Friday, May 14, 2010

This Time You Die

One of the cool things about volunteering at Gilman Street every weekend was seeing all the different aspects of the punk scene congregating at “their” respective shows. If anything else, I had my own experiences at particular gigs as my reason for liking or disliking any number of the varying sub-genres that the booking tried to represent. Most of the time, I found that there were usually at least one or two bands that managed to impress me, regardless of the style of punk rock they covered.

Around the time I really started trying to put in more time at the club, the hardcore scene began being represented more by one or two Gilman bookers. When I say “hardcore” in this context, I mean the kind that is usually preceded by adjectives like “tough guy,” “straight edge,” or “youth crew.” Or “yo-core,” like my friend Pete used to say. It was a relatively new scene, but was catching on fast thanks to bands like Powerhouse and Redemption ’87, as well as zines like Colby Buzzell’s Breakout. The Powerhouse guys also ran their own venue in East Oakland called the Bombshelter, which played a big role in establishing the local hardcore scene by hosting all of the big NYHC bands who toured around that time. “Hawrdcore” at Gilman was often a source of controversy amongst different volunteers. Virtually no one on the staff was happy on those nights when those damned macho hardcore kids would show up with their windmills, karate kicks, and attitudes. A lot of times you just had to let them do whatever they wanted and wait for the show to be over. Other times, hardcore shows were just as exciting as anything else I saw on the Gilman stage.

Of all the hardcore gigs I saw, one of the most memorable (in a good sense) was the first time I really got to see the Sacto Hoods. They were opening for 25 ta Life at Gilman in early 1998, so there was a big crowd that was ready to go off. By that point, they’d already been around for a few years and had their craft honed to the sharpest edge. I was instantly hooked on their vicious fusion of Slayer riffs with a brutal hardcore beatdown. A lot of bands do this style, but not many are able to register on my musical radar. Hoods managed to be a band that did because I could tell that they actually listened to real metal. It also helped that their lyrics weren’t of the “step da fuck up, and I’ll bust you in da lip” variety. Sure enough, when I engaged Mikey Hood in a conversation about music, I found that not only did he know his hardcore, but he could hold his own in the metal department too. Mike was their guitarist and leader, for all intents and purposes. He was an interesting character with an equally interesting background. Before hardcore, I seem to recall Mike saying something about how he used to play pro soccer in Europe. I’ve heard people say various things about Mikey Hood that were good and bad, but he was always a nice guy to me.

I haven’t kept up with what they’ve been doing in the past ten years or so, but a cursory look online says that Mike’s been keeping the faith with an ever-rotating lineup. Apparently he’s entrusted the guitar duties to someone else (really?) and is handling things vocally now. Three releases on Victory Records, another European tour coming up next month, and who knows what else. I don’t know that I care so much about actively following them now, but it’s nice to break out my Hoods CDs once in a while and remember those times when Gilman would become a veritable war zone while they played. Here’s the Alone CDEP, released by Breakout Records in 1998. If I know anything about NorCal hardcore, I know that this disc is a classic. Most, if not all of these six songs became live favorites. “Endless Pain” was always the one that inspired the animals in the pit to reach levels that were often frightening in their intensity.

Break out the baseball bats. Beat down some Nazi skins. Catch a stagedive or two. Do that here.

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