HORRIBLEFEST, I REMEMBER YOU
-by Rich Kroneiss
The festival circuit absolutely killed me last year. The Pain in the Big Neck, Chicago Blackout, and a day/night of DotDash Year Three really put the whooping on me both mentally/physically and financially. So when the Horriblefest thing started happening I was almost too spent to care. But, hey, it was close. And they managed to put together a fairly eclectic line-up compared to some of the other fests, including a smattering of Clevo and out-of-town hardcore acts and, this I found most impressive, they actually asked some of my dear hometown Buffalo bands to play, which is something that does not happen outside of fests that don't actually occur in Buffalo itself. We're not cool enough here or something. But Cleveland wanted them, and I was thrilled they were included, and I was making travel arrangements before I realized what I was doing.
The first thought that occurs to me as write this is the fact that I need to really write these things soon after the fest, not one or two months later. Memory fades, nuances are forgotten. But perhaps the perspective at a later date is more honest. You remember what was absolutely the best and perhaps forgive and forget some shortcomings. We shall see. After a short an uneventful road trip, I managed to find the legendary Beachland. I guess you could call the neighborhood semi-sketchy, but who cares. No beach in sight though, although I thought I heard the faraway giggles of some Lake Erie beach bunnies in the distance. Or perhaps it was the howl of a feral cat. I did not investigate. The night's festivities were in the Tavern portion of the Beachland, a smaller sized room, an intimate bar setting with good sightlines from three sides of the stage and tall cans of Pabst. Ran into my hometown boys in Trailerpark Tornados and made the scene. The Radio Beats were already there kissin' dudez and Maniacal Matt Coppens was at the bar with a head start. It wasn't a huge crowd, I'd say 150 or so at it's peak, but there was a good vibe in the room. Everyone was excited for the Lips and Khan/BBQ, who the grapevine said had been murdering crowds throughout the Midwest on their way to this show. A full on Death Cult massacre was what we were expecting. But first, there were the preliminaries. Opening up were The Butchers, whom I have never heard. Three-piece dual guitar hooha from PA somewhere. They wore butcher aprons and had some blood smeared on their faces and played...uh...blues-trash stuff I guess. I was unmoved. I kept thinking, man, if you're gonna go with the butcher gimmick, go all the way. I was imagining like a pig's head mounted on the drum kit, maybe a meat grinder set up you could rig an effects pedal to and maybe grind some chuck to throw in the crowd while you're at it. Some cleavers you could whack your guitar with. Free strip steaks for everyone. Sausage links wrapped around the mics. Really go whole hog (pun intended if you wish) with the schtick, 'cause the tunes weren't happening. I think the drummer kicked over his kit at the end. An auspicious beginning for sure. The Radio Beats were up next, and they might as well be a Buffalo band with the amount of time I've spent with them. They were tight and fun, but Dan's guitar could have been louder. That's a joke. I got my mandatory Steve Beat stage banter/insult thrown my way, which I always appreciate, and I need to mention that this was my first encounter with their pal Vinnie the Shitbag, who I have to say is the best kid ever. Rots of fun. The good thing about watching the Radio Beats is whenever you get pissed off with Steve you can just ignore him and watch Dan play some 100mph guitar, because he's really good at it. Real rock'n'roll shredding that I always enjoy, and I mean that pal. My buds in TPT were next, and they were a bit nervous to be playing to the fest crowd I think. But they did fine, and the new(er) line-up performed admirably. You really need to see them in this incarnation to appreciate them. Just don't ask them to play Hamtramck. They even threw in a haphazard cover of "ATV" to close and ex-Reagan Youth drummer Pauie Shoes was hot on the skins that night. Well done, fellas.
As Coppens got even more loaded and surly, which would be my recurring theme/nightmare for the next two days, Young Jeff Novak took to the stage. I think what really differentiates Jeff from the rest of the OMB gang is that he's so vicious. With Louie or BBQ, you get the whole singer-storyteller thing where they have some friendly banter between tunes and get that kind of love-in vibe going, whereas Jeff just attacks. He sets his shit up, straps it on, and just fires salvo after salvo at your face. No "This song is about the time I ate some bad pork at Panda Kitchen..." shit, he just fires off one tune, barely catches his breath and fires again, spitting, screaming, veins-a-poppin, eyeballs bulging, his face turning red and blue, and keeps it up until he pukes or dies. Puke seems to be the ending so far, as it is true he plays himself into such a fit he heaves after most shows. I think he got a little lunch up this time. Good set fer sure, and more savage than when I saw him in NYC.
