by Jesse Morgan
I won't pretend to have my finger on the greater scene pulse here in Baltimore. Most of the time, my finger is firmly up my nose, listening to something that will not hit a publicist's radar, much less make a Best Of for most people.
But every once in a while, I'm privy to what I think is some fine shit. And here are a bunch of bands that are going to do great things and play great shows in 2013. With a few exceptions, these bands will release their first recordings in 2013. See them early, see them often, wear your earplugs: you ain't getting any younger, punk!
1. Old Lines
If you had told me in January of 2013 that by December the band I would have seen the most by year's end would be Mitch Roemer's new band, I would have told you to shit in your hat. Yet here we are, and I've fallen in love with Old Lines over the past twelve months. Their new 12" (self-released) is everything you want in a heavy band: loud, crushing, political, yet hooky. Matt Taylor's vocals are mind-blowing; the lyrics, expansive. I'd be shocked if they don't show up on a lot of folks' Best Of next year.
2. Charm Offensive
There's a tendency in hardcore to glom on to a few templates built over the past 30 years: Black Flag, Minor Threat, Youth of Today, 7 Seconds. Charm Offensive throws that out the window, and draws inspiration from bands like Reagan Youth (an early cover subject) and the Faith. Blazing, smirking hardcore featuring horror maven Chris LaMartina on vocals.
3. The Pilgrim
There's not a lot I can add about the Pilgrim that hasn't already been discussed during their excellent feature in the City Paper back in February. But I will note that these heavy rockers will finally release their long-awaited long player in January. And I'll be up front, jamming out hard to the Black Oak Arkansas-esque grooves filtered through the sensibilities of life-long crust punks.
4. Night Moves
I'm going to cheat here for a second, as Night Moves, as of this writing, has yet to play their first show. But I was a big fan of Doug and Myke's last band, the tragically-underappreciated Fires. And this is "Bands to Watch Out For" not "Bands That Have Already Done Shit." #RIPWARTEETH
5. Hive Bent
Two pieces are either total shit or totally rad. Simon and Garfunkel are in the former category; Hive Bent is in the latter. Headbanging noise rock a la Vaz, 400 Blows or KARP. This is the soundtrack to bad decisions, to mystery pills found in shag carpet soaked with PCP. This makes me want to cut my forehead with a razor blade and wild out.
You could easily reduce ADULTS to "Hey, it's all those guys I liked from my favorite local bands from 10 years ago." You could do that, but that would make you a jerk. Instead, revel in an aggressive, muscular post-punk quartet that the rest of the world may never see live because everyone holds down a day job, so they probably will never tour outside of a 50 mile radius of Baltimore. Hey, it's the rest of the world's loss for not living here.
The ongoing hiatus of Deep Sleep, one of my favorite Baltimore bands ever, is a sensitive matter for me. Yet each of the members continue to turn out great music separately, whether it's Nick with Kent State and Suspect, or Mike and Darick with the Jons and Paper Dragons. My favorite of the post-DS bands is WarXgames, Tony's new project with Aaron (ex-Oak), Evan (Mindset) and Brian (ex-the Pist). It reminds me of a number of extreme '80s hardcore bands (GISM, Infest, Septic Death) and is equally at home in a youth crew lineup, a crust show or with a Youth Attack band. There are cassettes of their demo floating around town, and you can always stop by Celebrated Summer Records to beg Tony to make you a copy.
8. Let It Go
Let It Go keep popping up on shows I work at Charm City Art Space, so I've had a number of opportunities to see this quartet really progress over the past year. I hear a lot of Strike Anywhere in their songs; driving songs and emotive vocals. Mark my words: L.I.G. will be the next local punk/hardcore band to make their name on the national scene, following in the luminous steps of Ruiner, Double Dagger, Pianos Become The Teeth and Pulling Teeth.
9. Crimson Wave
I'm really jazzed on this four piece that have only played a handful of shows to date. They have a mellow, mid-tempo surf sound that carries a hint of menace underneath. Think Charlie Manson producing Vivian Girls. I'm hoping someone smart gets a record out by summer.
10. Widows Watch
For those of you who have closely followed Baltimore punk over the years, you should have a decent idea where a band made up of ex-members of Greasegun and Chernobyl Kids are coming from. There's a good early '90s UK pop punk influence here. Word on the street is that Westminster's Wallride Records will be putting out a 7" in 2013. Until then, slake your thirst with their top-notch demo, released at the end of 2011, mere weeks after their first show.
11. Us And Us Only
If Let It Go could be the next Ruiner, then Us And Us Only could be the next Cross My Heart. The songs are sweeping and romantic and equal parts Sunny Day Real Estate, Yo La Tengo and Murder By Death. I can easily see these guys releasing a record on Count Your Lucky Stars and touring the U.S., with a million lovesick 22 year old poets falling in love with them.
I remember Jane in Abiku scaring the ever-loving shit out of me onstage. Logan I met through the Pfisters. Together, they joined up late last year to create what they call "electro doom." A pretty apt name: their demo and live show are apocalyptic, intense, LOUD! They toured for nearly three months straight in 2012, an aural bomb raid that stretched from coast to coast. It's bands like this that I want to see as much as possible. How long can they keep up the intensity? How many chances will I have left to walk away stunned?
13. Big Mouth
Big Mouth is (to the best of my knowledge) the only cross-pollenated bands listed here, featuring members from both Baltimore and DC. DC plays a huge role in the influences of this band: I hear bands like Autoclave and Broken Siren in this quartet's post-hardcore songs, and Big Mouth recently recorded with esteemed engineer Don Zientara. They've been playing up and down the East Coast a lot over the past several months, so I wouldn't be surprised to see their star rise by leaps and bounds amongst the scenester cognoscenti in 2013.
14. Pure Junk
On a rainy Saturday in September, a graphic designer, an illustrator, a filmmaker and a humorist debuted a twelve-minute set as Pure Junk. People packed a clothing store in the afternoon and a gallery in the evening to watch less than 10 songs rush by. They were good as their name: trashy, joyous, youthful punk rock that would have fit in on the same bill with the Germs in 1979. For me, it's a perfect illustration of why I stay involved in what happens here musically. Pure Junk is total abandon, an opportunity to put aside every distraction for the length of two cigarettes and get right down to basics.
(Pure Junk needs no website)
You can check out all these bands at the following all-ages spaces: Charm City Art Space, Nu Haus of Casanova, the 5th Dimension, Club K, the Holy Underground, Barclay House, and the Bell Foundry.
(Ed. Note: images were taken from respective band pages from Facebook and/or Bandcamp.)