ROADBLOCK MUSIC FESTIVAL
THE OLD FIRM CASUALS
H.R. OF BAD BRAINS
SATURDAY, JULY 27, 2019
BOLD POINT PARK
EAST PROVIDENCE, RI
Providence, RI :: Live Nation is excited to present the inaugural ROADBLOCK MUSIC FESTIVAL featuring BAD RELIGION, THE MENZINGERS, CHARLY BLISS, THE OLD FIRM CASUALS, ROSEVIEW, H.R. OF BAD BRAINS, CRO-MAGS, REBUILDER and U.G.L.Y. LIVE at Bold Point Park in East Providence, RI on Saturday, July 27, 2019.
Artist presales begin Tuesday, April 9 at 10:00am EST. Please visit the artist’s individual websites and Facebook pages for more information.
A limited quantity of VIP Packages will be for sale as well, which will include a general admission festival ticket, skip-the-line VIP entry at the gate, preferred parking and a limited-run festival tee. VIP Tickets will go on sale beginning Tuesday, April 9 at 10:00am.
Located on the East Providence Waterfront, the ROADBLOCK MUSIC FESTIVAL will take place at Bold Point Park on Saturday, July 27, 2019.
The inaugural festival brings together a slew of legendary and groundbreaking punk rock and hardcore icons old and new, for a full day of music, food and regalement – with a few surprises for the fans as well!
A portion from every ticket sold will be donated to benefit the Whiteknact PTA Operation Playground in East Providence. The Whiteknact PTA Operation is an organization working to build a new playground with ADA equipment and materials for handicapped students that attend the local elementary school, as the costs of meeting the ADA regulations and additional materials have become a hurdle for the school to pay on their own.
ABOUT BAD RELIGION
Acclaimed Los Angeles punk rock band Bad Religion have released a new album entitled Age of Unreason. Since the group’s formative years innovating their iconic fast and melodic sound, the band has steadfastly advocated for humanism, reason, and individualism. Today, as these values are in decline, and nationalism and bigotry are on the rise, Bad Religion’s message has never been more essential. Age of Unreason delivers a powerful and inspired rejoinder – a political and deeply personal treatise on all they believe in.
“The band has always stood for enlightenment values,” co-songwriter and guitarist Brett Gurewitz explains. “Today, these values of truth, freedom, equality, tolerance, and science are in real danger. This record is our response.”
Global unrest apparently brings out the best in a highly cognizant punk band. The songs on Age of Unreason are both furious and meticulously crafted. There is a stylistic consistency to the band’s signature sound – hard fast beats, big hooks and rousing choruses, yet each song remains distinctive, utilizing composition, melody and lyrics to deliver a unique narrative. There are references to contemporary events; racist rallies, Trump’s election, the erosion of the middle class, Colin Kaepernick’s protest, alternative facts, conspiracy theories, and there are homages to the literary and philosophical works that have long inspired the band.
The track “End of History” is an exhilarating burst of guitar driven punk that, in true Bad Religion style, neatly wraps up dissent and a catchy chorus with a healthy dose of political philosophy. The verse – “utopia is an opiated dream / what we want is an open society / one torn and frayed at the edges / with pages of imperfect changes / and every hallmark of rationality” – offers an antidote to the nostalgia and malaise afflicting politics today in the critical rationalism of philosopher, Karl Popper. The line “sweet children, Locke’s burden” additionally references 17th century philosopher John Locke, regarded as the “Father of Liberalism.
Utilizing another historical reference, the album’s hyper charged title track “Age of Unreason” offers a timely play on Thomas Paine’s book, The Age of Reason. Mostly remembered as one of America’s founding fathers, Paine was an advocate of scientific and social progress and a persecuted critic of organized religion. Co-songwriter and lead singer, Greg Graffin, explains, “Paine’s work is highly relevant to what’s happening today. As a band, we have have always talked about the irrationality of religion and flown the banner of the enlightenment. Paine actually risked his life for those beliefs. Fast forward to today and see the man who received the presidential seal denying science and using lies to divide people. It seems more an age of unreason.”
The song “Chaos From Within” examines the current border wall controversy with the lyrics, “Threat is urgent, existential, with patience wearing thin, but the danger’s elemental, it’s chaos from within.” As Graffin says, “Throughout history, walls have been used as protection to keep the barbarians out, But it seems to me that the that the truly barbaric aspect of a civilization is the chaos that comes from within.”
