Blow us if this wasn’t the most surprising and enjoyable hardcore show we’ve been to all year
Tuesday night hardcore/screamo show? Yeah, alright; it’s not conventional, but then again most of the bands aren’t in one way or another. More to the point, the main tour package are all a) American and b) are either so early in their careers that they haven’t been over to the UK before or have been on hiatus so long that we’ve forgotten what they look like; hell as Circle Takes The Square’s Drew Speziale reminded us, they last played The Underworld in 2004, and I’m not sure they’ve played anywhere else in London since – so it was not a night to be missed.
After grabbing food from Camden’s famous market and watching two young kids jamming on the lock bridge with a guitar and tom toms, I was up for some cathartic music to blast me through the rest of the week – and boy did they four acts not disappoint…
The local support for London’s date of the tour, Pariso are fairly well known in the scene, and as evidenced from the larger than normal crowd for an opening band, well liked too. With their new album Consanguinity to promote, the set was a mix of older material, which the band performed with the kind of competency that comes from a comfortable familiarity with the material, and the brand new stuff, which sounded absolutely spot on. Big, stomping sections of hardcore performed with no frills and no pressure, they were relaxed throughout – perhaps all except the drummer, who was a blur of sweaty activity at times. Great stuff.
Full Of Hell
Visiting the cash machine prior to entering the venue, I saw a big guy pacing around Camden Town corner, speaking loudly to no-one in particular. The plain, leather-bound book in his hands gave away pretty much immediately what he was talking about, before I heard a full sentence leave his mouth. Happy kinda guy, bothering no-one in particular. I wonder what he would have thought of the seething, demonic performance that occurred not far away, not an hour later.
When the night’s second band took to the stage, frontman Dylan Walker said, fairly innocuously “We’re Full Of Hell from the United States. This stage is your stage.” Fair’s fair – the crowd took him to his word.
But from that point onward, there wasn’t a moment when he didn’t come across like some sort of hellish creature: pacing the stage restlessly with a latent energy that threatened to break at any point; grimacing, with his eyes glaring out widely over the audience. He’s not a big, burly guy, so for his performance to be so on-point and effective was no mean feat. Everything that came out of his mouth, too, was a shout or scream or caterwaul; be it amidst the blistering hardcore sections, during which the pit meleed like I’ve never seen before in London on a weeknight, or over the crunching, doom-laden passages and feedback, which sounded like occult poetry being snarled through a weed strimmer.
There was no ‘in-between’ crowd interaction at all – this was pure theatre, captivating the audience in a unique bubble of time it seemed. That sounds hyperbolic and flowery I know, but it’s true, and the fact that all present stayed to watch a good four or five minutes of drone and feedback at the end of the set is testament to that. Like madmen, several watchers either rocked back and forth on their heels, or swayed disjointedly from side to side as if in religious rapture.
Several kids near me also had their fingers in their ears for this conclusion to the set. It was loud and powerful, and I really wish they (and many others) had been wearing earplugs to protect their hearing. Always baffles me, to be fair.
I had only heard Full Of Hell’s name in passing, plastered as support on tour posters in the past years or so. I came away a massive fan, and eager to see more whenever they are able to return to our shores. A live band in the truest sense, and worth the entrance fee alone. Play on; give me excess of it
Code Orange Kids
Pittsburgh, PA’s Code Orange Kids had a tough act to follow, but they gave their former collaborators (a split between CoK and Full Of Hell was released in April 2012) a run for their money and no mistake.
With no flare whatsoever, the band launched into their set, consisting mostly of songs from their 2012 Deathwish Inc. debut Love Is Love // Return To Dust [read our review]. The album is even more glorious in the flesh; the four-piece are interesting in that they share vocal duties between (primarily) drummer Jami Morgan and guitarists Reba Meyers and Eric Balderose, and the variety this approach brings is both refreshing and fulfilling, and something that distracts focus from any one individual, allowing the music to take centre stage. Code Orange Kids’ music is a stripped back affair at times, with the rhythm section often allowed to take point in order to build songs to crashing climaxes, such as that in the middle of “Liars // Trudge“.
It’s easy to forget how young this band are – their average age is under 20 – and how mature their sound is despite what might be perceived as inexperience – but their thin frames belie the scale of their performance. Their live show has certainly been honed thanks to short spots with the likes of Misfits, The Bronx and Anti-Flag, and full tours with bands like GAZA, Touché Amoré, and Defeater. The music clearly envelops them and they’re into it as fuck; appearing as conduits of spitting, caustic hardcore.
Circle Takes The Square
Georgians Circle Takes The Square rounded off the night, which had been pretty special up until this point. The crowd was rowdy but well-behaved, the performances had been on-point, and the beer had been…well, it’s always fucking expensive, but never mind.
Reflecting back, I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting with this band, and peripheral feature in my early forays into screamo and experimental music. Their music is chaotic to say the least, with vocalists Kathleen Stubelek and Drew Speziale, wielding bass and guitar respectively, instantly recognisable amid the maelstrom of swirling, stabbing riffs and furious drumming – but the band have been away so long that I feel some of the familiarity fans felt has been hard to grasp again, especially with more familiar new material from last year’s return Decompositions: Volume Number One featuring heavily.
It was a good performance, but not an easy one to digest, and it was probably because of this unfamiliarity. When the classic whistled intro refrain to their highly regarded album As The Roots Undo played out, followed by fan favourite “Same Shade As Concrete“, the crowd picked up and put a little energy into their viewing, but the whole thing was a little subdued on both sides, and so didn’t destroy the support bands’ performances as you might expect a headliner to do.
Nevertheless, I don’t think many left disappointed with having seen one of the genre stalwarts after so long – I just wish I’d been old enough and aware enough last time round.
The tour continues on with a couple more UK dates before heading to Germany, Austria and Belgium. Full Of Hell will be playing a couple of festivals and headlining dates back in the States before heading out with KEN mode. Code Orange Kids will mostly be quiet until October when they’re playing a few Stateside festivals, whilst Pariso are playing a show each with HORSE The Band and Loma Prieta in London in August.