The Marquis Theatre was the scene of the crime, as singer John Brannon might put it… and our resident yuppie scum was there to document it.
BY BEN CURNETT / PHOTOS BY TIM HINELY
I’m not a raw power kind of guy, at least not most the time, though there was a long-past era in my life when I lived and breathed hardcore music. That younger hardcore me would have absolutely lost his shit when all kinds of punk/oi!/thrash godfathers showed up via the bands Negative Approach and Bloodclot last Tuesday at Denver’s Marquis Theater. It was a lot like taking a time machine to 1985, but a fucked up one that let 2017 seep through the cracks during the trip. The skinheads were there, just like every Oi! show, but I saw a guy in a Fred Perry and Nikes, for instance. But because I am now yuppie scum and definitively not hardcore, I had to do my people watching furtively. Suffice it to say there was a lot of stuff like that; a lot of very retro-but-fuck-it-everything-changes moments scattered throughout the scene.
Bloodclot, touring in support of their new album Up In Arms, were loud and brutal, just as you’d expect from a group of veterans of their particular pedigree. That veteran lineup happens to include Nick Oliveri of QOTSA and more. Frontman and way-back-when Cro Mags singer John Joseph regularly spouted some pat antichrist philosophy between songs, as well as some rastafari shit but I couldn’t make out if he was for it or against it (the smart money is on “for,” considering how far he goes back with HR/Bad Brains and since the dude is the most jacked, wilded-out vegan you’ll ever come across). They played a song about Monsanto, which got me to thinking how unique this whole thing was; even if you don’t like the music, which for me is more just fascination than actually being into it, you have to appreciate how much of a community there is in this trying-to-get-to-the-post-apocolypse group of misfits, where a hare krishna vegan is singing thrash metal odes to destroying the masters of war. The set was like an AA meeting with no rules and lots of beer (or not, in John’s case) and everybody calling bullshit on everything.
“There should be some threat in rock ‘n’ roll … that’s what rock ‘n’ roll’s all about.” That’s a quote from Negative Approach and storied pisser John Brannon that gets about as close to the heart of this hardcore thing as you’re likely to find. Threatening as ever and completely true to form, John commanded the show from start to finish with his trademark visage, which begs a little something in the way of explanation: Anyone that says John Brannon has a scowl on his face when he performs has completely missed the fucking point. The man is exorcising all kinds of shit-sucking, flesh-destroying demons up there, and not just his own; every single person in the room gets to share in the glare. Before the show, I read that he will occasionally pick someone out in the audience and stare them down … like, for a while. I have to admit that for a few seconds mid-set I though that poor bastard was going to be me, until I realized that a few seconds feels like an hour when John Brannon is staring into your cerebrospinal fluid. The songs are simply John’s countenance expressed in furious two minute musical bursts. The songs mostly sound the same to my old guy ears, though I recognized the absolutely spot-fucking-on cover of Sham 69’s “Borstal Breakout.” (BTW “borstal” is like “juvie” but for United Kingdomonians. The more you know, right?)
NA was as hardcore on a random Tuesday in 2017 as any hardcore band could ever have hoped to be in 1985, and for that reason, if you’re lucky enough for them to come through your town, they should never be missed.