Agnostic Front

The Zoo, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

25 October 2012

I can’t remember the first time that I saw pictures and video of bands like Agnostic Front playing at CBGB€™s. I just remember looking at them and thinking, this is the craziest thing I have ever seen!

In all honesty, it scared the crap out of me. I couldn’t imagine being at a show like that where people were leaping on each other, throwing wild punches and just generally going ballistic. It seemed too crazy to be real.

Then, I started going to hardcore shows when they would come to town, whatever town I was in. They would be crazy indeed, but never quite like they seemed to be in New York City..

Now, this year, Agnostic Front turns 30. Thirty? Seriously?? Yes, 30.

I was nine years old when this band started. Because I was so young, I didn’t know a whole lot about this first wave of New York City hardcore. I didn’t start listening to the stuff until well into Sick of it All and Madball’s career. Therefore, I have not been overly schooled in Agnostic Front although they have never been invisible to me. I had never seen them live, so I thought t€œhey, I gotta see this.

They are one of those rather legendary bands that have influenced countless bands that have followed in their paths. All the moves, the dance steps, the jumps, all that stuff, which would have started with these guys, are still alive today. It was amazing to watch this band doing these things on stage and knowing that they were basically the pioneers.

So, do they still have it? Well, you know, we are all getting a bit older, right? Roger Miret still has an impressive set of arms, but you can see that he has definitely aged and can’t jump around quite as much as he once could.

By far the highlight for me was watching Vinnie Stigma. Here is this guy, he comes up on stage to tune his guitar or whatever he was doing, and he comes across as someone’s crazy, campy grandpa who gives out crystal meth instead of Werther’s Originals. But, man, I just couldn’t keep my eyes off him.

He’s hilarious to watch. You can tell he loves what he’s doing, loves the whole hardcore thing, loves being in front of an audience and loves being in the spotlight. And he milks the attention for all it’s worth. If there was a camera around, he was making a face or posing or hamming it up. He absolutely takes over the stage. Miret may be the front man, but Stigma is the show. Face it, the guy is not a brilliant guitarist. What he is, however, is a brilliant showman.

Thirty years later, yes indeed, they can still deliver a pretty punishing blow. They most definitely did destroy the place. And by the time the band got on stage at about 12:30pm, much of the crowd was pretty intoxicated which always means that no one was feeling any pain in the circle pit.

The aging crowd that looked a tad rougher around the edges than they once did, and most certainly are less agile, gave it their all and probably felt it the day after. I did my usual lean on the front barricades, and though wasn’t moving too much I did get some good slams that made me feel like I was participating. And, I do know that I still can’t hear much out of my right ear. I guess that means it was proper hardcore and I was involved! Yay! I feel so cool.

Alrighty then! Now for the rest of the bands. Well, first off, let me point out Arrabio. This is a pretty cool story. These guys are from Cuba, and, apparently are the first hardcore band from Cuba to play outside of Cuba, and they are in the midst of touring Canada right now.

They played in town the night before, and I missed the show sadly. I was looking forward to seeing them, but alas, it did not work out. I had read about them and they have quite the interesting story going on. Their record label is Solidarity Rock and here is a small bio of the label from their website: €œSolidarity Rock is an artist run organization working to partner musicians, artists and creative people in Cuba, Canada and beyond. Since 2008, we have been working to collect instruments and musical equipment to help our friends in Cuban rock bands find their own way through music.

Solidarity is based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and Sancti Spiritus, Cuba and Arrabio are a big part of this organization. I wanted to go the night before just to see and support these guys on their venture. I didn’t make it. So, when Roger Miret came on just before their set and announced that they had special guests who were going to play, I was surprised to find out that it was Arrabio.

Now, how the two bands met up, I have no clue. Miret is from Cuba and he seemed to be pretty excited about these guys. So, up comes Arrabio who were set up with Agnostic Front’s equipment, and they play. And they are good. They aren’t overly dynamic on stage, but they had impressive songs and sounds. They still seem a tad nervous, which is understandable seeing is this is their first tour and they were playing in front of an Agnostic Front crowd, with Agnostic Front’s gear.

Given that, they held their own, played well, impressed the crowd and had the experience of their lifetime (thus far) playing with a band that had been a huge influence on them. So, that was a very cool story of the night. Be sure to check them out on their Bandcamp page and support them by buying their music!

Okay then, now let’s talk about Death by Stereo, hailing from the other side of the US: Orange County (from the East Coast to the West Coast). Wow.

I saw these guys at least 10 or 12 years ago now. They’ve been around for a few years themselves (since 1996 apparently). Efrem Schulz, the lead singing dude, is insane! From the moment he hit the stage he was like a madman. And he’s got these eyes that look like they are going to blow out of his head as he screams and jumps.

Much like Stigma, he’€™s someone I couldn’t take my eyes off of. He was just this non-stop whirlwind, all over the stage and into the crowd. Their set just seemed to blow by and was over way too quick.

Again, you could see the influence that bands like Agnostic Front have had on guys like these as well; how they sounded and played and how they moved. It was just an intense, awesome display from a killer live band. And, Schulz was wearing a Cancer Bats t-shirt. Extra points!

And, with that we are left to the two openers. Winnipeg’€™s Zero Cause kicked things off with pretty straightforward, stripped down metal hardcore. I was impressed with them, thought they did a good job, sounded good, had a good style and were, generally speaking, just a damn good band.

It’s unfortunate that there weren’t too many people there to see them. Oh well, I’m glad I was. Good stuff. Good band. Good LOCAL band at that.

After them? Oh dear GAWD! It was the FUBAR/Anvil portion of the evening with East Vancouver’s West of Hell.

You know, I shouldn’t be too hard on them; the guitar players were frickin’ great. They had some decent sounds. And, they had Stinky.

Stinky is a big, burly biker looking dude with a vest covered in band patches, of stuff like Pantera and.I don’t know, that’s the one that I remember the most. I knew his name was Stinky because across the back was written, well….Stinky.

He’s quite the character I must say. A cheese ball metalhead is the best way to describe him I suppose. He seems like the eternal party guy, who has a beer in his hand 24 hours a day. And, he just kept ending up wandering on stage all night. I just kept thinking €œWhy is Stinky up there again??€ I think he just wanted to sing every song that night. But, he is a showman, using a power washer to spray some kind of foggy substance over us, wearing a Roman gladiator hat and using a metal grinder to shower us with sparks. I was fearing a White Snake arson moment, but it never came thankfully.

Here ya go. Stinky is the fuzzy haired guy in the kitchen at 1:48. Class act!:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the kind of night I had on 25 October 2012. It was a fun and memorable one I must say. Glad to have gone. Glad to have experienced it. Glad to be writing about it. Looking forward to the next live show! Hopefully Stinky won’t wander on stage out of nowhere.

All words and image by Chris Hearn. You can read more from Chris on LTW here.

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