Friday, November 21, 2008

Show Recap: H2O/Bane @ Cervantes

Melodic hardcore legends H2O came through Denver last Tuesday on what some would call a reunion tour. For those of you wondering if i'm referring to the very popular punk bands from back in 90's, yes, its the same band, they disappeared for like 10 years and have decided to get back together for another go!

Earlier this year, H2O released their first record since their flop Go! back in 1999. The new record, Nothing to Prove, is somewhat of a disappointment, full of songs that basically contradict themselves by trying to be open-minded while judging todays punk rock scene as fakes. Although the music is good, and the record is full of big-name supporters from Sick of it All, Madball, and Alkaline Trio, the message is tired and Toby comes off as a little old/cynical.

Well, they decided to tour the album and prove that yes, Toby is in fact old and cynical.

I was so excited about this show, unfortunately fellow punk-rocker Isaac was out of town for the show so i dragged Tahoe along (he's not the biggest fan of east-coast, tough guy hardcore/punk). I wanted to get there early to catch Energy, a band that has been around for awhile in the Boston scene, but only recently signed to a "big" label; Revelation Records. Even though their full album release earlier this year, Invasions of the Mind, was pretty weak, i had read that they put on a good show. I have to so i was not impressed. These guys really don't fit into the punk scene and i get the feeling they're really trying hard to be something they aren't. They played a set that was probably 3 songs too long considering no one really knows who they are, and they covered Halloween by the Misfits, which has already been covered and recorded by AFI. I thought it was poor. They didn't have much energy and the lead singer was pretty lame, his hair was annoying-ly clean and shiny, and their songs lacked any real talent or originality.

The next bands, Cruel Hand and Bane, were alright. You could tell that both bands have been touring for years and knew how to get a crowd riled up. Cruel Hand was a little too hardcore for me, and Bane was a little better. I've never totally gotten into Bane but i have to admit they put on a pretty intense show. The place went nuts!

Finally the band i had been waiting to see again since high school. H20 came out and instantly i noticed that these dudes were old! Rusty, the lead guitarist and backup singer, has very grey hair and looks too be in his 50's. This must be how our parents feel when they see Mick Jagger or Bruce Springsteen or something. I was a little cautious at first but after the first songs, Toby proved that they still had the energy and passion.

After a few songs including Nothing to Prove, Family Tree and Everready, H2o had the entire place dancing (all 100 or so people). This was a nice change since for the first time in a few years we weren't the oldest people in the crowd, in fact, there weren't many young kids at all, just a bunch of 25+ year old punk rockers who were trying to act like they still could hang in the pit.

Everything was going well until H2o decided to play a song off of GO!, i don't know which song it was since i can't stand that album, and apparently some dudes in the pit also couldn't stand it and they decided to start punching each other. Toby saw this and stopped the song. He started to call out the rowdy punkers, asking the guys how they could fight during "h2o's poppiest song that has nothing to do with fighting" I didn't think this was a big deal since i've seen quite a few bands who will stop shows if a fight breaks out, but apparently Toby was showing his age.

After the scuffle the band went into I See It In Us and Thicker Than Water, and then Toby got upset again. This time apparently a drunk dude in the front row was grabbing and punching Toby in the leg. After the song Toby basically put the dude in his place by calling him out and telling him "you don't have to punch me in the leg when you're excited". i think Toby was trying to be funny, but it came off as grouchy, and proved that Toby continues to think he's better than everyone. I was a little put off but his attitude, and after this incident he seemed to skip a few songs, apparently he was done with Denver.

They played the rest of their set which included Still Here, Faster Than The World, One Life One Chance, 1995, 5Yr Plan, Guilty By Association, and What Happened. These songs are so awesome live, especially with the fun intros that H2o has been known to do. They started 5Yr Plan with a Black Sabbath song, and after the song, Rusty did his best Sting impression. After the Sting bit, Toby made sure that we were all keeping our minds open to other music besides hardcore like "U2 and Coldplay. even hip hop". Thanks for the advice Toby.

Another issue with the show, or more the fans, is the song Still Here which is basically a straight-edge song talking about H2o is "straight edge before you were born". This had quite a lot of support from the crowd, which is ironic since almost everyone there was either drinking a beer or smoking a cigarette outside. Straight-edge is a trend/fad to most kids and i find it a little annoying, basically because most of the kids are lying. I was straight-edge for about 3 weeks in high school and i don't act like i'm straight-edge when SE bands come to town.

Besides all of this, the show was amazing. H2O has great sing-along songs and Toby always passes the mic (take note bands). Any guests parts on their albums were sung by the lead singer for Cruel Hand which was awesome. The lead singer for Energy sang the bridge for the Alkaline Trio part on What Happened and once again proved to me that he wasn't really punk rock. They ended the show with What Happened and promptly left the stage. After about 5 minutes of chanting H-2-O the lights came on and it was over. no encore. I think Toby was just pissed and didn't want to be in Denver anymore.

