Diat. All photos courtesy of Alexandra Kress.
Despite opening on a weekday night, Not Dead Yet had kids hanging from the rafters at the Silver Dollar in downtown Toronto. The first night of the festival was a great lead-off for the rest of the weekend's festivities. While there weren't multiple shows going on Thursday night (as there will be every night for the rest of the weekend), the show at the Silver Dollar provided a statement for what Not Dead Yet is: a good mix of the strongest hardcore bands from around the world. The lineup featured Triage and Dilettantes from Toronto, Face The Rail from the Bay, Sadicos from Los Angeles, Impalers from Austin, and Diat from Germany. The formula is very clear: great locals, great North American acts, and great international acts.
After hanging out at Faith / Void (on 894 College St and run by Ryan Tong of S.H.I.T.) to check out the gallery exhibition that opened the night before, I made my way to Silver Dollar in time to catch Sadicos. While I had never heard them before, upon learning they were a part of the booming Latino punk scene from Los Angeles I knew it would not disappoint. The band is a three-piece featuring dual male-female vocals playing d-beat punk. Fans of Blazing Eye, Ausencia, and really anything else that's been coming out of Los Angeles the last few years will love Sadicos.
Next was Austin d-beat band Impalers. I've seen this band a million times in Texas since they began, but it has always been a next level experience seeing them on big stages like this. As soon as they began, the band looked completely unrestrained. The instrumentalists looked like they were attacking their instruments while vocalist Chris Ulsh flailed about, looking like he was ready to fall off the stage any second. What makes all of this chaos so remarkable is that they sounded so tight while doing it, not missing a single beat. Impalers used last night to remind the audience that they are one of the best d-beat bands in the world right now.
To close out the night was German post-punk act Diat. In truth, I hadn't heard Diat until they were announced for the festival. The timing worked out because they had just released their excellent new LP Positive Energy on Iron Lung Records. The set was flawless. The rhythm section sounded strong and tight while the vocals droned over them. It was a perfect way to close out the first show of the festival. Having now released their new LP, Diat appear poised to take North American audiences by storm. If their show last night was any indicator, they should have no trouble accomplishing their goal. To say that Diat are one of the post-punk genre's rising stars might be an understatement at this point.
After the show concluded, everybody went to an after show karaoke party. The place was literally inside of an alley that led to a walk up staircase where there was a large dance floor, a projection screen, and a makeshift bar. The event complemented the punk spirit of the festival so well. Every karaoke rendition was like a punk performance of well-known pop songs, all to an audience of kids drinking reasonably priced PBR tall boys. The event ran until about 2:30 AM when it finally drew to a close.
The biggest takeaway from the first night of Not Dead Yet was seeing what this stage means for the bands playing the festival. While many fests are cluttered with aging legends and glamorous reunions, Not Dead Yet has chosen to pick up and coming bands who haven't yet made their bones and established bands who still have something to prove. Watching everyone play, there were two kinds of attitudes being carried by the bands. The first was the look of the newer, not quite as known bands. Watching them it was evident how important this stage was for them. They knew they were far from home playing to a worldwide audience with some of the best bands of the day. These fests are more than just another show. They're proving grounds for the up and coming. The second look was on the more established bands. Shows like last night are their statements to the world. They use it as a reminder to everyone why they are as good as everyone thinks. They do this so they can use it was a platform to jump to the next level or to just maintain their esteemed positions. Hardcore punk is a young person's game. There will always be someone younger, hungrier, faster, and meaner to come along and try to unseat those who have already made it. Not Dead Yet is the perfect juxtaposition of the ones in the throne and those coming to take it.
James Khubiar is a writer.