Musicians and artists from the Lower East Side “before it was cool” will always hold a special place in my heart. You see, before the Lower East Side (LES) became the new “it” place in New York City where two bedroom condos now go for $2.5m (on the Bowery no less!) it was a gritty, dirty, bloody, sub-working class community where you had to fight your way off your own block. Even more dangerous were the open-air drug markets of Alphabet City – burned out buildings filled with squatters and people trying to avoid being noticed. My family comes from the Lower East Side and like anyone who can trace their roots to the neighborhood will tell you – the grit is missed. The new, ritzy LES might have some trendy restaurants and cool galleries, but we’ll take the old authentic neighborhood replete with Bowery bums, Guss’ Pickles and CBGB’s (before it became a John Varvatos store of all things!) any day of the week. To be honest, I miss the old LES dearly. It was a real as it got in New York right in the shadow of the Financial District.
It’s the old LES from where John Joseph, frontman of Bloodclot, paid his dues and helped launch one of the most important bands in hardcore (if not rock n roll history), the Cro-Mags, along with Harley Flanagan and Parris Mayhew. Bloodclot rolled into Philly last Saturday on the second night of their US tour supporting the new record, Up in Arms.
You wouldn’t know Joseph had such a difficult early life as he’s in peak physical condition. His fitness and intensity is one of the reasons he’s so mesmerizing to watch performing live. I hadn’t seen John Joseph perform live in Philly for two plus decades – last opening for Life of Agony at the Trocadero in 1994 – in a rare “Age of Quarrel” show with Harley. Let me say, I remember that show well, largely because it was one of the first I was able to get into a member of the metal media, and John worked that sold-out Troc crowd into a frenzy. That was a legendary show that Philly is still buzzing about, even as most of the crowd are now parents of high schoolers.
Last Saturday night, Joseph was typical Joseph. An intense amount of energy and enthusiasm. He leaves nothing behind. It’s like he plays every show as his last. He tore into every song, kept the crowd pumped and gave his usual spot-on vocal performance. He was clearly excited about singing the new songs and the crowd certainly approved.
Guitarist Todd Youth, also an NYC native was in a rather important hardcore band himself; Warzone. Also in Agnostic Front and Murphy’s Law, Youth is about as close to NYHC royalty as you can get, not to mention he also played in some other rock bands you just might have heard of… D Generation, Danzig and Son of Sam. I’ve seen Youth in Danzig and as part of the Samhain reunion multiple times as well as with Murphy’s Law. Youth always brings his A game, which is one of the primary reasons so many bands want to work with him. Saturday at the show Youth was on fire. Intense and good natured – his performance hallmarks. Todd hung around after the show to talk with fans at the merch table, which was incredibly cool as so many people enjoy his body of work.
Rounding out the lineup are Joey Castillo on drums and Nick Oliveri on bass. These two men need no introduction given their work with Queens of the Stone Age. My brother turned me on this band years ago and I’ve always loved their first three records. Personally, for me, the band lost its spark when Oliveri left. The intensity just wasn’t there anymore. Thankfully, Oliveri is now lending his spark, his vocals and his bass to Bloodclot, amping up an already amped band. Castillo, of course, played in Danzig with Todd Youth. Castillo and Oliveri clearly have years of experience playing with each other and it shows on stage. In fact, this super group comprised of four veterans, is a treat for anyone who’s interested in performing live on a stage. They can improvise, they have great sound, they communicate with each other and they have fun.
Bloodclot has two records out, with the latest released just last week. The songs are pretty short so you’re likely going to hear your favorites in their set. Their current US tour with Negative Approach, which just kicked off last week, is hitting a lot of cities and tickets are very reasonably priced. Completely worth it. Even if you haven’t heard the new record – go – you will not be disappointed. This is a show for anyone who loves that NYHC crossover sound that Youth and Joseph helped create many years ago. Additionally, now’s the chance for middle America to experience what’s left of the LES – because very soon it will all be $25 shots of whiskey and people born after 2006 making up stories about running into Peter Steele in the CBGB’s bathroom.