The second day of Not Dead Yet festival was a strong case for the state of hardcore punk being better than ever in 2015. Unlike the more stationary first night, the second involved two shows running together at the Silver Dollar. Downstairs were more modern hardcore punk acts while the upstairs included more punk bands. It is crazy to think that so many of the world's finest hardcore punk bands were in one building last night, but that is the appeal of Not Dead Yet. The first band I saw was Pittsburgh's Concealed Blade. The band released one of the best demos of the year in February. Their set included most of that demo, closing with the catchy track "Hell To Pay." In the music industry, there's an adage about bands that have "it." When I first heard Concealed Blade, I thought they had it. After this set, I knew they did.
Next was Houston's Dress Code. I'd seen them before I left Texas and had written about them, remarking that they were destined for bigger things. It's been satisfying to see them earn more recognition nationally from touring and the work on their stellar releases. They're very young, and to see them come so far in the past year says a lot about what it really takes to make it in hardcore punk. A good band needs nuance, personality, and style. Dress Code has cultivated theirs from local popularity to rising international acclaim.
Hounds of Hate played next. With a slew of releases under its belt, most recently last year's self-released Hate Springs Eternal LP, the Pittsburgh straight edge band is one of the most consistent and solid hardcore acts of the last few years. Hounds of Hate's set was great and illuminated two facts: First, straight edge hardcore is best when its played mean. Second, Pittsburgh hardcore is one of the most underrated scenes in the entire country. If there's one thing to take away from Hounds of Hate and Concealed Blade last night, it is that Pittsburgh hardcore should not be slept on.
Build and Destroy had to drop, but some last minute promoter magic corralled Houston's the Pose to replace them. While they were relatively unknown, they were certainly not undeserving to be playing. The band released a great demo this year, toured this summer, and are carving their reputation out of Texas much like Dress Code and Power Trip before them. Last night the Pose seized an opportunity to declare to some of hardcore's best that they can hang. This isn't the last you'll be hearing about them.
No Tolerance is a special band. As time goes on they are cementing their place as one of the best straight edge bands ever. They very recently self-released their latest album You Walk Alone to great fanfare. Vocalist DFJ's stage presence last night was very commanding of the audience while the band, comprising a who's who of Boston hardcore musicians, played along precisely. No Tolerance is about history as much as ideas. The mantra in their music takes people back to a time where straight edge was hostile because it actually had to be (not to mention, being from Boston, the SSD influence).
To close out the show was Dallas' Power Trip. This sounds corny, but I will never get over how far they have come. I booked their first show in Dallas almost ten years ago to a crowd of about 40 people. Now here they were headlining in a sold out room at one of the world's biggest hardcore festivals. They ran through a set of cuts from their landmark album Manifest Decimation and debuted a new song from an upcoming new album that I have been told is completely written. One of Power Trip's prevailing elements is the very active crowd response and last night was no different.
The last band of the night was Barcelona's Una Bestia Incontrolable. The Spanish d-beat act released a debut LP last year on La Vida Es Un Mus to great acclaim. They are a great band from a great scene. Barcelona has been producing quality punk for years and Una Bestia Incontrolable has picked up where their predecessors left off. Their set was a tour de force of songs to an audience that ate up every minute of it. Playing d-beat is one thing, carrying a crowd and igniting a room to it is the challenge. Una Bestia Incontrolable was able to do that. There's two kinds of bands: those you ask, "How much longer?" and those you ask "When are you coming back next?" Una Bestia Incontrolable is definitely the latter.
James Khubiar is a writer.