Yeah so I neglected to update for a few days and am actually writing this entry after arriving back at home, but the last half (and arguably most entertaining half) of the trip must be covered in order to make this a complete travel blog, so settle in kids….got a lot to cover and not a lotta time to do it (since I’m passing out as I type.)
Day 6 in Philadelphia marked my first show at the somewhat legendary First Unitarian Church. As the name may suggest, this actually is a church basement on the outskirts of downtown Philly that has hosted some of the biggest and best names in punk, hardcore, metal and indie rock over the years. A considerable amount of quality shows happen at this place almost constantly; yet I had somehow, in my previous trips to the city, never taken in a Church show. This fact has now been rectified.
The show in question was in fact the Philadelphia stop of the Boris pan-America (and Canada) tour with Torche on direct support along with different openers along the way. The opener for the Philadelphia show happened to be Boston’s own Clouds (featuring former Cave In guitarist Adam McGrath), a classic rock tinged metal outfit (kinda like Doomriders just not as good) that I’d actually seen twice and, if my description didn’t make it obvious enough, wasn’t that big of a fan of.
However, prior to the show, I had already been a rather large Torche fan. Having seen them open for Jesu late last year, I was arguably looking forward to seeing them more than Boris themselves. However by the time the crew of adorable misfits I was traveling with got to the venue and actually succeeded in getting INSIDE (as literally the last person ahead of us in line sold the show out…I’ll leave the details of us getting in up to your imagination (though it entailed nothing illegal…or, at least very illegal)) Torche had already been playing for a half hour and therefore I only succeeded in seeing them play for fifteen minutes (despite hearing them relatively clearly from outside.) Their charging, downtuned, borderline-sludgy metal was thoroughly entertaining, but I did not get nearly enough of it.
As for Boris…the first ten minutes were interesting/fun, but I found myself REALLY bored for the hour and twenty minutes that followed it. Maybe I just didn’t get it…or maybe I was just too sober to enjoy it? I guess Japanese avant-psych metal isn’t for me then.
Day 7 consisted of comic books, kosher shwarma, walking to South Philly for records and then an evening reading/listening to said comics and records. Day 8 was a travel day and consisted of getting to New York when walking 25 blocks with my bags to look for records that I didn’t want and ultimately didn’t buy before retiring to Brooklyn for wine and veggie corn dogs (and FYI: Morningstar Farms…..you make an EXCELLENT fake corn dog.)
Day 9, the last “official” day of the adventure, was as good a culmination as I could have hoped for. El Pott along with our beautiful cohort Ms. D (not to be confused with Ms. T, who had returned to Boston at this point.) Began our day with a picnic in a quaint little Brooklyn park where a cross country kickball tournament was taking place with various local bands playing for entertainment. This slightly awkward but generally entertaining scene killed a decent amount of time until what is arguably the event that spurned this entire trip was set to take place: the fantastic triple bill of Hot Water Music, Thursday and Paint It Black.
For those unsure, all three of those bands have been on my “greatest bands of all time” list for quite some time. Paint It Black, featuring the man who I’ve arguably begun basing my life on, Dr. Dan Yemin on vocals, I had seen twice this year already (and enjoyed thoroughly both times.) However Hot Water Music broke up before I began listening to them and just recently reunited, so I hadn’t seen them. However more mysterious was the fact that I had ALSO never seen Thursday despite listening to them almost religiously since I was sixteen (and one of the few remaining emo bands still on my iPod after the great emo massacre of 2006.) Somehow I had managed to miss their performances every single time…spanning two cities…for six years….to the point that my missing them had almost become a running gag amongst those that I discuss the band with (mostly because one of those indomitable madmen who shall remain nameless has managed to see them every time they’ve come to Montreal for probably longer than I’ve even been listening, but I digress…) I had missed them so often, in fact, that I’d forgotten how much I actually wanted to.
Six years and 350 miles later and it was very worth it.
