Gulch played their 1st, 2nd and final NYC shows (review & full set videos)
The brightest stars burn the quickest, and there is no question Santa Cruz’s Gulch was one of metalcore’s brightest. Beginning to radiate their light in 2016, forming from ex and current members of Drain and Spinebreaker, the quintet released a handful of EPs and a full-length record, Impenetrable Cerebral Fortress, which skyrocketed them into becoming a house name amongst punks worldwide. Though it seemed like they were only getting started, just a few months after their vicious split with fellow Californians Sunami, the band decided to bow out while they were on top with a handful of dates across the United States. An unfortunate but noble decision, the group announced in late January they would be taking on the east coast at Greenpoint’s own Saint Vitus Bar for two nights, both of which would sell out instantaneously, confirming their status as one of modern metalcore’s finest imports. Keeping it real and paying tribute to the state they were about to annihilate for two nights, each night consisted of three bands from New York. With their concluding assault of Brooklyn on April 30th, they brought Long Island’s The Fight, Combust of Staten Island, and Buffalo up-and-comers Exhibition. If there were any promises, it was that these shows were going to be nothing short of warzones; perhaps a few ambulances on standby should have been considered. This night would go on to show some of New York’s latest talents in hardcore as well as broadcast that, long after Gulch’s inevitable demise comes to pass, they have stamped their name into hardcore history amongst the other great short-lasting names, from Minor Threat to Acme.
With Vitus’ doors opening at 6 pm, a line was formed of hardcore folk eagerly waiting to get into the show, perhaps to buy some Gulch merchandise to flip later on. The showroom would fill up within an hour. However, Exhibition wouldn’t start until 8 pm. The Buffalo group kicked the show off with a nice set of older New York Hardcore vibes. It was a brief set with a couple of covers, concluding with Iron Cross’ staple track “Crucified,” and the crowd began molding what would be the vibe throughout the night: plenty of spin kicks and stage dives to go around. Simultaneously, much of the crowd cowered in the back of the venue to avoid any hits.
Noticing this, Combust vocalist Andrew Vacante was not having it. “I’m not starting until you guys move it in!” he shouted into the mic, which prompted some to take a few steps forward, and even some to join in the mosh. With the set starting and bringing in that Staten Island fury, the energy of the room went up. Their sound took more of the older style of hardcore and had a bit of a crossover thrash approach, made tighter by the two guitarists in the group. Another short one, but packed with energy many artists can’t bring in a headlining set. Of course, this energy cowered away some crowd members, but Andrew would pull them back in, sometimes guilting them in the process. “You cowering in the back is making it harder for people who actually want to enjoy the set to come in.” he’d remark, making quips about how it couldn’t possibly be a sold-out show with so much room available. Towards the end of the set, Kyle of The Fight joined in for a song, which was a teaser for what was to come.
With each set, it seemed the music was descending deeper into the depths of darker hardcore. While Exhibition and Combust are not exactly family-friendly bands, The Fight came through to pack a heavier punch into the mix. Stemming from the ashes of beloved Long Island locals Junkai, the band’s energy radiated into the audience, and their energy began to mutate into something more fierce and aggressive than before. The themes in the music started to get more real as well; Kyle dedicated a song to his ankle tag, for instance. The band took a look into our society and how it affects us, and the audience reciprocated those messages loud and clear. The longest set of the three openers, it still only touched about 20 minutes.
Despite starting late, the show was steamrolling ahead, and the audience was moshing along, throwing everything from water cups to beer cans. By the time Gulch was about to take the stage, Vitus’ floor was drenched in blood, sweat, and beer, and the room was packed like sardines; some concertgoers were even on stage. After a brief speech about having a good time, the stage shined with exploding stars as “Contemplate/Enact” off of Burning Desire to Draw Last Breath played over the PA. The crowd was already starting to go off, but once the drums of “Flesh Pursuit” kicked in, the true battle began.
From the moment Gulch’s set started to the final seconds of the encore, Vitus was a warzone. Thirty minutes of unbridled havoc. Along with the moshing and stage-diving kicking up tenfold from the previous three acts combined, the floor was also slippery, having audience members who were going a little too hard slipping and even falling on top of one another. Vocalist Elliot Murrow, who had been going off for every band on the bill, also began throwing himself on top of the audience throughout, while jumping all over the stage and having the audience scream lyrics into the microphone for tracks like “Bolt Swallower” and “Fucking Towards Salvation.” Even concertgoers who’d previously taken cover started throwing themselves into the pit, and why wouldn’t they? After all, it was now or never; for most of us, this was the last time we were going to see the Californian hardcore heroes prove themselves worthy as legends.
This energy kicked up further when Elliot announced they only had a couple of more songs left, and then transitioned into “Cries of Pleasure, Heavenly Pain,” a clear crowd favorite, as an audience member took the microphone to scream for a decent chunk of the song, and a notable amount more joined into moshing and party. With that, more beer and water were being thrown around, making the moshers fall onto themselves even more. Towards the end, Elliot decided to lend the microphone to the audience for joke time; none of the jokes told were particularly good, but it was all fun banter before the group finished their set with a bang. Until, of course, the crowd begged for an encore, which ended up being “All Fall Down the Well,” a track Elliot needed to pull out the lyrics on his phone for. In those final two minutes, all the energy exploded. With that, the bright star shed its last shine before dimming away from New York forever.
Not too far off in the future, Gulch will no longer be an active band. They sped through those six years, but there was no bullshiting around. For this, long after they’re gone, the people who went to Saint Vitus on April 30th, 2022 will still remember the scent of spilled beer and sweat, and the sight of a few hundred showgoers catching their first breath after a hectic night. Gulch will be remembered as the band who caused this to happen, and that is a beautiful thing to be remembered for.
Watch videos of both of Gulch's sets at Saint Vitus below. Snag Gulch vinyl here.