Dirty Black Summer Tour Report From Springfield, Virginia
Band Photo: Himsa (?)
Having not gone to a show in too long, I decided to check out the Dirty Black Summer Tour at Jaxx in Springfield, VA on Saturday, July 9. It was on a Saturday, a good price and a good location for a weekend show (no metro and no beltway traffic to speak of), so I figured why the hell not. Besides, I had heard a lot about all of these bands in the news, but never listened to any of their music (except for The Agony Scene, who I streamed a few songs only a week before in preparation for my interview with drummer Brent Masters). I am not big into the metalcore scene and generally I dislike pure hardcore, but I do enjoy quite a few metalcore bands such as Unearth, As I Lay Dying, Bloodsimple, and My Bitter End to name a few. The Dirty Black Summer tour featured The Esoteric, Scars of Tomorrow, Full Blown Chaos, The Agony Scene, and Himsa. Apparently Scars of Tomorrow split some dates with Full Blown Chaos, because the former were not on this stop. There were two local openers as well, for a total of six bands.
I arrived a little later than expected, but only a few songs into the set of opening band, Knuckle Dragger. I expected 5 tour bands on this show, so I probably would have shown up later had I known. But Knuckle Dragger had a pretty decent sound with well-articulated riffing in a new-classic metal style of sound.
The second local opener, Dead Neighbor Society (or DNS), didn’t appeal to me quite as much as Knuckle Dragger. I couldn’t decide whether they had an 80’s metal sound (not glam, just plain 80’s metal) or sounded like a classic rock group gone metal. It must have been somewhere in between. While they had some nice guitar work, neither the singing nor the overall vibe of the band really appealed to me. They actually called for a circle pit and a laugh burst from my mouth at the absurdity of the suggestion. The crowd was so small and not so into the band that it just wasn’t going to happen, not to mention the style wasn’t exactly the kind to stir up a big pit in the first place.
The crowd was exceptionally small for a Saturday night – maybe 100 people or so total with 50 or 60 on the main floor - and it grew only marginally even after the local openers had finished their sets. This turned out to be an ideal setting for the hardcore dancers, however, who had enough room to swing their arms and kick without hurting anyone.
When The Esoteric finally took the stage, you could tell they were the first of the “real bands” there to play from the opening note. Despite their apparent youth, this band had a fairly polished sound, especially in contrast to the openers, who they did not seem any older than (if, in fact, they even were). The Esoteric had a lot of energy and I was digging several grooves in their songs. It was clear that they played a more melodic brand of metalcore, but much of the melody was lost in the live show. But for the most part, there was too much stop and go overlaid with screamo vocals for my taste. They played a Smashing Pumpkins cover at one point, which was pretty good. Despite the screamo yelling, the song flowed well and was an excellent cover that carried The Esoteric’s own sound. The song clearly lost the melody aspect, but gained the harder edge guitars and stops. It reminded me of the Evergreen Terrace covers CD in which they cover all sorts of songs from the 80s and later in their own hardcore style.
Next up was Full Blown Chaos. Three out of four of these guys were self-described “large individuals” and the frontman had a menacing look on his face before they began playing. Perhaps it was from being delayed from taking the stage for a short time to get back on schedule? When they broke into their first song, it was nothing less than full blown chaos, musically and in the pit that erupted in seconds, proving the aptness of their namesake. If there was a genre of “thrashcore,” it would fit Full Blown Chaos perfectly. Throughout their set, they varied from chaotic speed-riffs and changeups to ultra-heavy breakdowns and grooves. The band also showed that they had stage personality and a sense of humor. The frontman did quite a bit of talking to the crowd to get them riled up and to lose their inhibitions. The result surely was not appealing to the club security who descended upon the floor to grab and warn those who jumped on top of others or attempted to crowd surf on the smallish crowd that was present (crowd surfing is strictly prohibited at Jaxx anyway).
Several songs into their set, they had to ask the club management for towels because they were sweating like pigs (no disrespect). The frontman commented that Springfield was one of the best crowds they’ve ever played for. It made me wonder how large a crowd these guys have ever played for, but what this crowd lacked in size, they made up for in energy. Sometime in the latter half of their set, a wall of death was called for and the smallish crowd collided without casualties.
The Agony Scene took the stage third. At this point a low level headache started kicking in and the screamo style vocals were making it worse, so I had no choice to do what I prefer not to at any metal concert – use earplugs. Despite both the headache and the earplugs, The Agony Scene sounded good. They presented the most diversity of the bands that night with combinations of extreme metal and screamo/metalcore. The crowd seemed to respond to these guys with continued enthusiasm, the pit raging on and many hardcore dancers showing their stuff on the floor.
I awaited Himsa with anticipation, as they seem to be a largely hyped underground band these days. I had no idea what to expect, and then they came out with some fast thrash-like riffing and screamo vocals. I didn’t know what to think. If Full Blown Chaos were “thrashcore”, they’d be more “core” while Himsa would be more “thrash.” The somewhat diminished crowd responded well to the headliner. The sound technician pushed the volume up a bit more for this band, and the sound quality seemed to deteriorate, although it was fortunately not unbearably loud, even without my earplugs that I had removed. In the end, I thought they put on a decent show, but that I would have liked their style of music more on a CD, however.
Despite being a bit dehydrated and having a low-level headache all night, it turned out to be a fairly entertaining and enjoyable venture overall, and I was glad to have gotten out to see these bands perform. Although the show was pretty loud, I was also glad not to be deaf by the end of the night - just a bit of muffled hearing, which is a good reminder that'd you'd been to a loud show the when you wake up the next morning. It’s always good to get out and experience live shows and discover new bands, but this show was all the metalcore I could stand for one night! The main four bands put on a good show, but Full Blown Chaos stole the show with their musicianship as well as stage presence.
There are still a few more tour dates left on the Dirty Black Summer Tour, so check them out if they are coming to your area. The price is right for a fistful of metalcore. Here are the remaining tour dates:
July 16 - Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
July 17 - Springfield, MO @ Rockwell
July 18 - Kansas City, MO @ El Torreon
July 20 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Lo-Fi Café
You can check out some photos I took in the photo gallery.
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