April 12, 2001

Battleground: Ithaca

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This past Saturday, MTV invaded the campus of nearby Ithaca College. They brought with them an army comprised of hot up-and-coming bands, like Canadian punk rockers Sum 41, Boston-based pop-mongers American Hi-Fi, and the Memphis hardcore/ metal outfit Saliva. Their weapons: guitars, bass, drums, and amps turned up to 12. daze was there to witness the carnage.

Sum 41 opened the show with a high-energy set marked by lots of fun antics and plenty of surprises. They played songs from their debut, Half Hour Of Power, as well as several new songs from their forthcoming album, All Killer No Filler. With their Blink 182-inspired punk rock, they had the crowd bobbing their heads and moshing crazily. All four members seemed to be constantly in motion, jumping up and down in tandem, running across the stage, and even playing each other’s instruments.

The funniest moment of the night came during one of the rare breaks between songs, when frontman Deryck asked the audience how many people came from Cornell University. Deryck then told the Cornell fans, “everyone from Ithaca College hates you,” and followed it up with some interplay with guitarist Dave: “Dave’s from Cornell, and I’m from Ithaca, and I hate Dave.”

The playful mood lasted throughout the show, including when a masked roadie charged out onto the stage and into the audience before Deryck leapt onto his shoulders to be carried around in front of the stage, screaming his vocals from on top of this WWF reject. These kind of antics provided a break from the non-stop pop-punk assault, as did a song where the guys unexpectedly broke into an old-skool rap, with all of them trading off vocal duties like a bunch of ’80s MCs. Overall, Sum 41 put on a unique and fun show throughout.

Next up was American Hi-Fi, playing a selection of poppy — but heavy — numbers from their self-titled debut. The band kept the volume nearly as loud during their set as during Sum 41’s raucous performance, but tempered their aggressive rock with melodic vocals and a few sections of lightly strummed guitar.

The band kept the onstage antics to a minimum throughout the show, except for a brief exchange between frontman Stacy Jones and a disgruntled audience member. After a few jibes directed at the singer, Stacy and the guy in the crowd gave each other the finger, and everybody thought it was over. Then, during the next song, the guy mooned Stacy, which surprisingly didn’t distract the band at all from the job at hand. The band closed the show with their radio and MTV hit, “Flavor of the Weak.” Another break. My ears were ringing quite steadily by then, with Saliva up next, and they promised to be the loudest band of the night. Hearing anything for the next few days seemed out of the question, but it didn’t seem to matter at that point.

Saliva had easily the best show-starting build-up of the night. Before the band hit the stage, all the lights went out, and a sound-effects montage played over the auditorium’s speakers. Helicopter rotors whirred, voices whispered quietly in the darkness, and a girl moaned, “this is my first time.” Even knowing what to expect — namely, an all-out hardcore assault — we found ourselves getting anxious. Then the band took the stage, one at a time, with singer Josey Scott taking the stage last.

As he stalked to center-stage, the lights finally came on and the band blasts into their first song, a powerful version of “Click Click Boom” off their new album, Every Six Seconds. Josey raps on the verses, swaying hypnotically back and forth with the band’s powerful rhythms. The choruses are traditional hardcore screaming, but the band avoids sounding conventional. Saliva’s tight rhythm section gave them a hip-hop edge that was sharpened further by Josey’s raps and aggressive stage presence.

Throughout the set, the band never relented as they charge through some great cuts from their major-label debut. Most of the songs follow the pattern of the first, with passages of frenzied rapping followed by even more frenzied screaming, but the band’s sound never gets boring, mostly because of their tight instrumentation and varied song structures.

When the dust finally cleared, and the battle was over, there was no clear winner. All the bands had rocked the stage, and the fact that each band was completely different from the other two only made the night even more fun. For those intrepid Cornellians who ventured over to I.C. for the show, it was well worth it. And for those who missed it, well you missed a hell of a war.

Archived article by Ed Howard