You know a Baltimore venue has come into its own when it has a nickname.
Over the past few years, the restaurant Holy Frijoles in Hampden has become such a staple of local underground music shows, that, if you say you are heading to “The Bean”, folks will know where and why. It might have started as a joke, but it is certainly going to save space and time on my show calendar.
I found myself there once again, right at doors, the restaurant still humming with the energy of the 36th Street “Avenue” Saturday night.
The venue works like a big horseshoe for shows, live music to the left, bar and restaurant to the right. This creates a slingshot effect, the crowd heading bar-side between the bands.
This can also create a momentary feeling that the show is not going to be well attended.
But the stream of folks began the pendulum-swing of the night right away, shifting over from bar-side to see Ripley Void rip it up, and boy, were the audience ready! I sensed the logical energy of a weekend night, folks ready to get down and forget, for a time, their many woes before the “Sunday Scaries”. But there is also a “service station” aspect to these shows; I can sometimes go, drink from the well of hardcore, and leave when sated, spot hit. Ripley Void was certainly doing it for me and for the others in attendance.
But, of course, I am a fan of Muscle, and I wasn’t going anywhere. I am to that dangerous point where the band greets me as they walk in, pausing from the business of the show to be polite and conduct business with me. It can start to have “Oh… Hi Mark” energy. Everything becomes intermixed and lines recede. How long ’till I am working their merch table? It is a “risk” I am willing to take, although my once-strong back is well past the “hauling amps” stage, a valuable asset when first I got in the van.
Why can’t I get enough Muscle? Sure, I was initially drawn in by the fury of the powerhouse rhythm section, Adam and Quentin blazing and interlocking in glorious fashion. This, in tandem with the force-of-nature front person Madison, makes them continually magnetic and engaging live, like a wrestling match in the middle of a rodeo. The band is simply top tier in terms of live shows, and I have seen them all. I am not alone in feeling this way, checking in with other scene vets to say “Can you believe how much this band rules? Can you? Muscle! Right?”
It was also great to look out at the folks assembled for another raging Muscle set and make connections to different shows, bands, and scenes encountered since I fell under their spell. This is the slow, laborious work that leads to a packed show on a Saturday night. This is how you build a lasting community centered around art and music.
And Tripper hadn’t even ripped it up yet! As Muscle concluded their set with a cover of Drowning Pool’s “Bodies”, the room exploding, I knew even more excellence was to come.
There is something about Tripper. Their new EP “People Die Every Day” does what good hardcore can do, taking you on a journey in a few songs, each short sharp composition adding up to a larger movement. Their sets have been highlights of recent shows I have attended, Alex delivering the raging, furious goods on vocals, Bryan, Austin, and Michael keeping up the attack in varied and brutal ways, making what could be the same old thing sound new again.
As the set ended with the venue chanting the band’s name and calling for an encore, the sense of unity and genuine happiness for the group’s accomplishment was strong. Yes, these folks rage, but they look out for each other. And, on this night, in this room, they had prevailed, making something worthwhile and larger, building community in a world designed to isolate. And that is always worth celebrating.
See you at The Bean.