I left work a little later than I had anticipated; France didn't follow through on something, and I was stuck waiting around to officially conclude that it didn't happen. Nevertheless, I got moving a little after 5:15, figuring that even fi hitting doors was out of the question, I at least ought to be able to get there by the official start. Unfortunately, this also turned out to be desperately unrealistic. At 7, the scheduled start time, I had barely gotten parked, much less walked the mile up to the venue, which was located about across from the Harvard dorm that I saw my last Cambridge gig in. Fortunately and unfortunately (explained later), several of the local openers had also gotten stuck in traffic, so the show didn't get started immediately.
More to the point, the show didn't get started expediently in any kind of reasonable sense. First the organizers were waiting for Scapegoat to show, then for Noosebomb to agree to take their slot, then for said band to get set up and rolling; this took until -- if my hazy recollection is right -- about 8:30, at which point the gig was thoroughly on PRST (Punk Rock Standard Time), which would have a lot of unpleasant consequences.
Noosebomb, when they finally subbed in, though, definitely was viewed as a positive development. After in most people's cases an hour or so of standing around without music, their straightforward crunch was more than welcome, whether the listeners in question were there more for grind or for death metal. In a nutshell, those unfamiliar with the band will do fine with the description "as if Motorhead was influenced by Hellhammer, instead of the other way around"; a raw and dirty sound both black and rockish, music that picks its spot, whether to avoid getting pigeonholed as grind, punk, or black metal, or just to rock the fuck out. Good stuff, and they were one of the few bands to get a proper set time.
At this point I went back to the parlor -- this gig was in basically a house, which is apparently normally in use for leftist sociopolitical pursuits -- and hit the merch tables. I had the cash and interest to support both touring bands, and in the process provided Coffins with some free surrealism by doing my merch transaction entirely in Japanese. This was made possible not only by a lot of time watching anime set in the real world, but also by the tendency of the language to leave words out. Ordering CDs and shirts is not hard if you know "this", "that", "the one over there", and a couple colors. Regardless, it worked like intended, with about the usual transaction content that I get when buying stuff off bands in English or German, and the guys didn't really catch on until the end. Amerika ni youkosou, Coffins -- hen na yatsu ni kiyotsukerro.
Raw Radar War [5/7]
This band took the show back in a more punk direction with a solid set of Boston hardcore in the traditional style. There were a few slower, sludgy parts, but the main focus was on straightforward aggro. They also got a decent-length set, and they definitely justified the time with a good performance. As with Noosebomb, and indeed as with all the bands up through Coffins, there was not a lot of movement in the audience, whether from people saving themselves for the headliners, or just because there was a high emphasis placed on not damaging the venue unnecessarily. While hardcore and grindcore are both always better with people moving around, the band and the audience both had a good time despite the lack of turbulence.
I stepped out to get a drink from the convenience store next door -- an absolute essential at a dry show -- and came back to see Craig (Weapons Grade, the promoter) crossing off RRW as he'd previously crossed off Noosebomb; I figured that Scapegoat would get cut from the bill for not showing up, and the touring bands would be starting up next. This was not the case, as Scapegoat, having rolled up while the first two bands were going on, did get their chance to play, even if it was an extremely abbreviated set. Their straight-from-the-shoulder grindcore was served well by the time restriction, though, as they ended leaving the people who came to see them wanting more, and those of us who were down for Japanese death metal not bored or annoyed. They had a decent amount of movement, in the course of which water managed to end up on both the floor and the ceiling; how, I'm not precisely sure.
There was a considerable amount of opinion on various fora after the fact that maybe Scapegoat should have just been cut from the bill when they failed to show up ready to play by, say, 8pm, an hour after the show was supposed to start, in order to give more time to Coffins and secondarily The Endless Blockade. While they played decent music, it wasn't so good as to whelm the headliners, and as rough as it sounds, they could probably have been safely omitted without diminishing the overall fun factor of the show. Regrettable as it may be for those interested mainly in the traveling headliners, there's a clear reason that they were left on.
DIY promoters have a vested interest in making sure the bands from their own area are happy. Bands who like them will play their shows and bring out fans to make the gigs a financial success, which is not only good for the wallet, but also builds good karma to get more bigger touring acts from farther away to play on one of their promotions. While this is purely hypothetical, and not necessarily representative of his mental state, it should be noted that Craig is going to have to deal with Scapegoat and their fans and friends on a continual basis as both are based out of Boston, but Coffins won't (on average, given the past schedules of other Japanese DIY bands) be back in the US for another 5 years. Who knows if they'll still be promoting shows in 2013, or if there won't be someone else equally as capable and with just as good an in to the band? Sure, it's not an optimal situation, but these tough choices and hard realities are simply the less pleasant side of the DIY coin; larger promoters would just say "a brutal death metal band? From Japan? With no label backing to speak of and no proven draw in the package? Forget it", and then we wouldn't see Coffins at all.
The Endless Blockade [5.5/7]
Finally, we reached the touring portion; I had put down for one of this band's CDs and a cassette sight unseen eariler, and was glad to find my investment justified. They opened up with some dissonant noise stuff that was pretty cool (or at least I felt that way), then hit into more or less straight grind. It was very well-delivered, with a fresh sound separating the Canadians from the Bostonians, and while the set was cut short due to the time constraints alluded to above, it was definitely a good time. I tend not to follow grindcore because even for someone used to the bewildering maze that is current extreme metal, it is really confusing to keep straight all the time, but it's a nice change to get good grind out of a band that you have absolutely no expectations for.
And now, the band most people were waiting for, making their first appearance in North America. The set was criminally restricted in time and they took a song or two to really get cranked up properly, but in the end they delivered a thoroughly awesome performance that satisfied most of those not going to MDF, and really gave a kick to those who were already intent on doing so, in order to see them with a minimum of scheduling problems. The music was really cool, a slightly more technical take on the black-thrashing-death that you get with Abigail, or really any number of Japanese underground bands, given the extreme difficulties of setting up shows in said country. With zero opportunities for the scene to fragment, what happens is that bands get really good at fusing various threads, and Coffins certainly didn't lack in that department. The band was really hitting into their stride as they hit the 11 PM barrier, but the organizers were prevailed upon to allow one more song, a small measure of justice for the band and a relief to the crowd; those who don't see them on this tour or at MDF may never get the chance to again, and any extra minute that can be grabbed is welcome.
Following this, it was back out into the slackening rain to walk back out. Abstractly, this show sould neither have started nor finished so early, to make scheduling easier, but sometimes your weird DIY venues have weird rules, and you just have to roll with the punches. Less Coffins, more traffic, and a 11:15 curtain call is a hell of a lot better than no Coffins, or no show at all.
I came away with a large pocketful of crumpled hxc flyers, some of which look interesting, but most of which are booked against gigs with bands in my primary sphere of interest, or are taking place while I'm out in New York or something. Due to celebrating Portsmouth's FA cup win, I probably will have to give Defeated Sanity a pass (much to my chagrin), but the next show will be another MDF-warmup on Wednesday, then nothing on the weekend due to my brother's graduation.
And now, a few words about Autumn Above's non-gig last night; band practice done for friends and family at a yacht club booked because one of the members just graduated from college does not warrant a full review, but they were on point despite the circumstances ("My Name Is" Sean Cahalin playing a ride, a hi-hat, and a kids' conga instead of his full kit), and did some new material as well as stuff from various people's prior bands, and a good time was had by all, the aged relatives as well as the dudes who showed up in kuttes. No idea when they're playing a real gig next, but it'll be a good time, and you can also take your friends who aren't as into brutal music, and they'll have just as much fun.