I still can’t believe I convinced my husband – the man who took me to see Air Supply, Billy Joel, and Billy Squier in concert when we were dating — to go with me to a hardcore metal show.
We swung by the drugstore on the way so I could pick up a fresh box of Dr. Doug’s Physician Trusted Super Soft Latex-Free Earplugs, rated for 29 decibels, one decibel south of the highest noise reduction rating you can get. Five bucks for 10 pairs and well worth the price.
“Are you really sure I’m going to need these?” he asked, as I handed him the packet and told him to put two in his pocket.
“Dude,” I replied. “This is not like a U2 concert. You’ll be glad you have them.”
We pulled up in front of the Volume 11 house-turned-warehouse, parked in the last spot in the lot, showed our ID (door guy was making his paycheck, carding us), paid up, and we were in. We ambled in past the Donkey Kong cabinet and the giant Black Sabbath poster and I checked the drink list posted over the bar.
“What’s in an Open Grave?” I asked the long-haired kid behind the bar, half expecting a sarcastic reply — a choice punk snark for a middle-aged white chick at a hardcore show.
Instead he was earnest, but thrown off guard by the question. “Uh, just…” He waved his hands around in the air, trying to stir up an answer. I waited. “Just some stuff I put together,” he said finally. I nodded, made no comment, and checked the list again.
“Electric Coolaide,” I mused. “Sounds like PGA Punch.” That was the favorite high school drink – pure grain alcohol and whatever sugary crap could be scrounged from a fridge.
“Yeee-ah,” he said, drawing it out. “That’s just some stuff I put together too.” He smiled apologetically.
“Okay,” I chirped. “Gimme a Yeungling.” He seemed relieved. I saluted him with my beer, and took a look around.
There were the obligatory Slayer, Danzig, and Insane Clown Posse shirts in the crowd and a hundred more tees on the walls. Jucifer had a merch table set up in true punk fashion with a handful of DIY tees and totes. Colossus merch shared their table, and there were a handful of Irata stickers scattered around.
We wandered in across the poured concrete floor, pulling our jackets tight against the draft. There were a handful of the faithful scattered around the stage, which was stacked with amps, speakers, and the regular rock trash, and edged with tattered industrial-grade black plastic. A band called Irata was making the walls vibrate with their brand of downtempo metal; apocalyptic sound samples running riot over raw and synthesized chords. One of the guys had a sax welded to a tripod and patched into a pedal board; all kinds of warped sounds came out of that thing as he switched comfortably from frankensax to guitar and back again.
The crowd was there to hear Colossus, and when these incredibly energetic guys blew the doors open with their first song, the place came to life. Skinny Sean Buchanan’s vocals screamed spirals around the two electric guitars, and although the bass amp went out partway through their show, they behaved like professionals and kept moving while one of the guys from Irata volunteered a replacement amp and quietly helped hook it in. Suddenly Rylan Wilshire was back in the house, and the team skydived into “Sunglasses in Space” – a huge crowd fave – before closing with “Wendigo,” which was the song I was there to hear. I don’t see how they could have topped a show any better.
As Colossus pulled cords and carted off their speaker cabs, things quieted down a bit. I wasn’t sure about Jucifer – sludge metal isn’t really my music – but I was interested to see a hardcore band with a female lead. Some of the songs I dialed up online were curiously beautiful, and I hoped we’d hear those.
But their live show is brutal and relentless from the moment Amber Valentine slashes out an opening chord. We were doomed.
I think I counted 13 amps in their stack, driving sound in brain-melting waves through a towering white wall of speakers. I’ve never heard anything that loud in my life. Fog erupted from multiple points and wove its way in and out of pulsing laser spikes, and a set of blinding white floodlights sent regular shock treatments directly into the upturned faces of the crowd. Edgar B. Livengood may be the heaviest drummer on earth, and a small group of worshippers crowded the monitors at the front of his colossal drumset, begging for his blessing.
She growled and her guitar screamed; he destroyed the drums. I have no idea what songs they played, and I don’t think it mattered. Their show is a howling juggernaut; it was bow or be crushed. Some didn’t survive.
While I’m not quite a Jucifer convert yet, I’ll be back to Volume 11 again soon.
You can see my set of photos from the night here. Click on the slideshow option!