LIVE: Togetherfest @ Electric Ballroom, London

By Glen Bushell

Hardcore, for all its faults, is a beautiful thing.  The true essence of hardcore stays with you from the moment you become invested in it, and for the most part, it is one of the most unsullied forms of music. For Walter Schreifels, the fire still burns in him; leading to the creation of Togetherfest. A showcase of several generations and styles of hardcore, uniting under one roof and capturing that essence of that all that is good about the genre.

First up, and drawing a sizeable crowd despite the early start time of Togetherfest, are Wolf Down. While the German band has faced their fair share of criticism in the past, they are proving to be one of the standout bands of the new generation. With a sound that gravitates towards the heavier, metallic end of hardcore, and a vitriolic message in their songs about veganism and politics, Wolf Down a proof that hardcore still has something to say.

While they may stand out like a sore thumb on tonight’s bill, musically, Vanishing Life are yet another excellent project from Schreifels. Their sound harks back to the late 90’s Revelation Records output, when post-hardcore really meant post-hardcore. The set is pulled from their excellent 2016 debut album, ‘Surveillance’, and once again, Schreifels is the consummate front man, giving him a chance to step away from behind the guitar for a change. It affords him the freedom to push his note perfect vocal delivery on ‘Seven Pointed Star’ and ‘Thinking Weightless’, while he gives extra grit to their self-titled track while bounding around the stage.

It was a solid set from Vanishing Life, but proved to be the calm before the storm when Trash Talk arrive. If you have ever been in attendance at one of their shows, then the chaos that comes with them will come as no surprise; yet seeing them unhinged in the Electric Ballroom is a sight to behold. No other band could give a sizable venue like this an intimate club show feel, but Trash Talk’s career spanning set does exactly that. As more and more bodies surge forward, for the blistering assault of ‘Walking Disease’ and ‘Dig’, the security seem to give up trying, allowing fans to hurl themselves from the stage, over the barrier, and back into the crowd.

Vocalist Lee Spielman toes the line between arrogance and confidence, but it that which makes him such a great frontman for Trash Talk, complimenting their brash hardcore punk. He invites the crowd to sit down and have a “smoke break” as they hail the leaf with ‘Hash Wednesday’; while ‘Babylon, CA’ and ‘Awake’ tear Camden limb from limb. They may not care much for press, and whether you love or hate Trash Talk, their D.I.Y ethos and importance in modern hardcore is virtually unrivalled.

It’s then down to Boston’s finest heartbreakers American Nightmare to try and follow that. If you were at the Electric Ballroom the last time they played here, which was in fact their first UK show in over ten years, you would be forgiven for having your doubts about them. However, it takes only a few seconds of ‘There’s a Black Hole In The Shadow Of The Pru’ for the naysayers to be proved wrong, kicking off what proves to be an unrelenting set.

Covering every corner of their catalogue, even the inclusion of a ferocious new song, ‘American Death’, this feels like watching American Nightmare back when they started. Yes, Wes Eisold’s vocals are not as sharp and caustic as they once were, and they may be trimmed down to a four piece, but hearing ‘AM/PM’, ‘I Saved Latin’, and ‘Hearts’ played with such passion as tonight sends goosebumps down your spine. The most majestic moment comes with the chorus of voices chanting along to ‘Postmark My Compass’, and the unforgettable cadence of ‘Farewell’. This truly signalled a return to form for one of the most iconic hardcore bands of all time.

That just leaves Youth Of Today; a band that need no introduction, and one that every other band in bill owe their very existence to, even if it’s indirectly. You can believe that no one, especially the band, thought they would be doing this some thirty years after their inception, but it sounds and feels just as relevant. Even if the audience may have exhausted themselves during Trash Talk, there’s still some left in the tank to join Ray Cappo by screaming every word back at him.

With a catalogue of iconic and passionate songs, Youth Of Today play what would normally be described as a ‘hit packed set’, but these are only hits to the believers. ‘Expectations’, ‘Cant Close My Eyes’, and ‘Break Down The Walls’ are hard hitting and poignant tonight, and if you ever thought hardcore lost its sense of unity, that’s not the case in the Electric Ballroom. Some may see fit to criticise Cappo for his long speeches in between songs, but he has the microphone and we don’t. His life affirming words hammer home the point of classic tracks like ‘Disengage’ and ‘A Time We’ll Remember’, all of which could make even the most jaded hardcore fan return to their roots.

Times may change, peoples do move on, and things won’t ever be the same. But if there’s one thing you can count on it’s hardcore, and Togetherfest was the perfect way to celebrate it.