However, that’s getting ahead of things a bit. Paint It Black opened the show and as usual, despite being far out of their element in the giant venue that is Terminal 5, they proved why they are one of, if not the most relevant hardcore bands of the decade (which is funny since Yemin was part of TWO of the most relevant hardcore bands of the LAST decade (Lifetime and Kid Dynamite) as well. Feel free to debate their relevance, you will be wrong.) It’s funny, generally opening bands play for a half hour…but I’ve seen Paint It Black HEADLINE and only play for a half hour, so I would wager other fans of the band were not disappointed as well…though there weren’t very many others. It’s understandable I suppose, since this show was probably quickly labeled an “emo” show due to Thursday’s presence and all the “hardcore kids” tend to steer clear of emo shows and then go bash them on the internet and are then, in turn, bashed by bands like Paint It Black (check out the song “So Much for Honor Among Thieves” if you don’t know what I’m talking about.)
Thursday followed and delivered close to 75 minutes of post-hardcore goodness. While they were once unquestionably an emo band, I’m not sure the label ever really applied to them as much as it applied to other bands of that genre and I’m almost positive that it doesn’t apply now (despite what those lovely examples of humanity on the internet forums claim.) All labels aside, it’s always obvious to me when a band actually cares about the music they’re playing. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, when a show is more than a paycheck to a band it really shows in their performance. Sadly this occurance is seen less and less lately in bands who play venues that are larger than the average basement (or venues that ARE the average basement.) Thursday, who I would assume are the reason the show was at a venue the size of Terminal 5 (since I’m not sure Hot Water Music would require as large a venue and Paint It Black certainly don’t), break the stereotype though. As a band they are kind of at the point in their career where they’re past the point of being “the next big thing” (which they were for quite some time…though it’s up for debate as to whether they actually ever became the big thing they were next in line for) and can really do whatever they want artistically. All of their label and band drama seems to behind them now and while I can’t vouch for how they sounded four years ago, they were tight as all hell now. The vast majority of their set came from their third full length, 2003’s War All the Time, with selections from 2001’s Full Collapse and 2006’s A City By the Light Divided sprinkled in as well as one new, instrumental track (aptly titled “In Silence”) from their upcoming split seven inch with the band Envy. In conclusion: I was fully entertained and a loose end from my adolescence was at long last tied up (in fact my immediate thought once their set ended was “okay…maybe I can grow up now.”)
The unfortunate part was at this point, after being rather active on the dancefloor for both Paint It Black and Thursday, my body was considerably sore and my voice was all but gone…and Hot Water Music were about to perform. This being the second punk rock reunion show that I’d been in attendance for over the course of the trip (see Day 2 of this travel blog if you haven’t been paying attention), I began to ponder just how much of a reunion it is if the band was only apart for three years (or in the case of None More Black, 2 years). However, when you consider how many bands have arisen over the course of that period of time who have tried, often in vain, to fill the void of the dearly departed groups, the return of the forefathers actually means a helluva lot more in comparison. That having been said, having Hot Water Music playing shows again is a very good thing not only for their fans, not only for fans of soulful post-hardcore, but I dare say for the American punk scene as a whole. Having bands this honest, this grateful and this meaningful be active again raises the bar for the whole genre as far as I’m concerned. As for what they played, the simple answer would really be “everything,” but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. However they did hit tracks from at least five albums (The New What Next, Caution, A Flight and a Crash, No Division and Fuel for the Hate Game) including personal favorites “Trusty Chords,” “A Flight and a Crash,” “The Sense” and “Turnstile.” Based on the variety of the set list and the presence of so many fan favorite tracks I’d say it’s pretty obvious that this band reunited for the fans more than any other reason and as one of those many fans worldwide I can honestly only form two words in response to their performance:
(and if I can stretch it out to five (which I can because this is my blog): Thanks Guys, Keep It Up.)
Day 10 was another travel day as I awoke, tired and sore with barely functional vocal chords, and dragged myself back home to Boston. My bed, which has never looked quite as comfortable, sits mere feet behind me and it’s time to put this baby (both the blog and myself) to bed.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for the regular banter once I think of something else to rant about.
This has been a thoughtgrenade special presentation.