Monday, February 16, 2009

Posted by xCHIPxSEM |
For any of you know that know me, you know I love Earth Crisis. Well David "Count" Agranoff loves them too and he was able to witness the Firestorm record release show in 1993 and gave us a play by play of what happened on that night. Big thanks to David for taking the time to sit down and write this out for us.

Firestorm record release. By Count Agranoff

It was my first time at the lost. October 24th 1993 and the occasion was the release of the now classic record Firestorm. These days it is hard to picture the hardcore scene or the world without that song. Seriously you tube that song and you’ll see ExC play it in Germany, Japan, south America. You’ll see just as many bands cover the song. Get back in the way back machine and imagine a time when only kids in Syracuse knew that song. Well Victory Records was going to solve that little problem. The buzz on the record was strong. After it was recorded I was talking on the phone with Guav the straight edge weapon himself and he told me “Dude this record is so heavy it makes integrity sound like ALL.” Ok for you younger peeps at the time Integ were pretty much the heaviest shit around and ALL was a crappy pop punk band that grew out of the Descendents. Tell me you know the Descendents right?

With the buzz on the record the release show had to be big. This was the responsibility of Syracuse show master John Mckaig. The assholes at CNN called him a kindly uncle to the straight edge, besides the barffingly stupid comment Mckaig is more than that. The man lost his shirt on and at hardcore shows in Syracuse for years. If anybody could put on a great show it was him.
So lets talk about the line-up.
Earth Crisis
Green Rage

All of these bands are classics. It should be noted that Chokehold and Bloodlet were not really known like they are today. Bloodlet was not yet on victory with only two demos to show for their efforts at that point. That hadn’t yet gotten all trippy. Chokehold had not yet toured but the buzz were that they were super good Canadian straight edge.
Outspoken were huge at the time. They had slogged away during straight edge’s early 90’s lull and were still pretty popular. I had not at the time heard of Soulstice and Green Rage but the word was that they were a off the hook second generation EXC rip-off.
So I heard the line-up to this show and knew I had to be there. The problem is that Syracuse was 11 hours away by car. The thing is that many people had decided they wanted to do the same thing. The story of my ride there is boring for anyone except myself and Keith woods…My only still vegan straight edge friend from that drive.
We drove in a Honda civic from Indiana and stayed half way there with Abnegation’s vocalist Iggy. Abnegation if you have not heard was a great band from that era, and there guitarist Paul was going to be playing second guitar for Green Rage the next day in Syracuse. On the 23rd we were supposed to Join Green Rage and Abnegation at a show in Niagra falls. The falls looked pretty awesome but we got there and there was no show. So we headed on to Syracuse.
When we got to there we stayed at Justin from Green Rage’s house with what seemed like two thousand hardcore kids from all over tarnation. Mike Stormstrike from NJ hardline and encounter was there, selling everyone brand new Vegan Power shirts sans the hardline guns. Justin’s mom went to Wegman’s and bought several boxes of ADM harvest burgers(remember those?) which we all chipped in for. She cooked veggie burgers and Green Rage taught Paul their songs.
I listened to them teach Paul the Green Rage tunes while I ate momma Rage’s burgers and remember thinking to myself “That’s it?”
If you have ever heard Declaration by Green Rage you know what I am talking about it’s perhaps the most simple hardcore song ever written. If you lived in Syracuse during the nineties you heard it being honked on horns and knocked on doors.
In the morning the various hardcore kids woke up and got into their wagon train to drive past the polluted Onondaga Lake toward the Lost Horizon.
The Lost Horizon was a shithole metal bar that played Anthrax and Celtic Frost records too loud (nothing wrong with that) and was filled up with smoke during it’s typical shows. I still can’t believe that place made food, and that people ate it. For many years it was the home for Sunday afternoon matinee hardcore shows that were pretty much the womb that hardcore legends Earth Crisis were birthed out of.
With a medium sized stage that towered over the area where the pit naturally formed it was a perfect stage diving venue. The booths in the back were perfect for the hardcore show flea markets that the grew over the years. As the kids from various cities arrived and from all over Syracuse the word spread that the show might sell-out. Crap we got in line early and waited.
When the show opened up we got in and breathed a sigh of relief. The only band from that night I don’t remember well is Soulstice. I waited around wishing I had more money and if I could put a quarter of the shirts on Ebay today I could probably bail out a savings and loan. Solstice was pretty forgettable Classic Syracuse 90’s vegan mosh featuring a young Kris Weichman.
When Green Rage came on they blew my mind. You see Justin didn’t seem quite right. The dude just had a crazy look in his eyes. They started the feedback, the drums started pounding that declaration beat. Justin leaned into the crowd and started screaming in his high pitched crazy ass banshee voice. He was threatening the crowd calling them out, telling them to get active. For a moment I thought he was going to kick my ass because I didn’t shoot a vivisector on my way to the show. I think it is that insanity in the vocals that still keeps the 4 songs that band did classic. That is most of what they played. They played a horrid half cover of Nomad off the recently released Sepultura record (which I first heard the night before) and ended with a cover.
“The fucking piece of shit who wrote this song may not still believe in it but we do,” and the band closed with the best version of Integrity’s “Live It Down” I’ll ever hear.

