I totaled my first car listening to Agnostic Fronts third album Cause for Alarm. Cruising over the California hills from San Jose to Sunnyvale, my 78 Datsun B210 barely held pace with the Baby on Board drones around me. As I topped the crest of a steep hill, I spotted a poodle-bearing Volvo turning left across the highway. The aging driver saw me and froze, and I skidded down the length of the hill and smashed into her backside. Her dog survived, but my car looked like a crushed tuna can. Cause for Alarm went from full blast to silence.
Now, 19 years later, I was stoked to hear that AF was coming to Charleston for Halloween.
Leaders of the N.Y.C. hardcore scene in the late 80s, their stripped-down sound mutated into a punishing Oi!/thrash metal hybrid that led the way for many acts to follow (Hatebreed, anyone?). They decided to call it quits in 1992 with a final show at CBGB, but reformed in 97 and have been going strong ever since. Their Halloween show in Charleston was one of the first of a worldwide tour that has them travelling to Spain, Russia, Germany, and of course, New Jersey.
Opening act Seventh Star brought a dose of growling over crunching guitar. Their core fans hadnt shown up yet, and I think the band were a little disappointed with the passive response. Im sure back in their hometown of Ocala, Fla., these guys kill it. They did give a shout-out to a 16th Century church reformer: This ones dedicated to Martin Luther! Not quite the fist-raising call to arms I was expecting at a hardcore show.
Boston punks Death Before Dishonor went on just as the crowd had reached critical density. The pit opened for business and the air punchers got busy wilding out. Lead singer Brian Harris kept the intensity up and drove through their bass-thick anthems like a true veteran. DBD have a huge following in the Northeast. Im sure theyre used to much larger crowds, but they didnt hold back at all. Amazing considering their current tour has them playing shows almost every night for two months straight.
By the time Agnostic Front went on, Cumberlands had finally filled up. Singer Roger Miret jumped right into it and didnt let up for the rest of the night. The pit was filled with a mix of generations slamming into each other and circling in unison. From the range of ages out there, I felt like I was looking at the whole history of hardcore. Except for one drunk dude who got booted quickly, everybody kept the intensity up without having to throw down.
AF have been doing this a long time and delivered a wide-ranging set. They ditched some of the metal-styled timing changes and solos on their older albums and went for a straight up assault. The Eliminator churned the pit into a frenzy that didnt recede until Miret brought everyone in to sing Still Here with him with fists in the air.
Some of the material was hard to pick out. I guess they wanted to mix it up with material from their impending album Warriors (coming out Nov. 6). The new songs were just as intense as anything they made in the 80s.
This was a rare chance for Charleston to see these hardcore legends. Next time, I hope there are a few more boots on the floor so bands like this will know theyre appreciated here.