The state of punk music has been in intense debate since the original American movement plateaued in 1986. Many believe the movement died after that, leaving subsequent decades for hardcore tough guys, pop-punk boy bands, and a fragmented underground scene. Seeing Show Me the Body, Dreamcrusher and Girl Pusher at Highland Park Ebell Club on April 20th left me convinced that the movement has officially assimilated into the the 21st century.
Ebell might seem like a large house on the outside, but essentially consists of one giant room for the band and audience — the perfect place for a three divergent artists and bands to do what they please for the night. In this case, that meant donating all the funds to benefit the LA LGBT Center. The band’s unapologetic stance on identity and socio-political issues, was reflected on the crowd that showed up. Seeing those that fall inside and outside normative notions of gender and sexuality congregate in one place affirms the fact that the foundations of punk go far beyond the jocks flocking to a MxPx 25th anniversary show. Punk is for the misfits, the outcasts and the “weirdos,” who, at least for a night found a haven in East LA.
LA-based duo Girl Pusher began the night with confrontational cyber punk similar to Death Grips, as drummer Jarrod Hine triggered sludgy synths and battering drum loops over his own percussive assault through a sample pad, over which vocalist Gabby Giuliano’s harrowing shrieks and eerie singing pierced the dark room like a knife. Treading territory many bands would shy away from, they took the audience into dark mental spaces through a fiercely feminist lense. Their set was unnerving in nature, with Giuliano lurching and collapsing during unhinged tirades, yet Girl Pusher maintained catchiness and danceability throughout — something Dreamcrusher showed little care for.
Genderqueer, black and straightedge, noisecore marauder Luwayne Glass could not have chosen a better name for their project. With only a small flashlight, a strobe light, a microphone and a laptop, the Kansas-based noise-monger took everyone out of their comfort zones. A bed of nails created everyone’s eardrums as layers of aural filth cascaded from the speakers. Although beats sometimes lurked through the amorphous smut, Glass left no one unmoved by moshing with the crowd and grabbing audience members. The result was disorienting, grating and ultimately ecstatic. Although Dreamcrusher’s set seemed to get cut off, everyone in the room was properly uncomfortable before Show Me the Body took the stage to end the night.
Although they refer to themselves as New York Hardcore, Show Me the Body have little to do with the modern perception of the term. Taking from ‘80s punk bands like Bad Brains, Black Flag and Minor Threat, the trio diversifies their style beyond recognition with influence from punk rap, sludge metal and noise. With eccentric frontman Julian Cashwan exclusively playing distortion-caked banjo, Harlan Steed chugging out seismic basslines and outlandish sound manipulations and drummer Noah Cohan-Corbett laying down thuggishly feral grooves, these guys took no prisoners.
Cashwan started the night off with “Taxi Hell” accompanied by a hooded figure armed with an 8-string guitar, giving audiences an unexpected taste of his eccentric spoken word before the band’s more recognizable sound kicked in. The mosh pit finally exploded as Show Me the Body played banger after blood-pumping banger. The band got the crowd dancing with “Tight SWAT” and “Body War,” while the schizophrenic ambience of “Honesty” hour mesmerized and “Trash” got them pogoing with its concussive beat.
As I bounced off moshers and screamed the lyrics right back in the bands’ faces, I was struck with a fascinating reality — this was real punk music. All of these bands reside on the outside, and that’s how they like it. I experienced first-hand how they have resurrected a movement’s ethos while giving it a gnarled facelift, breaking into public consciousness through sheer tenacity and confrontation.