Part One: Iron Reagan
Lying somewhere between the controlled chaos of party rockers such as Andrew WK and skate thrashers Suicidal Tendencies with the dimwitted, life’s-a-big-joke mentality of Wayne’s World or Bill and Ted, Iron Reagan’s stage presence is a sight to behold in itself. One moment they are verbally inciting mosh pits while wind milling their hair during finger-crushing guitar solos and the next, they’re joking with the audience and announcing songs such as “Your Kid’s an Asshole” (which lasts less than a minute and consists only of that sentence screeched as fast as possible.)
“We might not be the most talented band here, but we’re the hairiest,” says vocalist Tony Foresta, of Municipal Waste fame.
This may be true. There are certainly musicians with more virtuosity in today’s metal scene. Many ax men have a classical understanding of complex music theory while their vocalists command a range and clarity near operatic. By contrast, many of IR’s songs consist of the same riffs repeated with little deviation accompanied by Forests nearly atonal Bon Scott-esque war cries.
Yet isn’t that that point? As much as I love groups such as Ghost or Dream Theater, metal, to me anyway, has always been about seizing the opportunity to lose oneself in the moment, consequences be damned. It’s not about showing off ones comprehension of sonic algebra. It’s about using your instrument to make people loosen their ties and lose their minds, even for just an hour.
That’s exactly what we got at Soundstage that night, a few brief moments of energy in the dark. We were like lightning rods in the thunderstorm they created. The only regret being that the storm would eventually end.
Timeless is a word which gets thrown around a lot concerning musicians and their work. I’m guilty of its overuse myself. Yet if there is one band existing today which sounds as though it could exist comfortably any time in the history of its genre, it would be these punk-thrashers.
In fact, until having researched the band some time back, I’d had no idea that they only came into existence as early as 2012. How is that possible? How can a group that sounds like they’d have toured with Rollins Band or early DRI be so new? Yet by marrying the sounds of contemporary thrash with the now classic aesthetics of 1970s and ‘80s punk and hardcore, IR blurs the decade lines in rock music, thus enhancing their appeal to a wider audience and proving that punk and metal still carry a torch in today’s music landscape.
Part Two: Dag Nasty
As briefly mentioned in my prior article, Dag Nasty holds an important place in punk’s musical evolution table. As one of the early progenitors of the melodic hardcore genre, DN set the standard that would be later carried by bands such as Lifetime and early Jawbreaker, new millennium pop-punkers New Found Glory and Yellowcard, and even the newest offshoot dubbed “easycore” (a movement which deserves an entire article in itself).
This show, and subsequent tour with Iron Reagan, marks the reunion of DN’s original lineup, most notably their very first vocalist, Shawn Brown. Replaced by more well-known Dave Smalley before recording on their now iconic debut album Can I Say was completed, Brown’s vocals could only ever be heard on rare demos and poor quality video recordings of live shows. But despite the longtime absence, his presence feels completely at home amongst his fellow band mates.
Though the band has aged, they have certainly aged well. Joking with the audience, engaging in playful banter amongst themselves, and generally not taking anything about the performance too seriously, these guys feel more like a Fun Uncle Four than aggressive punkers dubbed Dag Nasty. Yet this is truly joyous to watch.
Absent is any sense of disdain or pessimism, if they ever projected such emotions to begin with. Instead we are left with pure, unbridled enjoyment. As they charge though their most memorable tunes, from “Under Your Influence” to “What Now?” we see these men grow young before our eyes.
They remind us that through music, we can live forever. We can become proverbial Lost Boys forever young in the dizzying Neverland of pogoing and slam dancing. And this is what I saw. Young and old being free. Hell, a gray haired gentleman, overcome with rock n’ roll energy, even launches himself off the stage into a patch of no more than six people. Dangerous, maybe a little reckless and foolish? Definitely. But that’s what punk rock is all about, isn’t it? Casting aside the shackles of who we’re supposed to be in society and embracing a little youthful stupidity, even if just briefly.
If this is the future of Dag Nasty, I applaud it and look forward to what the band has in store. And you can bet I’ll be at their next Maryland show, losing myself, and gaining the feeling of being young forever…even if my knees hurt the next morning.
Disclaimer: I’d like to apologize to Loud Boyz. I was unable to properly review their portion of the show as I was tied up at the ticket booth during their set for reasons I’m not at liberty to disclose. From a distance, you sounded great, but I missed the meat of your performance. I give you my word that next time you play a show I’m covering; you’ll get the detailed praise you deserve. Rock on, dudes!