Bad Religion first came together in the sprawling suburbs of Los Angeles. As intellectually minded young punks, they injected their primal sound with melodic hooks and soaring multi-part choruses as well as a philosophically critical world view. Instead of addressing customary topics of teen alienation and a generalized oppression – they wrote about evolution, religion, the natural world, science, world history and the enlightenment. Founding members Greg Graffin, Brett Gurewitz and Jay Bentley were eventually joined by guitarist Brian Baker of hardcore pioneers Minor Threat, and most recently by guitarist Mike Dimkich and drummer Jamie Miller.
Age of Unreason is Bad Religion’s 17th studio album and was co-produced by Carlos de la Garza. Since the band’s formative days in the burgeoning punk underground, they have amassed a world wide following and penned numerous hit singles including “21st Century (Digital Boy.)” But now, at a point when many artists might be content to release something merely serviceable, Bad Religion has delivered a timely work of immense power. Age of Unreason is one of their very best. Society’s step backwards has propelled the legendary band decidedly forward. There is an elevated craft in the way the song “Candidate” vividly evokes the current president, “I am your candidate, I am bloody lips and makeup. I’m your caliphate, opioids and mutilation, a celebrity and my name is competition.” Another track entitled “The Approach” pointedly addresses the possible demise of democracy with the lyrics, “There’s a moral and intellectual vacuum and you’re right to be lookin’ askance, philosophically moribund, revolution hasn’t a chance.”
Age of Unreason is an album that reveals as much about the band as their targets. Amidst the justifiable outrage, there is underlying introspection and a reaffirming of beliefs. For Gurewitz. “Lose Your Head” is an intensely personal song about surviving volatile times by focusing attention inward. It marries his passion for science with a lifetime of contemplative practice. “I ain’t superstitious but hey, do you know a good exorcist? / despite darker tendencies I’ve always had a strong bias to exist / and while recent developments seem like bad news for humanity / self-pity is always a case of mistaken identity / don’t lose your head before you lose your head” According to Gurewitz the song “grapples with today’s deeply troubling political events” in the context of two of his main interests: cognitive science and Buddhist philosophy. “Particularly the Buddhist concepts of “no self” and “mindfulness of death” which in practice can heighten one’s compassion for others and an appreciation of life.”
Age of Unreason is both a dire warning and testament to resilience. The overall message being – seek truth about the world and oneself. As Graffin, who holds a PhD in the history of science, says, “When I saw all these headlines about how terrible our world had become, I started doing a lot of reading. I read about the French revolution, the American Revolution, the Civil War, and I started to recognize that this is a pattern of history and something we should never venture into, there are ample warnings against it. Every school child should know this but it’s hard to get people to read about these things. Maybe this album can help. Because right now, with social media, we are just playing a version of kill the guy with the ball.
For their fifth full-length After the Party, The Menzingers set out to make the quintessential jukebox record: an unstoppably melodic album primed for bar-room sing-alongs. Delivering anthemic harmonies, furious power chords, and larger-than-life melodies, the Philadelphia-based garage-punk four-piece amply fulfills that mission while achieving something much more deeply nuanced. With its delicately crafted storytelling and everyman romanticism, After the Party ultimately proves to be a wistful but life-affirming reflection on getting older but not quite growing up.
“We spent our 20s living in a rowdy kind of way, and now we’re at a point where it seems like everyone in our lives is moving in different directions,” says Tom May, who joined fellow singer/guitarist Greg Barnett, bassist Eric Keen, and drummer Joe Godino in forming The Menzingers as teenagers in their hometown of Scranton. Adds Barnett: “We’re turning 30 now, and there’s this idea that that’s when real life comes on. In a way this album is us saying, ‘We don’t have to grow up or get boring—we can keep on having a good time doing what we love.’”
The Menzingers explore the tension between recklessness and responsibility all throughout After the Party, with the chorus to its opening track “20’s (Tellin’ Lies)” brashly asking “Where are we gonna go now that our twenties are over?” On lead single “Lookers”—as in, “You were such a looker in the old days”—the band pays loving tribute to their time spent in Asbury Park, weaving in memories of smoke-filled diners and Jersey-girl heartbreakers. Equally soaked in nostalgia, the bittersweet yet blistering “Midwestern States” offers what Barnett calls “an ode to being in our early 20s and touring across the country for the first time, and just how eye-opening that all was for us.” On “Bad Catholics,” meanwhile, The Menzingers match their heavy riffs and high-powered rhythms with a gorgeously detailed narrative of running into a lost love at a hometown church picnic.
Produced by Will Yip (Title Fight, Balance & Composure, Pianos Become the Teeth) and recorded in Yip’s Conshohocken, Pennsylvania-based Studio 4, After the Party finds the band breaking into new sonic terrain, such as in the stripped-down reverie of “Black Mass” and the drinking-song-inspired waltz of “Bars.” At the same time, The Menzingers bring that sharpened songcraft to the lyrical element of each track, with songs like “Thick as Thieves” candidly recounting their shared misadventures (“Building castles with cans and bottles/Drinking like they do in novels”). And on “After the Party,” the band spins poetry out of moments as mundane as listening to Minor Threat on a laptop, turning the track into a dreamy meditation on the innocence inherent in unabashed love of music (“Everybody wants to get famous/But you just want to dance in a basement”).
With each song unfolding as its own fully realized story, After the Party came to life thanks largely to an introspective yet outward-looking lyrical sensibility on the part of Barnett and May. “I take notes on pretty much everything I see and experience—things that my friends say or my family members say, things that I see or read,” says Barnett. “And then when I go to write, I go back to those notes and try to think about what they meant, and then build something from there.” Working in a similar way, May points out that “a lot of my songs come from things I took down in the notepad on my phone when I was out at night and then came back to months and months later.” The Menzingers’ most refined album to date, After the Party was also shaped from an intensive writing and pre-production process that involved holing up for five weeks in Yip’s studio. Along with sculpting more expansive arrangements, the band focused on experimenting with new effects and production techniques to forge the album’s dynamic but intricately textured sound.
After the Party’s sophisticated yet emotionally raw songwriting also owes much to The Menzingers’ broadening their palette of influences in recent years. May, for instance, mined inspiration from the off-kilter song structure of Regina Spektor. “Listening to her made me realize that you can go in with an idea and build the song around that, without it really having to go anywhere in particular,” he notes. Barnett, on the other hand, found himself swayed by their bus driver’s constant spinning of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out of Hell on a summer 2015 tour of Europe. “You can say what you want about Meat Loaf, but his ability to craft catchy melodies is absolutely insane, where there’s ten of the strongest melodies ever written all just in one song,” says Barnett.
In the making of After the Party, The Menzingers also returned to longtime influences like The Clash, who were key to carving out their sound in the band’s early days. Formed in 2006, The Menzingers made their debut with 2007’s A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology and relocated to Philly in 2008. Over the years, the band steadily built up a devoted fanbase and—in 2012—saw their highly acclaimed Epitaph debut On The Impossible Past voted Album of the Year by Absolute Punk and Punk News. In 2014 they put out their fourth album Rented World, praised as “driving-around-with-the-windows-down music, ready for maximum blasting” by Pop Matters and “one of the best pop punk albums” of the year by Blurt.
For The Menzingers, the emotional depth attained on After the Party took years of determination and perseverance. “When I was younger, I don’t think I had the ability to experience how cathartic making music is to me now, even though I’ve always had so much passion for it,” says May. With May adding that “it’s really reaffirming and amazing that we’ve been able to create an existence out of all this,” The Menzingers are quick to note that the album was also born from a certain newfound sense of ease and freedom. “In the past our records have tended to come from some kind of struggle, like from being broke or going through hard times,” says Barnett. “This record really came from enjoying life and enjoying the friendships we’ve formed with each other—we had so much fun throughout the whole writing and recording process, and I think you can really feel that in the songs.”
ABOUT CHARLY BLISS
“I don’t know why it’s easiest for me to frame the darkest lyrics in the context of upbeat songs,” says Charly Bliss’ Eva Hendricks. “It’s completely instinctual and not something I ever plan out. It sort of mirrors how I am, and maybe it’s a way of protecting myself. In my opinion, the two best emotional releases are crying and dancing, so it makes sense to me to marry the two.”
That combination is the core of Charly Bliss who, on this record, embraced both sides of that equation more than ever before. Challenging each other to be exposed, to be seen for who they really are as people, and then to double down on the sound that emerged from that process is the story of the band’s evolution from the scrappy upstarts who made 2017’s brash punk LP Guppy, to the confident, assured artists behind the comparatively dynamic, unapologetically pop Young Enough. “We definitely go to different places on this one,” says bassist Dan Shure. “But it still sounds like us. It’s still fun.” As they started writing, they tapped into their mutual love of pop music. “You know, bangers? Songs that just stick with you for a really long time,” Dan says. In particular, the expansive but gritty title track and the synth-driven, emotive song “Chatroom” served as key points of reference for the overall direction of the album.
