I spent my weekend at hardcore shows - Saturday night in Asbury Park and Sunday night in Brooklyn. After months of eager anticipation, holding on to tickets I bought in August, I was finally going to see Lifetime, who were playing their first show in over a year. Lifetime are legends of New Brunswick past, like their friends in The Bouncing Souls and The Gaslight Anthem. Back in the early 90’s, when basement shows were just starting to become a Rutgers staple, Lifetime had a house off of the Cook Douglass campus where they used to throw hardcore shows. Without them, we would not have the scene we do today. (It also helps when you can only write bangers.)
Saturday November 3rd, 2018 - House of Independents in Asbury Park, NJ
Saturday night in Asbury was the hometown show. First up was School Drugs, who do a great job doing old-school hardcore filled with breakdowns, two steps, and skate beats. Their set even included a Gorilla Biscuits cover. After them was DC straight-edge hardcore band Line of Sight. Like Minor Threat in 2018, they played with aggression and speed that transported us from the House of Independents to the 9:30 Club in DC. After them was Pennsylvania band Cold World. This was when the crowd truly went off. A wind tunnel formed in the center of the pit which sucked many people in. There were flailing punches, flying kicks, and thunderous stomps… NJHC had arrived. People were being thrown into me and I had to block a couple punches which did take away from my enjoyment of Cold World’s set. They had a blend of thrash metal guitar reminiscent of Megadeth with the groove and riffage of RATM. I kind of sighed relief once they were done, because up next was Lifetime.
They opened with one of my favorite songs, “Airport Monday Morning”. I stormed the stage, barking along with the pack of wild dogs that joined in the chaos. Bodies flew and smiles were everywhere. Then a certain chord made my ears perk up - “Theme Song For a New Brunswick Basement Show”. This song is an old school Hub City anthem, written by and for Hub City Punks. I along with a group of other NB punks, joined in to the triumphant chorus of our culture and our people, putting ourselves in the old basements where it all began. The set continued and bodies flew, a foot connected with my face and I now have a battle scar between my eyes. Totally worth it though. In the sea of flying bodies I got to experience a band very near and dear to my heart… and then I got to see them again the next night.
Sunday, November 4th 2018 - Brooklyn Bazaar in New York, NY
On Sunday, I walked a half hour through seedy Brooklyn in the middle of the night on my way to a punk show. Hell yeah. Tonight’s venue was the gothic cathedral that is the Brooklyn Bazaar. This scene was very different. It was darker, the crowd was all dressed in black, New York was on display. We even spotted Ned from Title Fight. Islanders hats and Yankee tee shirts marked everyone's homeland, and then there was me with my Rutgers hat... because Hub City Hardcore, right?
The first band we saw was Outskirts, a NY based hardcore band. They were polarizing. The drummer was blasting away at a million miles an hour while the guitar and bass chugged in congruence and the singer barked at all of us with a commanding presence. They blasted our ears with 20 minutes of pure aggression and then disappeared. After them was Cold World, and they were even crazier than in Jersey. The pit turned into an ocean as a tidal wave of people rushed the stage, all jumping on top of one another trying to reach the microphone. Heads were walked on, punches were thrown, and the surf was up. I made sure to hide in the back to avoid the carnage, but it was incredible to watch - New York hardcore like how it was in the 80s. Once the waves settled, the floor cleared out for the next group.
Lifetime may have played the same exact set as in Asbury, but it didn't matter, their performance was still amazing. They played fast and precisely, hitting every gorgeous chord of each two minute opus. I was a springboard for crowd surfers and a safety net for stage divers. The crowd was a powerful machine, acting as one to ensure that everyone had a questionably safe but incredibly fun experience (which is how hardcore should be). By the end I was sore and drenched in sweat, but I had paid tribute to my heroes and got to see them doing the thing we all love. I found out later that Feet First Productions filmed the entire show, and it’s up on YouTube for anyone who might be curious. Lifetime promised something fleeting, but unlike the song, it wasn't “just a quiet evening”. It was a chaotic celebration of culture and brotherhood.