Do Work Fest f. Thought Criminals, Monarchist, Angwish, MC Cataclysm, 21st Century Goliath, When It Hits, The New Empires, Coming Dawn, Salted Slugs
Tremont Music Hall
July 9, 2011
The Deal: After frequenting the Milestone over the years, I have come to get to know all of the regulars in a Cheers like fashion. One of these regulars is Kyle Perkins of 25 Minutes to Go, one of the most kindhearted individuals I've ever met. About a month ago, Kyle and I were talking and he mentioned that he wanted to set up a benefit show, trying to bring people together for a good cause. If anyone had the ambition to do it, I knew it would be him and before I knew it, he had booked Do Work Fest for July 9 at Tremont Music Hall to benefit the victims of Joplin's tornado disaster. The line up kept growing and growing and it became an amalgamation of different musicians and artists ready to raise some money for some people who lost everything. Completely stoked for the cause, I decided to join the cause and wrestle for the Gore Gore Luchadores in an attempt to raise as much money as possible.
The Good: Salted Slugs was the first band to take the stage at 5 pm. With the sun beaming in, they immediately took me back to the 1990s with their grungy jams. With light, throaty vocals reminiscent of Silverchair and Mudhoney combined with teasing harmonies and breakdowns to the tune of late Stone Temple Pilots and Soundgarden, I was in a complete haze of contemporary nostalgia. King Doob hit the nail on the head with his bass, bringing me back to the sludgy grunge I've loved my entire life. These three boys have something awesome going on and I cannot wait to see them play again at the Milestone in August. I may even wear some flannel and docs for old times' sake.
Coming Dawn was next and while their indie changed the pace, they maintained the attention of the crowd, drawing in the few that were there to witness them. Their sound was original, dominantly indie but with hints of '90s alternative rock and hardcore. They were reminiscent of their name, creating the warm tones that would reflect the tail end of a night as the sun is coming up. Their versatility was notable and their stage presence, passionate for their craft. Although they had to play early in the day, they maintained the energy of the night and rocked the stage for us all.
The New Empires were a fun little five piece that brought the positive vibes with their indie-pop. Composed of violin, guitar, bass, keyboard and drums, their music was well-written and catchy, the type of up-beat, feel-good jams that you would put on at home and dance around your house to. In fact, during their live performance, people started to get down, smiling and feeling the sunshine they created with their melodies and shakin' beats.
Out of the woodworks, When it Hits began their set, bringing the punk. Their thrashy drums brought hyperactive guitar riffs that inspired teenage wrecklessness in us all. Speedy time signatures promoted turbo head banging from the crowd while a select few passionately flung their bodies and pumped their fist in the air, getting lost in the anarchic tones they were hearing. When it Hits reminded me of the days I was a young, rambunctious punk, getting in trouble and not giving a fuck. I can't say that it didn't summon up a little bit of nostalgic delight on my behalf.
21st Century Goliath kind of caught me off guard. As soon as they took the stage, the first thing that I noticed were the four out of five bandanna headbands reminiscent of 1980s hair metal. Before I knew it, cock rock was being belted from the stage. It was perfectly executed and they are all talented musicians. Their stage presence was also notable as they seemed in complete glorification of themselves to the favor of Motley Crue or Posion. Their vocalist consistently spit in the air and as it landed behind them, the band intensely played their instruments in a sexually-charged fashion. Although I was confused at first, they were a fun show to watch, not exactly my cup of tea but they would be the perfect companion for For Disaster's party cock rock.
Now came our first dose of hip-hop for the night, MC Cataclysm. By this point, I had become utterly fed up with the sound guy of the night. He had been off the entire night with bands' guitars being so low that I could barely hear them and consistent, multiple requests for monitors to be turned up. I understand that hip-hop is harder to equalize because of hard hitting bass and all that, but by lord was the sound just awful. I normally try to be understanding of things like this but it was hard to enjoy the sick rhymes coming from MC Cataclysm with the beat so distorted that it took from the dramatic effect of his lines. Thankfully, Dane, stage manager of the fest and sound guy at the Milestone offered his help and fixed the pecking irritation we all had in our ears, allowing us to enjoy the intricate rhymes being spit at us to beats that (when well heard) got our bodies moving. MC Cataclysm is a sick lyricist and a prominent figure in our hip-hop scene. I'm very thankful that I got to witness the potential of his music for at least part of the set but regardless, he held it down, shitty sound or not and for that, I give him some serious props.
Angwish was next and to our surprise, Neal MF Harper was filling in on drums for the evening. With songs about love and things of that nature, they provided a nice, warm vibe that managed to calm down my growing angst towards the sound guy. Rachael Harper tore up her bass, jamming out as she provided the comforting backdrop for their songs while Bryan kept the lead vocals going, strumming his guitar, pulling at the heartstrings of the crowd. Neal was definitely an interesting addition to the duo, making offhanded comments about Rachael's boobs jiggling as she played, making her blush, but lovingly staring at her the whole time, admiring her talent. Those Harpers may be opposites in many ways but one thing was made apparent with Neal's stare, they are very in love.
As sick as every, Monarchist played next and brought the sludge to a room full of head bangers. As perfect as can be, I have yet to see them play anything but a pristine set. Their deep bass soothes the soul with it's sludge and their guitar snarls like none other to drums that make you want to stop your feet and bang your head. They are as soothing as sinking into an ocean of pudding, deeper and deeper with each note hit. People gathered around the stage to sling their bodies, lost in a trance of the melodic greatness. Feeling the vibrations projected towards us.
The Thought Criminals were the perfect cap off to the night. With grooves to shake your hips to and rhymes that made you smile and cringe in appreciation, they brought us all towards the stage and got our bodies moving to the beat. I've gotta give it to them, with a full band performing and two ill MCs, The Thought Criminals are one of the best hip-hop groups in Charlotte. They are gleaming balls of talent and demonstrate this to their audience with every show. The rhymes that leave their lips are reminiscent of more respected wordsmiths, blatantly reminding me of why I love hip-hop. As words flowed from their mouth and the band played on, there was not a head that wasn't bobbing or a foot stomping. As if we weren't impressed enough, MC Cataclysm and a few other locals MCs joined them on stage for their last song, Earthbound creating unity that certainly deserves attention.
To follow the music, there was a raffle featuring the Elder Statesman and the lovely Fanny Cordoba, handing out prizes including posters and band merchandise. While they were making many people happy, I was getting suited up to wrestle for the Gore Gore Luchadores.
The Gore Gore Luchadores began wrestling at 12:30 p.m. and regardless of how tired we all were, we gave it our all, beating the crap out of each other via wrestling in a pit of fake blood. Between the bake sale and the matches we raised nearly $200 for the cause. We were glad to help and put on one hell of a show having six matches total. I went home with a busted lip and loose tooth but felt like a warrior nonetheless.
The Bad: I am usually understanding of technical difficulties but I was pretty upset with the sound guy. Maybe I'm just spoiled or lucky most of the time but it is seldom that I am this disappointed with this aspect of a performance and it bothers me when musicians are on stage giving us their all and it's not being done justice because of someone else that for whatever reason cannot properly do their job. By the end of the night it was better but I have to say, the majority of the show, I was irritated by technical incompetency.
The Verdict: It was nice to see everyone come together for a good cause. There are a lot of good people in our creative scene around town and it was certainly exemplified this night. From the music, to the silent art auction, to the bake sale, to wrestling and raffles Kyle Perkins created a night full of unity, talent and philanthropy that reminded us of what it felt like to do good and be creative at the same time. All of the bands on the bill were certainly worthy of your time but I must say, I can't get Salted Slug's grungy and so very '90s music out of my head. Be sure to check out their show Aug. 18 at the Milestone.