For Eva, the path to these moments of exaltation was fraught. Many of the singer’s Young Enough lyrics were inspired by a past abusive relationship, one that had Eva – as such relationships are designed to do – doubting herself on many levels. Songwriting, which “wasn’t something that I grew up thinking I could do,” as she puts it, became a new source of respite, and, eventually, of redemption. “You go through experiences of loss or extreme pain and you just keep moving,” Eva says. “You look around and wonder, how has the world not stopped? But it’s also powerful. I’m still here, I’m not a person who is ruled by pain, I still like who I am.” If the singer had any lingering doubts about her craft, they’re gone now. “For a long time I understood my ability to write songs as like, OMG another one just fell from the sky what luck – another one will never come again!” Eva says. “Now I know, I’m meant to be doing this. And I accept and honor that.”
Exposing oneself emotionally, even to close friends and creative collaborators, is never easy — especially when one of those people is your brother. Growing up in Connecticut, it was their parents’ “wildest dream,” as Eva puts it, that she and Sam, the band’s drummer, would wind up playing in a band together, so of course they avoided it for as long as possible. The Charly Bliss origin story begins instead at performing arts summer camp, where guitarist Spencer Fox first met Dan. Eva and Dan also knew each other through musical theater; they did shows together as pre-teens. “We are super hardcore,” jokes Spencer.
It was Spencer who first saw in Eva the possessed energy the bands’ fans are so drawn to, this tornado of joy and rage and celebratory sorrow spinning out to mesmerizing effect on stage night after night. “It was just there,” he says. “It was obvious.” He eventually asked Eva out of the blue if she’d been writing songs, which shocked her a little; dudes didn’t usually care. “I would always ask the guys at my high school who played music if we could start a band or write or do something together, but they pretty much ignored me,” she remembers. “But Spencer totally encouraged me.” Before long, the pair was writing together, and they called on Eva’s big brother to join on drums. “It was kind of like, oh why didn’t we do this a long time ago,” Sam says.
By 2014 Charly Bliss was a fully formed band, living in New York, working the standard barista/bartender circuit by day, rehearsing by night. They recorded and released their debut EP, Soft Serve, and played lots and lots (and lots) of shows. There was a purity to those years. “I loved it,” remembers Eva. “I really loved working in a coffee shop. I’d write songs while I was putting away milk.” After they released Guppy through Barsuk Records in 2017, time spent out on the road increased, as did the Charly Bliss fanbase. But the essence of the band’s sound, two and a half minute torrents of blissfully tight chaos that blew the roof off the place, (not to mention the bandmembers’ lifestyles) didn’t change much.
When it came time to record a follow up, that’s when things shifted. They all quit their jobs to focus full time on music and challenged each other to write as many songs as possible. Sam and Eva collaborated more closely than ever and found a prolific songwriting rhythm. After penning 20+ songs, they solicited the input of producer Joe Chiccarelli (the Shins, the White Stripes), who won their hearts immediately. “He just got us,” says Eva. For Chiccarelli, the “infectiousness” he was initially drawn to when he heard the band play live in early 2017, was more apparent than ever. “There is a high level of energy in the vocal delivery, there is a sophistication and musicality in the guitar parts, the rhythm section just works, the parts are simple but they come alive,” he says. “It’s all the elements that make a great band.”
The first five or six songs they wrote, felt good but a little too familiar, like Guppy 2.0. Then things started to open up. “Chatroom” and “Young Enough” were lynchpins, as was the soaring, mini epic, “Fighting In the Dark.” The delicate synth confessional “Hurt Me” also felt, as Eva puts it, “like something we hadn’t explored yet.” The entire record sounds like a newly explored realm, from the deceptively easeful confessional “Capacity” to the propulsive, more classic pop of “Hard To Believe.” In the end, Young Enough feels joyful and celebratory, but also infused with a new sense of depth and maturity. “I want people to feel strong when they listen to this record,” says Eva. “Like you’re working through some shit but you feel really strong and beautiful, even if you’re in a lot of pain. That’s what I want people to feel. The opposite of broken.”
ABOUT THE OLD FIRM CASUALS
“They said we’d never make it this far, but here we are. We’re not stopping.”
Those are the first words the listener hears on The Old Firm Casuals’ new full-length, Holger Danske, and it doubles as the San Francisco street-punk band’s mission statement. Frontman Lars Frederiksen—yep, that Lars Frederiksen, the one who’s spent the past quarter-century writing, recording, performing and selling a few million records with punk icons Rancid—says even though he’s experienced massive success, the Casuals are just getting started.
