Punk for all
Last-minute venue glitch doesn’t deter all-ages bill
Despite a last-minute venue change from the Monstros Pizza punk rock stronghold on West Sacramento Avenue (temporarily closed due to kitchen-equipment issues) to the cozy Naked Lounge in the heart of downtown Chico, by the time the 8 p.m. start time rolled around last Saturday (Dec. 3), an all-ages crowd had filled up the tables and what little standing room faced the improvised stage in the café’s front window.
With three self-proclaimed “hardcore punk” bands on the bill, one couldn’t help but expect a blast of high-velocity, maximum-volume rock to reverberate that window in ways not generally anticipated from coffeehouse performers. Headliners Black Fork—formed in Oakland in the early 1990s by Robin (vocals) and Josh Indar (guitar), who both currently front Chico-based Severance Package—are nearing the 20th anniversary of releasing Rock for Loot. The Black Fork LP was recorded by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong in 1997, and the band has reunited for a couple shows. Coming up, they’ll make an appearance at 924 Gilman in Berkeley on Jan. 8 as part of The Lookouting, a four-day celebration of Lookout Records.
Proving the viability and vitality of hardcore music, most of the members of show openers Detained hadn’t yet been born when that album hit the shelves of underground record stores, but the musicianship they bring to performing is a declaration that they’ve done their homework in hardcore songcraft. The youthful energy of the new Chico band blasted from the stage in a maelstrom of squealing guitar feedback riding an avalanche of hyperkinetic drums and pummeling bass, and didn’t let up for the 15 minute duration of their set.
Next up, Redding-based Dying for It brought its own raging energy and egalitarian inclusiveness to the fore. Singer Rikki V. balanced raw-throated delivery of such lyrics as, “Living in a world that builds barriers/based on my gender-race/am I a lesser human?/If we were all color blind, would we see eye to eye?/Would I be less deserving of everything I’ve worked so hard to be?” (from “Insanity Later”) with between-song expressions of appreciation for a supportive scene that allows her band the time, place and community of friends to explore and express their art. It hardly seemed physically possible to do so in the crowded space, but the singer encouraged those who felt the urge to form a mosh pit, and several enthusiasts did just that, rotating in a tight circle, braced by friendly hands on the periphery of the human whirlpool.
With the crowd thoroughly warmed up, Black Fork’s set went off with an immediacy and visceral impact fueled by Josh Indar’s intricate speed-of-thought riffage and supported by the incredible rhythm section of drummer Jim Anderson and bassist Cyrus Comiskey. And Robin is a brilliant frontwoman for the band’s music, infusing a bit of political commentary into the proceedings between songs to good-humoredly remind the crowd to “get fit, America—we’ve got to be able to run circles around ’em when we wind up in the camps.”
With songs that often last only a minute, hardcore is a demanding genre and at times can seem as much like an athletic event as a musical performance. Twenty-minute sets played with such fierce and unrelenting velocity require at least as much physical energy, and more mental concentration, than 90-minute sets of more sedate music, but also leave one with the feeling of having experienced a fervent blast of communal exhilaration. Rage and joy and rebellion blend in a catharsis unparalleled by any other art form.
The Bandcamp page for Rock for Loot has a description that sums it up nicely: “Their live show was an epic barrage of volume, fun and friendly aggression.” ’Nuff said.