Retox and Regents @ Yucca Tap Room|11/6/12
By Mike Bogumill
While most people were at the Titus Andronicus and Ceremony show enjoying a bar rock act and a hardcore band, both of which escaped their respective niches to achieve crossover success among general indie audiences, two bands with similarly prefixed names, Retox and Regents, brought their own not-so-general-indie-audience friendly variations of hardcore to the Yucca Tap Room, fundamentally united by the desire to play angry, aggressive punk music.
In a way that I hope doesn't sound like writing them off. Retox sounds like what I would expect a band fronted by Justin Pearson (The Locust, Swing Kids, Some Girls, etc) would sound like: spazzy, sassy, with some noise rock influences thrown in. If I were to use some arithmetic to describe them, it would be as follows: straightforward hardcore sound of Some Girls - Wes Eisold's melodramatic vocals + the grind and thrash influence of the Locust - a lot of the more noisy stuff they do. The sum of this equation is a pretty intense hardcore band that is artsy but doesn't spend too much time dwelling on it. They burned through their set with so much urgency, that they didn't even wait when they needed a sandbag to hold their bass drum in place, instead utilizing a kid named Jeff from the opening local thrash band Der Blerg, in a similar role.
"When the opportunity came, I had to let the show go on. I saw Retox once before and I thought 'Man, if I could get on stage with them...'" says Jeff in regards to his tenure as a human sandbag. While Jeff lay tacit and supine on the stage in front of the drum kit, the members of Retox and the audience moved about spastically, evoking an image of a Void shirt clad Atlas holding the scene together. Pearson was kind enough to give him a dollar for his contribution.
The other touring band of the night, Regents, plays a kind of hardcore that one really does not hear a lot of these days. I would describe it as some overused term like "'90s emocore", but not in the sense of one of those Level Plane bands like Saetia that modern bands like La Dispute and Touche Amore rip off all the time, but more like the kind of bands one could find on labels like No Idea during the 90's like Palatka, True North, Planes Mistaken for Stars, and Assfactor 4.
It's the kind of very uptempo and melodic emocore that maintains a strong connection with the energy of hardcore punk while being informed by all kinds of post-hardcore experimentations. The members of Regents are all veterans of the D.C. and Richmond punk scenes, and the bands they were in during the '90s, such as Frodus, Maximillian Colby, and Sleepytime Trio sound like this. However, Regents didn't come off like a '90s throwback band, but rather members of an older generation of the hardcore scene who grew up with a different set of influences that have a strong influence on how they play today. They played with a greater sense of maturity than the '90s bands I compared them to while still emphasizing having fun. A highlight of their set was the band instructing the audience to occupy the stage while they (drum kit included) occupied the floor. One downside may have been that they sound at Yucca didn't really capture the more higher pitch guitar tones, which was fine with Retox, but made the more melodic guitar parts in Regents' songs feel understated.
Election day and its implications were inescapable for both bands, who took to the stage well after it was confirmed that Barack Obama would serve four more years as the leader of the free world. Pearson noted in his stage banter that "it is good we can move somewhat forward and stop talking about women's reproductive rights because that shit is archaic". As Retox finished up, the members of Regents heckled them with a call for an encore of "Four More Songs!".
For Regents, a band who addresses political issues in their lyrics, Obama's victory brought about, in the words of guitarist and vocalist Drew Ringo, "goosebumps," in a good way for the band:
"I just finished watching Obama give his acceptance speech, and I guarantee you that he [Romney] wasn't going to say things like 'This country is made up by a diverse group of people who we all need to work together with' and naming and talking about global climate change and women's rights and gay and lesbian rights, and he [Obama] did that. And Romney would not have done that."
While Regents talks a very serious political game, they do focus on the cathartic aspects of punk, as well.
"While the songs are very serious and we take the band very seriously, it's also meant to be fun," Ringo says. "It's supposed to be a very positive way to get out negative energy."
He continues: "You feel good after you scream your ass off about something, and I know if you just do that in your house, they call the cops next door, at least in the homes I've lived in. So it's an opportunity to take that negative energy and make it positive."
Positivity also manifests itself in the way that Retox and Regents tour together. Members of both bands, despite being from opposite coasts have maintained connections via the national hardcore scene since the 90s when The Locust and Men's Recovery Project, a band with a current member of Regents, both toured together. The bond between the bands is tightly knit and they are able to work together in ways that might not be feasible with other bands
"In this day and age, when you tour with a band it's kind of weird when you're friends at the shows but then you go to your hotel rooms and don't really talk. But they [Retox] have the same sort of understanding that we do that when you're touring with another band, you want them to be friends and you want it to be a group effort. And they get that. They're the first band that we've played with since we started Regents that wants this to be a communal thing. To have this be a 'tour' meaning a collective effort. They are like 'Let's all load our shit together. Let's share the merch table. Let's share the fun.'" Ringo says of Regents' touring relationship with Retox.
The show at Yucca was a good reminder that whatever eccentricity and idiosyncrasy '90s hardcore bands are lauded for is still present today, it's just that the people who were doing it back have an edge on everyone else. Same thing goes with values of artistic solidarity. While I enjoy Titus Andronicus and Ceremony, it was good to not see either band for 4th or so time and instead opt for something more challenging.
Last Night: Retox and Regents at Yucca Tap Room.
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Beers: I ordered a Ska Brewing "Mole Stout". This is something I would normally just drink a sample of at some beer festival, but I regretfully drank an entire dark and spicy pint of the worst beer I've had in a while.
Opening Acts: I couldn't find a way to tie the local openers into the write-up fluidly, but From Dogs to Wolves was good for a three piece Metallica/Slayer influenced band, but that's not normally my kind of metal. Shovel may be one of the worst local band name, but I admire them for wearing bright clothes among a bunch of black shirt wearing mopes. Their jazz segues were also funny. I missed Der Blerg, but Jeff seems like a nice guy.