We’ve traded in our big black Xs for over-twenty-one wristbands, and lots of us are making use of them. Those of us who came up through the New Jersey hardcore scene a dozen years ago were used to paying fifty cents to a band member’s little brother for a ShopRite-brand soda, but now we’re shilling seven bucks for a bottle of beer. My, how things change. But not Lifetime. The band’s sound on February 17 at the Troubadour is as bright and fast as ever, the members’ energy totally infectious.
There’s something heartwarming about seeing a bunch of thirty-year-old dudes climb on top of each other to help singer Ari Katz with the words to “Airport Monday Morning,” off the album Lifetime, the band’s first in ten years. (Unlike Hello Bastards (1995) and New Jersey’s Best Dancers (1997), which were released by Jade Tree, Lifetime was released, about ten days before this show, by Decadance/Fueled by Ramen.) And when the band launches into “Daneuyrism,” the whole place turns into a mosh pit: All the pent-up energy of not going to hardcore shows for years manifests itself in the intense physicality of banging off each other in the pit and caroming off those of us who form the walls of it. Hardcore shows, I am reminded, aren’t just about witnessing a band play some music; they’re about getting involved and getting sweaty and experiencing the music.
Lifetime is a pretty seamless continuation of both Hello Bastards and Jersey’s Best Dancers. And it’s okay if the new album treads familiar ground; that’s what we’re here for. This night has proven that the hardcore scene isn’t dead, exactly. The “kids” are just older. Floor punching? Check. Finger pointing? Check. Mosh pit that looks like it requires an ID to enter it? Check. A crush of bodies at the front of the stage nearly attached to Katz like ants swarming a hill? Check. And, yeah, these guys still know all the words. We are finally old enough to have our own memories of the good old days at VFW halls, basements and grotty little dumpy all-ages clubs. It’s fun to regress a bit and get visceral at a hardcore show again. Katz joked that the “new kids” and the “old kids” should have a stand off and fight, but there are going to be no factions tonight. It’s rare to be at a show–especially in self-conscious Los Angeles–and have so many people in the crowd genuinely enjoying themselves.
Hearing Katz sing that opening line from “Ostrichsized”–“We are all alone tonight”-is something I haven’t heard live in ten years, and it breaks my little ex-hardcore-girl heart, and I’m hugging myself, swaying with the now-invisible hardcore guy of my dreams in a sweaty basement in New Brunswick all over again. Sometimes taking it back can be taking it forward at the same time. And as long as Lifetime keeps having fun making music, it’s not nostalgia. I’m not the only person in the room smiling about the past but also completely lost in the present–and the double encore Lifetime gives us is testament to that. Encores didn’t happen in basements or at New Brunswick’s Melody Bar, but ten years later, yeah, we want more. And the band is more than willing to indulge us. In that final song of the second encore, “25 Cent Giraffes,” Katz intones, “I’ll see you at the show/ I hope you’ll go.” We certainly will.