February 13, 2003

Time for a Shout and a Dance

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To start, a corny joke: What do you get when you cross Cornell with Long Island (and a little PA)? No, not the Ag. School. You get a lineup of four rowdy bands at JAM and further proof that screaming is not unavoidably aurally offensive. In fact, when it’s –20 degrees outside and the wind feels like Mike Tyson taking a chunk out of your ears, screaming can sound pretty damn appropriate. Regardless of the weather, last Saturday Tankini, Greyscale, Hyphema, and Idols of Perversity, for lack of a more critically accurate expression, rocked their asses off and took the small, but obviously hungry-for-decibels audience with them. The show was one of many that JAM (Just About Music), a program house on North Campus, has helped sponsor this year.

Despite the on-campus location and free entrance, the small JAM concert space seemed surprisingly empty as the scheduled 7:30 start time came and went with the self-described feminist punk-rockers, Tankini, sound checking on stage. There were no complaints about the delay; as everyone in the room seemed to accept, disregard for schedules is one of those things rock music can’t live without. Or maybe the band was just waiting for a few more people to arrive.

When Tankini did start their set about fifteen minutes later, they did it with a joyously sarcastic cry of “suck my left one!” and the slowly expanding audience of around 25 probably would have, if they could. The crowd sang along and yelled back at the band throughout the entire set. Many of the kids in attendance seemed to be friends of the band, lending the performance a personal effect. For one song, Tankini even brought an ex-member up on stage to help out with the singing. As for the sound, while it’s trite to an extent to compare a female-lead, punk band like Tankini to forerunners like Bikini Kill and Sleater Kinney, the association is almost inevitable. Singer Christina Ingoglia impressed beyond expectations with a snarling screaming-capacity worthy of Kathleen Hanna, especially in lines like “my choice, not yours, my body, my body, die Cornell Coalition for Life!” which perhaps would have been hard to pull off seriously otherwise. In a fitting tribute, the band closed with a remarkable cover of the riot-grrl’s anthem, “Rebel Girl.”

Out-of-towners Greyscale took the stage next in front of a noticeably larger crowd than was present at the beginning of the show. Disregard for schedules goes for rock fans as well as musicians. Or maybe everyone was just coming from dinner. Before they began Greyscale, melodic hardcore practitioners and Ithaca darlings from Long Island, apologized for being a little drained from the previous night’s exploits (which included a show at The Haunt). The audience happily interpreted “drained” as “hung over” and cheered accordingly. At any rate, despite the claim of fatigue, the band delivered a just about flawless set, even with the bassist and two guitarists ricocheting around the small stage and rolling on the floor like hyperactive kids loose from Ritalin prison. The energy was inspiring and the crowd loved it. During the last song of the set, “Glyde,” one of the guitarists managed to knock over a cymbal. The song went on, but by the end, in true rock fashion, nothing on stage was left standing.

After a quick equipment change (which consisted mostly of hauling pieces of drum set off the stage), Hyphema (formerly Defile) from northern Pennsylvania, plowed through an 11-song set of music that could potentially be described by a made-up, compound term like nu-metal/post-punk hardcore. To put it in other words, it’s a wonder singer Ryan Hoke’s vocal chords didn’t shatter halfway through the second song. The slightly thinning crowd followed the band’s every movement but apparently head-bobbing wasn’t what Hyphema considered adequate audience involvement. After a few “make some noise Cornell!” requests and some middle finger displaying, the crowd gave in and “made some noise.” Some broke out the classic devil-horn rock hand sign. A couple members of Greyscale even established the proverbial thrash-dancing/mosh pit midway through the performance. Two may not be the ideal size for a thrash pit, but apparently it seemed like better than none. Hyphema performed just as energetically and intensely as the bands that preceded them, even if there was no instrument destruction to top it off.

By 10:30 when the Idols of Perversity started their set, the crowd had begun to dwindle and the kids who remained were seated on the floor. Still, the band pulled off a solid performance and even worked in a Ramones cover. They got the audience standing and for being the last band in a string of four, brought the room’s energy level back up to where everyone could give a hearty “fuck you” to the weather, and head home happy.

Archived article by Thea Brown