You know how in the Willy Wonka movies he creates that everlasting-flavored gum that Veroca or Beyonka or Beyonce or whatever-the-heck-her-name is chews and then she turns into a plumb or some fat fruit that Oompa Loompas jump and sing all over?

Your typical Albuquerque hardcore show looks something like that, minus Willy Wonka and midgets and fruit and imploding little girls.

So basically, everlasting.

I like the Albuquerque scene. It’s not huge, but it’s growing – and it’s growing in a positive way with positive influence. Facedown is arguably the most popular label here. I don’t know if you’ve ever met any Facedown bands face-to-face, but regardless, you can see it in their demeanor – these guys love the Lord. Jason Dunn knows how to pick’em. I just talked to Andy from A Plea For Purging last night and he said that he’s absolutely convinced that “Christian” Metal/Hardcore is the fastest growing genre in the music industry. I know that generalization is somewhat of a turnoff to most people – but if we’re talking bands that are legit, talented, and driven to see the love of God flow through the lives of fans – well then, boy, this is the near-perfect package.

Wrench in the Works
Random Fact: Mel takes his dog… everywhere.

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Kickin’ it off with Dust Over Time Test: “Running from every wicked little town is gonna run you down!” Darrel’s got dreads like Mike Tyson’s got bite (that’s a good one, right?) and they spin around in circles to the dirty heaviness that makes the band so unique – unique as in: they can pull it off. Whether it’s Andy’s frantic double-bass tech-drumming style (no normal kick, snare, ride symbol, repeat beats with this dude – plus he looks like he attempting to beat a small dinosaur to death as if his life depended on it so it’s always an entertaining set), Mehl’s gritty vocals added to his guitar sweeps and Derek’s slap-bass breakdowns, or Darrel’s passionate intensity (next time you get the opportunity to see WITW, pay attention to how wide the vocalist’s eyes get when he screams at you – reminds me of Andrew Schwab in his prime… back when he didn’t talk to people on stage, he just scared them) it’s definitely something to power-stomp your feet to. One Foot Out Of Hell­ worshipped, “More love! More power! More of you in my life…“ and Palefire finished up the set with a worshipful conclusion which got the crowd screaming melodies of hope: “We can all live forever…!”

Only problem with the set? The audience. People here just stand flat-footed till the night unfolds and the poor bands have to deal with feeling like no one got into it. I don’t even think it’s that. Everyone loved them. I think Albuquerque-ans are just lazy until at least 30 minutes into a show.

Locals:
It’s pretty tight-knit down here with the local scene – the guys have pull. I’ve seen local shows with over two-hundred people packed in ‘cause all the kids want to do is dance and flail and spin and … (see HM’s “Pit Moves” people for a clearer picture). I wish that I could have gotten a good picture of the kid that picked up the metal chair in the corner and smashed it in the middle of the pit, where the pieces proceeded to shatter, threatening any dancer in its wake. Or maybe a picture of Randy – another local hardcore kid – who (and I’m pretty sure I can speak for anyone here – including you, whoever you may be, whether or not we ever meet) scares the crap out of everyone, and almost unfailingly manages to smash someone in the face…

We Still Dream
Random Fact: We’re all straight edge and we eat tacos.

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If you want to know the truth, these guys were one of the most entertaining bands of the night – and probably got some of the best feedback, too. They open up the set and… and I don’t want to say that it’s pop-punk, but it’s pop-punk. It’s good pop-punk with a whole bunch of other styles in there, too, but it’s pop-punk. They did a rap song and a Sum 41 cover. If that isn’t awesome on a metal package, I don’t know what is. They got the crowd close to stage diving. I don’t even think that the venue allows stage diving. I worked the show, and did set-up and teardowns, and it was hard for me to get up there to help with back-lining because of all the kids crowding the stage saying: “Those guys are incredible.” People chanted for “ONE MORE SONG!” like they were the headlining act that should’ve played till morning.

The Red Baron
Random Fact: If you replaced Phil (vocalist) with our merch guy (Diaz) you have a band by the name of New City Lions. You should check them out @ myspace.com/newcitylions

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I’m going to risk it: The Red Baron stole the show. I know that this is an incredible package, but Phil and the fam took home the gold. Literally, about a third or more of the people went home after they played. There was as much of a buzz about these guys around town as there was for War of Ages. All I wish is that I would have practiced my two-step before the show (apparently, the best way to do this is to stand in front of a mirror in your living room with an iPod – so that way you only look like a complete idiot before your reflection, and God – who is most definitely laughing at you – and not in front of the kids at the show who will get irritated with your horrible style, and end up “accidentally” punching you in the face).

The guys hit it off with “Our Time” and proceeded straight into “Moving On” and “My First Love” – but the kicker was “Grace is for Falling.” Their sound is exciting and energetic as far as hardcore goes – I guess all hardcore is pretty energetic, but even more so. The song includes a chant that more people than I expected to know, knew, and when everyone in the room hopped on top of one another to get a piece of their voice in the mic, I wondered if the crowd singing, “So take this life of mine and claim it as your own. I give my life to you this day – so have your way!” understood the prayer.

Take It Back
Random Fact: We all have alter egos. And when they get together, they’re indestructible! They will make you pee your pantaloons! Ask us about it next time you see us!

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Ever need something to listen to for encouragement, dancing and being stoked out of your mind? For those of you that read the “Band/Question of the Day” on myspace (check it out for something new every day) – you know how I feel about these guys… I wasn’t the biggest fan when I first heard them. My girlfriend, actually, is the one forced-fed them upon me, and eventually they grew on me, and now they’re one of my favorites. In fact, I’ve listened to them nonstop and almost memorized the entire album…

But I’m gonna be honest – I cannot wait for the day that I see a show with them with crowd full of true fans. No one was really into it. There were a couple people, but you know those times when you’re watching the band and you’re watching the crowd and your eyes sort of keep shifting back and forth and you’re trying to decide whether or not you should feel embarrassed that everyone in the crowd SUCKS? This was probably that time. “You never thought that it would be this way! I won’t forget the song we sang that day!” Standing On The Edge of Hope? Oh my gosh… when they kick into the lyrics, “There’s so much more to life than these four walls!” don’t tell me that it doesn’t inspire you to chase your dreams. And when All That Keeps Us Strong longs for heaven to “fill us with passion and burning desire, hearts that are holy” do not be ashamed to make your pleas known… It is incredible to see these bands take the concept of a “worship song” and make it their own. It gives me hope that “there is a sun that shines for you” and that the son shines through it.

I got into it. I mean, just ‘cause the rest of the crowd isn’t jumping around and hollering doesn’t mean that I can’t dance to my boys…

Hope for the Dying
Random Fact: We are not interesting enough to have any random facts!

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They all swear that they were having a bad night, but I’d dare say that their “bad night” looks something like any other bands “good night” – which leads me to hope that someday I get to catch them on what they’d consider a “good night” so that I can have my face melted off of my skull. Shredding fingers ready, cause the set has begun and the Maiden cut-offs are getting drenched in the hair-sweat of the sweeping, tech-metal guitarist (whose name is Jack Daniels, by the way). But what is that? Lead keyboard for the vocalist? Blues beats in the melodic intermission back into the metalcore breakbeat? These guys know how to mix atypical instrumentation into the tough-guy melody in an intriguing way. It kind of leaves you scratching your head wondering if cool things like this really work together, which is a good thing. I mean how many bands nowadays leave you scratching your head like it’s something you haven’t heard before?

Hands
Random Fact: We all really enjoy being on tour with War Of Ages, they are the best dudes ever.

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Laurel Erickson, who interned with me at HM last summer, swore on her life that these guys were the best band ever. I finally had the opportunity to experience it, and they did not disappoint. They only had one random fact for you, but I’ve got a few more.
1. Josh, the drummer, has an awesome mountain man beard, and he’s the nicest person in the world.
2. He also had diarrhea before the show, and I figure he wouldn’t mind me sharing that, because it just makes him all the more hardcore to play such an incredible set.
3. He is a vintage-metal god.
4. Hands has random indie/experimental/ambient album, which rocks.
5. They get put on metal packages a lot, and they usually get a really good response, regardless of the fact that they are not a metal band. Albuquerque, they said, was probably the worst response that they’ve gotten thus far. Go figure.
None of that denotes the fact that they are deserving of a good response, and I can vouch for saying that – however lethargic the audience – everyone I talked to was extremely impressed with them. It’s just that it’s usually this point in the show when the remaining kids that didn’t leave after the afore-mentioned acts are strictly there to see the headliner. Hey… I mean… it had already been a nine-band bill.
(Catch them out on the road now with My Epic and be amazed.)

But the headliner:

War of Ages
Random Fact: (They didn’t provide me with one, so I’m going to make one up.) These guys are from Alaska. Polar bears, and penguins raised them, but eventually global warming ruined their homes and they were forced into isolation, where they took a liking to the screaming of Eskimo children (various ages 2 – 19) playing swords with icicles. Hence the name… War of Ages…

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Epic.

How else do you describe a band like this? Even after a long, grueling night of non-stop insanity – Leroy, Steve, Brandon, TJ, and Alex siphoned the energy out of the remaining victims. One dude definitely got smashed in the nose – who knows if it broke (I know… these shows always have epic endings that my parents would never understand). From the moment the sound check ended, chaos ensued and the entire room pushed back in a swell of anticipation, leaving a gaping hole in the middle of the room so that when that first drop hit, it collapsed upon itself with a cacophony of fists, kicks, misty flips (Yes, someone really did a misty flip… Tony Gambino, of Blessed By A Heart, actually, is our misty flip man. The guy’s nuts.) and sing-a-long songs. If you want to know the truth, I felt pretty stupid for not knowing the lyrics, because everyone else did. Everyone else did. “We will find, find ourselves, through the shadows of the past we now face!” With a huge shout out to the meaning behind the band, they played songs like “Strength Within” and “All Consuming Fire” which boast in the name of Jesus’ assurance, hope, and adoration.

Like I said… Epic.

Ten bands in five and one half hours is insane. I worked the show, and I dare say I would have preferred to be the ignorant spectator over the stressed-out backliner/bad guy that tells all the bands their set times have been cut short… but somehow, by the grace of God, it was a success and Albuquerque loved it. I didn’t hear a single negative thing about any band – even the ones that were sure they’d played awfully. Even the ones that didn’t get much of a response from the crowd. See… God does work miracles!

Like I said… Albuquerque’s got the community aspect down. Every show here ends with bands and fans going to Frontier for food afterwards. It’s just common knowledge. It’s just something that has to happen. So if you’re ever in the ‘Burque and you’re going to a show, you’d best know that we’ll meet up at Frontier afterwards – and Lord have mercy on ya if you forget… never know what might happen – breakin’ tradition ‘n ev’rythang.

Tony Gambino might misty-flip you in the face.