Scream ’til You Feel Better: An Evening of Hardcore

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Stay Wild returned to Frogee’s Cocktail Bar this last Friday for an evening loaded with some of the best local Hardcore this scene has to offer. Hosted by Shrug City Sounds, Stay Wild along with Little Debbie and the Moonpies, Cel Damage and Post Nothing tore apart the stage with their brands of high quality hardcore. Each band played a devote passion for their craft and was invigorated by the crowd of equally passionate hardcore fans. Even small setbacks, such as Cel Damage having to play as a two piece with their guitarist dealing with an injury, did not deter the evening from being wildly fun.

Kicking off the evening was Little Debbie and the Moonpies, and it was a great start. The group brought their own entourage of air dancers and throw out MoonPies to the crowd during the set. It was a lighthearted juxtaposition to the group’s heavier brand of hardcore. The sound follows in the footstep of metalcore groups like Misery Signals, a comparison that singer and guitarist Arsenio Otero was very open about, “We take our influence strongly from Misery Signals… …they’re the band that took us from being a thrash metal band, you know, we were like hardcore stupid thrash metal, just annoying… …we heard them at the peak of our thrash metal and we we’re like, ‘that’s… that’s right’.”

Looking back on his roots, Otero has changed a lot in his direction of music. Coming from a background that includes influences like Metallica and Green Day, the birth of Little Debbie and Moonpies came actually as a resurrection of an old project Otero and friends had years ago, “We had our time in our first band, you know, it went its route. We got old, we got tired. On the drunken stupor of a friend who was supposed to be a part of Little Debbie, but ultimately didn’t, it was actually his drunken stupor that was like, ‘oh, we can do better than that. We can do- *hic*- we can do this’ and I was like, ‘I’m gonna hold you to that’. So like a week later, the four of us got together.” Though that friend did not tag along for the ride, Otero and company have kept the band rolling for three years and are looking to keep going strong.

Following Little Debbie and the Moonpies were Cel Damage, who actually joined Stay Wild at Thrasho De Mayo, another event hosted by Blaze (of Shrug City Sounds) that I also covered on this blog. At that event, Cel Damage were rolling as a four piece, but due to unforeseen circumstances, only Brothers Danny and Josh Mathews were able to perform. Guitarist Riley Tews’ presence was missed by his band mates, however.

“It’s a bummer that Riley couldn’t be here,” said Josh, “he just ripped open his finger today.”

“By pineapple” Danny added.

I did not ask any further questions.

The injury did not stop the brothers from putting on a show, having singer Danny Mathews trying his hand at guitar. The duo still managed to pull off their own brand of intense hardcore mixed with vocal modulations. When I asked about what the songwriting process was like for them, drummer Josh Mathews unveiled the hidden idiosyncrasies of their sound, “Usually our songs just go from like an idea. We don’t really sit down and be like ‘okay, this needs to be a verse, chorus, verse’. It’s like, ‘okay, this sounds cool. Woo, dude, you just did that? Do that again, like two times’ and that’s all of our songs.”

“Literally,” Danny said, “Every. Single. One.”

The set ended uniquely with Danny dismantling the drum set while Josh continued to play. He got all the way to just the snare, bass drum and hi-hat before Arsenio Otero of Little Debbie and Moonpies lifted Mathews out of the chair and carried him off the stage. Mathews continued to drum, regardless.

Following that act was Post Nothing, a group that has been active for six years now, but has only been preforming under their current name for the last three years. The original name of the group was Trap Her, Keep Her, but singer Jed Bookout gave me some insight on the name change and origin of the band, “We were all in a bunch of other bands… …and we wanted to start a hardcore band so we could play… so we could get into the hardcore shows we wanted to go to for free. True story. So actually we would tell people we wanted to open those shows just so that we could play those and we ended up getting to play with everybody.”

“It actually ended being, in some ways, more successful than any of our other bands,” he continued, “so we stopped kinda fucking around and we started writing more serious music… we got to a point where we started hearing what people were saying about our old band name… … it was coming off as… rapey, I guess, you could say. We heard it loud and clear and we decided the best thing to do to be a serious band is to change our name, so we became Post Nothing.”

The name change has not stopped the band’s output, which has a whole host of new material available under the new name such as 2016’s Misinformation and this year’s split with In Decline, all of which are available on bandcamp as well as the band’s older material under their old name. As for the direction moving forward, Jed feels the addition of drummer Matt Fullove has pushed the group further with their material, “we’re trying to be as experimental as possible while still kinda sticking to our roots. We listen now more to, I mean we always have, but throwing out more influences from bands like Every Time I Die, Poison the Well, like more metalcore type bands that we were into when we were younger then say the BraceWar and Terror-type stuff that we were writing before.”

