It's common for lines outside the First Unitarian Church to be extremely long, but even by 3:30 there were still fans literally “out in the cold” waiting to see one of the year’s best hardcore tours. Philadelphia’s own Blacklisted, California power-violence crazies Ceremony, Boston’s Have Heart and New Lows and Doylestown straight edge band Let Down.
New Lows is a pretty generic hardcore band but at this show, even the generic gets a great reaction. Tight enough to cause some mosh but not good enough to get most of the crowd moving, the most that could be said for New Lows is that the Church was completely packed with people watching them. The majority of their set was from their self-titled debut EP (released earlier this year) except for the lone high spot of a Poison Idea cover which sent the crowd over the edge. In typical fashion, after the cover was over the pit died down again and people looked bored.
The current band with the sharpest edge, Let Down is usually a boring show. From basements to festivals they play their songs and talk about straight edge and some kids are into it, but today Let Down was different. They were not really a let down and somehow transcended their usual set. Was it the crowd? Was it the lineup? Has this tour made them a better band? It could be all of the above but whatever it was, Let Down opened some eyes. Songs from their record, We’re In This Alone were met with great approval from a hometown crowd.
Another band who seemed to step things up on Sunday afternoon was another straight edge band, Boston’s Have Heart. Earlier this year the band released Songs to Scream at the Sun, which in itself was a giant step forward. This is not the same band who played the Paint it Black record release weekend in January. Their set was as good as any and kids flipped out. Headwalks, stage dives, pile ons, sing alongs…all par for the course. A band like Have Heart was popular in the hardcore scene even before releasing Songs to Scream due to their message and their straight forwardness, but it’s a whole new ballgame now and they’re going to have to do something insane to top this record and these songs live.
Ceremony is one of a handful of bands in hardcore today who are genuinely scary. Vocalist Ross Farrar is completely out of his mind once he steps on the stage and guitarist Anthony Anzaldo is directly influenced by his good friend AFI’s Davey Havok in both look and stage presence. The crowd was obviously excited for Ceremony and they let it be known with a giant push forward as soon as “Dead Moon California,” the first track from their epic album with the name of the year Still Nothing Moves You, kicked in. Over their 25 or so minute set the band shredded through songs from Still Nothing and their first album Violence Violence. “Kersed” and “Pressure’s On” from Violence literally sent the crowd into a frenzy.
The band that everyone was there to see was the headliner, the hometown heroes who put out one of the best hardcore records of the past decade Heavier than Heaven, Lonelier than God earlier this year, Blacklisted. The sides of the stage were lined with friends, family and photographers for Blacklisted’s set but none of that mattered. Frontman George Hirsch comes off as prophetic when the band plays. He’s not afraid to say things that people don’t usually say at hardcore shows. A sincere man in a usually insincere scene, Hirsch makes the crowd think when he speaks of what his songs mean or what’s wrong with hardcore today. The message may be lost on some, but Hirsch means every word and that’s something that is one of the reasons Blacklisted is so good.
Hirsch has been seen wearing a Swans shirt before, something pretty unheard of for a hardcore band but Blacklisted is no longer a regular hardcore band. Transcending hardcore and taking things back to the revolution summer, Hirsch has found the true meaning of emotional hardcore on Heavier than Heaven with some of the deepest, most personal lyrics this side of a 90’s Jade Tree band. Songs like “Stations,” “I Am Weighing Me Down,” “Matrimony,” and “Wish” incited a mini riot but the crowd moved the most for “Eye for an Eye.”
The current lineup of Blacklisted is the tightest they’ve ever been and they’ve toured the entire world to get that way, but back home in Philadelphia the kids showed their gratitude the way they knew how. Hirsch’s mini spoken word pieces in between songs would not be done justice on a page, so for your own good please go see Blacklisted, even if you don’t like hardcore. You’ll leave amazed at the amount of his soul the man leaves on the stage and that’s more than can be said for 95% of bands these days, hardcore or not.