I’m no stranger to hardcore shows, and I remember attending my first in Mossel Bay in 2001 with Neshama playing. After that I had a slow but steady interest in the hardcore scene and by 2004 I was attending gigs almost every weekend. When Most Precious Blood toured here in late 2005, I remember Wynberg Sports Club being packed, when at that stage the hardcore scene is considered by many to have been at its peak. Though one gig that stands out, and will probably remain a highlight in my life, was flying to Johannesberg for Anchorfest to watch Have Heart and Shipwreck AD. The Ghost Inside was another one of several international hardcore shows I’ve been to over the years. So I thought I had a fairly decent gauge of what I could expect from the Comeback Kid show at Mercury Live.
I had spoken to Ashley from the company Favour The Brave (and vocalist of Truth and it’s Burden) months back about getting photographic accreditation to shoot the event, as I wanted to ensure I wasn’t going to get chased away from the stage. So upon arriving early, we went to The Shack next door for a game of pool while we waited for the doors to open, which were about 15 minutes late, but no biggie. After entering into Mercury, I got my press pass sorted and headed up stairs to the main stage area. The crowd was already filling in steadily, and familiar faces were spread around the room. Some faces that have become almost a certainty at hardcore shows, including a few first time introductions outside of the internet.
The first band was supposed to start at 20:30, but with the doors opening a little late, the band too was running a touch late – at no fault of theirs.
First up was Peasant, a band that I had yet to hear play. Knowing a couple of the members and their music taste I was excited to see which elements of influence they would be incorporating into their music. The band is fronted by the extremely passionate Byron Craemer, so you know that there’s going to be energy. The band classifies themselves as ‘Crossover’, which is true to a degree – but the sound almost felt more crust than thrash, which is definitely not a bad thing.
Despite being the first band up, the crowd was already impressive and the venue was filling up fast, but more important than the numbers, was the fact that there were so many people already in the pit and throwing down to a band so early in the evening. Peasant members are certainly not new to the stage and the contains members that have played in Conqueror, Provider, the Dead Beats, & Betray the Emissary.
The set just got more and more intense, with more crowd participation – the mosh was certainly being brought. The final song ended with confetti being shot on the stage (and into the mouth of Byron), what’s a hardcore show with a little fun?! The band’s stage presence was great, and I didn’t meet a single person who had a bad thing to say about the band. In fact I think that they earned themselves a lot of new fans at the show. I know that I am now hooked. I’m definitely looking forward to their EP that they’re starting on.
Between sets I tried to overcome my social anxieties and exchange a few words with the familiar faces in the ground and when doing so the topic seemed to mainly revolve around how solid Peasant’s set was.
Next up were Take Hand, Cape Towns positive hardcore band who fairly recently released their EP (Legacy Bones). Having seen them several times before I knew what to expect. The band has certainly come a long way since their formation, and gravitated towards a solid hardcore sound, with lyrics heavily focused on the DIY and community aspects. They are also often involved in charity drives with Peasant, looking to give back instead of taking.
JJ van Rooyen – the vocalist, paced around the stage as he spewed food for thoughts to some fast paced tracks, often with backing vocals from the other members of the band. At this point the pit was starting to see some serious action, from slam dancing to circle pits. I could no longer just watch on from the side of the stage, and had to enter into the pit and throwing down a bit myself.
By the end of the set the pit was a cesspool of sweat and smiles.
When Reason To Live came on stage, the atmosphere definitely changed slightly. Reason to Live are what many would consider “tough guy” hardcore, along he veins of Terror and Death Before Dishonor. Straight up aggression and power. I’d seen Reason to Live at Anchorfest and while there’s a lot of the scene that doesn’t feel the aggressive hardcore vibe, I think it’s great! One needs to recognize that the approach by these bands stem directly from many of the original hardcore legends like Madball and Agnostic Front. Hardcore was always about aggression, bouncing back from the shit life throws at you and handling it.
The band made sure everybody warmed up their hammies, because when the tracks are that rough- so is the ‘mawsh’. The pit was going off, with hands, legs and bodies flying. You could see that a few of the older faces who grew up probably listening to the old US West Coast and New York hardcore bands were really feeling it.
Mercury was starting to really get packed and space was starting to become a rare commodity. But there were smiles everywhere and sweat dripping to the floor – two tell tale signs of a good show.
The second to last band was Truth and it’s Burden, fronted by Ashley De Beer. Ashley’s the reason why Comeback Kid were down here, as he also runs Favour The Brave, which seeks to help the promotion of the South African hardcore scene by organizing tours. And a big thanks is owed to the guys at Favour the Brave for making Comeback Kid happen.
Truth and its Burden play a style of hardcore that can be found in bands like Misery Signals (with less clean singing), which is very guitar driven with clear metal influence. Though at the same time the band focuses on uplifting messages through their lyrics and classify themselves as a positive hardcore band. I’d also seen them play a few times before and even own one of the numbered EP releases from about 5 years ago.
They played with intensity and passion and the crowd, now likely getting drunker by the minute was going off to the songs.
Each track had the crowd going, building them up for the highlight of the evening. Making sure those hammies were nice and warm.
Truth and it’s Burden finished their set solidly and then the long awaited time had arrived… The time that so many had been waiting their whole lives for.
During the stage setup the crowd began to sing Wake The Dead by themselves, with some pretty good volume and the intensity was already getting set. But I was definitely not expecting what came next…
I looked out onto the floor of Mercury and it was packed, from wall to wall and from stage to bar. The pit was waiting for their moment to pounce. Then the lights dimmed and it all began!
The band kicked off and the crowd went crazy. The band’s performance was filled with energy and the sound was great too, the crowd sang along, the collision of bodies almost audible through the music. Byron from Peasant joined the band on stage for a track to do guest vocals, both him and Andrew Neufeld ripping the Cape Town hardcore scene a new one.
Things got progressively more crazy as the set went on, and if there weren’t video I’d find it difficult to describe the scene. Three or four people stage diving at the same time, sometimes going down face first onto the floor, not caring and getting back up with a smile and a whole lot of bruises. The mic stand was tossed around by fans and at one stage a solid 3 meter long Jagermeister flag was being passed around in the crowd.
Their set continued with solid precision and the mic landing before the mouth of nearly everyone in the audience. Stage dives were a constant occurrence, with back flips, 360s and massive air variations making the stage look more like the X-Games than anything else. Boots colliding with faces and faces with floors was a common sight, but at no stage were the smiles removed. Looking out on the crowd you could only smile yourself by the looks you saw in people’s eyes.
The final track they played was Wake The Dead and as soon as it kicked in, the whole place just went mad. The stage was soon filled with people dancing and singing along. And when it was all over, nobody wanted it to be and with the power of the hardcore séance an encore track ensured that everyone was able to get just a bit more insane, one last time!
To conclude where I was going with my introductory paragraph, I have been to a lot of hardcore shows. But this was by far the most intense display of hardcore I have ever seen. It was as if all the veteran Comeback Kid fans had been storing up energy for the past 10 years just waiting for this to happen. Cape Town came out in full force, as did the bands to provide a night that will no doubt go down in the memories of most people there for the rest of their lives. The energy, the passion and the love for hardcore showed everyone that despite how things may appear at times in the scene. Hardcore, and especially Cape Town Hardcore is most certainly still very alive.
*Video footage was a bit dark, due to the general lighting being a bit low. But it’s better than nothing!
Were you at the show? Let me know your thoughts by dropping a comment below..