So, it comes to pass, the final ever Static Shock Weekend lands next week. This festival has, of course, been a landmark of the London hardcore punk scene since its first iteration in 2012 and (almost) annual renewal ever since.
I must admit I’ve never been entirely in love with the concept of festivals. The timing / spread of the shows means you will almost certainly miss some of the bands you would like to catch and there is also the venue inflation generated by the need to use larger venues to ensure financial viability, and to cater for the inevitably larger turnouts.
But to be fair, these small gripes are far outweighed by the benefits that festivals as well put together as the likes of the Static Shock Weekend and Damage Is Done festivals bring – diverse line-ups that touch pretty much every sub-genre, attracting bands to these shores who might not otherwise make it, and generally acting as a focal point for the city’s hardcore punk community.
It was those features that I most enjoyed about past Static Shock Weekends – yes, getting to see bands that I already loved, but also being introduced to quite a few that might otherwise have slipped under my radar.
And, while it is sad to see Static Shock Weekend come to its end, 11 years is a pretty decent run (and an awful lot of hard work for its organisers!). So, rather than dwell on its demise, I’d rather celebrate the highlights. I attended shows from each of the festivals, with the exception of the first in 2012 and then 2015 and looking back what is immediately apparent is not only how many good bands I caught, but also just how many I missed! But three performances stand out very clearly in my memory to define a rather personal Static Shock Weekend history.
First up is Give, they of the colourful ‘G’ daisy motif, in 2014. In fact, Give were my gateway to the festival itself as it was this band who first tempted me down to T-Chances that fateful November. They headed into the Static Shock Weekend on the back of releasing five great two-song singles on labels ranging from Deranged to React, Youngblood to Triple B (collected together as the ‘Singles Going Confetti’ LP) and with a follow-up LP on Revelation Records slated for the following year. Musically, Give explored ‘Revolution Summer’ inspired hardcore. Now, clearly, this is a style that many have sought inspiration from, but often find themselves struggling to match the underlying intensity and energy that originally fuelled this sound in mid-1980s Washington DC.
However, there were no such misgivings with Give. There was always a clear authenticity to this band, who displayed not only an innate understanding of their inspirations, but also a distinctive take on them. This was abundant to see that night as lead vocalist, John Scharbach, took to the floor in front of the stage (which always seemed disproportionately high to me at T-Chances), and the band unleashed a vibrantly powerful set.
My next stand out memory is of Exit Order at the 2017 festival. Exit Order hailed from Boston and in the space of four years released an excellent demo in 2013, an explosive self-titled EP on Side Two Records in 2015, and a brilliantly realised LP, ‘Seed of Hysteria’, on La Vida Es Un Mus Discos / Side Two in 2017. On some levels, Exit Order’s raucous sound could be mistaken as relatively simple, by the fact that it had the singular intent of wanting to make you pogo with reckless abandon. But, in reality, the skill that went into delivering this infectious sound was not to be underestimated. The guitars hit you in waves before honing into the defining riff, while the rhythm section literally bounces with vitality, yet is underpinned by surprising complexity, while the vocals are unyielding, not gruff but bristling with intent.
Now in the live environment, bands can sometimes morph into rather different propositions. Exit Order on the other hand were a living embodiment of their recorded persona – vocalist Anna Cataldo was literally a whirlwind of perpetual motion, as the band locked into a relentless groove. Various members went on to play in sonically quite different, but uniformly excellent bands, Dame (Beach Impediment) and Innocent (Side Two).
Then in 2020, Murderer. Now Murderer have only ever released one record and were never a band who toured widely (indeed, I think I recall that the Static Shock Weekend was their first, and may remain their only show outside of New York). Now, I really enjoyed ‘I Did It All For You’ (Toxic State) – a darkly irresistible LP of gothically sinister almost-lullabies. But, live, their stripped-down sound took on a whole new dimension. Their sound became bigger, burlier, even more mesmerising in its insidious repetition, and they had soon swept the crowd up into their joyously black embrace. Little did I know as I headed back to Seven Sisters tube that this would prove to be my last gig in 18 months as the UK’s first Covid lockdown kicked in just a couple of weeks later.
And, as for 2023, who will be the band to embed themselves in our collective memories? This is, of course, impossible to call with so many great bands due to the hit stage. But I am very much looking forward to catching Spirito Di Lupo whose debut LP, ‘Vedo La Tua Faccia Nei Giorni Di Pioggia’, is really rather special.