All powerful

Italian hardcore stalwarts Raw Power give it another go for American audiences

Raw Power still catches air in 2007.

Raw Power still catches air in 2007.

I was 19 when I first saw Raw Power play live. The date was Wednesday, April 10, 1985, and the venue was the Ping Pong Palace—definitely not a palace but trying to be a sort of sports hall. It was spacious like a roller rink, hosting numerous Ping Pong tables and a small concession stand. I don’t remember ever going there to play Ping Pong, but I attended many shows there in its short existence as a rock venue by night, where bands like the Replacements, the Lyres and Italy’s Raw Power thrilled packed audiences.

The Palace, which now serves as Gold’s Gym, on West Fifth Street, was highly charged the night Raw Power played. The crowd was a healthy mix of young punks and older hippies, with a row of particularly styled-out Mohawks in the front moshing into a swarming mass of elbows and knee-high Docs.

Being underage, I would go around to the side of the building along the railroad tracks to pop open cans from our hidden 12-pack. Coming back into the Palace I would loom around the outskirts of the crowd, colored lights reflecting the giant picture window that walled the front of the hall.

Raw Power played ferociously. The lead singer, tall and gaunt and ever so European, would mount his feet on the edge of the stage, nearly tottering into the crowd as he flailed his body and whipped the microphone cable. It was a special night for the band, as its members were ready to prove their power in front of locals The Breakouts, who were seeing Raw Power for the first time and would be opening all their shows across America. Founding member Mauro Codeluppi confesses that his only memory from that night was the authentic Italian meal before the show at Breakouts drummer Mike Erpino’s mother’s house.

Raw Power’s first tour of America with The Breakouts lived the punk-rock aesthetic. Both bands—members numbering 11 total, plus equipment—toured in a converted bread truck. Band members took turns sleeping inside, on top or under the truck when crash pads weren’t available.

The late Giuseppe Codeluppi lets his hair fly in Raw Power’s early days.

The band has also shared live billing with a laundry list of American punk rock bands like Circle Jerks, Adolescents, D.O.A., Minor Threat, Bad Brains, Agnostic Front, Suicidal Tendencies and Dead Kennedys. And in a small club in Seattle they headlined over a then-unknown band called Guns N’ Roses.

Brothers Giuseppe and Mauro Codeluppi founded Raw Power in 1981, and have been the only consistent members. They released 10 albums mostly on the independent punk label Toxic Shock, most notably 1984’s Screams From the Gutter (re-released in 2001), and After Your Brain in 1986—both brutal displays of hardcore punk that veered on metal influence while capturing American audiences.

By 2001 Raw Power was playing major cities, but back in Italy the band was acknowledged with little more than a cult status. Like many punk bands, Raw Power has been plagued by lack of management and structure.

In 2002, shortly after Raw Power’s last release, Still Screaming After 20 Years, Giuseppe had a fatal heart attack while playing soccer. Mauro refused to let even the loss of his brother stop the band. “Raw Power will never die!” he insists on the band’s MySpace page.

The year 2007 sees the seventh return of Raw Power to America. Codeluppi said touring can still take a toll, but that being road veterans helps things run a little smoother.

“I think that you get used to the situations that you encounter—sort of seen it before, done it before,” he said. “You just get street smart, which for us, coming from a village in the middle if nowhere in Italy, was very good.”

The band, now playing as a four-piece, will head up and down the West Coast through June, including a stop at Off Limits with locals Gruk.

Unlike the Ping Pong Palace, it seems Raw Power cannot be destroyed.