Night of the Desert Dwellers: Arizona’s Hardcore & Metal
Vast shifts aren’t something we notice immediately, or ever, honestly. The earth spins and continents move, but we’re only aware because we’re told. In culture, rarely are these great changes felt or witnessed, only whispered with reverence by those who took care to witness it or mourned by the blind who didn’t even bother to start. Scenes, if you’ll forgive the term, as cultural movements evolve and devolve, energize then stagnate. Any person dedicated to underground (forgive that too) music beyond adolescent angst and twenty-something confusion can spout off a favorite band’s history and historical place with ease. But it’s knowing your place in all that, not just the artists who inspire, that is equally important.
Arizona’s scene is shifting and people are noticing. Days where shows would host lineups featuring storied acts with minimal attendance are giving way under the weight of a local band’s power and built in fanbase. Touring acts tend to simply sweeten the deal. Sex Prisoner’s drowned-in-adrenaline powerviolence has been a local staple for years now. Get A Grip’s house shows are the stuff punk legend is born from. Gatecreeper’s mere presence on a flyer guarantees a packed room ready for slaughter. These are simply a few hard working bands hailing from the Grand Canyon State, but the ethic is clear across the board: Arizona is shredding harder and faster than most.
For Tucson, specifically, Gary’s Place is quickly becoming a mecca of sorts for demonstrations for Arizonian punk and metal. People are turning it out, pushing the four walls of this tiny venue to their breaking point. Nestled amid industrial buildings and neighborhoods, the area skirts the outer edges of Tucson’s University of Arizona and downtown. It’s nothing more than a house, really, but it certainly is becoming a home. Prior to April 9th, a night I will get to shortly, Tucson’s annual eponymous Takeover took place. March 4th, a would-be aftershow took place that became its own entity entirely. A night show that technically didn’t start until morning, the night featured six bands: Blackened, Trench, P.S.O., Get A Grip, Reasons and Frustrated. The resulting turnout was amazing. Gary’s Place’s usual standing room was now elbow to elbow, a non-suffocating crush that expanded and folded depending on the pit’s ferocity. It was, for me, the most crowded I’d seen the diminutive venue as patrons spilled into the entry way. Half the lineup was Arizona-based, with only P.S.O. and Frustrated hailing from California. Yet, this was only a sampling of what was to come a month later.
Initially, the April 9th show was intended to be headlined by cinema grinders Graf Orlock; however, they were unable to make the show, giving way for the lineup take on a whole new form. Placed opportunistically on a Saturday night, the bill swelled from the four original bands, being Get A Grip, Trench, Woundvac and Disservice, to add Arm’s Reach, Sex Prisoner and Gatecreeper. The night became about the Arizona scene, for the Arizona scene, and the ensuing festivities were a testament to that. The dudes that creep the gates held a barbecue that catered to the carnivorous and herbivorous, a fact that ensured the event would be welcoming to all palates, while also holding raffles that included test presses and a cowboy hat of note. The air itself was welcoming, with most in attendance there to simply have fun and above all, rage. During the seven sets, beach balls were swatted around or even replaced with fists in moments conducive to crowd killing. On top of that, foam tubes were wielded like battle axes, with their wielders slapping the crowd into submission. To add to the enjoyable gimmickry, an inflatable shark was unleashed during Gatecreeper’s set, which unfortunately only made one crowd surfing pass before becoming rubberized sushi. An apt image for a fun night punctuated by Arizona’s heaviest. Due to the compactness of Gary’s Place, a no crowd-killing rule was in effect, though it was largely respected throughout the evening. From Trench’s opening lead-fisted hardcore to Woundvac’s spastic grindcore to Gatecreeper’s mist-shrouded gates of hell ending, this was a night that demonstrated a time when a great shift was noticed by not just the bands that conducted it, but by the crowd that bolstered it. It was an evening to remember, the kind of event that all should work hard towards replicating in the future. This was a shift that you could feel and see, almost even breathe. That is a tangibility that is rarely found these days, and is something worth fighting for to ensure its existence continues.
As a celebration of this scene, I felt it would be remiss to not have the event shown through varying lenses, by those whose images help shape nights like this, additionally I feel these images do the night, its mood and people better justice than I could here. Below you will find photos of the evening courtesy of Joshua Andrade, Pablo Vigueras and Hayley Rippy.
My thanks go out to everyone involved with this show, let’s do this more often.
Photos courtesy of Joshua Andrade
Photos courtesy of Pablo Vigueras.
Photos courtesy of Hayley Rippy