Bane, Burn, Axis, Lesser Degree
April 18, 2016
Monday wasn’t an ideal day for live music in Houston. As you’re probably painfully aware by now, the city was hit with one of its rainiest days in history, causing flooding all over town. We all saw that video of the newscaster helping that guy swim out of his car on the freeway. On Monday night, as the drizzle continued, most sensible people stayed home.
Bane, of course, has never been altogether sensible. For 20 years, the Massachusetts hardcore act has been a model of independent perseverance and streetwise sentimentality, preaching scene unity and self-awareness across a slew of releases and slogs around the country. Coming from a state with a metric shit-ton of hardcore bands, Bane did it better than most, and now they’re wrapping it up. Their final tour was scheduled to swing through Houston on Monday, and a few flooded-out freeways weren’t going to be tough enough to stop them.
Some fans stayed home. It’s hard to blame them; there was a break in the storm on Monday evening, but it was forecast to resume raining at some point, and the prospect of being stranded at Walters Downtown by rising waters was not a pleasant one on a weeknight. Still, a respectable crowd assembled for local openers Lesser Degree at 8 p.m., with some dudes already wind-milling and drop-kicking across the floor like insane people. Most of us gave them a very wide berth, but they were a welcome sight: It wouldn’t be a proper Bane show without those people.
The young Florida group Axis was up next, delivering a stout, two-guitar crunch on their shrieking, odd-time breakdowns. The crowd dug ‘em, and the dancing continued gamely on the wide-open dance floor.
Axis’s singer thanked the crowd for showing up, promising that it would be worth it in the end.
“I don’t know about you, but I would have got in a fucking canoe and paddled over here to see Bane and Burn,” he said. It was a nice sentiment that got some polite applause, but a lot of us blanched at the possible necessity.
New York City’s Burn was the final warmup act. Legendary (apparently) in some circles, the group has just put out its first new music since 2001. Someone somewhere is no doubt completely stoked about that, but it was clear from the crowd’s response on Monday that not many people in Houston knew who the hell they were.
As hardcore bands go, Burn proved weirdly progressive, weaving gentler moments into the usual tumult and chugging along rather pleasantly, for the most part. Singer Chaka Malik, whose vocals border at times on spoken word, stalked the venue’s floor as he worked hard to draw people in. The band sounded tight and well-rehearsed, but a tad plodding for a Monday night. The energy in the room flagged until the last couple of tunes — both fast numbers that woke us up a tad.
Thankfully, Bane had no need of an alarm clock. The hardcore “kids” in attendance, at least half of whom looked well over 30, were ready and waiting for them. People leaped up and danced with wild glee when the band kicked things off with “Final Backward Glance,” vaulting themselves with various degrees of success at the microphone to sing along. Hey, this was the final Bane show in Texas. There would be no second chances.
Singer Aaron Bedard, one of the two constant members for Bane’s full 20-year run, couldn’t help but reminisce a little bit onstage, and maybe the rest of us were there for the same reason. He acknowledged that the band had always struggled a bit in this part of the country, but that he’d remembered Houston fondly since the group’s first tour in 1998 with Saves the Day. Houston, Bedard recalled, had been one of the few places where Bane had received a spark of interest back then.
And with that story warming our hearts, the band lit into “Count Me Out,” one of the tunes that they surely played back on that ’98 tour. An old-school circle pit was their reward, with the moshing maniacs doing their damnedest to make up for their missing comrades.
Bedard did a little old-school preaching about the power of perseverance and positivity in between songs, which received polite applause as always. He thanked the fans for braving the dangerous weather, and thanked longtime local promoter Willow Villareal for booking the band as often as he did. It was quality, sentimental stuff, but every tune brought us closer to the big good-bye.
Finally, after a dozen or so singalongs, it was upon us.
“We’re going to do a dancing song, then we’re going to do a singing song, and then we’ll see you in another life,” Bedard told us.
Bane’s finale was, inevitably, “Can We Start Again,” which was as fitting an exit tune as can be. The remaining souls inside Walters gave it all they had, rushing forward to scream along on top of one another. The circle pit raged, the camera phones went up and the cymbals crashed. And then it was over.
Soon, Bane would be on their soggy way to New Orleans, never to return. The hardcore movement they helped to propel lives on, of course, but nobody’s putting out stuff that matches up favorably with the beauty of “Calling Hours.” We shan’t see their like again. Sorry you missed ‘em.
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Personal Bias: Old.
The Crowd: Clearly dampened by the storm, but pleased to be there, nonetheless.
Overheard in the Crowd: “I’m just worried about my truck, man.”
Random Notebook Dump: Man, whatever happened to Saves the Day?