“I always want to earn my stripes,” Frederiksen admits. “I don’t want to piggyback on anybody. Even in my most desperate times, I never took a handout. For me, it was the wrong thing to do to try and piggyback this band onto the back of Rancid. Rancid is its own entity. I always want to try to do things and have them succeed on their own merit. The Old Firm Casuals are a DIY band. We don’t have a manager. We book our own shows. This is the challenge and the fun of it.”
It’s that sort of intensity that has made The Old Firm Casuals—Frederiksen, guitarist Gabe Gavriloff, bassist Casey Watson and drummer Paul Rivas—surprisingly prolific and more than just a casual side project: Since their founding in 2010, the quartet has released more than a dozen EPs and split singles, as well as a raging debut full-length as a three-piece, This Means War, in 2014. But now, with the recent addition of virtuoso guitarist Gavriloff, the band is prepared to drop their finest work yet: Holger Danske, out March 15th on Pirates Press Records. What is Holger Danske, you ask? Well, you’re better off asking who?
“He’s Danish,” Frederiksen says. “There’s not much known about him, although he was a real guy. As the fable goes, he lives in the basement of a castle, and when Denmark is attacked, he will rise out of his chair and defend Denmark. In World War II, my uncle Vigo joined a Danish resistance movement called Holger Danske to fight against the Nazis. The Danish national team even put Holger Danske on their World Cup jersey.”
Frederiksen has frequently tapped into his Danish heritage and ancestry to fuel his songs, and Holger Danske is no different. One of the album’s standout tracks is “Motherland,” a hugely catchy, gritty punk song inspired by Frederiksen’s mother (a “straight off the boat” Danish immigrant, he says) that is explicitly about the way he wants to die, via (how else?) a Viking funeral.
“My mom was always like, ‘When I die, set me on fire and put me in the wind. Don’t put me in the ground, I don’t want to be cold,’” Frederiksen recalls. “I know it sounds weird, but that’s how that whole thing came to me.”
Holger Danske doesn’t hold back politically, either; “Traitor” is a circle pit waiting to happen, and it’s pretty damn clear which orange-skinned world leader it’s directed toward.
“I used to think people like George Bush and Ronald Reagan were bad, but now they got this fuckin’ guy?” Frederiksen says, exasperated. “I do my talking in music; I don’t try to preach to people. I think it turns people off. But music is a place where I can be artistic and also have my own opinion. A lot of these songs have this underlying theme of your immortality, and how temporary this life we lead is, and the fighting of oppression and fascism.”
The Old Firm Casuals’ sound, while rooted in the classic boot-stomping attack of Oi! and street-punk bands such as Cock Sparrer and The Exploited, isn’t afraid to delve deeper into rock history: “Casual Rock -N- Roll” channels Bon Scott-era AC/DC, while the epic, five-and-a-half-minute album closer “Zombie” feels like a long-lost Motörhead jam.
“Oi! music and punk music, that’s where I come from,” Frederiksen explains. “There’s always going to be that element in that music I make. But as I’ve gotten older and taken on the responsibility of writing a lot of these songs, my bandmates’ opinions and their tastes reflect in the music as well. It’s never really been a big secret that I love AC/DC and Motörhead—even KISS and Slade, bands like that. Those bands made a big impression on all of us. I’m never gonna get in the way of where a song is gonna go. If we feel like we’re writing a good song, then write the good song.”
As the frontman alludes, good songs can come from anywhere. Case in point, one of Holger Danske’s heaviest tracks, “Thunderbolt,” came from an unusual place: Frederiksen’s 7-year-old son Soren.
“He is a drummer. He’s very thunderous,” Frederiksen explains. “He’s got a little practice kit, and we’ll jam together. He’s really into thrash like Metallica, Slayer and Exodus, which are heavier than the Casuals usually are. I was trying to play something more hardcore that my son would jam to. For about a month-and-a-half, he would tell me to play this riff. So finally, I decided it was a pretty good riff and I brought it to the band, and it turns out a song I was jamming with my 7-year-old turned out to be pretty cool!”
That experience sums up Frederiksen’s overall motivation for making music: in order to be the best father and husband he can be, he has to play music.
“The goal for me is exorcise the demons,” he concludes. “It’s kind of a weird thing to say, but for me, if I don’t have music, I’m not alive. If I’m not creating something, I’m not living. I need to be playing music. That’s all I ever wanted to do and that’s all I ever will do. Only I can fuck that up.”
