The Cro-Mags at Walters, 7/10/2014

The Cro-Mags, Die Young, Black Coffee, BLUNT, H.R.A. Walters Downtown July 10, 2014

When the Cro-Mags arose from the streets of New York City in the mid-'80s, punk and heavy metal were hardly the best of friends. If there's one thing that singer John Joseph and company have proved over their tumultuous career wrecking stages together, though, it's that the tight bonds of friendship aren't necessarily a prerequisite to do some groundbreaking damage.

After more makeups, breakups and lineup changes than anyone cares to count at this point, the 'Mags have reemerged as proud hardcore elder statesmen in the 21st century, recognized far and wide for their thrashing, crossover sound's indelible influence on both sides of the once-deep punk/metal divide.

On a rare stop in Houston on Thursday night, the band drew a crowd ready to show out for the scene legends who wielded such a heavy hand in crafting the modern underground's sound and aesthetic.


Hatetank Productions put together a stacked bill of local support, and there wasn't a single band at Walters last night that hadn't been touched by Cro-Mags' seamless fusion of punk-rock energy with metallic heaviness. The show was opened by H.R.A. (Heavy Roach Activity), a nasty little hardcore troupe of increasing local renown, who stomped the earliest arrivals flat with speedy precision before the sun had even set.

"This one goes out to you, the ones who made it out this early," said singer Robert Mena, dedicating one typically mean-spirited number. "The roaches haven't even made it out yet!"

H.R.A. enjoyed a nice response from the slowly swelling crowd, as did the next group up, Pasadena's BLUNT, who sounded ready to be counted among the area's heaviest hardcore elite as drummer Gerardo pounded his kit through the floor. As is typical at these gigs, fans were happy to clap and cheer, but rather reluctant to get down and dirty early on, clustering around the dance floor's margins. One far-too-enthusiastic 'core kid was tossed after attempting to berate the early birds into action.

Take note, friends: You cannot antagonize people into moshing with you. Sit back, relax, and allow the alcohol to do its work.

Like clockwork, the manic energy in the room continued to build for Black Coffee, whose jangling guitar tone and thudding pummel unabashedly recalled of mid-period Black Flag. After their short, snappy set, scene veterans Die Young took the stage next, clearly jazzed to be sharing a gig with one of their biggest influences.

The band was joined on drums by past member Mike Fury, filling in for current skinsman Wendel as he engineers a move from Mexico City to the U.S. Fury didn't skip a beat all night, but may have been downing a tad too much water up there, as he straight-up puked in the middle of one song late in the set.

Our heart went out to the man, who was certainly working hard up there, but it was pretty fucking funny, too. The floor-punching seemed to ratchet up a notch for impossibly tight tunes like "The Trail of Tears" after that little incident -- vomit'll do that, it seems.

Review continues on the next page.

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Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith