Local metal scene highlighted for a day at Skybox

2:00-It’s Saturday. It’s early. I’m getting ready to go to the Skybox for their Hard and Heavy 2000 show. I’ve been excited about this show for weeks, actually-so many good bands in one day on-campus is such a rarity. I’m all dressed up for the occasion-my crappiest jeans, scariest black sweater, black nail polish, black eyeliner and (of course) a freshly shaved head. I’m good to go-I grab my notebook and camera and head for the Southwest Purple Lot, on a quest for a great day of metal.

2:45-I’m at the Skybox. I’m milling around with the security and the bands who are just kind of chilling, waiting for things to get going. Showtime’s been delayed because C60’s singer tore his abs on stage and the band had to cancel. It’s a bit of a downer, because I was looking forward to them, but not a huge deal; nine out of ten bands ain’t bad, after all.

I’m chatting it up with Jon DiNapoli, the guitarist for Irepress, the second band who’s going to play. Jon’s a UMass boy who lives in Coolidge tower-this is sort of a hometown gig for him. He describes his band for me as “a mix of Deftones, Incubus, and Sevendust, basically.” He agrees with me when I ask if it’s difficult to get a gig in a hippy town like this.

“This is the first one we’ve gotten,” Jon said, “We play mostly on the South Shore.”

Irepress is going to record a five-sing demo over winter break and has been talking with Universal records about a deal.

Oh, this is about the time I first hear that Eastcide, a band that I really wanted to see from my hometown of Plymouth, got signed to Universal three days before the show. Everyone I talk to is really happy for them.

I then talk to Doug Govoni, one of the two singers from Reset Smith.
His band is from Kingston, Mass. I ask him if he knows Matt Jeffery, one of my cousins from Kingston, and, of course, they turn out to be old football buddies. It’s kind of cool.

Reset also has a local connection, with bassist Frank Melberg also being a UMasser. They played Bowl Day on Orchard Hill last year, and are hoping to move up to the Fill the Hill concert this year. (Note to Fill the Hill promoters: this would be a good idea.)

“We’re kind of a Sevendust with turntables,” says Doug. “We play a lot on the South Shore.”

He talks about the South Shore scene, bands like Eastcide, Rebound, Breeding Ground, about how great it is. I’m actually from the South Shore myself, so I can vouch for this-the South Shore scene is insanely hot right now.

“We’re making a lot of good friends in the hardcore scene, plus when people see our show it speaks for itself,” Doug said, and I guess that really says it all.

3:15-The doors have been postponed from 2:30 to 3:30. I’m hanging out in the lobby with the Skybox people. There are 12 people waiting to be let in-a young, hair-dyed crowd.

3:55-The doors still aren’t open. Ava, the boyfriend of the brother of a Skybox crew guy, is dancing around in an attempt to amuse me. It works. Rumors are flying about Eastcide now-one of the bands’ A’R guys said that they weren’t going to show because they got signed. People are talking about it left and right. I personally don’t believe it; my hometown boys’ll be here.

4:10-The doors are open, and a good 50 people are hanging out. I’m very impressed-that’s a good amount of people for local bands this early on a Saturday. The atmosphere is great; you can tell that the Skybox employees are pumped, I’m pumped, and the crowd is definitely enthusiastic. I get the feeling this is going to be a really good show.

4:12-Reset Smith is on. Both singers are jumping around screaming, the guitarists are bounding, and even the DJ has a look of intensity on his face. The band has a hip-hop sort of style about them, baggy windpants and visors, but the music is all metal. The songs are remarkably good for a local band of kids my age, and their live show is actually tight. You have to love energy. “Wolfenstein 3-D” has a more mellow sound then their other material which makes it stand out in the set, as does an a-capella sample of Eve-6.

Most of the crowd is actually standing near the stage and not ten feet away-quite the accomplishment for the first band. At the end, the fairly good-sized singer launches himself into the crowd, which refuses to catch him and scatters like sheep from a wolf. Overall, I am really impressed with Reset Smith, and I do hope to see them at UMass again.

