By Mark Gromen
Friday night (April 19th), $40 ticket: punk low dough/DIY ethic is obviously dead. Might have contributed to rumor that sales were merely 500, in the Electric Factory, a venue that can hold a couple thousand, or more. Someone lost a lot of money and I don't mean the unfortunate roving waitresses, vainly attempting to serve (earn tips) from a short hair/bald crowd that need not wait in line, to get a beverage. The multi-tiered structure closed off the upper balcony/over 21 bar area and shoehorned everyone downstairs, most staying in the quarter of the room quartered off for beer, although tonight only, you were allowed to take your filled plastic right up to the barricade. Not too many youngsters present anyhow.
Although I saw SUICIDAL TENDENCIES abbreviated set at METALLICA's Orion festival, in Atlantic City, NJ last summer, otherwise been a LONG time since taking in a crossover/hardcore show: including lots of cross-pollinated NYC gigs decades ago, thrashers and hardcore acts co-existing. Props to the band for offering a t-shirt for $20, even in venue that undoubtedly takes a cut of merch sales. Onstage, the musicians convulse in fits of spasmodic motion, while churning out lightning fast riff. The upturned bill of a baseball cap, the oversized, knee length (or longer) shorts, still as part of the diehard's "uniform" as leather and patch adorned denim jackets are in my metal underground.
D.R.I. (aka Dirty Rotten Imbeciles) offered a stark contrast to what would come later. A stoic performance, basically four motionless figures, apart from bearded vocalist Kurt Brecht, who occasionally sang from his knees. Some bands age gracefully, other not. That would include any formed around snotty nosed kids flipping the bird to society. This is not the stringy haired group of wiry youngsters, but middle-aged men. The guitarist might still go by Spike Cassidy, but clean-cut, in khaki Dockers, he looked more like a school teacher than either dirty or imbecilic. Props to goofy bassist Harald Oimoen, beginning the gig in comic/horror Gene Simmons mask. Good for a laugh and all the photographers flocked to him, from the start. Harkening back to their 80s material, packed a lot of short blasts into their time slot, including 'I Don't Need Society', 'Slumlord', 'Suit & Tie Guy' (now ironic?), 'Dead In A Ditch', 'Violent Pacification' and the closing '5 Year Plan' (aka "I Win, You Lose').
After an intensely delivered (old) schooling about conviction, courtesy of SICK OF IT ALL, it was time for the headliners: ST, as they are known by the faithful. Bandanna/headband wearing founder Mike Muir still logs countless miles running/skipping around the stage, launched like a North Korean missile with wayward guidance system. Thankfully this band's lethal arsenal is a little more reliable than Kim Jong Un's, squarely hitting the intended target. Bang, shot from a cannon, it's Attention Deficit Disorder, come to life! It's 'You Can't Bring Me Down', a firestorm of live number, one of their best known tracks and it's leading things off... wow! Most of the faces have changed, but Suicidal remains a multi-national assemblage onstage, from skinny white kid on guitar, to hulking black bassist, they've always bridged gaps, music and cultural. The autobiographical, sing-song/spoken word 'Institutionalized' came second in the set, a huge song in Muir's career, if not THE song which first brought recognition to his band. 'Smash It' is the first of three off the new 13 album, but truthfully, people were courteous, but waiting for the likes of 'War Inside My Head' and the MTV video hit 'Possessed To Skate', which soon followed. That initial half of the set was amazing, packed with memorable songs and impossible to sustain, as the later portion sampled from throughout the Suicidal repertoire. Sadly, by midnight, much of the crowd had dissipated. The tongue-in-cheek ' I Saw Your Mommy' (along with the aforementioned 'Institutionalized') remain Muir hallmarks, three decades later. Between songs, or while Muir spoke, the massive drummer played while standing, bashing his kit. 'How Will I Laugh Tomorrow...When I Can't Even Smile Today', from the album of the same name led into a drum spotlight, before 'Pledge Your Allegiance' ended the show. Surprised by the exclusion of 'Join The Army', but given the political climate these days, maybe he doesn't want to be misunderstood. Hopefully lyrics to these songs spur people to think. That may be Suicidal Tendencies greatest legacy.
More photos from Philadelphia can be seen here