Stretch Arm Strong – Leeds Cockpit

By paul

Today had the potential to be a day steeped in greatness. At 9.30am this morning I was sitting my last exam for the first semester of uni. Tonight, a short to trip across town to Joseph’s Well meant I could set the icing upon the most beautiful cake.

First up were THE VERSUS PROJECT. I?d never heard of these guys before tonight and, I can?t deny it, I was fucking impressed. With a sound a friend commented was reminiscent of early Poison The Well (except with, largely, only one pitch of scream) they blistered through a set of crunchingly brutal hardcore. Considering these guys only have a rough demo so far, their EP is undoubtedly something to look forward to indeed. It could be argued that an even more piercing effect could be created with a little more vocal variety ? possibly duelling, possibly just a greater degree of pitch variation ? which would infuse that extra little spark into an already promising display. A great opening display by a band who were quite obviously no nonsense, passionate and unforgiving; it aptly appropriated the tone for the evening. (8/10)

The population of the room swelled considerably just before WITH HONOR took the stage. One of Victory?s proudest offerings, there were certainly plenty of people just itching to see these guys and it was soon evident why. Catchy enough to inspire singalongs, forceful enough to barrage their way into the modern hardcore punk arena with a certain swagger that eludes many bands, they delivered a set of varied material but of consistently great quality. Hopefully this popularisation of old school hardcore is going to be a feature of 2006: the passion, integrity and undeniable power of the sound is somehow so much more relevant in what we can hopefully come to call the ?post-fashioncore? stage of today. Crowd favourites from ‘This Is Revenge’ such as ‘Small Dreams’, ‘Closets’ and ‘Plot Two’ went down a storm with most and brilliantly demonstrated the variety of speeds and vocal delivery that the band has to offer. A fantastic performance which I thought wouldn?t be bettered. (9/10)

How wrong was I. Despite an ever so slight reduction in the crowd, STRETCH ARM STRONG opened with all the style that only over a decade of touring can bring. This was less of a gig and more of a public demonstration on how to do hardcore punk. It couldn?t have failed, if you think about it: solid songs, a hardcore following and a technical competence out of the reach of most bands of their ilk. Playing a set to please every type of fan they could have with a great mix of old and new I can?t think of how they could have actually improved their performance? perhaps making it to the chorus of ‘Express Yourself’ could have actually allowed them to surmount the pinnacle of perfection. If there?s one word which (rightly) crops up in Stretch Armstrong reviews, it?s ?passion?. You can pre-load that word with as many hardcore clichโ€šs as you wish and look at it with an aspirational face or dismiss it with a cursory elitist glance, yet it?s fucking pertinent if nothing else. Stretch Armstrong capped a simply fantastic night with one of the best performances I have seen in a long time. Get yourself down to Glasgow, London, Nottingham or Milton Keynes over the next 4 days ? if it?s anything like tonight you might find that you over-use the word ?awesome? so much it begins to lose meaning. Simply essential. (10/10)