HARDCORE RULES! with Agnostic Front

Thursday, June 13th: HARDCORE RULES! at Bogies with Agnostic Front, Lionheart, Brick by Brick and Aggressive Response.

by Jay Frost

Hardcore reigned supreme in Albany last Thursday night with a visit from the Godfathers themselves – NYC’s Agnostic Front. Along with Mediaskare recording artists Lionheart (CA), Troy-core staples Brick By Brick, and new local favorites Aggressive Response, this was an evening made of circle-pits and sing-alongs, stage-dives and dog piles; no egos, no attitude – just good times and that positive vibe you can really only find at a hardcore show.

Arriving at 8:30, I made it just in time to run through the door for openers Aggressive Response. With most weekday shows beginning at 7:30 sharp, I thought for sure that my shitty day job was going to prevent me from missing yet another opening act. Thankfully, Upstate Black ‘N’ Blue saw fit to push the start time up to 8:30, allowing for total coverage.

Aggressive Response is unlike any other band in the Albany scene right now. They draw on a much older and more diverse range of influences than their contemporaries to create a unique blend of punk and hardcore reminiscent of Fear and early Sheer Terror. With songs chock-full of high-speed virtuosic percussion, heavily-distorted buzz-saw guitars, clear and audible bass lines, and Jay Krak’s bulldog bark, there is nothing of the new-school to be found here. There is also a great deal of talent behind Aggressive Response.  The guitar tandem of Kurt and Joe effortlessly kick out electrified surf-rock riffs and solid rhythms built on double-timed blues scales. Drummer Jared is a madman, and though he’s responsible for laying down a barrage of rapid-fire machine gun beats, he sacrifices neither skill nor technicality in the process. Additionally, they possess a passion rarely seen in modern hardcore that colors their performance. As the stage comes alive with leaping spin-kicks, Krak spends the majority of his time pacing the wide open dance floor, ranting and raving like a lunatic.

From the first note to the last, the dance floor was packed for Aggressive Response, who’ve built an impressive following since their live debut in March supporting punk rock pioneers Urban Waste and the FUs. Their set consisted of original material from their self-titled EP – a sleek, professionally-packaged six song affair with full liner notes – as well as two new songs and a cover of everyone’s favorite feel-good hardcore anthem – Sheer Terror’s “Just Can’t Hate Enough” – thrown in for posterity. This is a band to keep an eye on; stop by their BandCamp page to hear their EP in its entirety, and look for show announcements on their Facebook page.

Following Aggressive Response was yet another excellent performance by 518 wrecking crew Brick By Brick. For ten years now, this band has not only held down the Troy-Core style, but brought it to the next level with countless local and regional performances with acts as diverse as Rancid, Exodus, Sheer Terror, Sworn Enemy, and Madball. With all this and three albums to show for it, there is no denying that they are the hardest working band in the area.

B X B literally sounds better, tighter, and more crushing every time I see them. New drummer James Muller has not only mastered the band’s body of work with seemingly little difficulty, but has marked it with his own unique signature. Mike Valente has also progressed in his role as the group’s sole guitarist by adding dissonant, thrashy leads to his already solid repertoire of groove-oriented, break-down heavy rhythms. The 518 loves Brick By Brick, and tonight they showed their pride and appreciation with the customary chaotic flurry of fists and spin kicks.

Recent times has seen Brick By Brick’s live show consisting largely of material from their second and third albums – 2006’s Wings of Angels and 2010’s Severed Ties –and the occasional inclusion of classics like “Free For All” and “Demon Eyes”. This evening was much the same, only with a few surprises for the old-schoolers in the room: first, their rendition of Straight Jacket’s “Final Cry” followed by fan –favorite and unofficial B X B theme song “Tearing Down”. This crushing call to arms has been noticeably absent from their repertoire as of late, so the ensuing maelstrom that was the pit for those few moments in time came as no surprise; big props to Rich Roberts for mediating the front-stage brawl for the mic, and to the band as a whole for setting the bar for the pit so early in the night.

