Monday, June 25, 2012

Negative Approach and DYS pair up for SoCal gig

Negative Approach's John Brannon.

About seven years ago, Andy yelled out to John Brannon, "Play 'Evacuate!'" during an Easy Action gig in Seattle. His reply, "Be careful what you wish for."

Brannon and crew didn't unleash the pummeling Negative Approach song that evening -- to Andy and Cat's dismay -- but they sure did last Friday night when NA teamed up with other old-time hardcore fave DYS for a gig at Alex's Bar in Long Beach.

We couldn't make it, but attendees Chris O'Connor, Ben Edge and Steve Coombs share their thoughts below. Jeff Terranova captured the evening through his camera lens.


It was a warzone...(I was) just in it up front -- blocking, kicking and head-rocking (to the) hardcore goodness.

DYS sounded so good...stop/start on a dime...low-end bass and both guitarists blazing -- Franz Stahl ruling.

NA were blistering as hard as back in '81...Brannon's vocals were completely blown to shreds...and I mean that in the best way possible.

DYS' Dave Smalley.

A friend of mine asked if DYS would play "More Than Fashion" because some or all of the members aren't straight edge anymore, and sure enough, they opened with it, lyrics intact.

They played a mixture of "Brotherhood" and the self-titled LP buttrock material, and three new songs, including the one about Boston. The new songs sound like Dropkick Murphys and totally suck.

The "Brotherhood" songs sounded off. The drummer, whom I've been told played in Powerman 5000, had a strange, fast beat that sounded like he was being lazy, and not furious enough, even though the tempo was correct.

Even stranger was the presence of new rhythm guitarist Stahl from Scream. Scream got back together fairly recently, and they're actually good, so what's he doing wasting his time in DYS? Jon Anastas was the worst part. He played without a shirt on, so we could look at his bulging pecs and tattoos and had a "look at me!" attention-starved rockstar presence that was totally off-putting.

DYS bassist Jon Anastas.
Musically, Negative Approach were awesome. They sounded exactly like NA should sound. Brannon growled all the lyrics. There's no way anyone who didn't already know the words could make out anything he was singing. He sounded like a monster from beginning to end. It was pure, unadulterated hardcore aggression.

They played all of their songs, plus "Borstal Breakout" by Sham 69 and encored with "Chaos" by 4-Skins.

NA's Brannon shares the mic. Writer O'Connor is in the middle, gray T-shirt.


NA came to Southern California last weekend to play a large fest, which is their main M.O. these days. When I was 15, I first heard NA and never thought I would ever see them play. Fast forward 17 years later, and I had the chance.

They were cool enough to bookend the fest appearance with two smaller shows. The first happened to be at Alex's Bar in Long Beach, along with DYS. To see a band like that play at a dive bar that only holds a few hundred people seems a lucky thing to witness in this day and age.

In the end, it was a mixed bag. Both bands have little to no original members playing with them. DYS are in name only with singer Smalley and bass player Anastas. Stahl from Scream is on guitar, and the drummer is from Powerman 5000. They have another guy on guitar, but I am not sure who he is. I had been anxious to see them since they got back together. I have the live record they recently put out, and while I thought it was too clean and clinical for hardcore, I thought they sounded good.

Friday night was a different story altogether. Smalley looked into it, but he is far removed from the "Wolfpack" glory days. I have no problem with guys doing straight-edge songs, which they no longer adhere to, but the magic of DYS was perfectly captured on "Brotherhood," as it was angry music made by young men.

I have no interest in reliving the past, which is all hardcore seems to be about these days. The old songs were reworked, and the drummer sounded way off. The new songs sounded like watered-down mall punk, complete with a moronic hometown-crowd song about how great Boston is, but I don't think most of the guys still live there, or are even from there. The added solos and Anastas' shirtless Van Halen posturing (complete with Fedora) just made me want to go outside, but there were no ins and outs. The crowd joined in on vocals on the closer, "Wolfpack," but the double bass was not helping the song out. The magic is clearly not there.

NA only have one original member, which is Brannon. O.P. Moore recently left the band, but the bass player and guitarist have been in the Necros and Brannon's other band, Easy Action, and you could tell they had a lot of chemistry.

He got up on stage and went into their setlist (which was essentially every song they ever recorded) with little stage banter and pure aggression. Minus some aging, Brannon looks the same, and as pissed as ever. The sound was similar to the old bootlegs you here from their heyday.

Brannon makes the mic feed back with his thunderous voice. The band sounds like soundchecks are out of vogue, but somehow it all fits and is encapsulated into a  blunt, tight delivery. They ended the set with their perrenial cover, "Chaos," by the 4-Skins, a song which they have made their own over the years.

I bought a shirt for $10, when a lot of bands will charge $15 or even $20.

I have the feeling Brannon still believes in his lyrics, and conveys this on stage. After the show, I got home and listened to some Laughing Hyenas, and realized his voice is one of a kind, and has never really changed. It made me miss guitarist Larissa Stickland (RIP) and the fact that I will never see that band play. But I will catch NA the next time they are in town. They are doing it right, while few reunion bands these days are.

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