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Black Friday Shows

For my inaugural post on a predominantly European website, I’d like to discuss a distinctly American phenomenon: Black Friday. For those of you who aren’t familiar with American holidays, Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday, and the following day is one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Retail mania aside, Black Friday has also given rise to some spectacular hardcore shows. (Now that I think about it I’ve also seen some crazy shows the day after Christmas, but as Token Entry would say, that’s another story.) When I was younger and worked in retail, I had to miss some of the wildest ones due to work, like Stigmata playing in Albany. But some of the others that I did attend are recollected below:

Friday, November 29, 2002
Ensign, the Survivors, A New Enemy, Strength 691 reunion
Hamilton Street Cafe, Bound Brook, NJ

I can’t believe this show was 10 years ago, but it was definitely one of the most exciting I had yet attended in my young hardcore life. Ensign was one of my favorite bigger bands, the Survivors were one of my favorite ‘big-in-New-Jersey-but-not-yet-anywhere-else’ bands, and A New Enemy was one of my favorite newer acts. Everyone was in a holiday mood and I was wearing a homemade Turning Point shirt. The real excitement of the night though was due to a rumored appearance of Strength 691. Strength was before my time, but an older friend had encouraged me to purchase the discography from his distro a few months prior. The rumors started on a local message board that Strength 691 would be the surprise guest at this particular show, and I could barely contain my excitement over possibly seeing a classic NJHC band reunite. They had reunited once at a benefit show a few years prior, but as a new hardcore kid, that seemed like a million years before my time, and I was psyched that I would have another chance to see them.

I’m sure A New Enemy, the Survivors and Ensign played great sets, but I don’t remember that much about their performances besides being really sweaty and waiting to find out whether Strength would really appear. Sure enough after the conclusion of Ensign’s set, another band started setting up onstage. The rumors were true: Strength 691 was indeed going to play. They opened with the Leeway – Who’s to Blame intro, which as a young HC kid I didn’t even know yet, but recognized it years later on my friend’s video of the show. I believe their first original was Cold Silence and that they closed with What’s Worth the Risk.

Besides playing a short set, Strength were everything I had hoped for. I was lucky to see them that night, as they did not take the stage again until 2011 (another night I will never forget. That one was billed in advance and yielded both shirts and a full length set.) Since 2006, it seems like almost every classic band has played some sort of reunion, and I’ve gotten to see so many bands I thought I would never otherwise encounter live, from the Crumbsuckers to Supertouch to Token Entry. But at the time this was one of the most exciting reunions I had ever seen, and will always be remembered as one of my favorite Black Friday shows.

Friday, November 25, 2005
Ringworm and Danny Diablo
Bloomfield Ave Cafe, Montclair, NJ

There were a lot of shows on Black Friday 2005, including the aforementioned Stigmata gig. While work may have precluded me from seeing Stigmata upstate, my consolation prize was a local show at the Bloomfield Ave Cafe featuring Ringworm and Danny Diablo. Bloomfield Ave and Hamilton Street were the 2 main places for shows in New Jersey in the early 2000s, and while Bloomfield was usually packed for bands like The Banner and Mental, this night was distinctly drafty and underattended. In fact I think the only other time I have seen it so cold and lonely in there was for Cut the Shit and Tear It Up in 2002. I heard that Hatebreed was playing in New York or Connecticut which might have affected the draw, but it fit right in with the urban legend of no one actually going to see Ringworm, just talking about how much they like them on the internet. I’m not even a huge Ringworm person myself, but I recognized them as a classic band and wanted to check them out in person, along with the lure of a Lord Ezec related project.

By the time I got up to North Jersey after work, I had missed all the openers and Ringworm was up next. They had an impressive spread of merch, including bandannas and underwear. As a casual listener, their set was what I expected – a mix of older classics and Justice Replaced by Revenge material (released earlier that year.) It’s a lot easier to be satisfied with a set if you aren’t looking out for certain songs. They were energetic and on point, and it would have been unfortunate that no one was there to see them, although I’m sure they were used to it. It was an interesting idea to pair a veteran out out of town act with newer local side project Danny Diablo, but unfortunately did not result in increased attendance.