I've seen H2o live quite a few times, and this show was just as good as any, the small crowd was very supportive and was in good voice. there were crowd-surfers and stage-divers even though there wasn't really enough people to support any of these activities. All in all it was one of the better shows i went to this year, especially since H2o has such a good selection of songs. They said that they would be back again soon, somehow i doubt it, but if they do it'll be another good time.

Guilty By Association - H2O

Monday, November 3, 2008

Show Recap: Norma Jean / Haste the Day / Showdown / Oh Sleeper

Well, i got to check out a metal show while on vacation in Minnesota with my boy Alan. This was quite a lineup, Haste the Day and Norma Jean, two heavyweights of the Christian metalcore scene along with Oh Sleeper, theShowdown and My Children My Bride. It was an incredible night, all of the bands played really well, and the venue, Station 4 in St Paul, was great.

We arrived just in time to catch Oh Sleeper's short 5 song set, but it was amazing. These guys are so good, i'm surprised they don't have more of a following. Anyway they totally rocked and the crowd was really into them, it was the first thing i noticed about the Minnesota scene, everyone was packed in front of the stage and rocking out even for the opening band, it was pretty cool. Oh Sleeper opened with Charlatan's Host, followed by Building the Nations and then We Are The Archers. They played We Will Welcome the Reaping and then closed with Vices Like Vipers which everyone in the crowd seemed to know. I wish they would have played Siren's Song, but maybe next time.

Next up was My Children My Bride, i'm not really impressed by them so Alan and I headed over to Quizno's for some food, i don't think we missed much.

Next up was the Showdown. These guys were awesome, i've been listening to them for awhile and i haven't figured out if i actually like the music, or if i just like the novelty of an 80's metal christian band. They have an old-school sound, guitar solo's and heavy vocals, and the singer looks like he hasn't left the basement since 1987. They all have super-long hair which was used for synchronized head-banging and dryer-cycle hair swinging. The lead singer donned a tank top and said things like "This is for all you thrashers out there" and "keep it real, keep it rude. Heavy metal is for life". They were very impressive musically, especially for only having one guitarist, and they had everyone in the place rocking out and doing a motion that could be described as "tickling a baby"; basically put your hands out in front of you and make the motion like you're tickling a baby, now raise those fingers high in the air and now you're summoning the guitar soloing gods.

Speaking of guitars, the guitarist had a V-shaped guitar that had a Confederate flag on it, it was hilarious. Basically just think of every bad stereotype you think of then you think of 80's metal and these guys were it, and it rocked. The songs i recognized were Backbreaker, The Hammer of the Gods, and I Am Vengeance.

After that it was Haste the Day. I've seen these guys 3 times now and each time something is up with the sound/volume. The overall sound was at least 25% less than the Showdown. It was so quiet in fact that i ventured to the front of stage, where it was still quiet. Nonetheless it was still a great set, i just wish it was loud enough to sing/scream along. They played most of the usual songs, with 68 and Mad Man from the new album. They played White Collar, Pressure the Hinges, Minor Prophets, Walk On, Blue 42, American Love and finally, When Everything Falls. The crowd response was great, especially on the sing-alongs parts of American Love and When Everything Falls.

Last up was the "almighty" Norma Jean. I don't really listen to these guys much, so i was open to being convinced of their "almighty" title. They delivered! They came out on the stage to some movie clip, all the lights were off , and you could just feel the energy in the room. I would describe their live show as sensory overload, lights on the stage were flashing the whole time and the volume was easily the loudest thing i've ever heard, ever. It was so loud in fact, that i moved from the main floor to the bar, i was starting to get sick from the volume. From the bar though i could really hear the music and actually get a feel for Norma Jean since i didn't know their songs. They were awesome, 2-3 guitars, broken bass pedals, guest vocals from My Children My Bride and Haste the Day, a kid with a walker in the most-pit, and best of all, they got the plug pulled on them! The lead singer climbed the speaker-stack during the encore, Memphis Laid to Waste, and the security guys turned the power off. It was awesome, the drummer kept playing but you couldn't hear anything else.

Alan, a big fan of Norma Jean, said the show was pretty good, nothing amazing though. He said they played quite a few songs from the newest album, the Anti-mother, and listed off their set including Shotgun Message, Robots 3 Humans 0, Blueprints For Future Homes, Songs Sound Much Sadder, Birth of the Anti-Mother and quite a few others. I have been listening to these guys a lot more since the show, i'm converted!

Anyway, this was a great night, the venue Station 4 was awesome, very intimate and very loud. The crowd was great, summoning the guitar gods and climbing the walls and going crazy. All of the bands played very well, and the show, which started at 530p was over by by 945p which is very early by my standards, but since Alan got lost on the way home we needed the extra time!

here's a playlist of each of the bands that played, and their best song live so check them out: