Throughout the show, Adie Bailey of English Dogs came off the stage and sang with the crowd just over the barrier and encouraged people to sing into the mike. But it was halfway through the show that Bailey figured he could trust people in the crowd well enough that during "Wall of Steel," he tossed the mike from the stage to people in the front who sang, chanted, yelled the chorus as if on cue -- and it wasn't the last time. There was such a strong rapport between the band and crowd, it really showed how English Dogs have succeeded in their mission to bring metalheads and punks together with a combination of technically proficient music, hooks, cathartic aggression and anthemic choruses that anyone could sing.
For those of us who honestly didn't know, this tour was apparently given over to playing the band's classic 1985 album Forward Into Battle, the record that firmly established English Dogs as a kind of crossover act straddling the then divide of punk and metal. It was a beginning to end tour de force with long-time members Gizz Butt on guitar and backing vocals, Adie Bailey on lead vocals and Andy Pinching on drums with Craig Christy on bass and Ryan Christie on guitar (if those two aren't twins, they sure looked like it).
During "Ordeal By Fire," Bailey came down to the crowd and sang along with people who seemed to know every word. Bailey's voice -- part bark, part yell, part primal scream -- was curiously musical in its own way. Butt's ability to play a technically challenging solo and then shift to savage riffing like you'd hear out of a hardcore band with perfect ease and a true blending of the two styles was inspiring in its power and versatility.
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Before "Five Days to Death," Bailey told the crowd, "I have one observation to make. You are an absolutely brilliant crowd." And he was right. The people who stuck around were those with a real love for the Dogs do best -- that is, connecting with the disaffected youth in most metal heads and punks, speaking to them with music that has the intensity and aggression that both subcultures enjoy in their music and the low level of pretentious bullshit involved in the best of it. Even after the Dogs finished with Forward Into Battle proper, the group played the entire Metalmorphosis EP and ended with the cataclysmic "Survival of the Fittest."
When The Casualties' banner was being hoisted up behind the stage, a cheer went up from the crowd. This is something that didn't happen for the other bands. Before taking stage, the music for what sounded like a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack filled the room and then cut off when the band strode on and went right into "Under Attack." If you were down front, it felt like the hooligans had come out of the woodwork and piled forward with an aggressive enthusiasm you don't see often.
Moments before going into "Unknown Soldier," Rick Lopez gave a shout out to a Cheyenne band whose name I didn't catch and to Denver's own Bad Engrish. He also urged people to go check out bands from their own town as well. "Scarred For Life" Jake Kolatis dedicated to those of us who have lost a friend to hard drugs. Anymore, who hasn't? One thing you could never accuse this band of is a lack of righteous zeal and providing its fans with slogans to encourage action or at least an attitude of defiance.
"The System Failed Us Again" couldn't have spelled it out more clearly than the title of the song alone. Same with "Social Outcast" and its refrain of "We are the enemies of this society." People in the crowd seemed to be seething forward, jumping up and down, slamming haphazardly into one another and generally creating a chaotic ruckus for eighteen songs in a row, until the final notes of "We're All We Have" rang out and a little longer.
Toxic Holocaust has upped the ante since it opened for Napalm Death at the Marquis Theater a few years back. Any twinge of awkwardness was gone this time around, and the band is clearly comfortable playing with each other. Joel Grind was in complete command, especially with how his naturally distorted vocals worked with the spiky, bludgeoning force of the music, which recalled Reign In Blood-era Slayer and Venom. The onslaught of the dry, visceral, cutting sound began with "Wild Dogs," and before playing "I Am Disease" a few songs later, Grind announced, "We're going to turn up the evil!" And indeed, that song seemed even more brutal than the ones that preceded it.
During "War Is Hell" the band kicked up the energy a great deal, and the crowed matched the trio with its own enthusiasm, chanting along to the chorus with Joel. Prior to careening into "Death Brings Death," Grind urged the crowd to start up a circle pit, and many did. The set ended with the fiery "Bitch" in which the band shut down the song, pretty much near the end and then hit us full force in a rapid build-up before the actual ending.
Personal Bias: I was already a bit of a fan of Toxic Holocaust.
Random Detail: I think punkers eat a lot of peas or something because the place was rank with that smell up front.
By the Way: Thanks to all the kind people who helped me back up when I got knocked on my rear end during Toxic Holocaust's set (specifically, during "Lord of the Wasteland") Unexpected and refreshing.
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