Capping off the evening was Stay Wild, who have been keeping themselves busy with a two week tour across the west coast, a new video for The Killjoy Luck Club and an upcoming three week tour across the southern and eastern parts of the United States, but despite working hard to promote their material outside of the high desert, Stay Wild always remember their roots as bassist Jehiah Tonneson said, “every time we play here, it’s getting like- like I grew up here and just having that many friends almost made me cry, like singing along to my music. It almost made me cry.”

With an east coast tour coming up, things are looking bright for the hardcore trio. After their dates, they plan to write and record their first full length album for the remainder of the year and record next year, “so we leave on the 23rd,” said Tonneson, “and we’ll be gone til like the 18th or so and then we’re going to record pretty much all through the holiday season and then we’re hopefully gonna start recording January/February… … and hopefully have it out by April-ish.” I’m certainly looking forward to it.

I wish there was an edgier version of ‘delightful’, but that is really the only way I could describe the evening. Blaze and Shrug City Sounds put on a great show for all the hardcore fans of the high desert. Joy and her bar are turning into the bright spot of the high desert for bands looking to put on a good show and this show was no exception. I look forward to all the new material coming from these bands in the near future.

-b.d. ponce

All photos by Eduardo Degante (except where noted)

Shrug City Sounds on Facebook

Stay Wild on Facebook and Bandcamp

Cel Damage on Facebook and Bandcamp

Little Debbie and the MoonPies on Facebook

Post Nothing on Facebook and Bandcamp

livelearnlove by Stay Wild: A Review

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Artist: Stay Wild

Album: livelearnlove

Genre: Punk/Hardcore

Score: 4/5

                I’m not going to lie; this review will seem a little biased, but that is mostly because I adore hardcore punk. I love anything related to hardcore: plain hardcore, post-hardcore, metalcore, ska core, emocore, nerdcore (also known as Nintendocore as I am learning of now), jazzcore, etc. Hell, you can attach “-core” to polka and I’ll be all over it. That being said, I’m making a conscious effort not to overpraise or undervalue Stay Wild’s EP livelearnlove. I want to be fair while also not seeming like I’m just jerking off a band that melted my face off at ‘Thrasho de Mayo’ (I wrote a review of that show, check it out here

That disclaimer aside, the production on livelearnlove is crisp. Recorded at Buzzbombs Studios in Anaheim and running in at just under twenty minutes, Stay Wild delivers some of the most passionate,  intense hardcore that I’ve heard come out of the high desert in a long time. Released on June 24th of last year, I’m actually eleven months behind the curb on this one, but I hope there is shred of forgiveness as this blog is only three months old (better late than never).

livelearnlove is Stay Wild’s third EP and maintains the same level of ferocity as their two previous EPs, Pacemaker and the self-titled Stay Wild EP. Drummer David Fajardo gives a solid, commanding performance while bassist Jehiah Tonneson and guitarist Nick Riggs share the vocal duties with Riggs taking the bulk of the work. Together, the duo produces a combination of screaming, singing and near- spoken word performances that go from somber to chaotic in just seconds. Tracks like “Iconoclast” and “The Killjoy Luck Club” come packed with tons of energy, while the final track, “Blossom”, eases up on the tempo, but not the passion.

Lyrically, Stay Wild is not shy about their left-wing values and incorporates these themes heavily into their music. “Trigger Warning” serves as a great response to the criticism and stigmatizing of standing up against social issues. Terms like “Social Justice Warrior” and “Feminist” carry a negative weight in our current culture and Stay Wild tries to tries to knock this out by loudly proclaiming “I can’t just pretend it doesn’t happen”.

Given the current political climate, Stay Wild’s brand of hardcore is a perfect blend of the fury and emotion that helps combat any anger still permeating over the current presidential administration. After all, catharsis is a strong component in art and the making of art and punk rock, in general, has always served as a great platform for political anger. Stay Wild’s livelearnlove is a reflection of both rage and compassion that, I hope, serves as a great precursor of what to expect from emerging hardcore acts over the next few years, both in the High Desert and the rest of the country.

-b. ponce

Purchase livelearnlove and Stay Wild’s other music here

Stay Wild’s Facebook

Stay Wild’s Soundcloud

Tacos and Thrash

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A common misconception about Cinco de Mayo is that its Mexico’s Independence Day. It’s actually the celebration of the Battle of Pueblo, where an outnumbered and outgunned Mexican Army fended off invading French forces on May 5, 1862. I read all about it on my phone (at least I admit to my own ignorance) while I sat in Frogee’s Cocktail Bar on Highway 18 and wondered how Thrasho de Mayo, an event hosted by Blaze featuring some of the sickest hardcore acts from all over the desert, could relate to this. The only conclusions I could draw were fraught with cultural appropriation and Americanization, until finally I had to listen to the voice in the back of my head that screamed, “QUIT OVERTHINKING IT, EAT YOUR TACOS AND ENJOY THE GODDAMN SHOW”.

Our first band of the evening, Dead Rekoning, was a first-rate start to the show. Armed with tracks like the self-titled “Dead Rekoning” (available here on their soundcloud) and “Fire in the Sky”, Dead Rekoning’s blend of punk and metal made for a solid opening to an evening promising to get faster and heavier. I managed to catch up with singer/bassist Anthony G and drummer Danny Vega after the show and reminisced with Vega over a show I saw at a mutual friend’s house back in his Against Faction days, where he was a high school senior at the start of his drumming career and I was a naive sophomore tripping over my own two feet after one beer.

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Left to Right: Danny Vega, Anthony G and Angel G

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Derek McEntire and Anthony G

Next in line were In Decline, a band that bolsters some killer screaming vocals from singer Charlie Warr (Yes, that is his real name) and a great mix of hardcore and metal akin to bands like Cancer Bats and This Is Hell. My only complaint, and the same complaint can apply to Dead Rekoning, was the briefness of the sets. Granted, organizing an event and getting it to run on schedule is no easy feat and when things go smoothly, it should be a good thing, but I really did want to hear more from Dead Rekoning and In Decline. These were two really strong local acts and I can’t wait to see more of them.

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Left to Right: Joe Small, Brennan Mann and Charlie Warr

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Left to Right: David Fajardo, Charlie Warr and Brennan Mann

David Fajardo, drummer of In Decline, stuck around to perform with his other band, Stay Wild. Joined by Nick Riggs and Jehiah Tonnesen, Stay Wild lived up to their namesake, delivering intense hardcore charged with political topics ranging from the current presidential administration to sexual assault (both of which go hand in hand). I caught a few words with Tonneson after the set. The band is getting ready to take off on the 18th of May for a two week west coast tour, which has the boys at Stay Wild anxious. With their new E.P. titled “livelovelearn”, Stay Wild look like their ready to hit those tour dates with the same vigor they brought to Frogee’s stage.

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Left to Right: Nick Riggs, David Fajardo, and Jehiah Tonnesen

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Left to Right: Nick Riggs and Jehiah Tonneson

During Stay Wild’s set, we had a couple of guest vocalists hop on the stage. These were brothers Josh and Danny Mathews of the next group, Cel Damage. Cel Damage was a bit of a departure from the type of hardcore we saw prior in the evening with a more experimental approach. They take on a very Locust-esque approach to songwriting, using a vocal effects pedal to build atmosphere with singer Danny Mathews grunts and screams before breaking it with pure immaculate fury. Not even broken guitar strings could deter this band from playing the set THEY wanted to play.

Now, let me take a minute to tell that I’ve heard a lot of band names over the years. Some pretty cool, some really lame and others just confusing. A band name is important because it’s the first thing you hear when you ask, “Who’s playing?” and a weak name can make or break a band. So, when I heard “Thrashquatch”, I knew right away that was something I had to see. A name like “Thrashquatch” caused me to envision Bigfoot, wearing a Suicidal Tendencies t-shirt, rampaging through a camp site, stepping on tents and knocking over coolers looking for beer. This would be his favorite band.

Of course, with a name like Thrashquatch, the music had better deliver and it did. With influences ranging from Slayer to Municipal Waste, Thrashquatch is music for thrashers by thrashers. Guitarist Jacob Crozier and Gio Trujillo shared the soloing duties, taking turns shredding while Don Barber hyped up the crowd with songs about Yeti’s, booze and moshing. The frantic energy put forth by the band was a perfect capstone to an event such as Thrasho de Mayo.

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Links to the facebooks/bandcamps for all the bands are posted below. If you’re someone starved for some strong local hardcore, I highly recommend each one of these bands.

Blaze (Host)

Dead Rekoning’s Facebook and Soundcloud

In Decline’s Facebook and Bandcamp

Stay Wild’s Facebook and Bandcamp

Cel Damage’s Facebook and Bandcamp

Thrashquatch’s Facebook and Bandcamp