Hitting The Trunk Road: Hardcore Heaven

No scene is more antithetical to the jamband-based festival scene than that of the hardcore punks. Since time immemorial (or maybe just since the late ’70s, the annals are unclear), the two groups have existed in mutually exclusive worlds. For good reason too; other than sharing the same general mindset of inclusiveness, each group achieves their sense of musical nirvana in drastically different forms. In the time it takes moe. or Phish to kick out one of their epic jams, a hardcore outfit might be able to run through their entire catalog as well as two encores and the noodle-armed prancers and sundress-clad twirlers that form the epicenter of a jamband crowd would find no solace amidst the consensual aggression that fuels a hardcore mosh pit. Your average hippie goddess wouldn’t stand a chance when a pinballing mosher treats them like Ricochet Rabbit treats a cactus.

[Photo by Dennis Blomberg]

Refused, one of the seminal hardcore bands of the Nineties (let’s be honest, I’ve been told this about them), recently reunited and returned to the States for a pair of sold-out shows at Terminal 5. Those who know of what they speak, revere Refused’s The Shape Of Punk To Come in the same manner that Deadhead’s venerate American Beauty, Workingman’s Dead or that bootleg cassette they’ve played down to the heads. To many, it’s the Sgt. Peppers of hardcore punk.

At Terminal 5, Refused masterfully built the tension towards their appearance. From the moment Ceremony, the opening band, mashed their final power chord and left the stage, an ambient hum remained in the speakers. Inching up in volume during the change, a full-length curtain bearing descended from the ceiling and the rear spotlights slowly gained in intensity to reveal the band’s name. By the time the Swedes hit the stage, the hum was deafening, the light blinding and the atmosphere palpably electric. Once the curtain dropped and the aural assault afoot, the crowd on the floor charged the stage with mad abandon. A veritable parting of the tattooed sea, the headlong rush left a ten to twelve foot swath of open ground in the middle of the floor. The truly remarkable sight lasted only a minute or two as it was soon filled with a diverse set of moshers, many of the same vintage age as the band. Bonnaroo this was not.

For a little more than an hour, Refused bashed out two to three minute highly-charged, possibly politicized, slices of pulsing noise that seemed to be influenced by The Clash as much as Metallica – or whatever hardcore band influenced Metallica as it seems wrong to think that Metallica could have any role in this. Lou Koller from Sick Of It All (whom I am led to believe is another seminal hardcore outfit) made an appearance and by the time Refused’s last droning note faded Terminal 5 was one sweaty, pierced mess. If jamband fans come to a show to feed off their brethren’s communal spirit, hardcore fans relax by sharing their naked aggression with their fellow man. It’s revelatory in its catharsis – if you’re bold enough to brave the pit.


In a world dominated by the superficial entertainment skills of those that find their way in front of the American Idol cameras or behind The Voice’s oversized chairs, Jack White remains a bona fide rock star even though it no longer carries the same cachet as it did in the past. Since cementing his reputation with The White Stripes alongside Meg White, his sister, ex-wife, former nanny and/or foster mother, appending the Jack White name to any project vaults it into the forefront of the rock cognoscenti without a second thought. He’s singlehandedly given credibility to The Raconteurs, legitimacy to Dead Weather and resurrection to the careers of Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson.

Always one to try something new, White is putting his name front and center on Blunderbuss, his first proper solo album. Like all of his other projects, it distinctly sounds like Jack White; it just wouldn’t be complete without a bevy of bottom-heavy, fuzzy guitar riffs, deep-toned organs and the hysterical, white-boy pseudo-rapping that often serves as his vocal styling. As he demonstrated in It Might Get Loud, songs seem to flow through White as if he’s channeling them from another source. His facility with words allows him to weave complex literary tapestries with strikingly simple expressions. When he proclaims that he wants love to change his friends to enemies on Love Interruption, it’s unclear whether White’s confessing a dark secret or engaging in ironic detachment. Like all great songs, the answer is totally irrelevant. Unsatisfied with simply culling a set of arena-ready riffs, White still finds ways to be creative with his guitar. No matter whether the rhythm tracks can be slightly derivative – the title track borrows from Cream’s Pressed Rat And Warthog and I’m Shakin’ echoes White Denim’s Mirrored And Reverse – the Morse code feedback solo from Weep Themselves To Sleep emerges so subtlety that you lose track of White’s prolific inventiveness.

Plants & Animals may be the best band that you are presently ignoring. If that last sentence offends your musical acumen (and it might, Ryan Dembinsky recently interviewed guitarist Warren Spicer for this very site), there may be no need to preach to the converted. In 2008, Parc Avenue, their first full-length album, finessed their Donovan-like whimsicality within a sparkly, progressive rock form. With their bold acoustic guitars that seem to roll back in on themselves, Plants & Animals either presaged the emergence of Local Natives the next year or wrote the script for them to follow. Their follow-up, La La Land, moved them towards briskly-paced rock with The Mama Papa, which would have been a mammoth success in the Brit-pop dominated Eighties, proving that they could put together an undeniably catchy song. On their latest, The End Of That, Plants & Animals are comfortably finding their place in the indie rock world, less dotty and extremely more confident; it’s the hallmark of a band gaining a foothold. If all of this is new information, you’ve got some new music to check out.

[Photo by Caroline Desilets]

What exactly transpired during the creation of the Honda commercial where Ra Ra Riot became the band playing the “show of the decade” and some insensitive girl makes the guy wait until they are on the way to show before telling him she’s coming? I’m sure there were six degrees of product placement involved but let’s be serious: the band from the creditscore.com commercials would be more believable as that show’s headliner. Don Draper would never have let this happen.

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