MDC, Verbal Abuse, In Defense, HRA, Some Nerve Walters Downtown June 23, 2013
The Texas hardcore scene that birthed MDC and Verbal Abuse came and went in a flash back in the early '80s, lasting just long enough for both bands to beat feet to the gnarlier climes of California. The blistering sounds they created, though, managed to leave a nasty scar that's never quite healed in the intervening years.
When the punk survivors loaded into Walters last night, grizzled vets who were there 30 years ago as well as the youngsters who desperately wish they'd been assembled eagerly to revisit a few old wounds. The music of MDC and their contemporaries had clearly ruined many of them for life: Once you get hooked on tunes this fast, loud and aggressive, somehow nothing else will quite do.
It wasn't all nostalgia on Sunday, of course. Local openers Some Nerve and H.R.A. illustrated hardcore's self-perpetuating mystique with noisy sets of hyperspeed fury as the crowd slowly filled in along the margins of the circle pit. Minneapolis' In Defense added a dash of long-haired thrash to the proceedings, whipping up the crowd with blistering songs like "The Police Are Fuckin' Rad!" and "All Hail the Taco Avenger."
It was a loose, fun set. In a visceral recreation of the punk/metal crossover that their tour-mates helped pioneer, In Defense divided the audience into their respective camps and commanded them to meet in the middle in a wild "wall of death" in the pit. As if that weren't enough, the band added washboard strumming and a very loud cowbell to "Black Metal Mania," thanks to an assist from members of Verbal Abuse and Days N' Daze. You won't see that in American Hardcore.
As much as the crowd loved that, they went absolutely batshit for VA. The hardened punk veterans immediately rifled through their namesake song, reeling in a large number of fans still exhaling smoke as they rushed inside. When the band lit into the punishing "I Hate You," pandemonium broke out on the floor, replete with mic grabs, stage diving and even one older gentleman riding his deck in the circle pit. Wicked.
The chaos continued unabated through classic cuts like "Free Money" and "Disintegration," which saw the notorious front man Nicki Sicki pass the mike off to some fans and jump offstage to lead the circle pit from the front. It's been more than 30 years since Verbal Abuse thundered down I-10 with Houston in the rearview, but they still enjoyed a homecoming reception befitting conquering punk heroes.
If the passage of time hadn't diluted the fury of Verbal Abuse, it certainly hadn't mellowed MDC front man Dave Dictor's anti-authoritarian streak, either. Before the band tore into their opener/mission statement, "Millions of Dead Cops," the former Austinite related a frustrating tale of being detained by Homeland Security in El Paso only days previously.
"Never let them search you, and never admit to having any drugs!" he cautioned the crowd. "Even if you have a ton of marijuana, you found it, and you were on your way to the police station."
Dictor stayed in a comfortable, talkative mood throughout the band's set, alternately railing against the evils of our modern police state and reminiscing about playing Houston punk dive the Island decades ago--MDC's (or was it the Stains?) first out-of-town show.
When he recalled how elated the band had been by their reception in Houston compared to the "snobby" punks in Austin, the crowd at Walters became determined to outdo even their forebears, wreaking absolute havoc onstage and off during "I Hate Work."
MDC fired off no fewer than 34 songs during its set, including the ultra-radical classics "John Wayne Was a Nazi" and "Multi Death Corporation." Some of the group's more dated political references appeared to fly right over the heads of the youngest punks in attendance: Vietnam and the Klan are pretty far removed from most of their experiences, I'd wager.
The aggressive abandon of the music, though, had lost none of its relevancy. There's a reason MDC is still on the road, and it can't possibly be for the promise of big money. For thrashers young and old, onstage and off, these short, speedy bursts of volume are simply the only thing that can scratch an itch that's been festering for decades now.
"It's delightful to make Texas hardcore music for you," said Dictor before the band finished up with "Business on Parade," a tune that could easily serve as our city's unofficial theme song. "It's a fucking honor."
Come on home anytime, gentlemen. Just make sure that inspection sticker is current, and take care to drive the speed limit.
Personal Bias: Too young to remember MDC's heyday, and too old to fly off a stage.
The Crowd: True believers, from teenagers to graybeards.
Overheard in the Crowd: "This is one of those bands that I really never thought I'd get to see. I'm gonna fuck some shit up."
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Random Notebook Dump: Folk-punkers Days N Daze had a lot of fun entertaining the non-smokers between bands. Gutbucket FTW.