By Steve McLinden
Nothing hurts your hipster cred like going to a metalcore show. When a friend asked what I was doing with my Monday night, and I responded that I was going to see Every Time I Die and Bring Me The Horizon, the recoil with something like, “What the heck, why would you do that?” I’m sure I lost at least 100 indie points for this. But I enjoy experiencing all kinds of live music (except ska). And unfortunately, to check out most of the bands I’d be interested in seeing, I usually have to travel to Manhattan. Or Brooklyn via Manhattan. Or Brooklyn via transferring at Jamaica. So school nights be damned, if a fairly brutal-ass band like Every Time I Die was coming to my island, I was willing to check it out.
Yes, there is Farmingdale’s Club Loaded, the one venue on Long Island that draws some big acts this far east. Most any child of the late ‘80s who grew up in Nassau or Suffolk has some zany story about one concert they saw at the The Downtown. Whether it was Taking Back Sunday (before they got big) or some Wu-Tang member, most of us had their share of teenage experiences there. The Downtown was just feet away from the Farmingdale train station, but it closed its doors in 2005. On Route 110 just south of that defunct location, the Crazy Donkey has filled some of the void for the Long Island show-going scene.
The bar converts itself, at least in name, to host “Club Loaded rock shows” a couple of times a week. I’ve caught a couple of nerd rap and indie pop shows at the club in the past, but their biggest draws seem to be more like punk and post-hardcore and metalcore fare, which is not surprising when you think of a cross-section of your typical Long Islander, age 14-24.
So on Monday, October 5, the club was packed to a capacity of nearly a thousand people, most of whom had more tattoos and piercings than I do (none, of course). I lingered through the outdoor crowd, hoping not to run into any old MySpace friends as opener Oh, Sleeper played. A Christian metalcore band from Texas, they sounded a little too technical for my taste, but I do mean very clean and technical, so I’ll give them that credit. I met up with a high school buddy leaning against a wall in the back; he was no stranger to the mosh pit, but he was healing a skateboard injury, so surely nobody in the crowd could call him a pussy for that. And me, um, well, I had a steno pad, so that’s my excuse. Prices of alcohol at the bar seemed reasonable, I suppose, for its location (there wasn’t too much drinking going on – most of the nights seem to be either all ages or 18+).
Architects, a British metalcore band, was a bit of an unimpressive undercard. They played for about a half-hour, but I couldn’t really tell what was your typical -core breakdown or when they were actually transitioning into a different song. There were a few moments where they got all mathcore-like and went off on some real cool old-school thrashing sound, but that was fleeting.
Bring Me The Horizon, another British act, was certainly the draw for at least some of the crowd. The band seems to have a bit of a polarizing effect on metalcore fans when I’ve heard the name come up, and it usually lies on either side of “ugh” or “you know what, they’re pretty good.” Personally, I was moderately impressed with 2008’s Suicide Season, which demonstrated some creativity, the potential to branch out a bit and not sound like every other metalcore band in recent memory. They opened with the first song from their debut album, “Pray for Plagues”, and I was feeling it, but my friend and I both noticed that the vocals were not as dynamic or powerful on BMTH’s recorded stuff. I’m finding out now that the band’s frontman, Oli Sykes, is something of a scene idol to teen girls in the UK, which makes sense, because I thought he was more worried about image and attitude than actually being a vocalist. (If you were seeking to confirm a stereotype about scene kids or the metalcore genre, there, you’ve found it.) Sykes would repeatedly call out, “C’mon, Long Island!” and then ask the audience to show them our middle fingers, or to chant one of the most patently shocking phrases in the English language, “Fuck you!” At some points, they would also shine for about half-a-minute of wicked deathcore jamming, and watching them wasn’t a waste of time. I think with a little more showmanship, not taking a minute to regroup after each song, and having the singer behave less like a hypeman, Bring Me The Horizon might be able to put on a good live performance.
It was still early in the evening by the time the headline act from got on stage, but we were all ready for Every Time I Die’s set to start. The energy was palpable. Oh, and you could smell it, too, yeah… it was a very organic smell. Personally, I don’t like the idea of wearing a T-shirt of the band you’re going to see; Every Time I Die’s fans displayed their passion with their actions much more so than just on their apparel, thrashing like mad at the sound of the first drum blast.
Every Time I Die puts on a hell of a show, never letting off the throttle. Their style defies description a bit, comparable only to Between The Buried and Me, with a finely-brewed blend of metalcore, upstate hardcore punk, modern screamo, Southern rock riffs, and just a general heavy-duty rock ‘n’ roll. Vocalist Keith Buckley proved himself to be one of the most intense vocalists I’ve seen live; I don’t think he once needed to catch his breath. I kind of expected their setlist to consist mostly of tracks on New Junk Aesthetic, an album they released on Epitaph Records last month (see Nick Statt’s review in our previous issue). Instead, they kicked off with some older songs like “Bored Stiff” and “No Son Of Mine”. I’m not sure if I’d call those fan favorites, as everything seems to be a fan favorite in an ETID audience. One of the guitarists did a somersault into the crowd while playing, a feat I’d not seen performed before. Someone in the audience threw a pair of panties on stage at one point, at which point Buckley asked who “lost” them, and offered a free T-shirt to the first guy to get on stage, take off his pants,and put them on (some bro obliged in under a minute). The band endured good-natured jeering of their hometown football embarrassments, the Bills, but I thought it would be unwise to start one of the trademark Jets chants.
Surprisingly absent from the set list was the most recent single “Host Disorder”, but it was nice to see the band play a number of new songs. “For The Record”, a particularly brutal mathcore song has become a new favorite of mine. With Buckley’s shouting lines like “Lord, have mercy on my soul” so fiercely, it might look contrived on paper but sounds incredibly sincere. They even played a couple dating back to their breakthrough album Hot Damn!, my friend called “Floater” the best of the night. “Apocalypse Now and Then” felt absolutely anthemic, and the energy only increased from there on. Before “We’rewolves”, Buckley invited the crowd to rush the stage. There were roughly 150 fans on stage almost instantly, some singing the lyrics out loud, some thrashing about, and some stage diving. It was obvious that an encore wasn’t feasible after this, but the audience was more than satisfied with the band’s set of about a dozen songs in just under an hour. A band that’s accessible to their fans is always a plus; they invited everyone to meet up with them at their tour bus after the show. I would’ve liked to get a few questions in for a brief interview, but I couldn’t blame them if they’d have preferred to meet teenage scene girls over talking to me.
Even though metalcore isn’t usually my greatest area of interest, it can certainly make for an entertaining evening. That and it was nice to not spend more hours on the MTA than at the show and to be home before 11:00. Club Loaded events can be pretty convenient for Stony Brook-area students with a car, and may be the only place east of Brooklyn to catch a big name act for as long as our university doesn’t book many concerts. In the coming months, Finch, Machine Head, The Academy Is…, Minus The Bear, two local favorites As Tall As Lions and Thursday, and Andrew W.K. will be among the performing acts at Club Loaded shows, for more info, check out their website at www.clubloaded.com.