So my first Sick Of It All gig, 30 years a coming. SOIA are crunching through their set and delighting the Enmore throngs (21 January).
Frontman Lou Koller, brother-guitarist Pete Koller and bassist Craig Setari on wireless instruments swap sides of the stage and vocals with more energy than their self-confessed, middle-aged bodies should have allowed. Although Pete still looks like he'd lift yer car up if you asked him to.
Jesus, it's been ages since I've been at a hardcore-punk show. Have the rules changed? I've seen Raging Speedhorn rock Limrock, seen Snapcase devour the Williamsburg Music Hall in Brooklyn, and Leatherface smash the Garage in London. And this shit is right up there. And the kids are still alright. The love-punk-hardcore love is in the air.
But wait, wtf? Whirling from the circle-pit, a couple of guys come spilling off the dancefloor in whatever the opposite of a loving embrace is. Proper earnest almost fisticuffs. But then Koller swings a masterstroke. Lou pulls a Moses Red Sea separation of the moshpit crowd. Then orders each team to attack but with two rules. “If someone falls down, you pick them up. And you don't fuckin sue us if you get hurt.”
Fair enough. The veritable battle of the bastards ensues to a rifftastic NYC shit attack.
Tantrums are all forgotten. Damn-fine crowd management Lou, damn fine. “Nobody cries when the innocent die.” Like, it still amazes me a band with just bass, drums and guitar can do this to a room. Why do U2 bother? They can't do this.
Now, after a long, f*ckin-added soundcheck (doesn't that usually happen before the gig?) and a sound engineer meticulously placing mics around the kit and kaboodle, came the most entertaining (yes, that's the right word) band in f*ckin ages. But not before some long, pre-gig drone, some f*ckin Nordic god invocation or other, all well and good like, but it pisses the entire crowd off for ten minutes.
Then an intense strobe. Synapse programming. Tension and release I suppose. 'Cos when they f*cking come on, the drummer punches the rack tom, it all kicks off and it's fucking amazing. All is forgiven/ forgotten. And so entertaining.
A really well-dressed band of gents rocking the fuck out. It's how it should be. Juxtaperfect. And while Jarvis Cocker and Nick Cave may be neck and neck as best well-dressed frontmen, vocalist Dennis Lyxzén leaves them for dead. And the way he pulls dance moves out of his ass and the thing he does with the mic sort of f*cking it in the air and slingshotting it around his foot or something. James Brown ain't got nothin on this. It's all amazing.
The guitars sound glorious. The drummer pummels beyond his weight. There is genuine love between the two bands. “SOIA were one of those bands we always looked up to. To tour with them is amazing.” 'The Deadly Rhythm' from 1998's essential 'The Shape Of Punk To Come' makes me giggle it's so good.
Dennis is known for speaking his mind, laments the rise of Trump and fascism. “If you keep following these rules, it keeps you locked down alright? Here's the thing about democracy, as long there is not economic democracy, that word means nothing.
“The economy dictates the control of the people. This is a song from 21 years ago about the destruction of capitalism. This song is 'I'd Rather Be Dead!'” The entire crowd heartily agrees and goes crazy. More spankgod songs and Valhalla riffs. And then, more genius out of nowhere. A half of Slayer's 'Reign In Blood'. Delivered with effortless style (yay Swedish!).
More inspiration: “This music we do, this community of the underground. This matters!” And saving the best for last, a cool tribute. “This scene is still very much a boys club. We must reach out to women everywhere as equals man. Here's some 'New Noise' for you.” Oh baby! “Can I scream! Woo!'"
We take the Refused love out onto the streets, type it into an iPad, send it to the zine, and into your eyes. Alright. Loud rock & roll is the only way.