Negative Approach, the Casualties, the Krum Bums Walters Downtown November 2, 2013
Now that virtually every hardcore band that ever pushed a van in the early '80s has reformed for a trek or three around the country, it's fair to say that Detroit's Negative Approach stands out as one of the best. A lot of their peers are coasting, playing old favorites to old fans. But NA's performances still crackle with malice, and they still inspire wicked pits.
Their trip to Warehouse Live with OFF! last September was one of the gnarliest shows of the year, so I was especially interested in seeing what they could do with a headliner's slot. All the better that they were bringing along the Casualties, the long-running NYC street-punk band that always draws a crowd dressed to kill.
When I got to Walters, the floor was already crowded with colorful mohicans, liberty spikes and tattoo ink for the Krum Bums, the Austin punks well-known around these parts for their silly hair and shout-alongs. A big, energetic mosh pit roiled up front as the band egged everyone on with their metallic, twin leads.
"Tonight, let's fuck shit up!" insisted singer Dave Tejas, and the Krum Bums led the way by downing shots of whiskey between "whoas" and "whoa-ohs." Fans skanked up a storm right through the set's metallic, Maiden-esque outro.
While the stage was flipped, a strong ripple of anticipation went through the audience for the Casualties. These street soldiers from the Lower East Side enjoy a large and dedicated Latino fanbase in town, largely thanks to the pierced-and-dyed Brown Pride of singer Jorge Herrera. Houston's Latino punks, in particular, seemed to have had this date circled on the calendar.
After taking the stage to the Imperial March from Star Wars, the Casualties proved they're still 'bout dat life with a slew of hard, fast and heavy anthems that had fans rushing in from the patio, still exhaling smoke. The sheer glee that greeted their arrival wasn't enough for the band, who demanded stage divers.
Unsurprisingly, that request was met with some enthusiasm, and Walters' tiny stage was besieged before the next song even began. During "Constant Struggle, Constant Battle," boots pinwheeled as punks flipped into the faces of their fellow fans. Its heavy, metallic breakdown spurred on the biggest, most furious circles of the evening.
While the Casualties (and their 10-inch hair) are clearly somebody's idea of maximum punk, there was a hard, metallic edge to their snottiness, from Jake Kolatis' Flying V to Herrera's bullet belt. The front of several mohawks in the crowd began to droop with sweat as heads banged away to "Life on the Line." Despite the crunchier bits, though, the band proved their NYC punk bonafides with a snarling medley of Ramones tunes.
"Fuck yeah! This is probably one of the best shows we've done in a long time," Kolatis said, a big grin on his face. Herrera thanked the Latino fans for their support before the band ended with the crashing "Riot" and "We Are All We Have."
Review continues on the next page.
Most of the young punks that showed up for the Casualties stuck around for Negative Approach, a band that formed, threw a nasty fit and split seven years before the New Yorkers played their first note together.
Without fanfare, scowling singer John Brannon and company took the stage and immediately began pumping out their short, snarling brand of early hardcore, starting up the slamming once more. This time, the stage divers didn't need an invitation. Immediately, they were juiced up and flying.
While many of their former peers' reunion tours have played to a sizable contingent of graying punk survivors eager to relive some salad days, the audience that turned out for Negative Approach on Saturday was decidedly younger and fresher than I'd anticipated. Whether that was due to the other bands on the bill or to NA's continued relevance to yet another generation of punks, I couldn't be sure.
For whatever reason, though, about the only gray hairs I spotted during Negative Approach were on the stage, and those were well-earned. Brannon still sounds angry as hell, spitting out a stream of pissed-off pessimism as his face contorted with rage. Guitarist Harold Richardson jangled his strings in rapid, staccato strokes with his back to the crowd, as if the audioknives shooting out of his cabinets were all he cared to know about on Saturday.
The crowd went off hard, swinging each other around in the pit to furious classics like "Nothing" and "Tied Down." Negative Approach wrung them out with a nonstop stream of what felt like dozens of songs, until even Brannon had to nod his head in appreciation for the audience's enthusiasm.
After thanking the fans and the other bands on the bill, the singer and his cronies blasted out the old chestnut "Lead Song" while the remaining punks slipped all over the beer-slicked floor.
It was quality punk rock action. For Negative Approach, just another night's work.
Personal Bias: Not a fan of bondage pants.
The Crowd: Spiky.
Overheard in the Crowd: "They love each other, but that's incest."
Random Notebook Dump: Walters bathrooms were spotless as always, with only a few bloody towels in the bin.
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