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Gallows – [Live]

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Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Now I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to "punk rock" shows, I'm a bit jaded these days. Growing up in the S.F. Bay Area I was lucky enough to witness many local bands such as M.D.C., Verbal Abuse, D.R.I. and Attitude Adjustment, all of whom played in glorious, shitty little sweatboxes such as Ruthie's Inn, Rock on Broadway and The Mabuhay Gardens. This was back in the days when there was still a sense of danger at punk rock shows, whether it was from the skinheads who were looking to bash on little metal kids like myself, or from the sweat, beer and vomit that usually covered the floor, and made it damn-near impossible to slam dance without falling on your face. Those were the kind of shows my friends and I lived for in those magical days, which was why, almost 25 years later, I was a bit skeptical walking over to a venue like Slim's to see a punk rock band who have recently signed a million-pound record deal and has a song available for play on Guitar Hero III.

The evening got off to a bit of a lackluster start with the first band that hit the stage, Vultures United. Hailing from Orange County, this five-piece sounded like a cross between hardcore and mallcore—with a bit too much emphasis on the latter. At times they really sounded a lot like Black Flag, but that sound would often get lost with vocalists Jordan Salazar's pointless screamo style. Normally I am a fan of the in-your-face vocal style, but if you’re gonna scream at me, at least have something to say. On a positive note, they were all pretty good musicians, and I really did get the feeling that their overall sound will get better with time. I'll have to keep an eye out for them in the future.

After a quick 25-minute turnaround, Toronto's Cancer Bats were up next, and they immediately pumped some much-needed life into the crowd with their thrash-infused riffs. Mixing both Hardcore and Metal, they tore through their roughly 35-minute set, and I thought they fucking ruled. Singer Liam Cormier was pacing around like a madman, and had tremendous energy, while his animated vox delivery style really brought the band’s songs to life. Guitarist Scott Middleton had a nice "crunch" to his guitar and his sound and playing reminded me a lot of Pepper Keenan of Down and Corrosion of Conformity. Cancer Bats’ sound is a bit hard to define, but If I had to classify it, I'd say they are a bit more on the metal side, but with the vocal styling of hardcore. I really wish I was more familiar with them before this show, as I would have been able to identify more of their songs, although I do remember hearing "French Immersion," "Shillelagh" and "Pneumonia Hawk," and they all rocked. If you’re looking to go see a good old school crossover band, don't miss theses guys when they come to your town.

Waiting for the third band of the evening, my somewhat skeptical and jaded mood had changed. Perhaps it was the Newcastle on tap, or the rocking-ness of the previous band, but I was suddenly feeling quite optimistic about seeing This Is Hell. Unfortunately my feelings from earlier in the evening returned when they finally hit the stage. Like their obvious influences, and fellow New Yorkers, Madball, This Is Hell hit the stage with a punk-rock fury, but it quickly went downhill from there, and before I knew it I was smack dab in the middle of another screamo fest. It may be what is considered punk rock today, but I just can't get into this style. Adding to my disappointment in this band was one of the guitarists, who stopped a song halfway through and tried to create some tension by "calling out" the bouncers, who he thought were mishandling the crowd. I was up there watching it all unfold, and they were simply doing their jobs. Lame. As far as today's standards This Is Hell is probably pretty decent, but they just didn't do it for me. Enough said.

Waiting for Gallows to take the stage, I became very antsy. I had just stood through three bands, two of which I didn't care for, and for the first time during the evening I had taken a good look at the size of the crowd, noticing that Slim's was at about half capacity, which I found very odd. Luckily before I could over think as to why there weren’t more people there for such a great band, Gallows made their way on stage and immediately launched into a blistering rendition of "Come Friendly Bombs." Watching frontman Frank Carter and his bandmates up on stage I realized why I like Gallows so much, and that is because, quite simply put, they are real. They don't conform to today's "punk" sound. They were not up on stage posing or trying to look hardcore. They were just five guys up there doing their thing, and it sounded pretty fucking good. Although Frank was not able to move around much due to a back injury sustained by falling from a lighting rig the night before (?!?!), he did manage to make his way off the stage and on top of the bar while ripping through their version of Black Flag's “Nervous Breakdown” and their own "Sick of Feeling Sick." I don't think I have ever seen so many little punk rock kids taking pictures with their camera phones all at the same time. Back up on stage guitarists Steph Carter and Laurent Barnard really kept the energy going, despite a seemingly lack of it from the crowd. As for me, I was loving every minute of them, and if I had to pick favorites from the evening they would have to include "Abandon Ships," "Orchestra of Wolves" and of course "Belly of a Shark," to which they left the stage. I walked out of Slim's feeling quite content, and happy to know that there are still punk bands out there that make me want to keep in touch with today’s scene.

More on Cancer Bats here: www.myspace.com/cancerbats

More on Gallows here: www.myspace.com/gallows

Gallows’ Orchestra of Wolves is out now on Epitaph.

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