By Brent Michael, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
Venue: Crowbar, Ybor City/Tampa, Florida–February 2, 2019
Four bands: Point North, Hold Close, Sharptooth, and As It Is, held an anti-Trump Rally at the Crowbar last Saturday. Okay, officially, it was a concert, but I guarantee if you’re a Trump supporter, you’d feel out of place there. Which means I had a great time!
Seriously, these bands were unabashedly activist in their outlook, whether it was the activist literature on the tables supporting organizations like A Voice for the Innocent – a non-profit community dedicated to the support of those affected by rape and sexual abuse, or Half/Access – a non-profit organization dedicated to making live music accessible, or supplying a sign language interpreter onstage with As It Is, or Sharptooth’s ripping on Westboro Baptist’s infamous “God Hates Fags” protest signs with identically-designed stickers saying “God Hates Sharptooth,” or maybe a song called “Fuck Trump,” for some reason I suspect MAGAts might not like being there! The overall atmosphere was one of inclusivity and diversity – though, surprisingly, it wasn’t a very racially diverse crowd. It’s a conundrum faced by many organizations, how to increase appeal across racially-diverse populations without insulting cultural appropriation? I don’t have that answer, but these bands are trying!
Opening up was Point North, an alternative pop punk band from the Left Coast’s City of Angels, and they did a bang-up job of setting the energy levels high. The five-piece band consists of Jon Lundin, Brady Szuhaj, Andy Hershey, and Sage Weeber – and if you noticed that’s only four, I’ll leave it up to you to figure out who got left off of their Facebook page! Many songs came from their recently released album, Retrograde – give it a listen!
Following them was Hold Close, a pop punk band out of Springfield, Missouri. Self-described as “the mellowest band on the tour,” they also have a new album out, Time, also much of their set. One reviewer asks, “Do you miss the 00s alternative rock/emo rock? Hold Close brings some of that sound and atmosphere back today!” I’d have to agree with him! Another mysterious band, none of its members were named on Facebook or the website, I’m not sure if that signals a commitment to staying together, or an uncertainty about the future, but I hope it’s the former!
Sharptooth was definitely NOT the mellowest band of the night. Describing themselves as “Honest, explosive, and unapologetically enraged, Sharptooth focuses the brutality of hardcore through a femme lens, and believes in carving out space for marginalized voices in aggressive music, this hardcore band hails from Baltimore, Maryland, and consists of Lauren Kashan – Vocals, Keth Higgins – Guitar, Lance Donati -Guitar, Phil Rasinski – Bass, and Conor Mac – Drums. I’m guessing Lauren’s about 5 foot tall and 80 lbs, but she’s a driving dymano that keeps the band flying around the stage, and the anger that drives her – she announced on stage that she was a rape victim, so her activism is internally sourced – punched through the powerful guitars and banging drums. They too have a recently released album, Clever Girl, available on Spotify, iTunes, or as a CD/LP. BTW, they’re also the creators of the aforementioned “Fuck Trump” track!
And finally we come to As It Is. The three-year-old alternative band from Brighton, UK via Minneapolis consists of Benjamin Langford-Biss- Guitar/Vocals, Patrick Foley – Drums, Patty Walters – Vocals, Ronnie Ish – Guitar, and Ali Testo – Bass might not be as hardcore as Sharptooth, but they were no slouches in the energy department! And just as clearly, the message of diversity was fully embraced by this band! Their 3rd album in as many years, The Great Depression keeps the momentum garnered by their first two albums yet shows growth; they take the listener on a journey which delves into every aspect of arguably the most prevalent social ill of our time, The Great Depression. From public perception, to internal war, the band unflinchingly confronts the most difficult questions around depression, the value of life over death, and whether the rhetoric around ‘reaching out to talk’ is ostensibly hollow, if no one is prepared to hear those words. It’s the band’s most layered, technically accomplished and certainly most aggressive record to date, announcing to the world that they are here to stay, here to make a difference, here to do it their way. Join the journey!