Time for the big boys, as Khan and BBQ hit the stage. If you saw them on the last tour, you know the show: all the hits, Khan crossdressing on stage complete with wig (and freeballing it underneath), Mark holding things down. It was a good set, complete with their "Operation" cover and gallons of showmanship. To close they served up Sherry from Texas a birthday cake, which Khan ended up high-kicking into the crowd, and well, it just got messy. I stayed out of the fray, but SteveBeat looked like Captain Sensible on the cover of the first Damned LP afterwards. High-larious. At this point I had met up with Erickelric who gave me the behind-the-scenes tour of the Beachland, which meant I got to mingle backstage with bands and stand around like an idiot. Coppens surly factor at this point was about a 7 on the scale of 10, as the head-butting and finger pointing had begun. It was getting fun in there, to say the least. Black Lips were about to mow us all down. They just look like they are going be terrible when they take the stage, but somehow the manage to make the seemingly unorganized jangle sound so great. It's like the wheels are falling of the tunes the whole time, but they keep it together, right there on the edge of destruction and greatness. They just owned everyone, playing tons of new shit. Even "Hippys" sounded great. Cole looked like Deputy Junior from Reno-911 with his bad cop moustache. He had some effects pedal thing hidden in a cardboard box that he fiddled with to make druggy sounds sound druggier. SO awesome, I mean fuck mounting the thing an a board, just carry it around in a box. It's those little things that matter. Best moment: Khan holding a bowl and lighter up for the drummer mid-song, who hits it while playing without missing a beat. They played one of those sets you wished lasted forever. And they had Black Lips collector plates for sale. So, so good. After some post-show drunken shenanigans we headed back to the hotel. We being the Tornados, Coppens, and myself. The room became a mini-flophouse, with either Rob or Coppens snoring all night. Dave Anchovies sounds like Curly from the Three Stooges when he sleeps. The room smelled like a shit-filled diaper the next morning. I'm sure housekeeping was impressed.
The next day was spent record shopping with Coppens. No major scores, but they have a good shop in My Mind's Eye. We had some OK Italian and listened to lots of Reatards, Brainbombs, and Betong Hysteria. Then we tried to find the venue for the evening, a gallery space of sorts called Blacklist. It was in the middle of a nowheresville industrial section, and I was kinda bummed, but it turned out to be the best night of the fest. Best bands, best venue, best time. The Blowtops and Bart Hart were on their way and we met up with them, as well as The World's Greatest Living Englishman, who was my roommate for the rest of the weekend. Blacklist turned out to be a great showspace. Warehouse style, there was a small bar (dollar beers and free cigs!) with a good stage, with some higher ground for over-the-crowd viewing, plus the entire long staircase leading down to the floor and a small balcony. Plus, there was another side room with art on display where merch tables were set up and people could chat away from the crowd. The place was packed, and filled in nicely. I thought there may be capacity issues, but it worked out great. Kicking things off were Homostupids, whom I knew nothing about, but were great. Overamped, muscular noise-rock-shit, guitar/bass/drums that reminded a bit of third LP Hammerhead. Really good, with aggro vox from a dude I think was in Nine Shocks Terror. They should put out a record. ( Check their MySpace out.) Next, I'm pretty sure were Holy Shit! This would be the first of what would be the night of seeing the three of the best drummers in the biz in action on the same bill. It's common knowledge Eric Apnea is a monster, and they shredded hard, a lot better than what I'd seen before. Flaggy, Kruezenite, Negative Approachable, it was tight. After that, the hardcore onslaught continued. Shoot it Up were imported all the way from California for the event, and I had high expectations for their drug-addled shit. And they were raw. The singer looks like a young Chavo, but on more drugs, the guitar player looks like he's about twelve, and the drummer looks like a teenage caveman. And they played the shit out of some awesome, lurching and jerking hardcore punk, the likes of which I've never really heard before. Really stripped down and really powerful. Oh, and fucked up too. They were agressive and combative and just impressive overall. Young, loud, and really fucking snotty in Cleveland, they were a real surprise.
