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May 18, 2011

A look at some of the bands in Krazy Fest 2011 …

ANTI-FLAG

Fist-in-the-air political proto-punk has no better standard-bearer than Anti-Flag. With a perfectly fitting name (and a fan base that early on took to wearing upside-down flag patches), the Pittsburgh quartet take the stage and immediately jettison all subtlety in favor of songs like “Fuck Police Brutality” and “Sodom, Gomorrah, Washington D.C.” Frontman Justin Sane would rather you have some general understanding of what’s going on in the world — the better to help get you in the spirit and singing along. They made a big impact on the 2004 Rock Against Bush Tour and haven’t let up on their activism no matter who holds the White House. For a band that pushes opinion so hard, they maintain some amazingly fluid guitar work — even when they’re not digging into the Clash songbook for covers. —T.E. Lyons

BANE

Massachusetts-based hardcore band Bane has its roots tangled in the development of punk-metal titans Converge — the band was born after several of its members began collaborating with other players on a mid-’90s side project. After experimenting with different line-ups, releasing a variety of 7-inches and paying their dues on the road, Bane eventually signed with Equal Vision Records, who released their debut studio album, It All Comes Down to This, in 1999. Since then, they’ve earned their place in the scene through relentless touring, but a lot of their press has, somewhat unfortunately, been focused more on their straight-edge, vegan lifestyle than their actual music. Call them whatever you’d like, but when showtime arrives, these dudes are focused on one thing: sweaty, punky fun. —Ryan Reed

BOUNCING SOULS

Not exactly a Ramones for southern N.J. … but the Bouncing Souls will do until something better comes along, and that’s how it’s been for more than 20 years. Like many a classic punk act, Bouncing Souls keep things fresh by heavily vetting any potential bullshit that accumulates on the songs they develop. It’s not that the quartet can’t or won’t handle more than two chords and a throaty shout — but how often do you need more than two-minute wonders like “True Believers”? Don’t let them get away without asking for the song they built out of the observations of a friend of theirs who was in the thick of war when he sent them a “Letter from Iraq”: You can feel the ghost of Joe Strummer pushing the beat on that one. —TEL

BY THE GRACE OF GOD

“I will not bow down, America. I will not bow down to your Government, to your Religion. I will not bow down, America, to your Materialism.” So reads just a sliver of the text that adorns the back cover of Perspective, the first full-length release from Louisville hardcore act By the Grace of God. It’s safe to say these dudes aren’t hiding their anti-conformist intentions, and their hard-hitting yet tuneful songs are proof in themselves. Formed as a side project (which seems like a theme for Krazy Fest) from members of bands like Elliot and Endpoint, By the Grace of God are blazing their own trail, setting their tunes to big themes — politics, self-empowerment and the straight-edge life. —RR

CAVE-IN

Bands set their own courses, and then they have to cut through and against the winds of fate — and the necessities of their own growth. At times you could actually believe that Massachusetts’ Cave-In could be the real-life incarnation of a paradox: a great alt-metal singles band. Take a listen to their most radio-friendly material (2003’s Antenna has plenty), and every short fill, harmonic overdub or aggressive shriek has the requisite rawk power but also qualifies as ear candy. But Cave-In also exercises a level of sonic imagination that’s clearly in the progressive camp. Maybe it was because they were compelled to go in so many artistic directions that they needed a long hiatus in recent years, but they’ve been back a while now and are as strong and adventurous as ever. —TEL

COALESCE

Kansas City metalcore quartet Coalesce are known as much for the musical exploits of their departed members as their own tunes — notably, former drummer James Dewees went on to play with The Get-Up Kids, New Found Glory, and My Chemical Romance, in addition to his own solo project, Reggie and the Full Effect. But these guys have whipped up a mighty racket of their own over the course of their start-stop career, releasing three well-received albums in the late ’90s, mixing the traditional bowels-of-hell growls of vocalist Sean Ingram with a raw, pummeling attack of sludgy metal. Their cycle of disbandment, reformation, disbandment, reformation and hiatus will add another chapter at Krazy Fest, where they’ll regroup again. If they can make it through the show without breaking up, it’s sure to be pretty wild. —RR

FRONTIER(S)

Arising from the ashes of acclaimed emo act Elliot, Louisville’s own Frontier(s) (featuring former Elliot vocalist Chris Higdon) have traveled a slightly darker, post-hardcore path. With only a three-year history as a band and one full-length studio album, 2010’s There Will Be No Miracles Here, Frontier(s) are undoubtedly one of the new kids on the block at Krazy Fest, but with a vocalist as beloved as Higdon in their ranks, they certainly won’t feel like newbies. They have a wicked sound going for them, too — a raw, focused blend of guitar distortion and distinct, heavily melodic vocals. For those in the know, it will be one of the festival’s must-see sets, but for the unacquainted, it might be Krazy Fest’s sleeper show. —RR

