Tuesday June 19th, 2001 at El Torreon in Kansas City, MO
Brother's Keeper, One Concern, Finer Truth, & Torn With in Arms

Brother's Keeper One Concern Finer Truth Torn Within Arms [more]

Why all of Brett Ray's bands aren't called the Brett Ray Holocaust is beyond me. I don't know who writes the music and Brett may not even write the lyrics for all I know but he is the show. Before the music began Brett had already begun pacing in front of the stage, and thus had already started the show. This is Brett Ray: back bent to meet his right hand that clutches the microphone, his left hand pegged at the wrist to his back behind him. His initial scream hit me hard. I hadn't seen Brett in a while and he now sounds like a singer. Can singers be made? I thought they had to be born. I guess he was born with the charisma (or the delusion he has it) and the voice came.

However, the rest of the band (misnamed Torn Within Arms) weren't as full as the scream that marked the beginning of their set. The guitar wasn't encompassing and the heavy bombastic nature of their hardcore felt weak. The bass was doing its part and a drummer whom beats a free high hat and snare alternately can only do so much. When Brett apologized later for a missing rhythm guitarist it made sense.

To make matters worse, the players looked tentative and played to match. There were no jumps; hell there was seldom even eye contact with the audience. There is no doubt that this is a young band with members that appear to be fresh from high school. However at the base of it all, the music is catchy with breakdowns, quick blasts, occasional melodic leads, and even a bit of quiet introspections (the latter only working about fifty percent of the time unfortunately.) Let's hope they stick together long enough to get out the kinks.

While TWA has chosen one route with their evolving, emotive hardcore sound, Houston's Finer Truth has opted for another. Picture the scene, it's 1993 and the straight-edge set are still reeling from the demise of the summer-of-88 bands. There isn't innovation, there isn't even focus. Enter metal, enter money, stir with machismo and a new breed of hardcore is born. Finer Truth has studied it, and they do it as well as it was done then. If that is a glowing recommendation then take it that way.

Two guitars that mostly chugged and crunched, seldom screeched, and never soloed combined with a bass that punched and drums that did the same. The vocals were low and throaty, these were metal vocals, there has never been a youth crew made that can sing along with this. This, after all, is new school… or at least it was. There were jumps and kicks and wireless microphones and the band played on the ground alongside the audience most of the time. I forgot bands used to do that… but Finer Truth didn't. In fact the band forgot nothing so give it up for spirit of 93.

Now speaking of those summer-of-88 bands, welcome to One Concern. Although the band weren't around in ‘88, these fresh-faced local boys are as close as you'll find (in Kansas City). The buzzing guitar, and bouncing bass, and the machine gun drums all spell hardcore. The band's breakneck verses end with stops and shouts and then transition into youth crew choruses, which of course does some spelling on its own. Add in the baggy shorts, the big tattoos, bigger jumps, the hardcore dances of yesteryear (you know, start the lawn mower, pick up change, etc.), and well, H-A-R-D-C-O-R-E.

The club erupted for One Concern in a way it hadn't (and wouldn't) for the other bands that evening. The vimful fans and friends were anxious to see a band they hadn't seen in years but the show also served to remind both parties of a simpler time in their life. There was less confusion and more confidence at nineteen, at twenty-two the responsibility has crept in and past decisions made have been questioned or disregarded. I took a perverse pleasure in scanning the audience to see if I could spot the new tattoos that cover up the Xs placed on calves in those certain times. I'm kinda sick like that.

I shifted my concentration to the band and immersed myself in their short set. It was amazing how together the band were after all this time. I'm sure there weren't many practices as their singer flew in specifically for the show. As expected there is unfortunately a catch to all of this retro goodness; the band hasn't played a show in two years, and the audience was warned that this was probably their last for another two. So, if this account is bringing any new converts to One Concern's camp, I hope you're patient. I'll try to be.

In a night of varied hardcore sensibilities it should be no surprise that the headliner, Brother's Keeper, brought a still different style to the stage. No "picture this" scenarios, just listen to Rage Against the Machine's debut album and you'll know the archetype that spawned an unfortunate rap/rock revolution. Although many in the audience were quick to point out to me and the other staff in the club that this band were breaking house rule #5 ("No Rapmetal"), I'm not sure it is that easy to discount them… and trust me I've tried.

Largely the band avoids the jeers lobbed at 311, Limp Biscuit, and the worse by keeping the style firmly entrenched in the hardcore community. There is an earnestness and honesty to the band's music, lyrics and stage show that, while slick, retains the spirit of '88.

The band's metal influences in an obvious distinguishing factor that save the band from being "just" a Rage clone. Two guitars provide heavy crunches and each downbeat is big enough to bounce you off of the floor. If you did find yourself jumping you'd be in good company as the band spent most of the set in mid air. Although the timed (if not choreographed) pogoing let me know the boys were sweating for me, there were occasional jumps that made me smile in goofy appreciation. And if it seems odd to you that a show account would include commentary on the band members' jumping skills, then you don't know the same sort of hardcore I do.

The band's energy level was always high, and they fed off the audience that had come to see them and knew every word, while those who hadn't seemed to find their way to the back, but stuck around all the same. There was no preaching of the gospel and I don't think anyone was saved that night, but after four hardcore bands in less hours, I was reminded just how much hardcore still moves me, and how it moves me in a way that all the Low CDs with their intricate intectualisms never will.