The hardcore punk band shows off their talent
by Reyna Wang and Regana Alicka
Earwax Editor and Staff Concert Connoisseur
As soon as we stepped into the backyard of The Meat Shop, the Bronx location of NYC hardcore punk band Show Me the Body’s five borough live residency, two strangers came up to me and my friends and gave us sparkly smiley face stickers to put on our faces. By the time I left The Meat Shop, I had experienced a bloody and very literal Body War, the title of the band’s latest release. The night made me realize that frontman Julian Cashwan Pratt is spot on when he calls hardcore the music of the people.
The atmosphere of the show was perhaps the most genuine I’ve ever experienced. There was no pretentiousness among the crowd, perhaps better described as a community; everyone talked to anyone, and someone we met at the show even offered to play my band’s music on her radio show. The environment that fostered this rare moment of communal collaboration was facilitated by Hydro Punk, an up-and-coming Bronx-based arts collective. After scoping out their Instagram page (@hydr0punk), it is clear that these humbly self-described “punks from the Bronx” are capable of much more than just setting up DIY shows in basements. Recent events include a Hydro Punk Art Expo that showcased photography, visual art, spoken word, live music, and video projections from young local artists. The Hydro Punks know that great things happen when folks with diverse experiences and strengths come together in the spirit of collaboration and do not hesitate to use their platform to further activist causes and promote social justice. This sort of community, which connects young NYC artists and art lovers, is one that Show Me the Body is passionate about keeping alive, as they avoid larger, more traditional venues and break down the impersonal barrier between artist and fan by offering hand deliveries of merch across the five boroughs.
Few bands represent the spirit of NYC better than Show Me the Body. From the soul-shaking bass, to the eccentric banjo riffs, to the relentless moshpit, Show Me the Body creates the most physically, emotionally, and spiritually intense experience possibly reflecting the chaotic intensity of their city. The often hip-hop inflected vocals also reveal the influence of NYC culture and of the band’s close friendships with rap groups like Ratking. The use of distortion pedals during the live performance was even more excessive than in their recorded music, creating incredibly abrasive sounds mirrored by the violent ebb and flow of the audience and by Julian’s lyrics that capture a feeling of closeness to death, such as when he screams “Suicide is such an easy way out / let’s get ready / let’s get bloody” in the song Two Blood Pacts. The experience of Show Me the Body’s performance paints an image of struggle and pain in our everyday lives that we seek to be liberated from, yet that is also inexplicably appealing to us.
As much as I love the feeling of being caught up in the push-pull of a punk show crowd, at one point I could not help but glue myself to the front row, transfixed by the frenetic energy of Show Me the Body’s performance. From merely three feet away from the microphone, I could see Julian’s forehead veins bulging, spit flying, and features contorting as he performed. He must have noticed how intensely I was fixated on his face because we sustained eye contact for what was probably a minute but felt like a thousand years. This moment of awe-induced stillness reminded me of an idea that Show Me the Body explores frequently in their work – the act of processing sensory overload and the ways in which emotions are just interactions between mayhem and order threatening to eclipse one another. In some ways, every part of the show was an exploration of this fight between mayhem and order that exists both within and beyond the body. We scream and mosh along because it is a release of angst but also an appreciation of it. Perhaps, I connected a bit too literally with the artistically expressed themes of chaos, pain, and death, because I ended up being elbowed in the face, getting a bloody nose and potential head trauma, and spending the night at St. Barnabas. But to me, a live experience of Show Me the Body deserves no less fitting of an ending.