4:50-I’m talking to Rai from SimpLe, one of the headlining bands in the Hard ‘ Heavy bill. He’s “very, very pumped up” about playing on this bill. I actually know this band’s music, and I’m kind pumped about talking to this guy, but he seems even more excited to be talking to me. As the night goes on I would meet all members of SimpLe, and they would turn out to be, bar none, the coolest guys you’ll ever hang out with. Ria describes his band’s music as being that “the heavy is really, really heavy, and the melodic is very beautiful,” and he’s right.

5:05-I have to cut short my talk with Rai because Irepress has started playing. I run out of the backstage area having only missed the very beginning of their set. My first impression is of a very heavy, downset, influenced sort of hardcore. Some of them are wearing visors. Again, the crowd is in motion, which blows me away so early in the day.

Irepress features a very dynamic singer, who can scream and sing, and a very talented drummer who can, even when the rest of the band is being slow and melodic, make the overall effect heavy and threatening. Jon and the other guitarist are doing very complex guitar things that really impress me; I just don’t expect that much virtuosity from UMass bands, I guess, based on all the hippy trash I’ve seen around here. “Devour” is a very good song, as is ‘Sempre Destre.” There are some sound mix issues, but it improves as the set goes on. Irepress gets cut off before they can play their last song, which sucks, but they still have won a fan (me) with their set.

5:42-There are 113 in attendance according to the tally at the front desk of the Skybox. Very impressive, or at least I think so.

5:55-Edgar takes the stage. I wasn’t very big on this band; they had some inventive guitar work, but the bassist was wearing a visor and the singer had this septum piercing that I just wanted to rip out with my bare hands. To be honest, they just looked like the punks that I used to beat up in gym class when I was a senior in high school, and that just wasn’t doing it for me. If I had to describe their music, I could do it in one word: screaming. They had a song called “Suck it Up.” That kind of says it all.

6:30-I’m talking to Kem, the guitarist from Collapse Into Reason. He’s kind of a freaky-looking guy, even by my loose standards, but he’s quite nice and approachable when talking with him. His band’s from Northampton, and the only place you can get their recording is from Lucky’s on Main St. He describes his music as “Dream Theater, Slipknot and Peter Murphy beat the shit out of each other for three hours, then play.” Wow, a band not influenced by Sevendust-I’m excited already. I walk away very interested in seeing his band play, as they should be very different from the rest of the bill.

6:45-Eastcide still isn’t here. Tom, the guy who runs the Skybox, assures me that they’ll be here. Rumors to the contrary are ubiquitous by this point. I go into the greenroom, and the food is simply demolished; I guess rock ‘n roll is a hungry business. The guitarist from 7th Rail Crew walks by with another guy gossiping about the injured singer from C60.

6:50-Collapse into Reason is onstage. I’m really very impressed by this band; I’m into this sort of metal-electronica-industrial stuff. The band is all gothed out, and the drummer has a combination acoustic-electric kit, something I’ve never seen before. Despite fighting with the sound man through their whole set, they put on a really great show with a really great sound. “Disconnected” I liked a lot, and was the song that
stuck out in my mind the most after the show. The singer gets hit in the back of the head by the bass guitar about halfway through the set and is evidently bleeding profusely but, as he says, “It’s not a good show unless I have a scar.” Amen to that, and this was a good show.

I forgot to write down the time, but somewhere after CIR I was called away by Skybox security because they wanted me to be an actual reporter and tell the world that Facilities Services had set up a table downstairs to check out IDs, and they were turning away all these kids who were underage. (The show was 18 plus.) On my way down I ran into Jordan Hakkinen, the singer from Edgar with the obnoxious piercing, who happens to be 17, who said that the people downstairs almost didn’t let him up until he showed them his laminate to prove that he was in the band. He said they they were very polite about it, but he barely made his show.

I went down and talked to John, the Facilities Services guy who was running the table. He was, in fact, very polite, despite the fact that he obviously had no desire to be running this table or talking to me. He showed me the little scanning machine that he was using to check IDs and said that he’d turned away “just two or three” people. He said that a college ID wouldn’t do it, and that it had to be a license that the machine could scan. He was happy when I left him alone.

When I got back to the Skybox, Tom was on the phone with people and I guess he got it straightened out, as the table went away, and the little scanning machine wound up on the Skybox desk where you bought tickets. This wouldn’t be the last time I heard about this, though.

