A topnotch site

Month: September, 2012

Post-Punk on a Wednesday Night: Merchandise Live at Home Sweet Home

Merchandise Live at Home Sweet Home

It’s hard to believe that the great Post-Punk (or rather post-post-punk) explosion of the early 2000s was nearly ten years ago.  It seemed like every band wanted to add jagged Joy Division rhythms, a deep baritone, and slick Cure guitars to their sound.  And who wouldn’t want to include that? They’re good tricks that add great power and depth that all moody rockers want ultimately include in their music.  Yet, as last decade moved on naturally the trend began to die and those old timbres that sounded so new started to sound old again.  I even myself felt that I moved on from the post-punk sound that was so important for me for the second half of my teenage years, opting more for psychedelia and shoegaze as I continued through my college years.  However, on September 12th I saw possibility the best living example today of what it really means to be Post-Punk ten years after the beginning of the trend.

Merchandise played at Home Sweet Home, a small bar bordering Chinatown where earlier this year VÅR made their live debut.  I really wanted to see Merchandise at this venue, mainly because I had no idea how it would be in such a small space.  Anybody that’s been to Home Sweet Home can recount the difficult journey to the bathroom since it is only accessible across the dancefloor, a poor design choice if you ask me. Yet sometimes bands thrive in claustrophobic places, and if any band would, I figured Merchandise could.  Merchandise was born out of the Tampa Bay hardcore scene, which lead singer Carson Cox address when he got stage. “Everyone thinks we’re from Brooklyn” he said, “nobody knows we’re from Florida.”  And how could you? Any shred of their straight edge hardcore past makes no real appearance in their music, at least sonically.  To me, the “punk” in post-punk was not about sounds, but rather ethos, ideals, and spirit.  What the Sex Pistols did, most famously at that hallowed Manchester concert attended my Tony Wilson and the young men who would become Joy Division, was show a generation of disenfranchised British youth that you too could be in a rock band, no matter who you were.  But instead of lashing out against the establishment and society, post-punk tended to look inward, exposing their deepest feelings and most tragic thoughts, the most tragic being of course Ian Curtis.  However, the members of Merchandise had their time lashing out in hardcore bands and straight-edge ideal, but now they realized that the real battle is within.

Their album certainly lives up to the name Children of Desire. It seethes with sexual desperation. The music whirls and flows mimicking the hundreds of feelings that can go through a person when they make love.  Home Sweet Home, despite its flaws, really seemed to be the perfect setting for this type of music, with endless fog streaming into the small space, lending overall mood of darkness and dank.

Merchandise started their set with a strumming guitar and bass accompanied by Cox’s not quite Morrissey-esque vocals. I noticed that almost immediately several females began clutching their chests and looking adoringly at him.  They too evidently picked up on the sexuality of his music.  After a few minutes of hypnotizing the crowd, Cox kicked on the drum machine and the band went into a rousing version of track “Time.” I was pretty impressed by their set up and overall noise level they produced for being only three guys. The crowd was quick to react and started moving almost as one since there wasn’t any room for individual space.  Several of the punks started to slam dance, but the rowdiest of the crowd were very drunk middle agers who would lean against anybody and anything in an attempt to move the crowd as much as possible.  As Merchandise continued their set, the crowd fell over a few times in a wave which I hadn’t seen happen in a long time at a concert.

Cox grabbing on the rafters

Cox was truly great in his performance.  He had a particular ease about him while he was on stage. You could tell that it was his territory.  His sanctified stage was briefly disrupted at one point during the show when one of the drunken moshers got up on stage to hump him briefly, but he wore it with good humor.  Someone else threw a bottle at him as well, which he cooly dodge and responded with a simple “you missed.”  He truly broke the fourth wall when he climbed up on to the crowd and was carried throughout the venue while singing his songs.  It was exhilarating  punk showmanship draped in the moodiness and depth of post-punk’s sonics. A perfect combination if you ask me.  They ended the set with the brooding closer of their album “Roser Park.”  As the crowd swayed, they enjoyed every bit of the slow build that led to that familiar riff in the beginning of “Time.”  After they had finished for a bit, declaring that they had nothing left to play, Merchandise relented and played one more song even though it ruined the big finish according to Cox.

Cox’s head well crowd surfing

I walked across broken glass as I moved towards the the stage to congratulate Cox on his performance. As I shook his hand I said “I knew you guys were from Florida.”  He seemed to appreciate that.


I Never Learned How to be Angry

Off all negative emotions, anger definitely seems the most foreign to me. That’s not to say I don’t get angry, on the contrary. I just have trouble expressing it directly. Yet I still have it inside of me and I dont really know how best to channel it.

I have plenty to be angry about I suppose. Mainly at the state and the place I am in this foul year of our lord 2012. The economy is supposedly getting better, but I don’t see it. I’m applying to jobs all the time but I get no indication if I’m doing it right or not.  I also try go the extra mile, call the offices, show up in person.  So far no one has been receptive and it has gotten me nowhere.  I also feel lots of anger at the false hopes people have fed me over the years. Everyone tells you that you can be anything you want to be, well fuck that that’s not true. I sometimes wish that people had dissuaded me from pursuing Religious Studies as my major, but I really can’t blame anyone for that. In fact I can’t really blame anybody for these problems. That’s the problem with my anger, I really feel like the only person to blame for my situation is myself. If I had only been more reasonable, if I could have seen how useful it would have been to cultivate helpful relationships in extracurricular activities, if I just studied something practical. At the very least I could have minored in something other than music.

Its all so frustrating that I’m the one who put myself here, continually being dissuaded from the practical in favor for what I felt to me higher causes. Art, philosophy and the big questions has what driven me to do what I do. The thing is though so far all this pursuing of meaning has only led me to on conclusion, there is no real meaning. There’s incredible freedom in that statement, I can do whatever I want goes fuck it! It doesn’t matter. But lately when that thought comes into my head I feel no freedom. Only darkness in the pettiness of our existence. Another thing thing to be angry about I suppose.

I am continually dissatisfied with reality and I think I always have been. On my good days I can look up to the sky and almost see the seems that hold reality together. I feel like I could reach up, grip them with my fingers and tear them open, revealing the truth behind it all. Of course i haven’t been able to rip the sky in half and even if I did, I doubt I would find anything underneath.  Yet saying these things that I find ultimately true seems to strike a painful chord in most people, as if they know that there is nothing beneath but they are just too scared to admit it.  And what business would want somebody who thinks like I do anyway?  Rarely do I express myself fully to those close to me anyway for fear that what I say is too real for them to handle, and its stifling.  I don’t know how to get it out without damaging others, leaving myself to hold onto it until I figure out a better way to deal with it.