- and uninterested-looking, who spend their time typing into their smart phones, but will later wax ecstatic about the show's awesomeness via wall-to-wall posts. (In my day, before text messaging or Internet social networking, I can't remember what these people did. They may have saved their unearned bragging for real-life conversations -- LOL!)
So really, to gauge the climate of such a show, one need only to pay attention to the first, oh, 20 feet in front of the stage (varying, of course, with venue size). And those kids were having a hell of a time. Shai Hulud's brand of metalcore has changed little since its beginnings. Still, it remains among the best in its class, with real hardcore-style tempos, and none of the breakdown abuse on which their peers are guilty. Current frontman Matt Ian Mazzali, with the band only since 2007, does a serviceable job with the vocals, even on older jams, which the band wisely threw in -- "My Heart Bleeds the Darkest Blood," "Solely Concentrating on the Negative Aspects of Life." What's most impressive, though, is that the front-line crowd responded with equal enthusiasm to both material from the band's latest album, Misanthropy Pure, and the older songs. The torch has been passed -- well, at least among those in the front half of Backbone Music. The reactions of the other half, I guess, will still be plastered across various comment-enabled web sites by the time you read this.
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