Scraping Genius Off The Wheel

TRAPPED UNDER ICE, COMMANDING THE LIGHTNING WHILE OTHERS ARE CONTENT TO RIDE IT

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The change was imperceptible to those not paying attention. The rugged MF Doom-dominated hip-hop soundtrack that had prevailed in-between opening sets shifted abruptly as the opening squall of The Afghan Whigs’ “Honky’s Ladder” unexpectedly burst from above, signaling the imminent onstage arrival of Baltimore’s Trapped Under Ice. Members milled about onstage giving the gear last minute strums and bangs as Greg Dulli’s menacing lyrics poured from Santos Party House’s booming PA system. The crowd, most of whom in 1996 would have been watching Barney And Friends rather than appreciating the raucous yet soulful sounds of the Whigs, hardly seemed to notice. During the final minute of the song, frontman Justice Tripp emerged, goading audience to move up and fill the wide-open space near the front of the stage.

Every time I’ve seen Trapped Under Ice perform, they cause a ruckus. Kicking and thrashing about, Justice is energetic and quite physically fit, like if Jay Mewes were a personal trainer. The hardcore kids in the crowd respond, windmilling, stagediving, and moshing while strobe lights and smoke machines accent the chaos. As I’ve seen on multiple occasions within just the past year, the band–who subconsciously plucked its name from Metallica–has tapped into something primal, electrifying, and sincere. I have yet to find a single “new” hardcore band that inspires like Trapped Under Ice, and Secrets Of The World may perhaps be the best hardcore record of the 21st century thus far. The night’s setlist was largely culled from that superb LP, with highlights including “Gemini” and “TUI”. Kids piled on top of one another to shout lyrics into Justice’s mic, separating him from it altogether at one point. Guest vocalists came out, yet amid the pandemonium it was unclear who they were. “Believe” closed out the short-yet-potent set, and an encore wasn’t even considered.

Earlier that night, a mixed bag of hardcore acts provided disparate levels of support. Wilkes-Barre, PA’s Dead End Path did the best of the bunch, indisputably so. Though they’ve yet to release a full-length, their reputation evidently preceded them, their very presence onstage creating a dynamic surge that filled the room. That’s particularly impressive since this was their first show within the five boroughs. Dead End Path brutalized the audience with thick and heavy metallic hardcore, inspiring all sorts of headbanging, chest beating, and picking up quarters. An unnamed preview of a ferocious cut off their forthcoming Triple B Records LP ramped up their set’s intensity, a barely twenty-minute pit fit.

It’s a shame that Richmond, VA–home to the same burgeoning hardcore scene that brought us Naysayer and Swamp Thing–could produce something as fiercely generic as No Values. In the live setting, hardcore depends heavily on stamina, something this band overtly lacked. The visibly winded singer’s idea of banter amounted to “I’m fuckin outta breath. I need to get in fuckin shape.” Needless to say, this didn’t inspire many in the crowd to bring the mosh, starkly contrasting with Dead End Path’s aforementioned set. A closing cover version of Warzone’s “It’s Your Choice” sparked a pit frenzy, but truth be told that was more about the song than the band. Maybe they sound better on record, but at Santos it all seemed flat.

The Last Stand, three-quarters of its membership shared with Victory’s 90s youth crew act Shutdown, started the night off, which struck me as odd considering their pedigree. Not once did vocalist Mike Scondotto so much as mention that other band, nor were any Shutdown songs performed. Two covers–Youth Of Today’s “Choose To Be” and Minor Threat’s “In My Eyes”–appeared during a set of self-described “positive New York hardcore” which ranged from Madball-esque grooves to speedier Gorilla Biscuit bangers. Possibly, The Last Stand hasn’t quite discovered what sort of band it wants to be, unless of course it strives to be a contrasting amalgam of NYHC styles.

-GS

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