Words & Photos by Scott Murry
Punk rock has ridden many waves since its inception in the 70s, catching new ears every day. With its brash rebellious portrayal, plenty of listeners latch on young. It’s fun and easy to yell expletives, and that’s all fresh ears hear sometimes. But as time passes, these listeners look back on the genre as a “phase.” Recollecting the years with blushed cheeks as if they’re admitting to when they wore JNCOs or chased Pokémon. They reflect on the music as juvenile or something that was fun before they could appreciate “more mature” tunes. Thankfully, there are stalwarts that acknowledge what the music really holds, and what it can create. Thankfully there is a GBH in the world. This English street punk band ignited their sound in 1978, and three quarters of the band remain on stage as their new album Momentum hits the world via Hellcat Records this Fall. This isn’t a phase, this is life.
Having never seen the band live, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Nearly 40 years into the game would they be tired and fluffing their way around the stage? Would lead singer Colin Abrahall be able to sing anything? (I hear some of you out there, “punk bands don’t need to be able to sing,” but they do still need to have a voice and presence.) Abrahall held the stage in his massive armor of leather with the lurking demeanor of a scowling crow. Jumping in motions that belong on a Jackson Pollack canvas, he stretched across Brighton Music Hall’s stage as a man on top of his game.
With Colin Blythe and Ross Lomas on strings, the band was incredibly tight together. That’s bound to happen with forty years of experience, but the camaraderie was evident between these men. Subtle nods when to go, and watching motions for when to step back—they’re brothers at this point. And damn, we should all hope to have the great blond spikes of Abrahall when we reach our second wind.
Tour support, The Casualties began in the 90s with a desire to restore what they loved about early street punk. This involves a healthy amount of torn jeans, studs, and liberty spikes—and damn, those are some fine liberty spikes. As post-hardcore and new wave were gaining steam, they missed bands of the early punk years, making it their mission to bring the sound to a new generation. Having them return to Boston was a bit of an anomaly as well with founding singer Jorge Herrera departing abruptly this summer. David Rodriguez, long time friend of the band and powerful front man in his own string of hardcore groups has taken the helm—no small feat.
While Herrera was missed, Rodriguez was an excellent follow-up. His voice was rich with strife, passion, and rage as he exploded on the stage. He didn’t appear timid or new, having been close with the band many years he fit right in. Being offered a beer from bassist Rick Lopez, he joked, “Is this piss? I want to make sure first …” With all the presence of punk that would make them great background “bad kid” characters in any 80s movie, the positivity shines truth through. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or what you’re into, we’re all here together tonight. So let’s have a good time!” That is what liberty (spikes) is all about after all, unity.