Saturday: Will to Live, etc. at Walters
Anytime I find myself at a real, honest-to-God hardcore show, it's hard not to compare it to the anarchic, adrenaline-soaked matinees at New York's legendary CBGB. Long after the likes of the Ramones and Television made their name at the club, it was kept alive by the weekly influx of mostly underage kids eager to stage dive along with Agnostic Front, Madball, and Murphy's Law.
Those weekend matinees were an East Coast institution that most Houston hardcore nuts grew up hearing about, but never got to experience -- a fact that my fiancée, who saw more of those shows than she can count in her teens and twenties, will probably never let me forget.
That's why the idea of Saturday's hardcore matinee at Walters appealed to me so much, I think. CBs is long gone now, and Walters is about the closest thing we've got to the old dump down here, despite its immaculate bathrooms. All the better that the show was headlined by Will to Live, some of Houston's longest-running hardcore warriors.
Might we get a taste of all those matinees that we missed? I couldn't resist finding out.
The small crowd of true believers that showed up couldn't hope to match the sweaty intensity of Sunday at CBs, but then an institution isn't built in a day. There was an easy-goin', Saturday-afternoon vibe in the audience: The grass was mowed, the weather was beautiful outside and all that seemed missing was a smoking barbecue grill out the side door.
The early birds clustered around the stage to hear the first band up, Altered Minds, whose aggressively heavy grooves provided a walloping open to the afternoon's festivities. As they would throughout most of the day, the assembled scenesters listened attentively and applauded respectfully. To the relief of at least one of us, the slam dancing was kept to a minimum for much of the day.
It was hard not to blink a few times when sunlight streamed into the windowless club while Black Coffee set up. I hadn't seen the band since last year's Free Press Summer Fest, and I was looking forward to their set. The quartet delivered a string of short songs long on attitude, including furious covers of Minor Threat and Iron Cross sprinkled in amongst the tunes from their recent 7-inch. Good stuff.
It was a bittersweet gig for the next group up, Band of Mercy. Saturday was lead guitarist/front man (and Will to Live axe-slinger) Daniel Albaugh's last show before a move to Philadelphia. As such, it was his last opportunity for the foreseeable future to get the band's confrontational vegan message out to those who would listen, and Albaugh made sure he was heard.
Band of Mercy
"We're all meat- and dairy-free up here," he said. "That's why we rock so hard! If you're not kind to animals, you will just be smashed."
Band of Mercy packed the metallic punch to back up those words. They played heavy, stomping hardcore, highlighted by Albaugh's capable soloing. Their uptempo set-closer, "Eat to Win," had me hoping he'll be back again soon, even if I'm far from ready to swear off James Coney Island.