Meaning @ Hatagaya Heavy Sick (Mar. 19th, 2016)

A Trip Down Old-School Lane
Live Report @ Hatagaya Heavy Sick 2016.03.16

A 100-person capacity, sold-out gig in a live space the same size as my apartment seemed optimistic if not a downright fire hazard, and as I pushed through the crowded, tiny foyer of Hatagaya’s Heavy Sick and into the main “hall” itself I was already looking for escape routes. That I ensconced myself in a back corner as far away from an exit as possible at first seemed a silly move, but it was looking to be the kind of gig where one may have the misfortune of getting a little too well-acquainted with a complete stranger’s crotch, but that this crotch might be met at head-height was not something I had previously contemplated until I saw Reality Crisis play. The openers, it seems, are not a band averse to getting up, close and personal with their audience, or with each other for that matter, as all six members were crammed onto a stage the size of a king-size bed. Not that this lasted for long, for as soon as the mood-setting delights of the opening “Braveheart” movie score subsided the band took to the floor and much of the rest of the room for the duration of their set.
Reality Crisis have been going since the late 90s and deal in “Nagoya crust hardcore” – scrungy, 3-minute hardcore ditties that are all the more intense for their brevity and come with a thorough dousing of crusty-punk attitude. The two vocalists sang full on, alternating vocals, jumping into the crowd to surf around the room, chucking themselves into the tiny slamming pit and even hanging off the pipes on the ceiling like gaudy, awkward monkeys, all the while backed by an aural assault from the rest of the band that sometimes left one feeling a little shell-shocked. Despite the intensity, the band were good-humoured, putting on a show that made you keep your wits about you and upped the ante for the next band.
Following up were Not A Name Soldiers, also hailing from Aichi. In contrast, where Reality Crisis wanted to cause as much mayhem as possible, Not A Name Soldiers stayed mostly on the stage and singer Dai even bowed with the audience before the set started in a move reminiscent of high school classrooms, an atmosphere not a few of the crowd seemed to have only recently abandoned. A slightly younger band than their crustier sempai, Not A Name Soldiers deal in a cleaner, more raw hardcore which is upbeat in tone and yet runs with heavy thrash breakdowns and copious yelling. There was plenty of stuff to like here, not least the fact that the band were utterly unrelenting, barely pausing between songs, keeping a the show punchy (sometimes literally) and high-energy.

MeaningHeadliners Meaning put together their “Humanity” tour with Reality Crisis and Not A Name Soldiers to mix things up a bit in order to regain the intensity of playing tiny live shows, something that might not seem feasible anymore when you play OzzFest in 20,000 capacity arenas, or open up for Killswitch Engage. Meaning, though, have done similar things in the past – their show at a skate park last year was one of the most unusual and intense gigs I’ve ever been to – but this tiny show created fervour and a frenzied mood amongst a crowd who always relish in quite death-dealing feats of crowd-surfing and other hurly-burly liable to land you in hospitable.

MeaningSet opener “150” kicked off with a good dose of melodic hardcore that sounded much grimier for the confined space it roared around. With its thrashy riffs and duelling guitars, the song is one of those that makes it difficult to stick Meaning in a box. In fact, any Meaning song will have you grasping at genres as they fly by: what we’ve got here is a band who mix rock-groove with hardcore, softer guitar melodies with a “who the fuck cares” punk attitude, and who make odd nods to 80s thrash and more contemporary post-hardcore. Who the fuck cares, indeed.

Meaning“Here For You” saw the first casualty of the set when a passing crowdsurfer managed to knock out one of the lights in the ceiling, prompting singer Hayato to tell the audience to watch out for themselves – advice they obviously ignored; after all, no one was going to let a low ceiling and strip lights get in the way of good times. The whole set was a sing-a-long affair of fan favourites, with “Stand Up” and “Sleepless Night” met with 100 people chorusing all the way through them, arms punching the air and a near-permanent state of chaos down by the stage, where legs and heads dived and bumped, skillfully and somewhat desperately propelled back from whence they came by Meaning’s roadie, a man who deserves a special mention for probably taking more of a beating than anyone else in order to keep the show going.

MeaningMeaning played a brief one-song encore, during which Hayato threw caution to the wind and pushed himself into the audience. What happened as a result of this was a human pile-up in the middle of the room with the audience clambering and crawling over each other to get to the singer. The guy standing next to me, who had barely moved all evening, suddenly took a running jump into the fray and went missing into a morass of band t-shirts and feet.

During the cries for an encore, someone had been holding up a lost shoe at the front of the crowd and calling for its absent owner to come reclaim it. After over 3 hours of live music, it was a fitting and comical emblem for the end the show, especially when the owner appeared to remain absent-without-shoe. This, together with the concussions, the bruises, the sweat, the aggro and the music, set a standard by which any self-respecting hardcore show should be judged.

Photos by Saru courtesy of Meaning.

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Laura Cooper
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