Hardcore-punk bands come and go, repeating a familiar cycle of building, imploding, growing up, moving on. In some rare cases, these groups stick around long enough to show the next generation how it's done.
Tradition, both oral and aural, is a major part of the volatile mixture that fuels the genre -- second only to an innate anger that we all posses, but only some of us are fortunate enough to exorcise in the basements, VFW halls, and dive bars around the world willing, or stupid enough to house a room full of violent adolescents losing their collective minds for a few hours a week.
In 2013, to exert impact in the hardcore genre is a tough trick. It has grown saturated, there is a rash of self-referential bullshit and posturing nonsense one must sort through, and the internet has removed much of the effort that used to separate the bands that worked hard enough to be heard from the rest of the pack. So, when the mouthpiece and figurehead of one of the most influential hardcore bands of the past decade, Trial, offers to grace our scene with a speaking engagement -- essentially a concentrated version of the banter that punctuates a set, but can be as important as the songs themselves -- you'd better believe the occasion is one worth attending.
The opening bands On Our Own and Homestretch represented South Florida with two brilliant sets of their respective brands of hardcore-punk, and a performance by Bennick's tour-mates, the currently hyped Hollow Earth, helped to warm the crowd and keep things from straying too far from the music that delivered Bennick to his current role in the world of keynote speaking.
On Our Own and Homestretch were fantastic, but, we've come to expect nothing less from them over the years. On Our Own performed a new song (its first in about 8 years) for the second time since reuniting, and the track proved that the time spent away did little to dull the group's teeth. As strong as the new track, entitled "Enough," was, the emotionally charged "1995" -- a song forged from the pain of watching a loved one slowly decline and pass over a prolonged period -- proved the highlight of the band's set.
Hollow Earth provided another shot of sonic adreniline for the crowd. The band features ex-members of Shai Hulud, and their sound was one of crushing riffs, bloodied vocals, and hammering drums that refused to stay still for very long. Most of the set was constructed from songs off of the band's most recent release, We Are Not Humanity
, and based on what we heard, we implore you to check the album out immediately.
After some folding chairs were quickly set up on a floor far more accustomed to stomping feet and spitting bands, Bennick appeared at the foot of the stage. The environment was intimate, and Bennick began immediately by thanking the promoter, the occasionally unsung hero of hardcore (in this case, Breakeven Booking's John McHale) for taking the time to put the show together. Bennick politely requested that no filming take place, explaining that hardcore is an immediate thing that needs to be experienced in the moment, and that his spoken word is similar in that each night is entirely unique. The experience is a possession of those that chose to come out rather than an artifact for YouTube surfers.
While specific details will remain sparse (by design and out of respect for Bennick's concept), the topics of the evening included anecdotes about Bennick's experiences in Trial -- including some riveting stories about the making of the group's final full-length release, Are These Our Lives. He talked of bridging cultural boundaries while on tour in Russia, philosophical dissections of what we do with our anger and how we can learn to focus rage and fury into positivity, rounded out with side notes about the greatness of Sabbath, the unspoken duality of American History, and the fact that it is necessary to call your mom from time to time.
To the uninitiated, listening to the singer of a hardcore band speak for an extended period of time might sound a bit inane. However, Bennick was eloquent, poignant, and above all, inspiring -- without edging anywhere near the zone of the preacher or thumper. Fans of Trial left with a handful of stories others have most likely never heard or will ever hear, and a new grasp on the positive potential of negative emotion.