Punk & Hardcore

Hardcore Pioneers Cro-Mags Thankful Still to Be Pummeling Audiences 30 Years Later

Awe is a powerful word.

Upon first listen, 1986's Age of Quarrel by the Cro-Mags was (and still is) capable of rendering mere mortals to a state of awe. For fans of the band and the genre it helped create, awe is both a fitting and fascinating term, especially for those of us west of the Mississippi who have had limited chances to see the New York City band perform in concert.

Twenty-nine years is a long time for a punk rock record to remain relevant, but Age of Quarrel does just that, and the thrill of being able to see the band play these songs in a small Scottsdale venue is more than palpable; it's freaking awesome. For those of you who enjoy energy, put on your dancing shoes (and maybe full-body armor) and get ready to have some fun when one of NYC's best-ever hardcore bands comes to town.

Age of Quarrel turned the world of hardcore punk on its collective ear when it was released. For many of us, it was a perfect blend: well-crafted hardcore punk with a loudly shouted and powerful message of "we can overcome anything, even the bleakest scenarios." There are some thrash and metal sensibilities permeating Age of Quarrel, but these attributes increased the record's power, as well as its ability to unify the oft-divided punk, metal, and hardcore scenes. It was always interesting to see the differently coiffed (and sometimes shaved) heads bob at a party when someone was smart enough to play it.

See also: 10 Classic Punk Records that Actually Kind of Suck

For singer John Joseph, the on-again, off-again leader of the band (although he has been steady for the past 13 years), it is all about the pleasure of playing.

"We are still gigging. No real tours, but we keep it short and fun. [It's] great to come out and play," says Joseph, whose guttural vocals set the bar high for hardcore vocalists.

Joined by Age of Quarrel-era drummer Mackie, AJ Novello on guitar, and Craig Ahead on bass, Joseph says he looks forward to the first of 12 days of shows on the West Coast starting in our backyard, but he's more concerned with the quality of the band's performance than being part of a particular scene.

"I guess when bands come out and do shows, people turn up. If you want to call that a scene, well, it's okay, I guess. I think it's more about living a positive lifestyle and getting your shit done in life. That's what I'm trying to do, so I'm not standing on street corners anymore. No time. I'm either writing or training or doing interviews," Joseph says, laughing.

The band has always been known for a volatile show, and its stop in Scottsdale promises to be no exception. Joseph, who eschews drink or drugs for exercise, would rather do just about anything than disappoint his crowds.

"Thirty years ago, I didn't even know if I'd be alive much less playing Cro-Mag shows. I'm thankful for the support and love of our people who come out to the shows. It's great to see the older cats bring their teenage sons and all have a great time. If you find a career you love and you get to do it for 35 years, you're very lucky," he says. "I never take that for granted."

Cro-Mags are scheduled to perform Wednesday, February 11, at Pub Rock in Scottsdale.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon