Better Than: Whatever wimpy-ass indie rock show you hit up instead
“The first time I heard Infest, I thought it sounded like a bulldog barking at the mailman.” My friend Jack is a straight shooter if there ever was one, and his description of his first brush with California powerviolence legends Infest is nothing if not on point. “The best part is, they still sound like that!” It’s a testament to powerviolence’s staying, er, power that the songs these four dudes wrote, recorded, and last really thought about in 1991 still sound as vital and hungry as they surely did back then. Vocalist Joe Denunzio still sounds like a pissed-off bully when he’s got a microphone gripped in his massive mitts, and his three partners in crime from way back when — Matt Domino (guitar), Chris Dodge (bass), and Bob Deepsix (drums) — can blast out their short sharp shocks of sound with their eyes closed. The foursome still cut an impressive figure onstage, even if they’d opted for comfort in basketball shorts and basic tees.
See also: The Oral History of NYC’s Metal/Hardcore Crossover
See all the Infest photos here Friday’s show was the first in a pair of appearances organized by Dan Oestreich (Dan O), tour dude extraordinaire and one of the driving forces behind Bushwick metal/punk mecca The Acheron. Middle age spread be damned, Infest could still kick your ass. They’re just old enough to know better, so they do it with nanosecond riffs instead. The Los Angeles quartet have been enshrined in hardcore history since the first fuzzy notes on their self-titled 1987 demo went public, and their 2013 reunion sent shockwaves through the punk, hardcore, and metal communities. A balls-to-the-wall set at that year’s Maryland Deathfest fueled the flames, and Infest have kept busy with sporadic one-offs since. There’s no word on whether they plan to record any new material, but given the way these tides tend to turn, it almost seems inevitable.
Infest were slated to play around the corner at bigger, shinier new venue The Wick the next night, but Friday’s show — long sold out — was destined to be the best kind of shitshow, and The Acheron provided an ideal setting for the chaos to come. Several hundred punks, mosh bros, regular joes, and metalheads with sweat-slicked hair wedged themselves into The Acheron’s main room and silently cursed their own combined body heat for rendering the air conditioning moot. Chain Rank and Hounds of Hate started things off right with some old-fashioned hardcore, though the well-lubricated crowd probably could’ve done without the Hounds singer’ heavy-handed straight-edge proselytizing. Punk-laced grind troupe Magrudergrind sprang into action armed with bass-heavy breakdowns, punishing slow grooves, and a blitzkrieg of blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em fastcore riffs that hint at their own Infest-inspired lineage. Their wickedly dynamic songs graduated from the “fast-slow-fast” school of grind; they’ll kick in with a bastardized Carcass riff, stop on a dime, then pitch over like a stoned elephant before you’ve got time to down a shot of Fireball.
Magrudergrind’s high-energy hustle was the perfect precursor to Infest’s all-business approach. Once the LA powerviolence kings stepped onstage, it was on. There was no stage banter, no reminiscing about the bad old days. Infest didn’t feel the need to preach between songs, or really say much of anything. After all, they’d said what they wanted to say back when most of the night’s attendees were barely stirring in their daddys’ Jockeys.
Friday night wasn’t about the past, it was about the here, the now, and the get the fuck outta the way, someone just threw a trashcan! Stagedivers swam through the crowd, not quite headwalking but pulling enough fancy maneuvers to make up for Infest’s own reluctance to move more than a few inches in any direction. Stoic stage presence aside, the sound itself was perfect: just clear enough to let the shrapnel fly. “Break the Chain” slammed into “Pickled” hurled itself into “Mankind,” and the good times kept on rolling from there. The crowd was beside itself. Infest kept their heads down and grins hidden in the eye of the storm as a mosh pit raged and stage divers kept up constant kinetic motion around them. The only sour note came from a stagediver who overstayed his welcome and incurred the sound man’s wrath, but the outcome was funny enough to keep things as light as they were going to get during a set that included “The World is Dead” and “Shackled Down.”
There was no encore. What would they have encored with? Infest’s entire discography spans exactly one full-length, a couple of 7″s and demos, and a live radio recording. They were an all killer, no filler kind of band, and as it turns out, they still are. They tore through 31 songs in about 25 minutes, and the sweaty, tired crowd still screamed for more. A devastating “Sick-O” whipped the joint into a frenzy, and even Bill Dozer, Acheron proprietor and occasional sound man, was pumping his fists and howling along with Denunzio during those last few seconds of battle-hardened glory.
Make no mistake: for all their bluster and brutality, Infest in 2014 was surely not the same as Infest in 1991. You know what, though? Unlike most reunited legends, Infest still feel real. They still feel honest.There’s no ego or affectation there. The show cost 15 bucks and they spent all night either onstage or chowing down on burgers at the Anchored Inn next door, not hiding backstage or at a hotel. Their merch was set up on the sidewalk, for chrissakes. You don’t need to see Chris Dodge doing spin kicks or hear Denunzio spout off a nostalgic soliloquy to convince you that the passion and the power remain. They’re not who they once were, but when it counts, they’re close enough.
Overheard: “Hey, kid in the shitty headband — get off the fuckin’ stage!”
Random Notebook Dump: The kid who used to drive you nuts drumming on his desk in chem class loves this band
Break the Chain
Voice Your Opinion
Sick and Tired
In His Name
The World Is Dead
Behind This Tongue
What’s Your Claim
Dirty Dope Dealer
Where’s The Unity
Kill the Peace
My World… My Way