Whether we’re searching for healing or meaning, Roseview believes that shifting our perceptions can help us find it. Calamity can become the catalyst for something within the greater good when observed through a different lens. For Roseview, “battling difficult things in our lives – whether it’s feeling alone, dealing with anxiety or depression, or losing family and friends,” is what fuels their passion for music. Although experiences like loss and alienation are painful, Roseview manages to help us recognize them as valuable.
The band’s music suggests that we can forge strength and wisdom even in the fires we set ourselves. The sounds are bursting with intimate ruminations and tragedies set to throttling instrumentation. With thunderous drums, the heavy hearts of helpless characters are carried on the uplifting winds of agile guitars, ground into the rocks of the hard road they travel and set free through passionate vocal performances. In the end, they find consolation and a sympathetic ear in the listener.
Roseview was formed in 2015 by a group of friends from Portland, Maine. Inspired by bands like Underoath, Counterparts and The Devil Wears Prada, they thoughtfully blend hardcore music with melodic elements to create exciting anthems that incite movement. Their charismatic performances have put them on stage alongside acts such as, Vanna, Sharptooth, Moral Code, and most recently, I Hate Heroes. Over the summer, Roseview also had the opportunity to perform at Impact Music Festival, alongside several major acts.
After signing with Tragic Hero Records, Roseview is ready to share their experiences on a larger scale. The band’s music will help others think more positively. Even if you came to the show alone, it’s hard to feel that way while shouting an anthem along with an entire room of your peers. The Misery In Me is now available for purchase and streaming worldwide.
ABOUT H.R. [OF BAD BRAINS]
Paul “HR” Hudson is best known as the front man of the iconic punk band Bad Brains, formed in 1979. With unprecedented speed and precision, Bad Brains took the Washington, DC music scene by storm and quickly became the most influential band in American punk history, breaking down cultural barriers and creating emotionally charged music centered on the message of maintaining a positive mental attitude (PMA). This concept of PMA continues to inspire HR’s fans.
Early in his career, HR became interested in reggae and the Rastafarian movement. These pursuits transformed him, and he began to focus more on the spiritual nature of reggae rather than the fast lifestyle of the punk scene. In 1984, HR formed his reggae-rock band Human Rights, which has performed and recorded in various incarnations for more than three decades.
Currently, HR performs with Philadelphia musicians Ezekiel Zagar (original McRad) and Josh Freshy as HR & Human Rights. The band has a refined yet organic energy that hasn’t been felt since the early days of Human Rights.
In addition to working on a new solo album with Human Rights, HR has been in the studio with Ty Dolla $ign and Vic Mensa, once again making music history.
Connect with H.R. [of Bad Brains]:
In the Year 2000, Cro-Mags have become an urban legend. Their story told and retold, twisted and warped until it is unrecognizable. But now to set the record straight, this is how it all be began. Before the Quarrel.
Picture this, the year 1980, it’s sunrise on NYC’s lower east side, Ave. A is a barren urban wasteland of empty storefronts in abandoned buildings. the streets are littered with junkies and freaks. Heroin and cocaine are the only flourishing businesses and the only sign of life in this ghost town are the local gangs and 40 or so kids in front of A 7 (hardcore club) where Urban Waste is still on stage. Little Chris, age 11, and Eric Casanova, age 12, sit on the curb still tripping from the night before, with no money, no hope and no future, just drive and dried blood on their clothes from a night they’ve already forgotten. This was hardcore and the streets were ours.
Across from Tompkins Square Park Parris Mayhew and Harley Flanagan are sitting in the back booth of the Park Inn Tavern (after-hours) pounding pitchers of beer and shots of Jack, planning their new band. Nothing unusual, except that Parris was16 and Harley was 14 and their band was to change the hardcore scene forever.
In the bar, Harley is recounting to Parris the details of a robbery he and Paul Dordal had perpetrated earlier that day. As Parris sits listening and looking into Harley’s drunk, drugged and crazed eyes that seem to pierce the darkness, Parris thinks “What am I getting myself into?”
That was really the beginning. There was no blueprint for hardcore, no one to teach them how, they were all just kids living their lives, making it up as they went along, inventing hardcore with every step they took. Harley was a 6th grade dropout, though at age 14 was already a veteran musician, child star of the punk scene, America’s first skinhead and the notorious former drummer of NYC’s premier punk band, “The Stimulators.” In “The Stims” Harley brought a powerful youthful presence to an aging punk scene. He kicked the doors wide open for other kids his age to come on the scene and follow his example to be a youthful creative force like the “Beastie Boys” and Jill and Gabby of “Luscious Jackson.” Adam Yauch was at one point considered to play bass with the Cro-Mags, but was about to attend Bard College.