Rat Traps were fucking great. Really hard and vicious sounding. I realized they have a bunch of great tunes for being such a new band. "Zombies", "Gimme Scanners", "Tennessee Rock'n'Roll" and even more. I think a lot of people expect them to just be some garagey band, but they bring the punk. April gets in faces and screams and Jeff looks like he's about to explode. They ended with an Eyes cover, which you can kinda see coming, but it worked. A truly killer set.King Louie was supposed to play this night, but was MIA, so I do beleive it was Wolfdowners next. Paul (from Cider/Darvocets/Noncommercial Records and more) fronted the band with another guy from Cider and a sax player. They played pure abrasion, kind of a skronk-meets-hardcore fusion that sounded kind of muddy live but I could see working on record. I wasn't digging it as much as the other bands, but Mary Coppens was front and center, surly factor 13, trying to get me to pit. No thanks, dude. I retreated to higher ground to ride it out. At the end of the set Coppens is sreaming at me "They're gonna do a Darvocets set man, get down here!" And while that would be cool as hell, I didn't think it was happening. I don't know if there was a rumor it was going to go down or he just made it up, but needless to say it didn't happen. Coppens was bummed.
While Matt was off headbutting some more people, I posted up for Clockcleaner who I was super-excited for, on the strength of demos, "The Hassler" 12", and big Dave Hyde props. They really came through too. Sharkey is an imposing and entertaining front-man, emoting, threatening, and just creeping the crowd out. Some dude threw some whiskey at him for some reason, which resulted in him jumping down the dude's throat and throwing some punches, much to dude's surprise. Awesome. The girl bass player had what looked like a six-string bass (Does that make it a guitar?) and sipped a small bottle of wine between songs that she stored between her ample breasts while playing. What do they sound like? Think the best of post-hardcore Touch & Go with some prime years AmRep mixed with Brainbombs and Jap hardcore or something ridiculous. Think really angry and locked in rhythm section with a madman playing guitar. Just the type of thing we Buffalonians love. Sharkey ended the set with a monstrous sax solo from the top of the PA. Well done. And speaking of Buffalonians, The Blowtops went next (I think, I may be getting the order screwed up here), but anyway, they shut the house lights off for them, which was great. Creepy Dave worked the room as he always does, but I think some people were unprepared for his shit. I knew Coppens was up for it though, and I watched him gravitate towrd the action like a magnet, trying to get Dave in a headlock or something. They played very well and made me proud, and after the initail shock of Dave's shenanigans, the crowd really dug them I think. Plus, it was part two of great drummers, as Scott from the Blowtops is a total banger as well. I was glad more people got to see him (and them) in action. Did I mention the sound in the place was great too? The organ was snaking through the PA like an anaconda in the dark. It was spooky man. Another A+, and at this point I was shocked by how many good bands had played, and everyone was on, not a bum set to be had really.
Closing it out were Human Eye, and I forget what they played, and what sort of show-stopper Timmy had. I don't remember any seafood being involved, but day-glo paint was involved at some juncture. I was transfixed the entire set by Billy Hafer on drums. Really, it was hypnotizing up so close. It was like watching Bonham or Moon, they guy was just doing incredible shit with those sticks. I don't even think I heard the rest of the band, just him. And I wasn't the only one. People would be watching him and after some hyper-speed roll-crash-bang move they'd look at the person next to them with that "Holy fuck, did you see that shit?" look. Dude was getting his own applause mid-song. It was a fucking clinic, that's all I can say about it. I could've watched him play for hours, and he never slowed down. Inhuman. I asked Eric Apnea about it the next day and he said something to the effect of "Man, I don't even like to watch him, he's too sick." This from one of the most instinctive drummers I've ever seen. That Billy guy is THAT FUCKING GOOD. That was it for the night. Darius and I beat feet while Coppens tried to keep the party alive with senseless violence and drunken mayhem. Hey, we told him we were leaving...