I was actually pretty psyched to see Danny Diablo – even if I wasn’t familiar with any of their material, I would always be down to check out a band fronted by Ezec. And a surprise highlight appeared midway into their set: a cover of The Icemen – The Harsh Truth. At first I was like WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING because while I know a bunch of people who like the Icemen, I had never seen that translate into a live cover. My sense of WTF increased when I saw Bracewar cover the same song a week later. Although I’m pretty sure that DD did the entire thing, solos and all, and I don’t think Bracewar even made it through the cake verse.

While I remain an Icemen enthusiast in 2012, at that point in my life this was like the craziest thing to happen to me, as I had been listening to the Icemen on a daily basis that fall. In fact what I mostly remember about late fall 2005, besides being sad about my ex boyfriend, was driving around listening to the Icemen, wearing my red Air Max 97’s and eating Dunkin Donuts breakfast sandwiches.

I don’t remember much else about their set besides Ezec dedicated me a song due to my Integrity hoodie, which was cool because I pretty much wore it to see if any interesting Dwid stories would result. Nothing happened besides him laughing about my hoodie though.

I saw both Ringworm and DD again in Philly a few weeks later, but nothing matches the incongruity and excitement of their Black Friday appearance. I regretted for years missing that day’s Stigmata show, but I got to see some pretty cool stuff in New Jersey that day after all.

Friday, November 28, 2008
Trapped Under Ice, Anton Rough, the Mongoloids and Forfeit
The Stelton Church, Edison, NJ

The last and craziest Black Friday show I attended featured Forfeit, the Mongoloids, Trapped Under Ice and Anton Rough at the Stelton Church in Edison, NJ. I think at this point the Log Cabin was done doing shows, and I had heard of some big shows happening at the Stelton Church, but I had moved to New York a few months prior and hadn’t made it to any yet. I was on my way back from Thanksgiving at my grandparents in Allentown, PA and wasn’t going to pass up a great show on my way back through New Jersey.

I guess I technically got to Edison in time to see the openers, but more importantly, when in Edison, I was gonna eat samosas. (Edison has a huge Indian population and I assumed correctly that it would therefore feature a requisite number of quality Indian restaurants.) Post samosas, I got there just in time for Forfeit. I never got super into their recorded material, but I always enjoyed them live. Next up were local darlings the Mongoloids, who received an appropriate hometown reaction. I was already planning out where to stand during Trapped Under Ice in case the zaniness increased. There were also rumors of an Anton Rough appearance during the TUI set, as Anton himself was in attendance.

Much like the surprise Strength691 set in 2002, the Anton Rough showing did come to fruition.  I think this was the only time I witnessed their live show, although I expected grand things both due to knowing the maniacs involved, and my friend Nate’s review of their set at the Championship before knowing any of the maniacs involved. During both Anton’s appearance and regular TUI, shit got legitimately insane. It was possibly the best reaction I’ve ever seen for Trapped Under Ice, possibly only rivaled by the time they played the Superbowl, since I’m always late everywhere and subsequently missed all my chances to see them in Baltimore.

Although TUI has come further as a band than I would have ever imagined and I will never begrudge them their continued success, for me personally, the era immediately following the release of Stay Cold is my favorite of all. Since I’m still more familiar with the earlier material, it was the greatest concentration of songs I knew by heart, and the newness hadn’t yet worn off of seeing them play to enthusiastic mobs. I can’t remember their whole set list but it must have included Street Lights ‘cause I remember screaming NISHINGA MOTHERFUCKER from where I had climbed up on stage to watch the mayhem unfolding below. As I elucidated in I Question Not Me #2, Street Lights is one of the underrated highlights of Stay Cold for me, and while I haven’t seen TUI in a while so I’m not sure if it’s still a staple of their set list, it was always an essential part of sets in this era.

As I made my way home over the GWB to my newly adopted New York homeland, I was sure glad I had stopped in Edison for this extravaganza. Maybe it didn’t have special shirts like the Underdog knockoffs at A Very Shore Style Christmas the year before, but this show will always stick in my mind as a classic holiday show.

One show that didn’t make the list: Friday, November 30, 2007

Just like this year, Thanksgiving in 2007 came really early, so Black Friday fell on the 23rd, which made Homicidal, Shattered Realm, NJ Bloodline, For The Love Of and a surprise Bulldoze set at the Irish in Kearny NJ just another Friday night show, albeit a very good one.

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