It was a celebration of New York hardcore as three of the scene’s veterans took over the Espy’s Gerwish Room. Perfect for the occasion, the venue was filled to capacity, but there was still enough room to breathe as Vision of Disorder kicked things off.
While the rather sedate crowd evidently needed warming up, the band themselves sure didn’t. Vision of Disorder exploded onto the stage and delivered a tight and perfectly paced set, incorporating just enough melodic runs, creative passages and metallic influences into their hardcore assault. Older favourites such as material from Imprint and the track ‘Through My Eyes’ were standouts and almost enticed the crowd to move – but they didn’t quite get them there, much to frustration of vocalist Tim Williams, whose powerful, scathing scream led the band’s live presence.
But the crowd was simply preserving their energy for what was to come. When the legendary Madball took the stage with their more straight up, aggressive hardcore barrage, chaos ensued. Agnostic Front’s brother band inspired total and utter madness in the audience and in minutes people were flying through the air. Whether it was the lineup or the fortunate absence of a barricade, this was one authentically f**cking insane hardcore punk show. You could taste the energy – and the sweat – as fans freely leapt on and off the stage, dragging the occasional mic lead with them and sharing the band’s experience.
The vibe in the pit was one of absolute euphoria as people stage dove, crowd surfed, circled and screamed along with frontman Freddy Cricien. Cricien expertly continued to drive the excitement up and include the crowd, pulling the entire audience closer to the front of the room and communicating hardcore’s message of unity by shouting out to “the metalheads, punk rockers, hip hoppers and hardcore kids.” True professionals, Madball were flawlessly tight, despite being constantly bombarded by flying audience members, and relatively new drummer, Mike Justian, even managed to hold a song together after he lost his kick pedal. The craziness was amplified with songs like Lockdown doubling the amount of stage diving fans, and the band finally wrapped up what was one of the most intense live shows I’ve ever witnessed with Pride.
The best was yet to come and the stage diving chaos only escalated when headliners Sick of it All took the reigns with their skill and unmatchable energy. The intimate setting of a smaller venue worked in the band’s favour and we were treated to seeing this passionate, legendary band in their element and at their best. Sick of it All launched into their performance with a bang, beginning with crowd favourites ‘Good Lookin’’ ‘Out’ and ‘Take a Night Off’. The band went heavy on hits off of the album Death for Tyrants, and tracks such as ‘Machete’ and ‘Injustice System’ were well received. They made sure to mix it up though, pumping out a variety of songs such as ‘Built to Last’, ‘World Full of Hate’ and ‘Sanctuary’ – but it was ‘Scratch the Surface’ and ‘Step Down’ from 1994 that saw the pit absolutely explode.
Vocalist Lou Koller was as charismatic as ever and guitarist Pete Koller was almost as much of a frontman as his brother as he jumped, spun and sprinted around the stage non-stop, with a permanent grin plastered to his face. This experienced band are a well-oiled machine, but more impressively, they’ve also managed to maintain a boyish, unbridled enthusiasm for performance. Sick of it All made sure to connect with their audience throughout their entire set, and Lou even granted one female audience member’s request by inviting her to the stage to sing Rat Pack. Incredibly gracious, Sick of it All sincerely thanked the crowd –and the Kollers even stuck around to shake hands after their set.
There ended one of the most flat out, incredible, intimate and intense hardcore shows I’ve ever attended.