July 28, 2003
THE EXPLOSION, PAINT IT BLACK, DOWN TO NOTHING AND THE FAUX, 7.27.03, RICHMOND, VA
It’s been ages since I’ve been to a show populated predominantly by Richmond, VA’s straight edge scenesters and I can’t say that I’m all that upset at that fact. While these kids’ taste in hardcore intersects with my own in more than enough instances for me to stick my nose in the door at a show now and again I can’t say I’m happy when I know this crowd will be showing up. By and large the straight edge scene in Richmond seems to be more violent, more elitist and more pig-headed than just about any other I’ve encountered. When I walked in Alley Katz’ door and saw a sea of Saucony sneakers and closely cropped hairdos I was very much afraid that a select few of these people would ruin seeing two great bands, but I’d already paid my money so there was nothing to do but try my best to have a good time.
The Faux were the first band of the night, and I was curious to hear them if only to see what kinds of acts the Explosion’s new Tarantulas record label was going to be in the habit of signing up. While the Faux had some things going for them I have to admit that I’m pretty torn about what to think of them. On one hand it’s great to see a really confrontational frontman (the Faux singer’s androgynous persona, neo-James Brown contortionism and strange charisma all reminded me a great deal of Ian Svenious from Nation of Ulysses and the Make-Up) and the reggae-influenced bass lines had me tapping my toes, but on the other hand the lack of any memorable pop hooks and a tendency to get mired in self-absorbed experimentation (see the sequencer-driven intro) keep me from falling head over heels from these guys.
Second on the bill were Richmond, VA straight edgers Down to Nothing, and I was mildly curious to hear them after hearing a ton of hype about them on the internet. Unfortunately, though, DTN are one of the many recent bands who take most of their influences from the NYHC end of the â€˜core spectrum, and while I’m not about to throw out my Cro-Mags records this sound just really isn’t my thing. The macho antics on the dance floor didn’t do anything to endear me to this band either. All in all DTN are extremely good at what they do, but I wasn’t really in the mood to hear what they do given the fact that I’d come for the Explosion and Paint It Black’s more melodic, sing-along punk.
I remember very vividly walking into Alley Katz around a year ago for a Strike Anywhere/Count Me Out show and seeing Dan Yemin standing shirtless on the stage looking like he was going to bite into the mic like a piece of raw meat. From that second I knew that Paint It Black were something special (as if Yemin’s track record weren’t enough to tell me that), and since I got their new LP CVA I’ve been absolutely teeming with anticipation of seeing this band. I was more than a little nervous that I’d have to endure sweaty hardcore boys jumping all over me in an effort to sing along, but between some sort of beef between DTN and PIB’s guitar player and Dan Yemin’s opening speech (“dancing is great, kickboxing is not”) Paint It Black managed to nip that in the bud. Despite the fact that people were a little afraid to move after the intense beginning to the set, Paint It Black were absolutely raging. As they went through nearly all the songs on CVA I watched the veins on Yemin’s chest and neck slowly bulge from his skin until they looked like they were going to leap right off him and attack the audience. The man is as intense a performer as I’ve ever seen and I can’t help but wonder why the hell he hasn’t fronted a band before. In short, see this before they’re another group you wish you’d come out for.
So, finally the Explosion were up. Truth be told, although I’ve always liked the Explosion I may not have made the trip all the way to Richmond if Paint It Black hadn’t been playing. However, it seems that when one’s expectations are fairly low is the best time to be wowed by a band, and the Explosion nearly ran me over this evening with what is perhaps the best set I’ve ever seen them play. I’d always caught them as opening acts before (with not-quite-right tourmates such as Rocket from the Crypt and the Queers), and while the Explosion always did a great job of winning people over they were an altogether different experience on “their” show. It was clear that most of the crowd had come to see them, and a significant part of the crowd was up front singing along. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that the band’s new EP, Sick of Modern Art, is probably the best record that they’ve ever released, and though the record is still fairly new those songs went over spectacularly. Million Dollar Matt was in great form as always, rattling off quips about how much the band loves drinking (see the aforementioned confrontation with DTN) and how awesome Richmond is with all the off-the-cuff wit of Paddy from Dillinger Four.
So there you have it, a great show enhanced immeasurably by the fact that I didn’t have people beating the shit out of me while I watched the two bands I came to see. If this thing hits your town it gets my highest recommendation.
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