Words & Photos by Scott Murry
Hardcore bands don’t always have the longest shelf life despite their creative output or admiration. American Nightmare followed this trope in their initial incarnation, developing music shaded in misanthropy. Surviving a forced hurdle in changing their name (after a lawsuit with a mediocre band of the same name) to Give Up The Ghost they forged ahead with a devoted fan base. It was short lived for the Boston band. After a five-year sprint from their 1999 demo tape, they cancelled a string of shows and broke up abruptly. It left a black hole in the shadows of the scene.
Band members went separate ways to focus on different projects and music endeavors. After a seven year itch, it felt like a time to play together and see how it went. This developed into a set of year-end shows in 2011. The passion at these bi-coastal sets proved the band had departed, but never left the consciousness of fans. Additional shows popped up across the years.
Good news in the Nightmare camp snowballed as the band revived rights to their original name, American Nightmare. With the original moniker intact, they were ready to release new material. On Feb. 16, 2018 their self-titled album debuted. Two days later, they returned to their hometown of Boston to perform at Brighton Music Hall. To say the homecoming was palpably chaotic would be an understatement. The sold out club was a tsunami of sweat. Bodies pressed frenetically towards the stage with each song.
“Hearts” from 2001’s Background Music ignited their set. The chorus echoed loud, “Screaming gets you nothing. One more night in fucking town.” While the song represents a disdain for the city, the feeling to yell it out rang in passion. Lead singer Wes Eisold stood at the edge of the stage nearly in crow position. It appeared he would be pulled from this perch, but this isn’t his first day at sea. His adept stance assured survival.
The audience clung to the older songs with deeper intensity than the new ones, losing their minds when anything from 2001’s Background Music played. To be fair though, they’ve had considerably more time to learn every word of the older material, as opposed to a couple of days since the release of the newest work. The emergence of these new tracks was devoured no less. “Crisis of Faith” stirred open the encore with lyric and sonic droning that echoes Bauhaus. The new track shows a darker contemplation of the band. They wrapped up the night with “We Are” from their debut EP. The song instantaneously released every endorphin in the room.
Pissed Jeans confused and elated the crowd just before American Nightmare with their growling parade of noise. Lumbering riffs from 2007’s “Fantasy World” opened their performance. Singer Matt Korvette was feeling the mood as he sauntered his hands up and down his chest. Upon his time for lyrics, he instead slinked to the drum set at the back of the stage, and disappeared. Moments later he was casually enjoying the show from the green room windows above the side stage.
A self-aware stage man, Korvette found a drink-adorning lime on stage to squeeze into his eye. The cheeky display of machismo fit well as they played “The Bar is Low,” a song rifely condemning male mediocrity. It was unclear if Boston’s burliest concertgoers were into it, but Korvette noted their ability to be polite. Korvette threw himself to the floor to continue grumbling lyrics in a tantrum. The Pennsylvania-strewn quartet doesn’t tour extensively, so the East Coast was lucky to get a few shows to kickoff this American Nightmare tour. (A Day in the Life feature with Pissed Jeans is coming soon to a screen near you.)
The high energy of Protestor paired well with their sound indicative of their roots, DC straight edge. Spin kicks filled the room. Fellow openers, Spiritual Cramp, of San Francisco opened the night with a surfy twang of lo-fi hardcore. The spread out sounds of the night were a compelling platter for this hardcore feast.