So I was exhausted when Bloodlet started. They were different but very heavy. I remember I sat through their set but it was powerful. I have the chokehold set on video from this show. So I’ll keep my dissenting opinion of chokehold to myself for the moment. Remember this was early. I’m not even sure Prison Of Hope was out yet. Although when Chokehold played ‘More Than Ever’ it brought the house down. That kinda cracks me up because that is song that current Chokehold fans barely remember. At the same time they played their classic “I Won’t Fall (Anchor)” song and the crowd doesn’t hardly react.

Outspoken was on a little mini-tour. I have their show from DC the night before on video but not the Syracuse set. I remember singing along, I remember the crowd going off but nothing compared to the all-out crazy-ness they got the night before in DC.

All I can think is people were saving up energy for The EXC set. I have this set on video and have watched at least yearly. It is an important Earth Crisis set. Not only is it the record release show, but the last show with the original ‘All Out War’ line up. It is also the first time the band played material written specifically for Destroy The Machines. How can that be? Dennis had been in the band on Firestorm right? Didn’t Dennis play the More Than Music fest and the entire first tour? Yes, he did. He was out of the country doing something for school. So Mike Riccardi the OG drummer and future Another victim/ Path drummer filled in. They opened the set with a dirty trick playing the intro to the order. Karl was hiding off to the side of the stage. When they got to the feedback that would signal the first verse of the order Karl appeared. “This is the title track off our new CD…”
The crowd goes nuts as the band chugs the first e-chord. “…A firestorm to purify!” by the time everyone is yelling “street by street / block by block” The crowd is going crazy. On the video the camera shakes like crazy during the intro, even at the back of the pit the camera goes nuts. The sing-a-long is intense. Surprised? Yeah this was the release, but it had been out a whole week. I suppose the Indiana car was not the only one doing hardcore homework with the firestorm CD on the way there. As Firestorm ends the feedback continues as Mike starts playing the drum intro to Forged in the Flames. “Everyday you’ve been beaten down in time you come to realize that you are your only alley. Don’t let yourself be defeated. Learn from the pain and let yourself be forged.” Could it be that Karl was working on the lyrics to Born from Pain around that time?
Next up Karl tell us there will be no compromise in defense of the environment as Bulldog belts out the intro to the first earth crisis song ever written - Ecocide. The sing alongs are the most intense after firestorm. Ben Reed(wearing an awesome Thrasher shirt) does a full 10 point flip into the crowd and Mckaig has to pull him back on stage. As the song ends the band goes right into Unseen Holocaust.
After this song everyone is winded, water gets passed around. Karl gives a short speech about deforestation and says the next one is off their upcoming album. The song we’ll come to be known as Destroy the Machines is very different here. This early version starts with a guitar intro by Ben Reed. While similar to the one played on the album they later recorded this riff is higher pitched and he does this strange bendy thing with the strings. The rhythm comes in later than the final version. After that the rest of the song is pretty much the same. The crowd was tired and no one except Guav really danced for this new one.
Next up they play ‘Eden’s Demise’ As I watched the video I smiled as I saw myself sing a-long to the line “For the innocent to be killed.” Green Rage fans will be stoked to see Justin slide across the stage and grab the mic to sing “The enemy surrounds,” in that banshee voice of his.
As the short set ends the inpatient sound man says “That’s Earth crisis.” The crowd is yelling “All Out War,” “Stand by,” I’m positive if they didn’t play Stand by I was one of the people yelling that. After a brief pause Mckaig holds up his finger asking the sound man for one more.
Karl stands up the X’s on his hand almost sweated completely off his hands. “Ok one more,” The crowd goes nuts. “Night of Justice,” Syracuse kids especially get excited. Mike looks confused behind the drums. Scott turns his pick-ups down and plays the riff quietly and Mike remembers the song. While you might not recognize the title the song would later be re-titled Wrath of Sanity. “This song is about direct action. After negotiating has failed, If there is no other way. It is what must be done to free the animals and save the environment. It is not a criminal act, it is not a negative thing, it’s a beautiful thing. It’s heroric.”
Ben starts the opening riff of the song. Early in the song Justin of Green Rage is mic hogging the sing along and Karl swings him around into the crowd. Jen the former co-editor of Holocaust zine grabs the mic for a ear drum destroying scream a-long. That woman made Justin green rage sound like a baritone, her ear piercing sing alongs to Earth Crisis were notorious at the time. Like Freddy Kruger scratching a chalk board.

