Hardcore isn't really something I listen to anymore. I seldom reach for the old records that helped define me, and I can't remember the last time I bought a new hardcore album solely on its musical merits. But I still see a lot of hardcore shows. It's the energy. The experience. The interaction between bands and fans. So, on a Tuesday night I found myself at Farewell, excited to watch that dance play out once again.
Missouri Executive Order 44 started the night off. For those of you not hip to the 1838 Mormon War, MEO 44 was a (definitely illegal) proclamation by the governor calling for the expulsion of all Latter-day Saints from Missouri after the pilgrims began butting heads with the local settlers. The band is still pissed about this and are not about to let bygones be bygones. Dressed in black pants, white button ups, bike helmets, and concealing masks, the foursome consists of Elos (guitar), Esau (bass), Jarom (vocals), and Malachi (drums). If any of those musicians look remarkably like musicians you've seen play at Farewell under different names, I'm sure it's purely coincidental. The band is hardcore – maybe drifting into powerviolence. At times it's ridiculously heavy. Songs are short and fast with chaos coming from all points on stage. Seldom do the instruments play from the same hymnal. Elos's guitar may scream wiry leads or roar power chords, but the bass and drums just pummel – especially Malachi's drums that were punished like they had revealed the endowment ceremony. Jarom didn't set foot on stage, instead he mingled in the audience, proselytizing and screaming to the receptive audience. They were putty in his sanctified hands. While the members of MEO 44 look to right historical wrongs, there's always a chance they'll be run off to Nauvoo, so better catch the band quick. For those interested in hearing more of the band's radical ideas, head to Bandcamp and pick up its demo, Seventeen Dead in Caldwell County.
If Twitter is to be trusted, the members of Flooding relish their role on hardcore bills. Maybe it's because the trio isn't actually hardcore. But it's also not any one other thing. Just after 9pm Rose Brown began methodically picking arpeggios from broken chords, occasionally accenting the bum note, and seldom providing clean resolves. The audience was hushed and engaged. Soon her clean vocals and intentional picking give way to fuzz pedals, crashing chords, and screamed vocals. The band's new material (which is all that it plays nowadays) has more screaming. The latest songs are generally longer affairs with multiple movements. They're "post" something. Maybe they're "post" everything. Brown set up on the floor among the crowd. Bassist Cole Billings did too, though he spent most of the set with his back turned to the audience, checking in with drummer Zach Cunningham. The rhythm section locks in, but mostly to provide a base for Brown, and to swell and contract like the respiration of a great beast. The band's thirty-minute set had heads nodding, but few bodies moving. It's a respite from the corporeal blasts of hardcore that the band often finds itself sandwiched between on bills. I too relish that chance to breath, and to occasionally have my breath taken away by a band, rather than an errant elbow in the pit.
Austin's Portrayal of Guilt was determined to split the openers' differences. The band is led by the guitar and vocals of Matt King, with bass from Alex Stanfield, and tour-only drummer Michael Blume. Sure, it's hardcore, but the story is seldom so simple. There are slow songs with plodding drums. There are fast songs with double bass. The band finds grooves often – sometimes even wading into treacherous nu metal waters. There's plenty of chaos, but there are also moments of nuance and beauty and interplay among the trio. King's vocals are screeched black metal style, so whatever taxonomy you settle on, know "blackened" will be a part of it. But enough of the pedanticism, let's focus on the gig at hand.
The band's ten-song set covered much of its prolific six-year career, kicking off with "Daymare" from 2018's Let Pain Be Your Guide, and concluding with a new unreleased song titled "Devil Music." For the first few songs, the unsteady audience attempted to take it all in. Then a push pit formed, and its edges were tested. King asked the audience forward, and then the pit came for him. His microphone stand took a beating until he moved it deeper onto the stage. King wasn't a dynamic frontman, he offered no banter or jumps or incursions into the audience, yet the band generated all the energy required to bring the audience to a boil. Soon the crowd transformed the push pit into a pool of flailing arms. I was awed by a small gal in a peasant top who took out half of the room, and I marveled as multiple crowd surfers were passed aloft from the stage back to the bar. And this is the way it was for 35 minutes – band feeding audience feeding band in the most satisfying symbiosis. While my old hardcore records may have gone stale, live hardcore gigs are always unique as they're built on the momentary intersection of band and audience. You have to be there to experience hardcore, and I do my best.