Mr. Criminal IQ and I got an early start the next day, headed for some bar called Moe's where the matinee was. We got there early so we went for eats. I got a good plate of breakfast, and Darius got ripped off and paid like $9 for some eggs and toast or something. Kinda funny. So, by now you've heard the Rot Shit story. It's Dan and Steve RadioBeat and a couple of their Pitts-bros, with Vinnie and Dan's girl Jami on vox and crowd confrontation. So, they set uo some Fisher Price doll house in front of the drums and Vinnie has a plastic bag. They launch into the first song (well, they're all the same song really, just pounding noise), and Vinnie kicks the fucking doll house right into my fucking shin. The he whips the eel out the bag and people get freaked. They start screaming in peoples faces and pushing people around, next thing you know chairs are being thrown, brawls are ready to start, it's like they opened up a sixer of Altamont-in-a-can. Bad vibe city, and the chick from the bar threatens to shut the whole thing down one band in. I know that's what they wanted, so they succeeded. I can at least say I saw it happen once. Next up were locals McShitzz, who were actually great. You could tell they were the older guard of punkers from the area, and they had fun. The guitar player was the dude from Homostupids, and he was loud, which is good. The drummer kind of looked like Dom Deluise. The singer was entertaining too, with some great banter. His best line I can remember, this is right after Rot Shit: "We're McShitz, and uh..we don't have any animals to throw...but I'll be tossing a dead baby out later. So watch for that." Really, it was funnier in person. They even played a good Oi song. Okay, I'm gonna lose track here, so I'll run it down as well as I remember. Kill the Hippes played a cool, if long, set, and I was happy to have finally see them. A great and under-rated band. Then Alicja and RCTL played a short but great set, until Alicja blew an amp or head or something. They got out like five good tunes though, and were super tight. So then, Fashion Fashion & the Image Boys, all the way from Florida, played. These hooligans had been making an impression all weekend. Some people found them annoying, some entertaining in that punk rock kinda way. I hadn't had much interaction with them yet, aside from meeting Rich from Florida's Dying and him being a nice guy, and I think I armwrestled Derek Lyn Plastic in a drunken stupor at Blacklist the previous night. So anyway, they were drunk, obnoxious, and having a good time, and some people were taking it the wrong way. I dunno. I will say that FFIB are one of the ugliest bands I have ever seen. No bullshit. They played some good punk for about the first four songs or so, with some good showmanship (spitting, audience baiting, etc.). But then they decide they are going to play FOREVER. They're using Cider's drum kit, and the dude is getting pissed. So he literally walks up while they're playing and tried to piss on their set. Hilarious. Everyone is getting kinda frosted because like four bands have to play and these dudes are going on and on. So they eventually stop or get yanked, I forget. Cider get up to play next, and I guess the FFIB drummer fucked up the dude's drums somehow, so he's SUPER pissed now. And he's an old dude, like fifty or so, but he was moshing like mad earlier. Psycho. So I can't even pay attention to Cider, because the drummer is so pissed, he's screaming to himself while he's playing and getting madder and madder. He gets up between songs and starts going off on a "Nobody gives a fuck about your band! Nobody cares!" spiel, obviously directed at FF& co. I think there were threats of violence and ass-kicking or something too. So dude continues getting pissed, and finally he's just had it. After what turns out to be their last song, or during it, he starts throwing his kit around, culminating in him coming out from behind the kit, facing his kick drum, picking it up over his head, and then launching it over his back into the crowd! I nave never seen that done before, and probably never will again. Insane move, and absolutely incredible. After that, the place is just done, total chaos, I forget if any other bands played, but I don't think so. The tension level was getting a bit high between certain groups however, but I was having a great time bystanding.
So after lots of jokes and getting kinda lost me, Darius, and some Functional Blackouts finally get back to the Beachland. Tonight's show is going down in the Ballroom half of the venue, which turned out to be a bad move, because the place is a fucking cavern. It was maybe a quarter full at any one time, and the sound was godawful. Some local band The Jeffs opened, and I missed them. The Krunchies actually managed to sound alright in the room, or maybe it was just where I was standing. Real fast and real good, they should get some more props I think, especially after that killer full-length. The Functional Blackouts were next, and succumbed to the bad sound. Not their fault at all. They tried. After that, it was Coppen's favorite band, Upstab. Matt had been promising everyone who would listen that Upstab were going to basically burn down the whole venue and kill people with their live show. That's exagerrating a tiny bit, but you get what I mean. I love Upstab on record. If they had played the tight room at Blacklist, they would have slayed. But the intimacy and threat of a killer hardcore performance is lost on a huge stage with a nearly empty room. Chris Erba brandished a tow chain and a sickle at various points in the set. I think I heard one firecracker go off. Musically, they were good, but you could hardly tell with the shit sound by this point. I think alot of the "garage" people who had listened to Coppens were disappointed, because he made it sound way too good to be true. Those who were unfamiliar with Clevo hardcore history and the Erbas themselves probably didn't get it at all. I like the band, and hey, I just wanted to hear the tunes. It was only OK. The best thing though, was Tony Erba sporting a 'Badstreet USA' shirt, which would have thrilled Richard Adventure to no end had he been there.
