The A389 Bash has long been a veritable bastion of the Central Atlantic scene. The guy behind it, Dom, is a veritable genius whose heart is on fire with love for the scene. This weekend, my birthday weekend, was a blast and allowed me to get a better understanding of American metal culture. He gave us all a sense of freedom, a look forward into a world we are all coming down to, a world that we must embrace for the scene to continue, for such is the nature of underground music as an eternal liberating force.
The second day of the festival was off to a slow start. Since we had stayed up so late the night before, no one was even able to move before noon, and I think we were only all awake at around 2 in the afternoon. Suffice to say, I don’t think I’ve ever slept in so late on my birthday. The fact of the matter was that on this second day of the festival, we were kind of at a loss for what to do before kicking into high gear with the evenings activities. So as we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes, we looked at each other and wondered, what would we kill time?
Well, first off, we started to jam. Sebastian from Noisem seems to have an unending fascination for rock and roll. When he found out I’m primarily a jazz musician he took me down to his basement to jam. Now, you have to understand that Sebastian is the very definition of gearhead. He has a wealth of guitars, pedals, and amps, all contributing to a young man who seriously understands how audio systems work (In fact by day he often manages audio systems) Just talking with him about music is always an incredible honor. Suffice to say, when he hopped on drums and had me lay down a jazz bossa I knew I was experiencing something that few other fans ever get to do, jamming with their favorite musician. It was a scene straight out of Almost Famous, a film which Sebastian loves quoting, going so far as spending most of the weekend referring to me as “The Enemy” and even introducing me to his parents as such.
We headed out to get a bite to eat before the show then, and things seemed to be rolling smoothly. The Noisem guys love quoting old school rock and roll movies from well known hits like Waynes World to more obscure numbers such as Detroit Rock City. As we headed over to the venue, people kept referencing Haymaker and their use of fireworks, at this point, I had no clue what they were talking about, why, I had barely even heard of Haymaker, I knew nothing of their live set! I went into the evening curious and ready to explore the sonic landscapes that would be painted before me. The only thing that I was sure of was that I’d be meeting up with a friend who I had met in Texas, so regardless, it seemed like I would be having a good birthday.
The first band to play were the almighty Ampallang Infection. These guys are a lot of fun to watch live simply because they are so God damn out there. They don’t play by the rules and they have a lot of really cool ideas about live delivery. With a drum machine that often exceeds 300 beats per minute and all sorts of vocal effects help to keep the entire thing not just ridiculously brutal, but in many ways over the top. I’d been looking forward to seeing them all weekend and the way that they just came roaring out of the gate ready to bite off your friggin nose with their mixture of Napalm Death and Godflesh. This is the sort of thing that melts faces and leaves you on the floor, a slave to your more base desire as your try to understand the fucked up world that we have been born into. In other words, Ampallang Infection were really bloody good.
Next up was WarXGames, a bitter hardcore act from Baltimore proper. These straight edge maniacs delivered an all out sonic assault that left the fans on their knees, trying to understand how their world had been rocked. Only the second band to play, WarXGames already had a few hardcore dancers starting to mix it up, and it seemed like things would really pop off later in the night. These guys have a wonderful sense of speed and cosmic brutality. Sure, you could label them as just another hardcore band, but with a live show this energetic I think that you have to acknowledge that they’re more than that, they’re veritable masters of their craft.
A lot of people were really stoked for False Light’s performance and the way that they simply decimated the crowd was impressive. There take on hardcore is just a little bit different in a way I can’t quite describe. What I will say though is that a lot of people were stoked for their performance and seemed to leave smiling. False Light are the kind of band who capture the imagination of hardcore kids and get them to want to wreck shit. Though they didn’t embrace the unmitigated chaos of the bands to come, it was in large part because the crowd just wasn’t there yet. As is, I had a blast watching them and as I felt myself join the void they created I could not help but smile.
Sex Prisoner was the band who really got things going. Their hoodie wearing lead singer has the kind of primal and destructive gall that only the best kinds of hardcore singers have. He comes out and rips the crowd apart, forcing us to lap up the blood. In other words, Sex Prisoner are tight and know how to get a crowd off. More than that, they sound legitimately pissed off. While many of their peers don’t reek of destruction, Sex Prisoner have a sort of primitive hate that keeps them from ever advancing. Instead they stay in place, tearing the room apart and forcing fans to realize that these guys might very well end the world as we stand trying to understand our morbid reality.
Finally it was time for Haymaker to leave us all crying on the floor. See, these guys actually do light off fireworks during their set, and it is fucking chaotic. Tyler from Noisem caught fire at one point, I thought I was going to die when one went off in my face, people were screaming and couldn’t breathe. In other words, they totally fucking rocked. I have no clue how Haymaker can play in those conditions but I do know I’ll never forget them. They beat me to death with a sound that was simply out of this world and the way they presented it left me (literally) gasping for air. The fact that they still haven’t killed anyone is a surprise to me, and in fact kind of makes me smile. Perhaps more than any other band on this bill (and definitely more than any band who played the Sidebar) Haymaker proved to me that they are the genuine hardcore lords of Canada.
The night ended in a subdued manner. We watched the Hank Williams Jr. video a few times, but Noisem had to get to sleep, they had to spend the next day practicing for their gig at the Metro Gallery. We sat down, chilled out, and partied only moderately before the next day. Yet the festival was taking its toll on me. At one point I looked into a mirror at my puffed up face and thought “Am I even still alive?” Somehow the panic, the partying, the general madness, was starting to fray away my nerves. With hopes of seeing eleven tight bands who were to be playing the next day, as well as many friends from across the East Coast who were coming just for this day, everyone seemed to be rather hopeful with what was to come.