When it was over I collapsed in the Honda civic and slept almost the whole drive back to Indiana. Watching the video again always brings back that day, like it was yesterday. There was some pretty well known stage divers. Guav, Paul abnegation, Mike Conquer the world, The singer of the Chicago band silence, Luther the singer of Warcry, Justin Rage, Kris and Jen holocaust, Kevin Solstice, Matt and Pete of Gatekeeper.

Set List: Order intro>Firestorm, Forged in the flames, Ecocide, Unseen holocaust, Destroy the machines, Eden’s demise, No alligence, Encore: Night of justice.

- David Agranoff

David is still 200% vegan Straight Edge. He is a novelist and and as Karl put it "A true scholar of Earth Crisis." His blog contains Book reviews and lots of Earth crisis commentary.


An Attitude Exhumed said...

Great show. Green Rage was amazing. The live photo in the 7-inch was taken at that show during the Integrity cover. If I remember correctly, I'm somewhere in it, diving.

I'd love to get a copy of that video. If it ever gets transferred, someone please keep me in the loop.

xCHIPxSEM said...

Buske shoot me an email when you have a minute

David Agranoff said...

I want to transfer it, It's on the agenda. I only have chokehold and EXC.

xbojanx said...

David, please do it..and thanx for this story

Guav said...

Must. Have. Video.

David Agranoff said...

Guav on destroy the machines you float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

AWC said...

I shall dwell into these legends and read this post very thoroughly. <3

XsteveVhartX said...

oh man. i was at this show. i pawned my b.c. rich warlock to get money to go to. it was me, greg edge and jimmy chang and kyle score. this was the show that got me to quit eating meat to be exact. this is still one of my favorite memories of all time. if i remember correctly, greg's van got towed because he parked the wrong way on the street. we also stole a whole set of wheels off of a toyota van on the way home. definitely one of the most life changing experiences for me. still vegan, still edge.

XsteveVhartX said...

i would also love to have a copy of this show.

lex said...

Great write-up, Dave. That was one of the best shows I've ever been to, still, to this very day. So much fun.


Exercise Compassion said...

I didn't park the van the wrong direction. I had an upside down license plate. But we know the real reason was the "shoot pigs not drugs" sticker on the front.
Certainly the most rememberable trips of my life. Vegan then, raw vegan now, straight edge then, straight edge now.