At this point, some bad vibes are happening. Certain groups aren't getting along, there's a fight or two, people are getting on each other's nerves. Did I mention King Louie showed up? yeah, he played in between bands while they set up and did a lot numbers off "Chinese Crawfish". So, at the end of Upstab's set, Chris Erba's holding a sickle up and talking about how they are communists or something. Which works out really funnily, because Cuntpuppet are up next, and come out with a huge American flag. I know what to expect from Cuntpuppet. It's performance art. They have actually added some items to their stage set, like mic stands and drum stands covered in Busch cans, and the singer dude even has a beer holster. So, I think a lot of the hardcore types are taking it a bit too seriously and getting into the heckling. the 'puppet take in stride, and go on with their schtick. They did play a new tune called "The Shocker", where they come up with an unending succession of rhymes for the smooth move, seriously like fifty different ones. Not just the traditional "One in the pink one in the stink", but semi-originals like "One in the bush one in the tush" or "One in the meat and one in the seat" or perhaps even "One on the snatch and one in the hatch". There were alot of them, and it made for a good chorus. So yeah, the hardcore types are getting their heckle on, so one dude (who looked remarkably like Jim Skafish) hurls a full beer at the singer at gets him dead-on right in the puss with a full glass of PBR. So the CP front-man chases the dude down into the crowd, but Skafish takes off and loses him in the crowd. Those Cuntpuppet dudes don't take no shit. But, you know, you've seen them once, you've seen them a million times too. I did see them after the show though, and they still weren't breaking character.
At this point the night is kind of a drag. There are some bad vibes hanging around, the Ballroom looks like the gym at the end of a high school dance. A few people are still up and about, with all the kids who drank too much gin slumped up against the walls or outside smoking. That room seriously sucked. I was so excited to see the Feelers, but they couldn't get through the muddy sound, especially a band as trebly as them. What a waste. The singer even donned some kind of fancy-boy outfit too. A couple tunes sounded Ok, but I have to say again how bad that place sounded. Ruined some of my favorite bands. The Catholic Boys fared better somehow, and actually played through it a bit. Paul had a Buffalo Sabres shirt on, which was awesome. They played a lot of new stuff and made out OK with the shit PA sound. Finally, The Jabbers got up there. Of course they looked old. They had the guy who did the roof on my neighbor's house on drums. My uncle Larry's accountant on guitar. Kevin Kline in a wig on bass and unimpressed looks. The assistant coach of the JV basketball team of my old high school on lead guitar. And WIMPY! I will give it up, though, they were entertaining. Wimpy is still punk as fuck. They did a Queers medley that was awesome, covered Aryan Disgrace, every Jabbers tune that counted. They played for a long time, and it was what it was. And they actually sounded OK, because a bar band will always sound OK no matter what. Case closed.
In all, a great fest that went really well despite some shenanigans here and there. They had a great bunch of bands that weren't the usual suspects and I got to see some cool new bands that certainly would not have been on other fest-bills. The show at Blacklist was incredible, and they should do more there (Ed.: Since the writing of this article Blacklist has regrettably closed). The Beachland Tavern was great too. Just stay far away from the Ballroom next time, guys. But they've learned from their mistakes, I'm sure. For a first time affair, they did a great job, coordinating more than thirty bands over three days at three different venues must've been a chore, but they pulled it off. If they do it in 2006, I'm there. I also have to give a special shout-out to the "soul food" joint across the street from the Beachland, at which I enjoyed a porkchop sandwich, various meat pies, and the best corned beef on white bread sandwich I have ever had over the course of the weekend. Next time I'm ordering the turkey necks!
Awesome pics by Jeanie Peaden which were swiped from the Florida's Dying website. Sorry and thanks!
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