HOT ROD CIRCUIT

Hot Rod Circuit are one of Krazy Fest’s highest-profile bands, having made a name for themselves back in the emo boom of the late ’90s/early 2000s, touring with some of the era’s most successful and influential bands (like The Get-Up Kids and At the Drive-In) and releasing a handful of heavily acclaimed albums, like 2000’s If It’s Cool With You It’s Cool With Me. Unlike a lot of their more mainstream peers, Hot Rod Circuit never exactly found their place on the charts and, after a hiatus and a few side projects, announced their official breakup in 2007, after their final release, The Underground is a Dying Breed. “Reunion” seems to be a theme at Krazy Fest, and Hot Rod Circuit are riding the wave of nostalgia. —RR

HOT WATER MUSIC

For a while, their drummer was off with fellow Krazy Festers Against Me!, but Hot Water Music have been through more turbulence than that and come back fighting. And sure enough, George Rebelo was soon back onstage behind singer-guitarists Chuck Ragan and Chris Wollard, and alongside bassist Jason Black. That’s as it should be — this is one of the tightest units on the punk/hardcore scene. You can picture this imaginative rhythm section pushing and challenging the frontmen forever. The Florida foursome weathered a big breakup in the late ’90s and an even bigger one about five years ago, and it’s been 15 years since they delivered the classic Fuel for the Hate Game, but some recent single releases add fuel to the assertion that they’re far from done. —TEL

LUCERO

Lucero’s come our way often over their decade-plus existence. But they’re renowned road warriors, so maybe Louisville audiences have only been as special as everybody else, meaning we haven’t had a unique view of this band’s progress. They started out with roots-rock that kept close to country. Within a few years, you could regularly hear the influence of the folk-punk side of early Springsteen. And on their 2009 release 1372 Overton Park, they made prominent use of horns, which brought out more of the flavor of their hometown of Memphis. When it’s just guitars and growling plaints, Lucero today isn’t too far off in sound from Drive-By Truckers — but once the piano sets the foundation for their more expansive arrangements, they turn toward a mix of soulful and Southern like nobody else. —TEL

SMALL BROWN BIKE

Michigan quartet Small Brown Bike revel in the sort of intense post-hardcore rumble that has defined a generation. Only problem is — that generation has now moved on to newer, trendier things. Formed by brothers Mike Reed (vocals/guitars) and Ben Reed (bass/vocals) and fleshed out by members Travis Dopp (guitar/vocals) and Dan Jaquint (drums), Small Brown Bike released three full-length studio albums (and a broad smattering of EPs and 7-inches) around the turn of the century before a 2004 split. But now they’re back, armed with a new album, Fell and Found, and they obviously couldn’t care less about trends, embracing their emotive core: gruff dual vocals, sturdy rhythm section, guitars twinkling in tandem, then exploding in distorted fury, the patented quiet/loud dynamics that define their genre. —RR

STRIKE ANYWHERE

Virginia melodic hardcore quintet Strike Anywhere simply did what bands of their genre did back in the mid-2000s: gigging hard, rocking the Vans Warped Tour, and earning spots on Tony Hawk video game soundtracks. In addition to a trio of early EPs, Strike Anywhere, led by former Inquisition vocalist Thomas Barnett, have released four highly acclaimed full-length albums, including their most recent, 2009’s Iron Front. They’ve managed to stick around for more than a decade, and along the way, they’ve also stuck to their guns: Barnett’s catchy, hoarse vocals soar above a crunching rhythm section and zig-zagging guitars. Even better, these guys know how to blend big picture messages (equality and anti-capitalism) with their punkish fun. —RR

7 SECONDS

Uplifting hardcore? It’s sustained at least one band through more than three decades, so don’t be too surprised. With his entire band generating a chugging gallop, singer Kevin Seconds only needs about 1 minute and 45 seconds to establish his charisma, then convincingly throw it back on the crowd to show it’s really all about them. Like a lot of the top-notch veterans of the punk-hardcore scene, 7 Seconds had a mid-’90s flirtation with the major labels. And as was the pattern, they then made some more fine music (The Music, The Message) that this time was cleanly recorded yet with only minimal corporate involvement — but soon they headed straight back to the indie side. And that’s where this northern California group can stay closer to the faithful — and the generation that followed. —TEL