Last week I went to the first hardcore hall show I’d been to in years. I decided this would be a good way to start off the Keep Times since I’ve spent years in the hardcore scene and have a relatively large vocabulary of bands to draw from for reviewing purposes.
I may have been wrong.
I showed up a bit late to the show, only arriving in time to catch Bleach, Serration, Mortality Rate and Vamachara. It was held at King Edward Hall, a cozy community hall in eastern Edmonton.
I’d wanted to see Serration, since I’d heard they shared a guitar player with the now-defunct Self Harm, a notable Edmonton hardcore act from the last few years. I’d heard Mortality Rate and heard speak of their amazing performances, ear-shattering tones and socially conscious presence. I can’t say I’d heard of Vamachara before, other than among the never-ending list of So-Cal hardcore bands that fills labels these days.
Bleach was good. They weren’t phenomenal, but they were solid. Their performance was highlighted by the cool-guy mannerisms of the string players – indoor sunglasses and all – and the in-your-face stylings of the vocalist. The songs were fairly straight forward, but they had pretty tasty tones and satisfying twists here and there.
When Serration started playing, I figured, “Hey, this guitar tone is absolutely awful but I’m sure it’s just a pedal he’s using for this song intro.” It wasn’t. I could’ve sworn it was getting louder and more undesirable throughout the set. At one point I literally walked over to see if I could convince the bass player to turn up to drown out the guitar a little. Unfortunately, the bass amp was turned all the way up already and even standing right next to it didn’t give it enough leverage to save my ears from the garbage compactor whirring off to stage right. I honestly don’t remember anything else about their set because I couldn’t hear anything else.
Trench played next and whatever sound issues had begun during the Serration set weren’t resolved. Their performance was pretty solid – the standard headbanging instrumentalists and wandering vocalist one expects from a hardcore band. I just really wish I’d been able to hear more than the guitar.
Then things went a bit haywire. Mortality Rate took the ‘stage’/west-third-of-the-hall and began their set. They had a really neat light show involving flashing green bulbs from corners of the room. They’d cleaned up the guitar tone a bit compared to the prior acts and had levelled things out a little so the rhythm section was at least now audible.
Moshing began about a third of the way through the set, commenced by Zion from Old Crows flailing around an empty area for a song or 2 until others joined.
Everyone in the Edmonton hardcore scene over the last couple years knows Zion – or has at least seen him at shows. We’re all aware that he’s usually the first one dancing. We’re also aware that he occasionally takes advantage of being the only one dancing and swings his arms around as though he’s either sparring against an invisible ninja or executing Stojko-level figure-skating moves. To my knowledge, he’s never seriously hurt anyone and sticks to typical shove moshing once a decent-sized crowd joins him in the pit.
At this point, given my general disinterest with the music so far, I’d elected to step outside for a cigarette.
Minutes later, the Mortality Rate set ended and the crowd quickly filtered outside. I had drank my fair share of Twisted Teas by that hour, and called a cab to leave. I said goodbye to friends, including Kurt – the other half of Old Crows. I’d only barely noticed the odd fact that Zion wasn’t among his friends.
Later that night and early the following morning, Zion’s absence was explained on social media.
Apparently, a member of the band Jesus Piece, another SoCal hardcore act, had been at the show that evening. For whatever reason, he had taken issue with Zion’s solo Beillmann spins during the Mortality Rate set and decided to act. He proceeded to grab Zion’s arm, swing him 360 degrees, and toss him to the side of the pit.
On a side note, if it had ended there, there would likely be no issue. That happens at nearly every show and doesn’t necessarily hurt anyone.
The idiot from Jesus Piece then ran up to Zion – who hadn’t regained his balance yet – and kicked him directly in the face.
I’ve seen some dumb things happen in moshpits over the years; this is definitely in the top 3 stupidest. Nonetheless, Mortality Rate’s set continued to its intended conclusion and the crowd dispersed without any direct dissent against what had just occurred.
The people who put this show together, Veronica Fuentes, Joel Michael, Nicole Boychuk and Mattie Cuvilier, are all great people and couldn’t have foreseen such a thing happening since our local scene tends to be pretty docile when compared with the balls-out masculinity sty that is LA hardcore. They nonetheless probably could have reacted more quickly and will hopefully think about that next time they book a SoCal band.
So overall, pretty substandard show. I’m not sure if it’s the sound gear, the bands, or whoever was operating the PA to blame, but there was undeniably room for improvement.
I’ve said before that the biggest problem in our hardcore scene is guitarists’ seeming ignorance toward their volume relative to the rest of their band. This whole show was a shining reinforcement of that view.