A389 2011 in pics & review (Integrity, Haymaker & more)
It started with me, G.I.S.M., and Cracker Barrel. On my way to Sonar in Baltimore on 1/22, a democratic vote in the Honda Accord led to a late lunch at the most American of all pit-stops, Cracker Barrel. Lined with rocking chairs (for sale!) and a menu with items like "Chicken Fried Chicken", I could feel the burning stinkeye as I walked through the "homey" restaurant and "country store", surrounded by a crew of tattooed hooligans, wearing my G.I.S.M. sweatshirt that reads "Die, You Bastards!!!" (replete with an anarchy symbol fashioned from an AK-47).
This un-American theme would continue later that night with the US debut of UK band Rot in Hell who openly discussed their disdain for the US ("I don't give a fuck"). Dropdead would add to that sentiment by (predictably) pointing out that the government was lying to us all, while the band that would follow had printed their manifesto on a 7": Fuck America. This negative, anti-authoritarian, and anti-social tone is how I like my hardcore, and what I got at the A389 anniversary.
The US may not have been king on stage, but its currency was king at the merch tables (save for Dropdead's that is) where phrases like "limited to 65", "ultra-rare", "test pressing", and "band only copies" reigned supreme. As we arrived at the venue, the merch tables were swarmed, as the show was an eBay fiend's dream with "show only" items like an Integrity flexi-disc and a 10" commemorating the 2010 edition of the show. The kids ate it up, as expected, so look for those items in a secondary market near you.
Pharoah's post-metallic hardcore kicked off the 2011 show at the stroke of 7PM, followed by blasting and punishing Californians The Love Below shortly thereafter. Seven Sisters of Sleep followed the pair, and the former members of Tafkata, Spring Break!, and Arm & Sword of a Bastard God ripped out crusty-sludgy post-metal that impressed. My first visit with SSoS was a great one.
Following SSoS was Pale Creation, and though their live show left something to be desired, the highly energetic Rot in Hell brought back the fun and energy. The rare US appearance doubled as the band's As Pearls Before Swine record release party, and in line with their negative imagery and blackened sound, RiH were not so much in a celebratory mood as they were antagonizing. Terms like "Fuck America" and "shite" (in reference to America/its products) were peppered throughout the on-stage banter. RiH got the pit started for the next band, Providence's Dropdead.
Dropdead made sure to point out their longetivity at A389 ('doing this for 20 years"), and broke-up their set of crusty and break-neck grind/hardcore with political and animal rights testimony. Fast, bludgeoning and beyond powerful, the Rhode Island band's performance was my first indication of the pit mayhem that would follow. But there was no way I could have predicted Haymaker.
Haymaker's reputation precedes them; tales of agression and live show violence coupled with their well-regarded recordings made their rare US appearance all the more exciting. Dressed like a clan of Western Virginia hillbillies, the band took to the stage while the clearly-inebriated vocalist took to the pit, performing the entire set while shoving off zealous fans. Trash cans were thrown, pizza boxes became weapons, and the kids went nuts. Pit antics aside, the two guitars/bass/drums, which featured Johnny Ibay of Fuck The Facts, were booming, unrelenting, and technically proficient. Haymaker was as good as they were fun, which says a lot.
It's tough to follow a band like Haymaker, but I can't imagine a better way to start an Integrity set than with the Humanity Is The Devil opener "Vocal Test". Apparently vocalist/mastermind Dwid agrees. Backed by a dual guitar attack played by a band half his age, Dwid's version of Integrity in 2011 were great, and delivered classics like "Incarnate 365", "Systems Overload", and newer material. Awesome set from Dwid & co, but Haymaker was the king of the stage (and the floor) that night.
More pictures from A389 are below.
The Love Below
Seven Sisters of Sleep
Rot In Hell