Harley left “The Stims” to create a harder, more aggressive style of music, capturing the true hardcore lifestyle. Depicting the violence, poverty and urban decay of the streets of the lower east side in the early 8o’s. Harley’s personal influence and mere presence on the scene defined the transition between the old punk scene and the new hardcore scene.
Parris, a 16 year old unknown musician and an art student attending the High School of Art & Design was forever changed by the sounds of the Sex Pistols and Motorhead. Then drawn into the local NYC punk scene by the Stimulators and Bad Brains, Parris joined punk icons “The Mad,” playing bass. But soon left the band setting his sights on starting his own band, playing his music.
Paul Dordal recommended Harley and Parris team-up. They had their first jam at Harley’s aunt Denise’s apartment on Avenue A. Denise was the guitarist of the Stimulators. Parris played the riffs that were to become (with Harley’s lyrics), the first Cro-Mags song “World Peace” and the templates for the Cro-Mags’ sound. After a few minutes of playing, Denise turned to Harley and said “Where did you find this kid?” But Harley was way ahead of her he immediately recognized similarities in Parris’ approach to his own that were uncanny. A musical mirror image. These two kids couldn’t have been more different, but their songs seemed to belong together as if they came from the same source. How could two kids from such different worlds create such a similarly Cro-Mag-Nonimous sound?
That was the beginning of a life-long musical collaboration that is as formidable today with their new CD “REVENGE” as it was when they first met.
So, Parris and Harley began hanging out, planning, writing songs and doing a lot of drinking. They became friends fast, but finding other musicians was difficult., so in the interim Harley played drums with Murphy’s Law, helped them write their first album and even came up with their name. Harley was eventually replaced by future Cro-Mags drummer Pete Hines who left Murphy’s Law and joined the Cro-Mags to support the” Age of Quarrel” LP and to later record the “Best Wishes” LP.
Harley grew impatient and hitchhiked across the country to California. With no money and nowhere to stay Harley just lived day to day, hand to mouth, sampling the California punk scene and definitely gave them a taste of what NYC was about to unleash. Harley the teenage tattooed terror created notoriety everywhere he went, fighting, fucking and consuming mass quantities of drugs and alcohol along the way and he was still only 15 years old. In San Francisco, Harley lived in an abandoned brewery called the “Vats,” home of many San Francisco punks. Then he hitchhiked back East and North to Canada. He ran with skinheads there, basically reeking havoc everywhere he went, building on his already formidable reputation.
These times and Harley’s life in NYC, living in burnt out buildings, squats and on the streets, was the life that would be the true inspiration behind the Cro-Mags lyrics. Raw, honest truth, a lifestyle that pulled no punches in the urban decay that was the early 80’s untamed streets, where violence, gangs and drugs were a way of life and music would be the only escape for this teenage rebel. He not only lived the truly hardcore way of life, he set the standard an created a legend that still lives.
Harley then returned to NYC with a renewed fire to pick up where he an Parris had left off, and a tattoo covering the chest of the devil grabbing the earth.
During this long foundation period Parris continued to pound out riffs and songs like “Malfunction.” He also completed high school and two years of college at the School of Visual Arts Film School. Parris would eventually put these skills to work directing the Cro-Mags video “We Gotta Know” and many others such as Onyx’s “Slam” and Type O Negative’s “Black #1. But Parris never lost sight of his plan for him and Harley to create the band that would become synonymous with hardcore. Soon after Harley’s return to NYC he was given the opportunity to record 4 songs of his own in which he played all the instruments. These recordings were never released but are soon to be on Cro-Mags Recordings.
Harley also played drums in a band called “Mode of Ignorance” (MOI) with future Cro-Mags’ john Bloodclot and Doug Holland which faded as Cro-Mags began to take shape. Harley turned down offers to drum for the Misfits, and during the first of HR’s solo ventures, Bad Brains management approached Harley to front the Bad Brains but Harley passed because finally after 3 years of writing, drinking and generally causing chaos, the search for musicians for the lineup of “NYC’s Hardest Band” was complete.
It is a little known fact that John Joseph was not a founding member of the Cro-Mags or even the original singer. He was not!
In 1984, 15 year old Eric Casanova became the first singer of the Cro-Mags and co-wrote, with Harley, classic Cro-Mag lyrics such as “Hard Times,” “Street Justice,” “Survival of the Streets,” and Eric’s own “Life of My Own,” based on the lives they led. With the hired services of Mackie on Drums, the Cro-Mags played their first gig at CBGB’s with Government Issue. A highly anticipated gig being Harley Flanagan’s new band.
