Sheer Terror @ Highline Ballroom 12/30/12

Written by Big Smile Staff

Posted Jan 4, 2013, by The Bear.

Featured Artists: Born Annoying; Brain Slug; Cro-Mags; Rude Awakening; Sheer Terror; Genre: Hardcore; Punk; Rock;
My End of the Year New York Hardcore Holiday continued on Sunday, December 30th, with a trip to the Highline Ballroom on west 16th Street in Manhattan for an early evening show which featured two longtime NYHC legends co-headlining the bill: Sheer Terror, and the Cro-Mags. Now before I go any further it must be said for the info. of people who don’t know their New York Hardcore history that the Cro-Mags have one of the more colorful pasts in the scene for a lot of the wrong reasons, although it hasn’t stopped them from releasing some of the best Hardcore in the mid to late 1980s during the crest of the second wave of NYHC. Feuding between some of the band’s present and past members is legendary and goes back for years. The most recent example occurred this past summer during the CBGBs festival when a show the Cro-Mags was supposed to play at was shut down after a fight broke out back stage between the current band members and a former member which resulted in two stabbings and a broken leg. If you really want more details on this event they’re easy to find online; I won’t say anymore on the subject. Instead I’m pleased to report that the December 30th show went off smoothly and without any violence – lots of moshing yes, but violence no. Which is as it should be.

The show was put on by Rocks Off, a major force in the New York music scene these days. Cousin Joe, who I had only ever spoken to on the phone once before, put the line-up together, and the between band DJing was done mainly by Sid “The Kid” Ramirez, a two time guest of mine in the past on “The Bear’s Den” at KXSC who knows his Hardcore and his Old-School Punk inside out.

There were three supporting acts before the headliners, and they were all newer bands. First up was Born Annoying who, despite their band name, are definitely not annoying. They were followed by Brain Slug, and Rude Awakening, who are from Merrimack, MA, went third. They already have a sizable following and will probably be headlining their own shows pretty soon if they’re not already doing so in smaller places (the Highline Ballroom is big venue). But all three supporting acts played well; the crowd steadily increased in size during the early sets and none of the early bands caused the room to clear out at all while they played.

When the Cro-Mags took the stage everything kicked up into top gear. The mosh “on” switch got flipped all the way up and the bodies began flying as people surfed down to the stage and dove back into the crowd (usually several at a time). Most of the stuff the Cro-Mags played was really fast, loud Hardcore Punk, including many of their classic tracks, most notably such crowd favorites as “Signs of the Times” and “Hard Times” from the seminal Age of Quarrel album.

The lead singer of the Cro-Mags, John Joseph McGowan, proves the saying true that “some people age well, some people age badly, and some people, no matter how many years they live, just – don’t – age!” He announced from the stage that he had just turned 50. Even though I knew the Cro-Mags formed in the mid-1980s and he was a founding member I still would not have guessed that. He looked almost exactly the same as he did the last time I saw him perform 11 years earlier in Dec. of 2001 at CBGBs. If you didn’t know how old he was you probably would have said “mid 30s”; yes he looks that good. Some people are lucky that way – or, like him, they take very good care of themselves. His voice has held up very well too and he had the energy of a teenager, jumping around as much as any of the crowd surfers and stage divers.

Sheer Terror played last and also turned in an excellent set. A lot of their stuff is slower and heavier than the Cro-Mags’ stuff, so there weren’t nearly as many flying bodies, but the crowd was just as into them as the earlier band. A large part of the fun of a Sheer Terror show is listening to lead singer Paul Bearer’s rants to the audience in between songs and he was in fine form that night, even telling someone in the audience who dared to interrupt (or heckle, I didn’t hear what the hapless person said) to “shut up fatso, I’m talking!” (Bearer is quite fat himself), also mentioning at one point that his brother, who was sitting in that evening on guitar and has really, really long hair, had just had a kid, finishing with “he’s now a father and looks like a mother!” Bearer’s onstage persona is of having contempt for his audience but he clearly doesn’t take himself seriously when he’s at it; rather it just seems like he’s having a blast.

Not everything Sheer Terror played was at a slower speed. The classic “Just Can’t Hate Enough” churned up the pit nicely when it was played; this one is a crowd favorite and was only to be expected. There’s talk of a possible new album from these guys and that would be good. All in all it was a fine night of Hardcore all around.

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