In my life as music obsessed person I’ve learned to come to terms with the fact that there are live shows, either real or imagined, that have no chance in hell of ever happening. Ideal lineups combined with venue preferences that shall live in the far reaches of my mindscape until I cease to exist. Seeing Refused live was one of those far-fetched fantasies.
Through most of high school and during three years worth of bus commutes to university, I listened to the Swedish post-hardcore band, picturing singer Dennis Lxyzen get on that James Brown tip doing splits and shit and me going buck wild to “Summerholidays vs. Punkroutine.” I could see myself going hoarse belting out “Rather Be Dead” or “New Noise.” All of this in vain, as the bittersweet reality that I would never see those four Swedes do their thing, front row as chaos reigns in the pit, always kept me in check. Watching their documentary, Refused Are Fucking Dead not only gave me a taste of the unattainable but solidified the fact: These dudes are never going to get back together and make my life by playing a show in NYC. This was true for very long time…until 2012 rolled in.
Announcement of a reunion tour included a show at Terminal 5. At ticket sale time, everything seemed to be against me. Scalpers scalped and credit cards malfunctioned, all seemed lost until it wasn’t. A second date was added due to popular demand and the deed was done: I was going to see Refused rip Terminal 5 a new butthole. On a Monday night, nonetheless.
My dream wouldn’t exactly be fulfilled as I imagined it. Much Iess daring than I was back then, I found solace from the impending whirlwind pit of sweat, skin and aggression that was bound to develop below on the last floor of the venue, with a bird’s eye view of the stage.
Nostalgia wafted through the venue as the pre-show playlist blared all the bands I fell in love with over a decade ago along with Refused: At the Drive-In, early Thursday, Glassjaw blared through the speakers until openers Ceremony hit the stage.
The California punks warmed up the crowd with a short set, highlighting the tracks on their punchy 2012 debut Zoo. The singer was absurd yet charming flailing across the stage like a contorted Smiths-era Morrissey — coif ye high in a stretched out worn white tee and faded black jeans — sideways inclined and falling short of oscillating wildly. The band inspired the semblance of circle pit that fizzled quickly (maybe they were just saving their energy for the headliners?). It didn’t phase them and they played on for what seemed like 10 minutes. We sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to some guy named Robbie then next thing I knew the singer was blowing kisses at the masses and it was over.
The curtain went down for the last time and through the veil flashed “REFUSED” in amber, the crowd yelling the band’s name at the rhythm of the light. Once the veil dropped and the band got rolling it was full steam ahead. Dennis was just unstoppable. Owning the stage with complete finesse, he sashayed all over, got a few splits in, jumped off stuff and into the crowd. He’s got one of my most favorite stage personalities since Cedric Bixler-Zavala. These guys are soulful creatures with endless energy oozing out of their lanky bodies until they’re dripping in sweat. When he wasn’t being a choatic yet graceful swan on stage, his on stage banter comprised of gratitude and self-deprication. Especially before Lou Koller of Sick of It All came out and he said they were just a band trying to sound like the NYHC legends before going into a SOIA cover.
Needless to say, the band was loud, the whirlwind growing with the volume, reaching it’s apex when that solo introducing “New Noise” played. That was fun and expected and all but the most memorable moment for me was hearing “Rather Be Dead” live. It was cathartic, as usual, like a shot in the arm. I damn near lost my head yelling, “RATHER BE AAAALIVE!” it was as if everything was Millhouse and nothing hurt.
I walked out to buy some merch right after ‘New Noise,’ to beat the crowd. Came back to the floor for the finale and after Dennis shouted “Stay curious, stay wild and stay fucking hungry,” I walked out before the masses had the chance, heart warmed and full of hope and happiness much like I always do after a really good show, sad that I couldn’t share this with Snail but happy I could now say that the seemingly impossible happened and it was pretty damn sweet. —Cheep
Photo by Jonathan McPhail via brooklynvegan