Review by John Silva
The Garage is consistently ranked one of the best all-ages music venues in the Twin Cities metro area. After attending a metal show there on November 29th, I can see why. The venue offers young people a safe place to enjoy the bands they love at an affordable price. Most importantly, everyone at this show, including the bands, instilled a sense of community that made everyone feel welcome.
Loath kicked off the set with an engaging and energetic performance. The frontman was very enthusiastic, which made the band a lot of fun to watch. The only minor mishap was that he frequently tried to hype up the crowd by shouting “what’s up St. Paul!” Which wouldn’t be a big deal were it not for the fact that the show was about 21 miles southwest of St. Paul in Burnsville, Minnesota. Way to insult the entire city of Burnsville, Loath! If the band were based out the USA, especially if they were from the upper midwest, I might have held it against them. But since Loath is from the UK, I think it was an easy mistake, and they deserve a free pass here. It was good enough for me that they knew they were in Minnesota even though many people across the pond probably couldn’t tell Minnesota from Nebraska.
Varials was up next. They were representing the Philadelphia hardcore scene which became evident when they humorously instructed a mouthy fan to “not talk shit about the Eagles.” The band wasn’t bad at all, but the real MVP of this set, and possibly the entire night, was the guy donning a red hat who was in the pit doing AJ Styles spin kicks so high I think his foot was at least nine inches above his head. I approached him after Varials’ set to compliment him on his pit moves. He said his name was Noah, and from overhearing people in the crowd talk about him throughout the night, I got the impression that he’s something of a pit legend in Burnsville (again, not St. Paul), Minnesota. Shout out to you, Noah. If hardcore doesn’t work out for you, maybe you can give Professional Wrestling a shot.
Gideon was the highlight of the night for me. They gave a performance that detoured slightly away from the non-stop breakdown metalcore that dominated the evening. Although Gideon can certainly be classified as a metalcore band, they were one of the more melodic acts on the bill. Their songs were aggressive, but also catchy. They encouraged the crowd to turn up but also called out (and kicked out) a fan who was getting a little too rowdy. I didn’t have a good view of what went down, but it looked like a fight almost broke out, and the band ordered security to rid the venue of the perpetrating individual. Although I like an energetic pit as much as the anyone, I also appreciate bands that work to keep the music scene—especially the all-ages scene—a safe place. There’s a difference between being wild at a hardcore show and getting straight up violent, and I’m grateful for bands like Gideon that can tell the difference and aren’t afraid to call people out on it.
People were very excited about the next band, Oceans Ate Alaska, another act from the UK. I had never heard of them, which might be a sign that they cater to a younger demographic (at 27, I definitely felt I was on the older end of age spectrum at this show). The audience was into the band’s original songs, but for me, the highlight of the set was their Beyoncé cover, which, amusingly, many of the kids didn’t seem to know the words to. I guess the metalcore crowd is the one group of people in the Western world who aren’t familiar with Queen B.
Next was the headliner, Wage War. Everyone in the crowd was super hyped for them. They were a very well polished band, and the frontman was a brilliant entertainer—he was like the Bruce Springsteen of metal because of the way he was able to engage the audience and make everyone feel like a part of the show. I almost teared up a bit during Wage War’s set.
It wasn’t that I was moved by the band’s music, as much as it was the nostalgia I felt from watching the kids in the audience. Each band on the bill brought me back to my high school years when the highlight of every week was going to hardcore, punk, and metal shows on the weekend. Looking around and seeing over a hundred kids, stoked to see one of their favorite bands, singing along and holding onto every word, and most importantly, looking out for each other to make sure that no matter how crazy things got, everyone stayed safe—it reminded me why this community was so important to me in my formative years. To all the bands that played this bill, to the staff and volunteers at The Garage, and to everyone in the audience (especially you, Noah), thank you for reminding this aging and sometimes jaded punk why safe, inclusive, all ages, D.I.Y. spaces are so special and invaluable.