Dance for Destruction
Dance for Destruction reopens the punk-rock floodgates
It’s a shame, but it’s probably not often that someone outside of “the scene” gets to watch a great hardcore punk band perform. Sacramento hardcore acts just don’t play in the park or at block parties anymore.
This wasn’t the case 15 years ago, when the city maintained a worldwide reputation for its vibrant DIY punk scene. Bands like 7 Seconds and smaller groups like Sins of the Flesh paved the way for Pressure Point, Hoods and the Whiskey Rebels, who are now mostly out of town touring. And after about 10 productive years, clashing skinhead groups and police pressure virtually shut down the punk-friendly clubs for good.
But slowly, hardcore is finding its way back into Sacramento, thanks to venues like Javalounge and the Orangevale Veterans Hall. Bands like Bastards of Young and Killing the Dream are taking old-school punk rock and providing a new generation of kids with the cerebral, challenging (ultimately bastardized) music that was so prominent in the ’80s and ’90s.
So sitting down with Dance for Destruction at their practice space off Marconi Avenue is at once like reliving Sacramento’s past and getting a special glimpse into its future. In old hardcore tradition, the band espouses a message of unity and socio-political awareness. And with new hardcore flare, they present a sound that’s showier and more distinctly electronic than we’re used to.
“People always expect us to sound totally different, but it kind of sucks because everybody treats me different for the mere fact that I’m a girl,” says singer Rikki Bernado, who is, um, a girl.
Bernado has grown accustomed to the knee-jerk reaction of the audience’s initial gender-biased ignorance. Which probably gives her an extra boost when it comes to her alarmingly vicious microphone growl.
Dealing with adverse reactions to a female singer is one thing, but a trickier obstacle facing Ean Clevenger (keyboard/guitar/vocals) and the rest of the band—Jason Soejoto (lead guitar), Sam Kruegel (drums) and Patrick Freeman (bass)—is a new generation of unfocused youth. Dance for Destruction is trying to turn the blank stares of iPod zombies into a pro-active fan base. And that’s not easy.
“This kid came into my work, and I asked him what his last name was—and he had to seriously think about it,” says Soejoto. “His little sister tugged on his shirt and was like, ‘Oates!’
“And he’s like, ‘Yeahhh … Oates.’”
Clevenger, who fronted the successful hardcore band Pipedown for eight years before they folded—after two albums, five U.S. and two European tours—has seen the attitudes of fans change as well. “Kids are so disconnected, [especially] with the feeling of resistance. … [Y]ou present that to them and they’re like, ‘What the fuck is up with this band?’” he says.
Slowly, though, the band is seeing a shift for the better. And with only a few years behind them as a group, Dance for Destruction is really just trying to focus on touring and finishing their full-length album, all the while hoping their socio-political message gets through to a few people.
“Yeah,” he says, smiling.
At a recent R5 Records performance, a black guy wearing spectacles and smart business attire strolled into the store during Dance for Destruction’s set. He appeared to have come from a corporate job and wandered into the establishment entirely by accident.
He took a place in the audience, immediately mesmerized by the band’s wall of noise. As the music played, he rocked his head a little. With each song, he became visibly more elated by Dance for Destruction’s grating sound. Yes, they’re loud, but the noise is cut right through the middle with the sharp melody from Clevenger’s keyboard. And Bernado’s tough-as-nails scream paired with Soejoto’s searing guitar is engaging and will put a smile on anyone’s face—hardcore fan or not. The icing on the cake is Kruegel’s drumming, which creates a hectic equilibrium.
When the band takes a pause to let Freeman pound out a solo bass line, for one second, the neatly dressed businessman—who until that moment probably hadn’t seen a live hardcore band of this caliber—grinned ear to ear, nearly out of his mind with joy.