Live Review: OFF!

Originally published through Tone Deaf

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When hardcore legend Keith Morris is bellowing full-force into the microphone, his eyes pop out of his skull to such a degree that the whites are visible from the back of the room.

With his matted dreadlocks flying, his voicebox exploding, and his knees splayed like a pro wrestler preparing to fight, he certainly cuts an intimidating figure.

So perhaps it wasn’t a surprise that one attendee of their January 17th gig decided to take inspiration from this seemingly violent apparition, and launched himself towards the stage with little respect for the personal safety of his fellow crowd members.

Morris instantly paused the show.

“Don’t you want to get laid?” he demanded of the disrespectful punter, fixing his terrifying glare in the direction of the audience. “Because kneeing that cute girl here in the face isn’t the way to do it!”

The Annandale erupted in appreciation, and Morris continued his sermon on basic respect: “We’re here to have fun, not hurt each other.”

It was a nice little moment, and a solid reminder that despite rocking out to song titles like ‘F**k People’ and ‘Elimination,’ hardcore as a sub-culture is generally made up of some of the most decent people you’ll ever meet. And who better to reinforce that message than the recently formed kings of hardcore; Burning Brides guitarist Dimitri Coats, Red Kross bassist Steven Shane McDonald, Hot Snakes drummer Mario Rubalcaba, and of course, Morris, all together at last in the guise of supergroup OFF!

Before Morris had the opportunity to teach life lessons however, local legends Toe To Toe took to the stage, firmly demonstrating that they had lost none of the lustre of their nineties heyday.

The five-piece were tongue-in-cheek in regards to their longevity in the Sydney scene, commenting on the general age of the audience, and in particular their most loyal fans. Admittedly, these were a lot older than your typical indie pop or hype band audience, but with age comes experience, and after two decades of practice Toe To Toe know how to put on a hell of a show.

Drummer Ant Deitz gave the kick-drum more of a work out in the first 2 minutes than most bands do in 2 hours, engaging in what can only be described as a musical punch-up with guitarists Adam Check and Matt Campbell, and bassist Matty Albert.

The rhythm section pounded against short, sharp stabs of riffing and even shorter, sharper lyrics, the whole thing combusting to create the kind of pace impossible to move in time to without knees made of rubber.

Over all this, the throat-tearing vocals of Scott Mac projected the band’s to-the-point lyrics with inspiring ferocity.

The break in between acts was a temporary return to reality, where one was able to notice things like the heat, and the fact it smelt exactly like you would expect a room full of sweating, predominantly male hardcore heads to smell.

But then Morris appeared on the stage: only for the “check-1-2” part of proceedings, but even those were charismatic. The rest of the band arrived shortly after him, swathed in an onslaught of fuzz.

OFF!’s miniscule song lengths meant that their set contained almost as many tracks as minutes, a show stuffed full of gritty, high-energy bangers. From eulogies for fallen friends, to odes to “knuckle-headedness,” the constant assault of churning guitar and bass surged alongside the bullet-quick, growling vocals, the two string instruments working as one.

Mario Rubalcaba’s drumming was murderously powerful – it was surprising the floor of the Annandale didn’t simply split and swallow him whole, so hard was he thrashing the kit. By about a quarter of the way through the set his springy curls had dissolved into sopping wet strands of sweat; undeterred by the volcanic temperatures however, Rubalcaba only seemed to go harder.

Fans casually crowd surfed, dashed onto the stage, slammed into each other, or reached up to hi-five the outstretched hand of Dimitri Coats.

It seems there is a very fine line between acceptable moshpit intensity and the kind frowned upon by Morris: everything is acceptable, as long as no one gets hurt, and no cute girls get kneed in the face.

A good rule to live by really.

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