Keith Bennett performing with Wrecking Crew (Photo by Duncan Wilder Johnson)
I've been covering concerts since 1986 and never lost a notebook at a show. Until Monday at the This is Boston benefit for the One Fund set up to help victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Ten bands_ mostly hardcore, with a couple of extreme-metal acts thrown in for good measure_ performed at the South Shore Music Hall in Quincy, which is less a "hall" and more a basement with a low ceiling and sticky floors.
The club reached its 525-person capacity, which is no surprise given the bill: Converge, Slapshot, Wrecking Crew, Dropdead, New Lows, Doomriders, the Revilers, Insult, Sexcrement, and Alpha & Omega (who came on board last minute when For the Worse had to drop off the show). This was roughly 25 years of Boston hardcore punk history laid out over a six-hour show put together by Lykaion Cult Productions, Ammonia Booking, and PanzerBastard/Wrecking Crew bassist Keith Bennett.
Bennett is a fixture in the hardcore and metal scenes, and for this event reunited Wrecking Crew, a band that along with Slapshot reinvigorated Boston's punk scene in the mid-80s. The influence of those two bands rippled through the show which culminated with Converge, whose reach now extends well beyond its Boston home as it continues to push the boundaries of hardcore.
Yet no matter which direction a band took its music, the crowd responded uniformly with a cathartic burst of anarchy. Bodies bounced up toward that low ceiling, and the tackiness of the floor did little to slow a mosh pit.
Which brings me back to the notebook. For all the rage and aggression pouring out of the music, this is a scene whose members go out of their way to make sure things are OK on their side of the line. Before I even knew I dropped my notebook, someone was tapping me on the shoulder to hand it back. I don't mean to read too much into the gesture, but I've always felt that despite its outward appearance of hostility, a hardcore show is about as safe and friendly a place as you'd want to be .
And though the hardcore community may be isolated, it is not self-centered. Early estimates have it that the benefit raised $14,000 for the One Fund, with proceeds generated by ticket sales, merchandise, raffles, and donations.
This event will raise a fraction of the money to come out of the May 30 One Fund benefit concert happening at the TD Garden with Aerosmith, Jimmy Buffett, and a bunch of other mainstream headliners. But in terms of representing a true musical community of Boston, This is Boston will be hard to beat.
There was nothing incongruous as things progressed from the raspy grind of Sexcrement into the short, angry bursts of Insult. The Revilers dusted off the more melodic aspects of hardcore, while New Lows slathered sludge across its hardcore. Doomriders carved grooves into its metal; Dropdead sealed its militant, activist messages in airtight musical baggies. Veteran bands looked like they were achieving a musical bliss, while the young Alpha & Omega (a Los Angles band releasing its new album on Bridge Nine, so there's a local-enough connection) displayed a tightly coiled intensity.
The sets by Wrecking Crew, Slapshot, and Converge were as close as you'll come to a hardcore punk lovefest. Slapshot's Jack Kelly sang "Tied Down" with Wrecking Crew; C.O.A.'s Colin Campbell joined Slapshot to sing "Chip on My Shoulder;" and Bennett hopped on stage with Converge to belt out a cover of Entombed's "Wolverine Blues."
In true punk fashion, the benefit show went about its business without any breath wasted on self-congratulatory speeches or grandstanding of any sort. It was all raw, loud, and effective in every way.
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