Tear Sponsor @ Mercury Theater- Thursday, January 5th, 2023
Truth Cult @ The Metro Gallery- Friday, January 13th, 2023
Watching the floor buckle and bounce as a brief mosh pit broke out during the Black Button set at Mercury Theater reminded me of the many times I have witness this occur at underground shows. I thought about how I need to get away in case the floor collapsed, how so far the floor hasn’t collapsed each time I have observed this happen, how the architects designed the building to prevent the floor from collapsing, how the building is so very old, and how the builders probably did not envision this sort of thing happening on said floor. And here we are.
The Truth Cult show at The Metro Gallery was inches from being sold out when the surprise guests, BCHC dynamos End It, were announced. Final tickets were zapped up, service fees paid, no tickets at the door. This made the show a five band bill. This would be a problem at a show that was not a hardcore show. Bands in this scene play fast and hard and end their sets on time. No fear of extended improv jams or encores. Also, hardcore shows routinely start “early” compared to other Baltimore shows, which drag past announced start times and drift into existence around ten pm, usually.
When I arrived at the Tear Sponsor show at doors, venue-runner Connor M. Kizer informed me that I was about to be the only person in the venue, as he had to step out. This was not the first time and this was fine with me. I sat down in a comfortable chair and read a book, as is my custom.
When I arrived at the Truth Cult show at doors, the place was already a warren of activity. Although the venue usually has places to sit down, all were removed in favor of a second bar and additional merch tables. Hardcore is not just a music scene. To be correctly dressed is important. A certain hoodie, a certain black hat, a certain style of boot. Don’t get stressed! Youtube tutorials exist. I dress so neutrally that I blend in with the other white males in their 40s at these shows. I did bring an Ivy Bookshop totebag. I know… my totebag should have been black and had a slogan on it like “LIFE IS PAIN.” Oh well…
There was no prevalent “dress code” at the Tear Sponsor show, but I am noticing two styles emerging among the underground youth: mid/late 1990s Delia’s Catalog and what I am calling “Quarantine Grunge”. The first explains itself with a few clicks, but the latter is a new variation on an old style. The key is to look like you haven’t left your house in a really long time, kinda faded, kinda weary, kinda worn out. Beyond slacker into full defeat mode. It has been a rough coupla years. I get it.
I have mentioned certain bands thus far, but it should be noted that, along with the aforementioned Black Button, who were on tour from Richmond, locals Pluot energetically opened the show at the Mercury Theater. The other bands at The Metro Gallery show were touring non-locals: Buried Dreams, Raw Brigade, and The Chisel (UK). The Chisel (UK) is not to be confused with Chisel (US), who are playing shows again and reissuing records. The Metro Gallery of Baltimore is not to be confused with the many other venues called The Metro or some variant thereof. And so on… I can’t even tell you how many bands named Buried Dreams there are out there. I found many before finding online the one I saw.
There was a time in my life in the 1990s when I aspired to be a music critic. For a magazine like Spin or Option. You know… in print. Part of my 2020s rationale on not doing much “word work” describing the music of these bands this time around and focusing on other aspects of these shows is that you can click on the embedded links and hear for yourself.
This leaves observers and chroniclers like myself with a problem: what do we write about when we write about shows? At the Truth Cult show especially, there were so many smartphones aloft, multiple pro photographers present, folks mediating the experience with technology. Pics or it didn’t happen, right?