Live Review: Valomierda and Fanatics at Carioca Cafe

Photo: Tom Murphy

Fanatics w/Valiomierda Saturday, July 19, 2008 Carioca Café, Denver Better Than: Any hardcore show that I’ve seen for nearly a decade.

Finding this show really was something of an odyssey. A couple of weeks ago, Tim Vigil told me about the reunion of legendary Pueblo punk/grindcore band Fanatics. Originally it was to take place at Blast-O-Mat but it was moved to Panther Country. So yours truly went to Panther Country and walked around and didn’t even hear signs of human beings on the whole block. So I went over to Blast-O-Mat to see if maybe it got moved back and there was nothing at all happening there either.

Finally, I called Tim, figuring he’d know what’s up since he’d known those guys from way back, and found out it was going down at Bar Bar, the name usually used for Carioca Café. I guess the weird cracking down on the part of the authorities on the aforementioned places required a change of venue.

Photo: Tom Murphy

Clusterfux cancelled and Smaug was really only scheduled to play their second show of the reunion in Pueblo so fortunately, after all the running around, I got to see the last part of Valiomierda’s set. At first blush the band reminded me of all the thrashy speed metal I’d listened to in my youth. They played with the same mind-shearing velocity but what they did to make it more interesting was to give the rhythms more dynamic range instead of pure speed demonry, and the sonic emphasis was on the lower end and not as trebly and high frequency as a metal band would be. They growled like any death-metal outfit but the music seemed more adrenalized than doomy and that made all the difference in rendering them a refreshing shift from other music coming from similar sources.

There had clearly been a great deal of excitement over the Fanatics reunion show. Even the guy doing their merch had never seen them, having been too young to catch them twelve years ago when they played their last gig up until now, but he was clearly amped to get to finally see them live. Old school fans had even driven up from Pueblo to catch the show even though they were playing at Phil’s Radiator in Pueblo the next night and all of them seemed so happy to get to see these guys again after far too long . When they launched into their first song, it was easy to see why. Hardcore has largely become a joke because there’s not much musicality or, well, fun to much of it anymore. Even its offshoots in grind and crust seem to have largely lost sight of the fact that the music should be enjoyable and not merely punishing. There’s something to be said for music that embodies the fragmented, tortured, bloodied face of America on the bottom rung but you can’t be anguished all the time.

Fanatics clearly had political songs that attacked the hypocrisies and abusive authorities plaguing the cultural landscape. And yet even in their sonic assault on these vampires and monsters, Fanatics played with a clear joy at being alive and able to defy the forces that would oppress or bring us down, even within our own hearts and minds. Each song was a dynamically blistering and physically inspiring piece of adrenalized punk rock the likes of which really is from another era, when it meant something and wasn’t just a fashion statement.

What set this band apart from most others of their ilk was not only the fact that they had positive energy and had good, intelligent things to say to their audience and to each other, but that their music wasn’t just one flavor across their whole set. “Spontaneity” was the hardcore equivalent of a post-punk song and “Ganja” seemed to swing a little bit in a way gave the music some unexpected spaciousness. Apparently the band is here to stay for a while so they’ll be playing around here again and laying waste to the notion that this music is entirely out of ideas. -- Tom Murphy

Fanatics Set List 1. Greed 2. Hope 3. Brainwashed 4. Managerial Oppression 5. Another Song About Cops 6. Peace For Me 7. Complex One 8. Spontaneity 9. Up’n Cider 10. Happiness 11. Questionable Existence 12. Ganja 13. Recognize the Foe 14. Why Am I 15. Restrain

Critic's Notebook Personal Bias: Tim Vigil had told me a good deal about the Pueblo scene in the 1990s when he was still living there and a bit about Fanatics. Random Detail: A girl at the show was wearing a cool Ascaris t-shirt. By the Way: Fanatics found copies of their classic 1994 LP Better Than Fried Baloney in one of the members’ basements and it’s available at their shows.

This is the fourteenth in a series of thirty consecutive shows that Tom Murphy is planning on attending. His whole idea is to prove that there's cool stuff going on any night of the week in Denver, if you bother to make any effort whatsoever to find it. He suggested naming this series, "This Band Could Be Your Life," a fitting designation to be sure. Since there's already a similarly titled book, however, we opted to file these entries under Last Night's Show -- you know, to avoid being sued an all. (Sorry, Tom.)

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