I once again forgot to check my watch when 7th Rail Crew got on stage, but it didn’t matter because they were awesome and time was the last thing on my mind while they were running through their set. Made up of classics like “24/7” and “What Eye?” as well as songs from their new album, Open Your Eyes, like “Purify” and (my personal favorite) “Genuflect,” they ran through their time with humor and great crowd interaction from lead singer Siete. (Little-known fact: Siete once attended this fair University, living in Kennedy tower.) As it turns out though, the band that was supposed to come on after them, Diecast, was lost in Southwest and hadn’t arrived yet, so 7th Rail had more time than they bargained for, and thank God they did, because their impromptu encore was awesome.

Joined on stage by Ken (the lead singer of Gangsta Bitch Barbie) and a kid in an Eastcide shirt from the audience, the band covered a rap song that I didn’t recognize, then “Jump” by House of Pain-keeping it real Boston style, no doubt. Then, minus the audience member, the band and Ken threw out the most fun song of the night, a semi-rapped, sped-up version of Motley Crue’s “Shout at the Devil.” It was, and I say this with no hesitation, probably the most fun I had all night.

Due to Diecast being lost, Gangsta Bitch Barbie (who was supposed to headline) went on next. I’m going on memory here, because for GBB I had to put away my notebook and get up the front of the pit and just let it all go. All reporterlike objectivity aside, I’m a huge GBB fan and this set was stellar. Ken Smith’s energy is beyond belief, and just the overall sound is unforgettable. They played “Kingpin,” “This Ain’t California,” “Smokewood,” “6.5,” and “Godzilla” (on which I actually rapped with GBB. Me. Myself. Rapped. With Gangsta Bitch Barbie). This set was the best overall.

Afterward, I had to opportunity to talk to Ken. He told me that their new (as-yet-untitled) debut for Grand Royal records would be out in March, and that it would include new versions of several songs from their last album, This is Not a Test, including “Kingpin” and “6.5,” but not, unfortunately, “Godzilla” (not that I’m bitter). They’re trying to get on a tour for the summer, and are going to be at the Palladium on Dec. 15 with 7th Rail and others; I suggest you get there.

10:15-I finally remember to check my watch again as Diecast takes the stage. They have a strong opening, but then the kids that they brought with them (all wearing the same black “Boston Hardcore” shirts, all covered in tattoos, all drunk) proceed to ruin it for everyone. After getting punched in the face while chewing my pen, I have to go wash my rapidly-filling-with-blood mouth out, and miss most of their set. What I heard was good until their jackass fans had to screw everything else. I’ll never understand the hardcore “let’s kill everyone to have fun” mentality. It’s one thing to be in the pit, that’s cool, and you go nuts, but when you start hitting random people who aren’t even looking and who aren’t anywhere near the pit, it’s over the line.

I talk to the SimpLe bassist who says that he personally knows that “there were at least six or seven” of his band’s fans who were turned away downstairs, and that is just a few of what he suspects-and that is a significant increase over the two or three I was told earlier. This carding situation just sucks overall-no one is happy with it.

Eastcide, I find out, is definitely not coming.

11:00-SimpLe finally takes the stage. Unfortunately, most of the crowd had left after Diecast, so SimpLe didn’t get to play before a great number of people. However, I have always maintained that the mark of a great band is one that will play as hard for 15 people as for 1500, and SimpLe certainly proved that they had the chops to fulfill that requirement on this Saturday night.

Their straight-up nu-metal rocked the night to a close. They played standards like “Last to Know” and “Middle Skool” off of their stellar CD Rise of a Fallen Empire as well as unreleased new songs from an in-the-future album, all of which sounded good.

“Will you remember me when I’m gone?” sang singer Keith, and the band ensured that the faithful few who got to witness their show would do just that.

12:30-I’m back in my room reflecting on a long day of metal. My verdict? Best sets: GBB, SimpLe, 7th Rail. Best Surprise: Reset Smith. Worst surprises: Eastcide and the carding table. Overall? A great day of music and great guys from great bands.

1:00-I’m in bed. My ears won’t stop ringing.