Within these drab walls, above these grimy floors, under these dim stage lights, the music still lives. Entering the Emerson Theater in Indianapolis is like traveling back in time. If these walls could talk, they would tell stories of some of the most intimate, raucous and noteworthy punk rock shows to come through the Midwest over the past few decades.
On this night, it gains another story to tell. Every Time I Die, letlive. and Code Orange Kids have arrived amidst the cold and snow to unleash a night of pummeling music that breathes hope and life into the crowd, but also speaks to the creativity and power that is still churning within the genre.
It’s amazing watching this lineup – truly spanning a generation, yet speaking to listeners of any age. At one point during Every Time I Die’s set, singer Keith Buckley notes that their next song was written when the members of Code Orange Kids were six years old. Don’t let their youth fool you. The Pittsburgh hardcore act is a powerhouse of hardcore punk and metal, fronted by Reba Meyers’ growl and furious guitar.
It’s refreshing to see such a young band hold their own on a tour like this – one that is anchored by one of the most storied and notorious metalcore acts and topped off by a band that has taken the post-hardcore world by storm in a matter of only a few years. Make no mistake – letlive. and Every Time I Die are the main draws tonight, but Code Orange Kids have certainly staked their claim to the rights of hardcore’s future.
Enter letlive. The Los Angeles post-hardcore act has been growing at a slow burn for the past two years since the release of Fake History, an album that introduced them to a larger audience through its 2011 re-release on Epitaph Records. This year, the band dropped one of the best albums of the year in The Blackest Beautiful.
It’s not just that letlive. is making great music and breathing fire back into the post-hardcore scene, it’s that they’re doing it with such furor and passion, marked by the cutting lyrics of Jason Aalon Butler. While they certainly have gained attention for their wild live performance, there’s a method to the madness. The Blackest Beautiful is a furious ride through the heart of Butler, and certainly fans the flame of their on-stage antics.
Butler takes the stage this night with an arm in a sling from a recent injury. No matter. He’ll soon be atop a stack of speakers, flying through the air and writhing on the ground. For Butler, this isn’t just for show, it’s because his passion runs deep as he sings and screams of race, inner demons, family disarray and political failings. The Blackest Beautiful winds back and forth between Butler’s own frustrations with self and his dismay at the world around him before crashing in on itself during the breathtaking “27 Club”, a song that sets the Emerson ablaze.
It’s certainly a sight to behold, seeing the crowd react and move with letlive.’s music – not only because they’re worthy of such an affirmative response, but because the words hold meaning and create a connection between artist and band in a way that runs much deeper than surface level. Letlive. is a force to be reckoned with and with any luck, will be sharing the experience with an even larger audience in years to come.
Yet before the night ends, the bookends of post-hardcore are capped off with the always-manic performance of Every Time I Die. The Buffalo, N.Y., rockers have stood the test of time, outlasting many of their peers while showing no signs of slowing down. Last year’s Ex Lives added to the storied history of the band and has solidified their stay atop the scene.
While their long-standing presence is certainly due to their musical abilities (the band absolutely shreds – still), there’s always been a quirkiness and humor that set the band apart. Buckley is the definition of a frontman, commanding the crowd, demanding your attention and performing the band’s catalogue with such ease that it almost seems too simple.
No one would blame Every Time I Die for wearing down. Instead, the band looks as solid, passionate and tight as ever, performing tracks from 2003’s Hot Damn! as if they had just written them days before. It’s clear that the chemistry amidst this band’s members has aided their longevity and spurred the band to remain as energetic, witty and poignant as ever.
The beauty of this night lies within the acceptance and support of those in attendance and the bands themselves. There’s nothing to prove here, no pissing contests and no room for division. The night is marked by a mutual respect between the bands, regardless of age and seniority, that speaks volumes to the solidity of the core of this scene.
Inside the Emerson, bands still come to play, people still come to listen and there is still hope alive in this underground music scene. We would all be wise to listen, support and keep sharing excellent music. If we’re lucky, these bands and many others following in their footsteps will still be rocking these storied walls for years to come.
-by Kiel Hauck
Kiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.