Thursday, November 11, 2010

Studio stories, Part 2

Richmond, Virginia. A city so overrun by hardcore and punk kids you start to wonder if there's anyone else there. You look one way, a slew of hardcore kids whiz by on bikes. Look another, a crew on mopeds. Girls with teased hair pinned in creative piles on their heads walk by laughing. In a diner window, every booth seems to be occupied by people with hand tattoos. Crusties with sleeveless black shirts and facial piercings hang on the corner and as you pass them you hear the word "solidarity" used in casual conversation. You start to wonder if anyone in the city DOESN'T own a Naysayer shirt. Richmond contains subcultural worlds within worlds, and it is truly amazing to witness... especially over vegan brunch- a breakfast burrito to be specific, which is where our story starts.

Recording Journal, Part 2

Dave, James, and I sat at a booth downstairs in Harrison St. Coffee Shop trying to wake ourselves up so that we could finish recording the best record ever. I absentmindedly chewed my tofu as countless "fun punks" with flop-hawks, Lifetime/Kid Dynamite kids with freshly cut hair, dudes with shaggy black swoops, and what appeared to be a hardcore band (if I had to guess) came in the door. Remarkable. As vegan biscuits and gravy and french toasts hit the tables of the people around us, I realized that there's no place I feel more IN step with the world than in Richmond.

At Mike's place (Mike Reaves of the pop sensation known as Swamp Thing- also the dude who is recording us) we got right to work. It should be mentioned that Mike records in his parent's garage. And yes, we traveled to record in a garage. But before you judge that, let it be known that his garage recordings come out better than most studio recordings. A wise dude once said to me, "You can throw a coat of varnish on shit, but it won't make it better, it will just make it varnished shit."- it's the same with sound engineers. You can throw a talentless dude in a studio, but all you're gonna have is a talentless dude in a studio. Put a sound wizard like Mike in a garage, and shit's bound to get magical.

So, anyway. We put the amp and cab in the laundry room (yup), adjusted mics and levels, then and Dave and Mike laid a few 1st guitar tracks in the garage as bicycles and lawn tools hung next to their heads. We cut the day short due to some computer issues, which was fine for several reasons.

#1. VINYL CONFLICT. This is an all punk/hardcore record shop run by Brandon from Government Warning/ No Way Out Records

#2. Harrison St Coffee Shop, again. This time for tempeh artichoke subs, faux-tuna sandwiches, and tempeh ruebens.

#3. A Strike Anywhere show (all in walking distance from #2, and #1.)

Seriously. How much better can a day get? At the Strike Anywhere show we ran into members of DTN, and I got to thinking... how much more Richmond can a day get?

I don't follow any religion- in fact I don't even believe in God- but I do have have faith in, draw inspiration from, and seek guidance within certain things. Hardcore is one of them. And while most bands offer nothing in the way of substance, sincerity, or authenticity, Strike Anywhere offers all 3. Seeing them is almost a religious observance for me. It's like this:

You know when you're at a show and there are those moments that are indescribable to anyone who hasn't experienced them, where the only thing that matters to you in the whole entire world is being a hardcore kid? The feeling of sharing an outlook with a band or the people around you where you actually start to believe that the whole world is with you? When you love a band so much that you dance unselfconsciously, that you scream along without caring how stupid your voice may sound, where you jump on people's heads even if they're like 13 years old and you weigh WAY too much to be doing that, where if you get hit you don't even feel it? A renewal of faith for the faithless, a rebirth (of hardcore pride), going from a chorus of disapproval to a chorus of one? That's how I feel when I see Strike Anywhere.

Thomas, the vocalist, talked about the hc/punk community, the friendships forged over years, the sense of coming together, as he always does. I could literally feel myself filling with what can only be described as "good vibes", and I decided I was going to-that I had to- hold onto that feeling, that moment, and put it into our record. It would pour through me onto our tracks. The sound of unity, community, punk rock... but... well, here's what happened:

Strike Anywhere started playing and the crowd- a mix of punk and hardcore, bro and sorority girl, goth and fuckknowswhatelse, surged forward. This is not my favorite thing but when you're at a show like that you've got to expect it. 7 rows of people squished together, smashing the front row breathlessly against the stage, leaving everyone else trying to not penetrate each other, but everyone, no matter what their situation, was singing along. In the spirit of good vibes, I threw my arm around the person next to me and we screamed every word together, smiling.