Then after their second show, for personal reasons, Eric left the band and began a revolving door of musicians that Parris an Harley watched some and go for the entire life of their musical partnership.
But Eric’s contribution to the Cro-Mags in that short time is undeniable, those first songs were the foundation that defined the Cro-Mags’ sound and lyrical content and those first shows made a tremendous impact. The punk scene was shaken by the force of the Cro-Mags and the momentum was unstoppable.
Next the band recruited john Bloodclot (age 21) on vocals to replace Eric, and after only tow shows began headlining gigs. Overnight Cro-Mags had dominated the hardcore scene in NYC. As Kabula of Agnostic Front said, “We’ve toured everywhere and nobody’s doing what the Cro-Mags are doin’, it’s totally new.”
The transition between Eric and John was seamless. John’s lyrics fit perfectly with Harley and Eric’s and John brought a dynamic presence to the front man position that helped to define the image of the band. Though John’s presence in the band ultimately was the undoing of the Cro-Mags.
So with 3 years of writing, a solid foundation of songs already in the band’s repertoire, along with music from Harley’s never released solo recording including “Don’t Tread on Me,” the Cro-Mags needed only a few more songs to complete the now classic set list. Those songs were completed with John Joseph and on November 2, 1984, and on February 16, 1985 the Cro-Mags went into High Five Studios and recorded 12 songs.
That moment in time when four very different freaks got together to make music was historic. The recordings made in that session were simply the blue print for all hardcore that followed and set the stage for the definitive hardcore album of all time, “The Age of Quarrel.” This CD, now poignantly titled “Before the Quarrel” captured the raw fire that circumstances had created by bringing this unlikely group together. These recordings are revered as the pinnacle moment of the Cro-Mags and the favorite recordings of Cro-Mags fans.
Harley, Parris, John and Mackie not only made their mark deep in the history of hard music but made a sound that changed it forever. Obviously God didn’t bring these guys together to be friends, it was to make hardcore music.
The now infamously volatile relationship between these four people turned ugly in the end but not one of them could look back at these recordings with anything but pride. No words could ever fully describe that time especially not now, so many years later, so many clone bands come and gone. But this music and these words were N.Y.C.H. at it’s best, honest, aggressive and true. This CD captured it, the lifestyle that many talk about, but few ever really lived.
The Cro-Mags “Before the Quarrell” was the beginning, the genuine article and this recording is the proof.
They were truly Cro-Mag-nonimus!
To be continued . . .
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Since their beginning in 2013, Rebuilder has refused to follow the rules. Their first show was at a bar playing to no one. Their second show was playing to a sold-out crowd with Dropkick Murphys – That’s definitely against the rules.
So what has Rebuilder been up to since the release of their debut full length “Rock and Roll in America”? Well they’ve been doing just that. The self proclaimed gnarly-punk band from Boston has piled into their van, and brought their brand of never-say-die Rock & Roll to the people. Tireless travel up and down both coasts, throughout the Midwest, and even crossing the occasional boarder into Canada and Mexico, Rebuilder has put the pedal through the floor since their inception.
Their newest release on Panic State Records, an EP entitled “Sounds from the Massachusetts Turnpike” ,is a fervent and rambunctious follow up to ‘RNRIA’. With power and intensity, this record widens and solidifies Rebuilder’s sonic footprint in the landscape of rock and roll, re-thinking the traditional three chord punk song and developing their own unique style. ‘Sounds from the Massachusetts Turnpike’ came out Sept 1st 2017 and was recorded, mixed and mastered by Jay Maas at Getaway Studios in Haverhill, MA.
Rebuilder will continue to pick up the pieces of a broken scene, and cast aside a broken system. They will soldier on, and rebuild the community of sounds that has given them so much to be thankful for.
Refuse, Rethink, Rebuild.
Rebuilder is Sal Ellington (vocals, guitar), Craig Stanton (vocals, guitar), Daniel Carswell (bass), Brandon Phillips (drums), Patrick Hanlin (electric keyboard and organ)
Providence, Rhode Islandʼs U.G.L.Y. is committed to bringing the sound of raw, youthful, and outspoken rock music back to the Northeast when it most needs it. Formed by friends whoʼve played around New England in their respective bandʼs since middle-school, they pay homage to their punk rock heroes of the 80s and 90s; calling on their young millennial associates to never apologize for who they are, or what they look like.
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