Dropdead / Full of Hell / Noisem / Plague Widow / RAD @ Midtown Barfly, Sacramento, CA 08/24/14


My second show in Sacramento was in some ways a throwback to my younger years in Des Moines; I used to walk down to Hairy Mary’s by myself to see shows because my sorry ass didn’t have a car and to make matters worse I didn’t know anyone else who gave a shit about the underground.  Not being much of a grindcore fan, my wife decided to sit out Sunday’s matinee at the Midtown Barfly, and as a result I found myself flying solo once again, which is always a delightfully awkward experience given that I’m not exactly the most outgoing person out there.  Also, many of those shows I hoofed it to back in the day were heavy on grindcore bands such as Black Market Fetus, Strong Intention, Catheter, Entrails Massacre and Phobia, to name but a few, so I was excited to experience a show in a similar vein in my new city.  A complete and utter lack of social skills doesn’t matter much when you’re being pummeled at a million miles an hour by some of the most vicious and unrelenting music out there.

Locals RAD opened things up with a fun set of oldschool hardcore.  They were the perfect band to kick off the show and get the crowd warmed up, and it was evident that they were really enjoying themselves on stage.  Even though I wasn’t familiar with the quartet beforehand, it was very easy to get into their music, and their energy was infectious.  I look forward to seeing them again.

Up next was Plague Widow, another Sacramento band that I was looking forward to seeing, having heard some rumblings when they released their self-titled EP a few years ago.  Their ugly, bludgeoning death/grind assault did not disappoint, in fact I’d go so far as to say that theirs was the most overwhelmingly heavy set of the night. These guys are working on a full length for Willowtip and after witnessing their confident, suffocating live assault it’s easy to see why the “thinking man’s metal label” snapped them up; it’s also exciting to live in a city that’s home to bands of this caliber.

Noisem was the first of the touring bands to hit the stage; these dudes barely look old enough to drive, yet their churning death/thrash assault packs a punch that many veteran bands can scarcely manage.  Vocalist Tyler Carnes in particular appears to have more energy in his little finger at age eighteen than I’ve had in my whole body over the course of thirty-five years. Noisem’s placement smack dab in the middle of the gig couldn’t have been more perfect, as their rough-around-the-edges thrash attack was an excellent change of pace on a bill that was otherwise jam-packed with grindcore.  It’s pretty damn impressive that these guys are kicking so much ass at such a young age and I expect that at some point they’re going to hit us with a classic thrash album.

Mixing metal, hardcore and grind with a hefty dose of harsh noise, Full of Hell were easily the evening’s most challenging band.  The quartet moved effortlessly from waves of free-form distortion that recalled Venereology-era Merzbow (whom the band has collaborated with for their upcoming Profound Lore Records debut), to violent grind/hardcore outbursts, to mesmerizing dirges not far removed from something you might hear on an early Swans or Godflesh release.  Full of Hell have absorbed an array of disparate influences and twisted them into something totally unique, which in turn makes them one of the most exciting young bands I’ve encountered recently; of all the evening’s sets, theirs felt the most painfully short.  Here’s to hoping they come back sooner than later; in the meantime the November release of that Merzbow collab can’t get here quick enough.

Closing out the night was Providence, Rhode Island’s legendary Dropdead.  Decimating the audience from the first note, the veteran band unleashed a politically charged set of powerviolence that railed against everything from war to animal cruelty to big tobacco.  The crowd reacted to Dropdead’s total command of the stage by going absolutely apeshit, and the band responded in kind by ratcheting up the intensity with each successive song.  Vocalist Bob Otis put his hand on the heads of audience members (including yours truly) as he stalked the stage like some kind of hardcore faith healer, and considering what a cathartic, healing experience Dropdead’s set was, it made perfect sense; this is the kind of music that’s made for when the world is in a shitty state of affairs, it can cleanse you of all the bad shit and leave you feeling drained in the best way possible.

All in all another memorable show, and I’m psyched that moving to Sacramento has yet to disappoint on the live music front. That might sound a tad silly being that I’ve only been able to attend two shows so far, but both times out I’ve had the opportunity to experience a new venue and discover several new bands, and that’s pretty much my lifeblood.



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