Now and again — often in documentaries — individuals with *feelings* about punk rock cough up phrases like “unity” and “community,” and that’s fine but of course those people are a little full of shit. Humans do generally have an easier time empathizing with each other if they like the same music. However, I would suggest this romanticized sense of belonging stems not so much from emotional connections, but from a completely literal, physical bunching you can observe at shows maybe every five-to-eight years if you go as a route of habit.
Just such a phenomenon occurred a handful of times at Brighton Music Hall on Sunday (February 18) pretty much whenever American Nightmare played one of their old songs: “Love American,” “There’s A Black Hole In The Shadow Of The Pru,” “AM/PM,” and a heap of others. I lack the background or data to provide any substantive scientific perspective on the matter. But from my layman’s understanding, the necessary equation entails density (the Allston venue was sold out way in advance), kinetic energy (American Nightmare have only performed sporadically since their 2004 breakup, making their shows feel like events moreso than those of bands who tour every year or two), and aural inspiration. (Side note: It’s become increasingly common to call American Nightmare the best Boston hardcore band of all time. Converge diehards could credibly beg to differ, but I think we can all agree “…Shadow of the Pru” deserves to replace “I’m Shipping Up To Boston” as this city’s preeminent punk anthem/unofficial theme song.)
When these three factors align, the mob and the band gel into a single, temporary autonomous organism, complete with its own circulatory and immune systems. Stage divers flow up and down to the floor with as much deliberation as blood vessels traveling from the heart to the brain and back. Infected or damaged cells are identified and isolated, like that one possibly concussed or maybe just dehydrated guy my buddy had to prop up to keep him from falling through the stage right emergency exit after the pit collectively decided he needed a time out.
I suppose I have a journalistic duty to mention that the drums fell behind or ahead a half beat here and there, which is sort of unavoidable for this style of music, and the entire set plus encores wrapped in approximately 40 minutes. I have equal journalistic duty to provide context that hardcore sets are supposed to be short, and are also most effective while in perceived peril of tumbling off the edge of a tall building at any given moment.
It’s hard to perform with absolute precision when your audience is hurling itself at you, but involuntary Fall Out Boy collaborator Wes Eisold only really needed to singscream the words to songs off American Nightmare’s self-titled and totally gnarly reunion LP released too recently for anybody but him to learn the words. For the classics, he could’ve just glowered and slouched and looked cool and let the audience handle his indispensable vision of goth poetry on a metaphorical ‘roid rage.
Before the main course, Pissed Jeans’ fronthuman Matt Korvette earnestly complemented Boston for our politeness (we were, indeed, a polite audience), extolled the virtues of a shaved chest, and made certain that we all saw his nipples. Washington D.C.’s Protester carried on the noble tradition of hardcore bands who lifted their vocal aesthetic from Cookie Monster, and Spiritual Cramp’s tambourine player restored the honor of a vocation infamously disgraced by The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Photo by Barry Thompson; follow him on Twitter @barelytomson.