Within These Walls Nile Theater Saturday, September 24
Hardcore may have a niche audience, but H2O's two main messages are universal: 1. "Treat yourself and other people with respect and try to make the world a better place by the fact that you're in it," bassist Adam Blake said in our recent interview. 2. "Don't forget your roots," a line from "Family Tree," and the name of H2O's upcoming covers album. Frontman Toby Morse encourages paying tribute to the artists that helped shape modern day punk and hardcore.
Both fans and bands were exhausted as this 12 hour hardcore festival winded down, but everyone managed to get on their feet and enjoy the music. Fans conserved their energy by sitting between acts and somehow managed to keep hardcore dancing all night.
H2O played with The Descendents in New York last night and spent most of their day traveling. Toby said he took two flights and got about four hours of sleep, but feels more like a 21-year-old than a 41-year-old. That seemed to be the case for everyone else-- as long as music was playing, neither artist nor audience showed signs of fatigue.
Toby gave lots of shout outs to the bands that influenced him the most. During "Family Tree," the band played about 30 seconds of Fugazi's "Waiting Room," which the crowd loved. In honor of the upcoming record, H2O played a bunch of covers. Toby asked if the audience would rather hear Minor Threat or Gorilla Biscuits, and while both received loud cheers, Gorilla Biscuits had a phenomenal response. H2O played a couple Gorilla Biscuits songs, then paid tribute to what could be their greatest influence-- Madball. They're even referenced in "Guilty by Association," "crazy fucking summer hanging out with Madball!"
The crowd rushed the stage and went absolutely nuts once they recognized "Pride." It was refreshing to see such an enthusiastic audience, I just wish it wasn't such a rare occurrence.
H2O's setlist had a narrative all its own as the band played "5 yr. Plan" and "Still Here" back to back. Toby said they originally only had a five year plan, yet they are still going strong sixteen years later.
Within These Walls celebrates the strong sense of community in the hardcore scene. H2O's set brought everyone together and made complete strangers feel like close family, just like the feelings described in Bane's "My Therapy," the inspiration behind the festival name.
This sense of camaraderie was particularly strong during "Guilty by Association." It's a powerful song, it's nearly impossible not to jump around and scream the lyrics. I think deep down all of us wanted to be that guy that jumped on stage at the end.
H2O closed with "What Happened?", a narrative of the changing scene. Last night's crowd was not as bleak as this song suggests, the hardcore scene is still alive and well. Concertgoers could learn a thing or two from this show-- there's nothing wrong with actually getting into the music and dancing like nobody's watching. As a common courtesy, please steer clear of punching vital organs.
Stretch Arm Strong was one of the more melodic bands of the evening, as in you could actually understand what the singer was saying.
The band hasn't been in Phoenix since their 2002 show with Reach the Sky in the Nile basement. "We're old guys," vocalist Matt McCarthy said, thankful to return. Stretch Arm Strong's set sounded great, with the exception of a broken guitar. McCarthy high fived fans and told jokes while the guitarist resolved technical issues. The audience reacted very well and never yelled or complained. Seeing the once boisterous crowd sit still was somewhat of an "eye of the hurricane" moment. Once the music came back on, the fans went back to normal: Most Precious Blood was a very aggressive crowd pleaser. Vocalist Rob Fusco encouraged audience participation by inviting fans onstage, dropping lots of f-bombs, and at one point saying, "I don't want anyone paying attention to anyone but me," causing the crowd to erupt into a giant pit full of flailing hardcore dancers, and later said "it's time to do some fucking damage."
Fusco wrapped up Most Precious Blood's set with a curt "bye" and threw his mic on the ground. You can see it here:
H2O Setlist Nothing to Prove I See It In Us Everready Family Tree 1995 Fugazi/Gorilla Biscuits/Madball covers 5 Yr. Plan Still Here Thicker Than Water Faster Than The World Liberate Fairweather Friend One Life, One Chance Guilty by Association What Happened?
Stretch Arm Strong Setlist: Worst Case Scenario Outside Looking In Means to an End When Words Escape When Sorrow Falls Reach Out For Now We Bleed Second Chances For The Record Melt
Critic's Notebook Last Night: Within These Walls with H2O at Nile Theater. Personal Bias: I drove out to California to see H2O a few years ago. The Crowd: was in good shape from all those spin kicks and windmills. Overheard in the Crowd: "I wanna stage dive, but I got roundhouse kicked in the stomach." Random Notebook Dump: Everyone keeps talking about Gaza. I wish I had arrived earlier.