There had been a girl at the front of the show all night. She was, from what I could gather, a Hot Topic mall type who wanted more personal space than the front of a show allows. She seemed outraged by anyone who so much as brushed against her, and spent her night throwing elbows into those who did (which was everyone- it was a sold out show.) Throughout the course of the evening I found myself beside or behind her at times and caught countless jabs to the ribs, but it was alright. Strike Anywhere was playing and I had hymns to scream toward the stage with my brothers and my sisters. Peace and love man, peace and love.

But guess what? When the crowd ran forward as I just mentioned, and I threw one arm around a kindred spirit and the other toward the mic, my sides were left open for hits, and who just happened to be trapped in the human wall beside me, freaking the fuck out? Elbows.

The crowd rocked and swayed, pushing me into her, which resulted in numerous panicky hits to my ribs. Very quickly this became very annoying. I was unable to get away or nearer to tell her to stop, and she was freakin' relentless. The crowd went to the left. Bam! The crowd moved forward. Bam! I breathed her air. Bam! She was an animal. Desperate, I grabbed her arm and gave it a light squeeze, shooting a pleading, "please stop hitting me, look around at where you are, there is no way for me to get out of your personal space" look, but she went wild before she saw me. My touch sent her flapping her arm like an injured bird, trying to thrash me off. Which she did. Then she planted her wing into my side, hard.

It was getting absurd. I could not understand why someone who obviously required so much personal space would choose to be where she was- the only place with less personal space would be in a gang bang. Annoyed, I leaned across sweaty arms to tell her to stop, but as I neared her ear she dipped her head away from me. My words were as unwelcome as my touch.

Frustrated, I put my hand on her head to get her attention. I got another elbow. Furious, I reached out quickly and palmed her head like a basketball. She shook me off like a snorting mare. Her elbow flew back again and again like she was trying to start a chainsaw. Still, she hadn't looked at me. Not once. I couldn't handle it. It was Helsinki all over again.

While her bony arm jabbed hatefully at the air a final time, her hatred of being touched transferred to me in a more general way. I hated being at a show with people who were not hardcore kids. I hated the shirtless bro dude who kept yelling "YEAHHHH!", I hated the idiots that shoved everyone forward for no reason whatsoever, I hated the push moshing, I hated this Hot Topic mall girl who was passive aggressively getting really god damn aggressive with me. Fuck a community. My earlobes burned.

I grabbed Elbows by the hair and dragged her head to my mouth, and screamed, "TOUCH ME AGAIN AND I WILL FUCK YOU UP." She stopped struggling and looked over at me. She didn't nod, speak, or throw an elbow. She just sunk back into the crowd.

I realized something about myself at that moment- that while Strike Anywhere may be one of my favorite bands, 100 Demons is another. That while I may catch a good vibe here or there, I lack the ability to hold onto it. "You know who I love? Nobody." No sloppy punk shows, no sharing music with a group of idiots. I am, for good or bad, stuck in the sub-sub-sub-sub culture of straight up hardcore, and no matter how many mohawks or tattoos are present, kids like us are always out of step with the (that) world. It was an indescribable hardcore moment where I understood my faults my limits, my loves and my hates, my disgruntled place in this world within a world. It's a place of no bullshit, a place of accountability, a place of stage dives and crowd punches and hype parts and mosh calls and all sorts of things that are outwardly embarrassing but secretly awesome. A place without push moshing or beer sloshing, a place where good ol' Elbows would be afraid. That's my place. That's what would flow through me onto our tracks.

The show ended and in the company of sane hardcore kids (who had been wise enough to stay out of the thick of idiocy) Dave, James, and I went off in search of vegan chicken nuggets and worn out couches to rest our sweaty heads upon.

Stay tuned for more updates, videos, and other stuff!



  1. Sounds like the recording is going really well, excited to see the videos and other stuff.
    'Elbows' seems to be at nearly every show that happens with a bigger crowd in one form or another, you were totally right about what you did, Davin.


  2. I can relate to your sense of self in lots of ways. At times I feel very dualistic: very positive and charitable, and yet brimming over with hatred all the while. Lockstep (mine and Randy's current band, in case you didn't know) just got back from tour. I was happy to be slaying foreign lands with hate fueled anthems, but also realizing that Hardcore hardly has the ability to inspire anymore. You're lucky to have felt inspired at SA.