Well, the entirety of my Saturday was occupied with EdgeFest, a hardcore festival held in Appleton which featured the soaring talents of a little band you might’ve heard of called Fallen Sparrows, amongst many others. The festival itself lasted about 12 hours and had 2 stages, roughly 2 dozen bands, and about thirty kids all wearing the same Underoath shirt. Welcome to hardcore.
Speaking of hardcore, my man Jon Taube got busted on our trek northward for going warp factor 9 (aka 83 mph) and consequently now owes the state of Wisconsin something on the order of $230. Oh, and I got carsick reading him the Rivers Cuomo interview in the new AP, but I guess his misfortune wins out as the most deleterious. I guess…
We fought the law but the law won: being slapped with an exorbitant fine held us up and led to our missing the first couple of bands. What was truly bizarre was touching down on Appleton soil and discovering the event was being held at a mall. Huh? Was this a symbolic co-opting of hardcore by soulless corporate forces of hegemonic assimilation? Maybe, maybe not. In a way it made sense- this way, in between sets kids could make a quick run to Hot Topic for all the latest and raddest “countercultural” gear and return as the guy who’s always been into Converge, or At the Gates, since, like, day one! (“Yeah, bro, I’ve always loved Slaughter of the Soul, waaaaaaay before Black Dahlia Murder!”) But I digress…
The first group I witnessed was Black Hand Tactics (I forgot to ask them if the name was inspired by the terrorist network responsible for Gavrilo Princip’s assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but how could this not be the case???) who dominated a set steeped in originality and good songwriting (and most importantly, as few hXc cliches as possible), though admittedly the sound was quite poor. Not that that’s really their fault at the end of the day; dudes’ amp tones were righteous as could be, so whoever was in charge of that aspect at the festival really could’ve done better, though admittedly it did improve as the night wore on . Anyway, their guitarists noodled out countless snakey riffs from their instruments, all while dressed in disgusting short shorts of the variety I usually see being sported by girls in Phy Ed… Where else can you find such intentional loathsomeness inoculated and rendered cool but the world of hardcore? Their drummer delivered technical drumming with vicious finesse, peppered with tasteful blastbeats. Their vocalist did a combination of Entombed-style death metal vocals as well as an early Emperor screech to great effect. Both won kudos from this reviewer.
Fallen Sparrows played 2 sets after BHT, and reliable stalwarts that they are, delivered a killer set of their idiosyncratic brand of… I don’t know… post-hardcore? Whatever that is. What does that mean, anyway? There are so many hyphens differentiating musical genres anymore and next to none of them are helpful. Anywho, the Sparrows delivered the pure as they flooded EdgeFest with their melodic waterfalls of ‘core. Several bucketloads of sweat later, Zach looked like his head was bleeding, but it was actually the temporary red dye that he had put in his bangs melting and running down his face, thus affecting the gnarly appearance of a combat wounded veteran . Here’s the evidence of their onslaught:
In the Face of War followed close after FS, and impressed me with their no-nonsense, old-school Minor Threat/Bad Brains-style hardcore, particularly since it didn’t exude any of the obligatory elitism most bands who play in that vein dish out. Though it was faithful to that hallowed old style they did temper it with some forward-thinking sonic innovations that made their tunes original and not simply cover songs with new titles. On which note, even their cover of a Foo Fighters song (“Everlong”) went over with me quite well. (That one took me a second the recognize it for what it really was; when I first heard the chords, I thought, Gosh that sounds familiar… but it kind of eluded me until I heard the chorus and it clicked and I suddenly found myself singing a freaking Foo Fighters song at the top of my lungs.) Yes- I dug them so much they brainwashed me into loving the Foo Fighters, even if only for two minutes. Their vocalist introduced every song with pleas for unity and positive thinking and straight edge and being excellent to each (and partying on, dudes) before kicking it into gear with the rest of the band and annihilating everything in sight. If your band introduces a breakdown by shouting, “Now get on your bikes and RIDE!” then as far as I’m concerned, your band can do no wrong.
