Better than: Anything Have Heart ever did.
The straightedge ethos and lifestyle, as it was defined by hardcore punk pioneers like Minor Threat's Ian MacKaye, can be a difficult one to understand for the uninitiated outsider. However, for those that identify with the movement -- regardless of how long their commitment winds up actually lasting -- it can provide a built-in support system, a positive outlet for the angst of growing up, and a bit of discipline in a world where excess and addiction have become normal and somewhat celebrated. Above all, the friendships forged around mic dives and 7-inch vinyl tend to last a lot longer than the Sharpie ink.
Last Saturday night, one South Florida's most beloved straightedge hardcore bands, Until the End, reunited. In its heyday, Until the End was one of the heaviest sounding and lyrically militant straightedge bands around, and the band's sets always left the crowd battered and hoarse. So satisfying were Until the End's moshy riffs, that its appeal reached far beyond the straightedge community. The show Saturday featured the band's Blood in the Ink lineup. Friends reunited around the band, men came out of long standing mosh retirements, and there was an abnormally positive vibe for a show featuring such downright negatively charged music.
The show was a 7 band marathon of hardcore. Opening is a rough job, but someone has to go first, and Coral Springs based Low Point were called into action to kick the night off. The band threw down a set of chunky, riff-laden and beefy sounding hardcore to a nearly empty room. Those that still operate on Miami time -- even when the show is in Palm Beach County -- missed out on an awesome set by the band.
Death-metal influenced hardcore band, Ironside, followed. Frontman Joshua "Chippy" Shomburg is better known for his work documenting South Florida's aggressive music shows via the South Florida Hardcore YouTube channel
. His growling assault led the group's subsonic guitars and droning bass. Shomburg was the hardcore frontman version of pro-wrestling heel, verbally berating the audience between songs, stomping about the floor of the venue, and flipping over stage monitors during his rage-fueled performance.
After the speakers were put back in their proper place, and Shomburg had cooled down enough to get back behind the camera, Palm Beach locals, Harbinger, took the stage. Harbinger has been referred to as the hardcore Hanson due to the core of its lineup being comprised of the three Downey brothers. Rounded out by guitarist Jared Warsh (of On Our Own, Known the Score, and a myriad other bands) and bass player Tyler Forsythe, the band kicked off its set with the headbang commanding "Street Sweeper." Harbinger's time slot was met by a crowd that had not yet warmed to the point of a full mosh assault, but by the end of the band's last song, the entire crowd had their heads bobbing and fists balled and ready.
Representing yet another era of South Florida's rich hardcore punk tapestry, Trust No One's dose of thug-nasty metalcore managed to break the mosh standoffs that had thus far plagued the show. Now featuring Alex "Tiny" Marquez of bands Anger and Solstice as a full time member, the band was tight, the mosh was hectic, and we would be lying if we said we weren't happy they're back to being a proper band again.
Eulogy Records, Aces High Tattoo Shop owner, and Until the End guitarist John Wylie's newest band, Old Habits, took the stage for the spot directly supporting Until the End. Wylie's involvement in South Florida hardcore requires no introduction, but Old Habits has not made much of a stir outside of Palm Beach County. People are less inclined to make the trek between counties for shows these days, and it makes for a more disjointed scene, meaning that Saturday's performance was a first time for many to catch Old Habits perform.
The hometown crowd took the energy people were still feeding on from Trust No One's set and moshed through the steadily thickening crowd, leaving behind puddles of appropriately spilt beer and plenty of causalities. We saw one mosh professional rocking a mouthguard, and midway through Old Habits set, a security guard removed his shirt and took off through the crowd himself -- leaving one unsuspecting bystander unconscious briefly.
Until the End came out to the largest crowd of the night. Old friends and new-comers that weren't around to see the band when it was active careened into one another and chanted along as the halftime mosh part of "Driving This Car Headfirst Into a Wall" shook the room. As was expected, "Mean" Pete Kowalsky's highly recognizable bark was as "mean" as ever, and the impact of the band's chunky, down-tuned riffs has faded little over time.
Not too far into the set, the band was joined by former second vocalist, Alan Landsman. Kowalsky made light of Landsman's departure from the band, and was generally self-deprecating about the group being back together the entire night. However, it was obvious that the vibe shared by the members of Until the End was a misty-eyed remembrance of what had been. Less a celebration of straightedge and more a celebration of a point in time.
The mosh action steadily increased during their set, until the final song, "Finger on the Trigger." The song ended with the crowd collectively beating the last ounces of shit from each other's bowels while Kowalsky, Landsman, and drummer Jesse Kriz screamed their vocal chords bloody through the songs somewhat iconic final chorus.
Closing the show was a grinding set of hefty metal, courtesy of Beastplague. The trio played through its mind-cleaving bursts of metallic grind at a breakneck speed, leaving no time between songs. Those that stuck around for the set were blown away by the intensity the band exhibited so late in the show, and though the band's blast beats and pinch harmonics were a bit off genre for the show, they were a breath of fresh air after six sets of similar sounding hardcore.
Personal Bias: Ex-Ex-Ex, Until the End was one of my favorite hardcore bands when I was in high school.
Random Detail: Dude, there's a poutine place across the street from Propaganda now!
From the Stage: "Tear this fucking place apart" - Alan Landsman
From the Stage II: "No one says that anymore" - Pete Kowalsky