AMERICAN NIGHTMARE + TORSO + FIREBURN @ THE ECHOPLEX
Photos by Debi Del Grande Words by Zach Bilson
It says a lot about the connection between a band and their audience when a circle pit can go off with the house music still on. American Nightmare picked up their instruments at the Echoplex ready to start a riot, though The Smiths’ “Barbarism Begins At Home” was still blasting through the PA as they ripped into their set. Nevertheless, the floor opened up and black-clad fans threw themselves off the stage in droves – a surreal but somewhat fitting sight.
If you’ve caught an American Nightmare reunion show, their sustained ferocity should come as no surprise. Inimitable frontman Wes Eisold’s years making gloomy synthpop as Cold Cave have evened out his screech to a hoarse bark, but he still commands the mic with the earnest energy of a singer half his age, dipping into the throbbing pit to let the diehards scream along. Which they did, time and time again, through era-defining classics like “We Are” as well as the recent self-titled record’s hardest cuts. Though their set barely passed the half-hour mark, the chaos they brought made it feel like a whole night’s experience, with closer “Love American” seeing a fan catapult himself from the Echoplex’s scaffolding. Luckily, there was no blood or teeth seen being swept up after the show, just a throng of giddy kids rushing to the front of the stage to high-five their heroes.
As with any good hardcore show, a whopping four bands rounded out the opening slots, with far-ranging sets from Oakland bruisers TORSO, ex-Bad Brains / Danzig project FireBurn, San Fran punks Spiritual Cramp, and Sydney goth-rockers Death Bells. Each group brought a unique flair to the night, with Torso dealing in light-speed powerviolence, Fireburn dipping stone-cold reggae grooves into their pummeling hardcore, and Death Bells hewing closer to the 80’s playlist blasting over the speakers between bands. (Nick Cave, New Order, early MBV…) Spiritual Cramp’s revved-up hardcore was fleshed out by a designated tambourine player (hardcore-stomping his way across the stage, of course) and singer Michael Bingham’s sprawling banter. Some choice cuts: “I just swallowed a piece of my tooth. I had it fuckin’ coming.” “This song’s about being poor! Having no money! Stealing all my clothes! Know what I mean!?” “This song’s about all my friends who are out tonight! It’s called ‘All My Friends Are Out Tonight!’”