A few sets after ItFoW played, Zach, Jon, Joel (Amundson, not Wallace) and Jason and I took a break from the nondescript, assembly line ‘core engulfing both stages to check out the mall’s theater and saw Meet the Fockers which was gross to the max and far too reliant on tired jokes cultivated in the first movie, but the brodown made it enjoyable nonetheless. I mean, someone tried to soothe a child with an abacus, so that counts for something. Later on it struck me as tragic that we were desperate enough to escape a music festival we slipped away to watch a Ben Stiller movie.
Away with any thoughts of sadness now, however! The highlight of the evening came with the second to last band, Nodes of Ranvier, who basically wiped the slate clean and destroyed most of the bands who were unfortunate enough to play in the hour or so before them. Nodes unleashed the sweaty headbanging, sorta-melodic-but-not-in-any-way-indebted-to-In-Flames, thrashy/stop-start chugga-chugga grab-your-bros-and-circle-pit-this-up excellence no one else seems capable of crafting anymore. I still don’t really think that they’re a hardcore group, even based on the current definition of what is hardcore, but I could be wrong, and I might be overanalyzing the entire phenomenon in a pointless effort to establish taxonomies (and pigeonhole mediocre-to-rotten bands, natch), but that’s neither here nor there . The fact of the matter is that Nodes are an awesome group who pummel mercilessly but are totally humble and genuinely appreciative to have had so many kids there to support not only them but the entire movement as a whole, so they drove away from Appleton with a couple dozen brownie points from me.
Allow me to digress once again (again), and just say that if you want to hardcore dance at a show, whatever- fine. It’s not my thing, but hey, that’s cool. But please do it in the area designated for just such conduct, i.e. the big empty spot that people have backed away from that don’t want to hardcore dance. One quasi-chubby fellow in a black hoodie could, without fail, be found standing in the midst of a whole gaggle of people and immediately start thrashing and just destroying people (Jon and myself included) . Not cool, man, but with your upgrades on Disregard and Disrespect you can level up to a Level 17 hXc d-bag. Bro: just move 5 feet forward into that big hollow circle where OTHER people are also hardcore dancing (imagine that) and proceed to rip, please. Not in the immediate vicinity of my face or any other vulnerable areas, ok?
After Nodes, Jon and I bailed, homeward bound and thrashed out. We returned at about 1:30 a.m. and I crashed at his place once more to facilitate church in the morning, which was amazing, p.s. due to the crazy amazing fellowship and the many stellar testimonies shared. Afterwards the Taubes and I had lunch at Applebee’s where of course we saw Ryan Bushaw (aka the Shaw, aka the Bear, aka Ziggy Shawdust, aka the Knife) and hilarity ensued in the form of Jon’s mom spilling raspberry iced tea all over me. Like, engulfing me is what I’m getting at. Zero resentment, just laughs X pure^12, apart from how my socks got flippin’ soaked. She asked me how I got my socks wet, to which I could only reply that it was because my feet were below me…? Gravity’s still rocking in the free world, Mrs. Taub- truth!
Over all, it was a quite awesome weekend, one that has left me destitute financially, but rich in free t-shirts, pens, and EPs, as well as in spirit. Rock and roll, people!
 Who are a killer band, p.s.
 Except insofar as it is and I’m just in denial.
 Jon himself waxed dubiously upon my observation of the aforementioned chubbycore dimwit:
Here’s the deal: the fat kid in question neither thrashed, nor destroyed. Instead he convulsed (grotesquely, I might add) and shook his arms about into other people. Suffice to say, guy could not dance. Sick faces the whole time. EXACT SAME DANCE MOVE FOR 12 HOURS! No rhythm. Yup.
To which I can only answer that I certainly didn’t utilize “thrash” or “destroy” in the sense that I was giving him props. There was not even an iota of coolness about this rapscallion. But he certainly rocked some people’s faces with his ill-advised gesticulations and punches. That’s all I meant.