Northern Califronia’s Lionheart added a bit of contrast with their set. Hailing from the Bay Area and taking cues from the likes of Hoods, Machine Head, Madball and Hatebreed , Lionheart  are currently on the road in support of their third album, Undisputed. They’ve toured Europe at least a half a dozen times and have shared the stage with Terror and at least three of the four above-mentioned bands. Though there’s no denying that Lionheart are from the new-school, to dismiss them as “another metal core band” is unjust. Low-tuned guitars and double-bass heavy drum work deal out punishing slabs of mosh-core fit to rival any of their peers.

Vocalist Rob Watson possesses a dynamic range that renders it nearly impossible to compare him to anyone else, achieving the perfect balance of guttural lows and scathing highs. His intense delivery locks in with the rhythm section, providing just as much of a foundation for Lionheart’s music as the drums and bass. This can be attributed to Watson’s role as their primary lyricist and the active part he takes in the development of Lionheart’s music. When asked in an interview about his contribution, Watson mentioned that as he pieces lyrics together, he develops ideas for how he wants each particular song to sound. This allows Watson to aid in the studio with arrangement and composition of the music itself.

Lionheart has been a regular visitor to the Albany area for years now, something that will likely never change. If you’ve never heard them – or just haven’t seen them live – do yourself a favor and catch them the next time around. I’m sure it won’t be long.

The change-over between Lionheart and tonight’s headliners ran a bit long, but as the saying goes, “good things come to those who wait”; and when you’re waiting on Agnostic Front, patience pays off double. A significant number of late-comers and stragglers arrived during the break, swelling Bogies to about half-capacity. Not bad for a Thursday night! Being that Black Flag had played the previous night, I’d imagine there were a great deal of sore scenesters reluctantly sitting this one out. I’m sure that some – like me – had to choose between one show or the other. Whatever the case, those who did make it were in for one hell of a performance.

Right out of the gate, Agnostic Front brought it back to the old-school with “Blind Justice” and “The Eliminator”.  For a band that’s been at it since the early 80s, they had a wealth of energy to burn. Roger Miret had all the charisma of a carnival-barker as he stoked the crowd to a fever pitch and led the sing-alongs. Founding guitarist Vinnie Stigma provided a bit of comic relief with his on-stage antics, all the while remaining focused on the material. Much like the other older bands I’ve seen in recent years – Sheer Terror, DRI and Exodus, to name a few – Agnostic Front were tight as hell.

Agnostic Front draws a very diverse crowd, as evidenced by the punks, skins (not the scary, Neo-Nazi kind), longhairs and hardcore kids alike tearing it up. Mosh-pit hospitality rules applied: no head-hunting, mind your neighbor, and if someone goes down, help them up.  There were no fights, no tough-guy posturing; just that sense of unity that so many preach but seldom actually achieve.

Along with early tunes like the two they opened their set with, Agnostic Front delighted us all with more recent favorites – most notably “For My Family”, Iron Cross cover and NYHC staple “Crucified”, and the colossal “Gotta Go” from their 1996 come-back Something’s Gotta Give. Chants of “Oi!” filled the room as  Miret continued to stoke the crowd, telling us all to take one step forward and move around; he was startled a bit when an overly-enthusiastic slam-dancer drilled him in the chest while passing the stage, but continued without skipping a beat.

Shortly after midnight, Agnostic Front concluded with their cover of The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”, the studio version of which can be found on the Respect Your Roots compilation. As the undisputed Godfathers of the New York Hardcore scene, it is only fitting that AF pay homage to the Godfathers of Punk Rock – and what a way to cap off the evening! Though I never had the pleasure of seeing The Ramones, I can now tell my children someday, when I’m old and completely bald and they’ve just discovered punk rock that their father once moshed to that song. Hopefully they won’t respond with: “What’s moshing?”AF flier