Words and Photos by Pat GIlrane
In a show almost 30 years in the making, Life of Agony & Sick of It All joined forces Saturday night at the legendary Stone Pony Asbury Park NJ, in what could be best described as a night of musical fury; Also on the night’s ticket hardcore/punk artist BillyBio (Billy Graziadei)
Winters at the Jersey shore are a dismal affair, punctuated by cold weather and snow; a good show is always a welcome distraction. The backdrop for tonight’s show is the iconic Stone Pony. With a musical history spanning decades, this place is literally the church of music in New Jersey. As the crowd quickly filtered in you could feel the energy rapidly build ahead of the opener BillyBio.
BillyBio arrived on the stage a few minutes prior to his set time, and if looks were any indication of what was to come, it would be a really intense night. Billy started with “No Apologies, No Regrets” off his new (first) solo album Feed the Fire, getting right into the crowd.
As the set moved on, a sweat-drenched Bio stopped to give a shout out to the crowd proclaiming, “if you’re not sweating your ass off here tonight, you’re doing it wrong,” then dove right into “Enemy,” again off his new album. I couldn’t help but notice the back and forth between Bio and the crowd, Bio getting right up in the face of the crowd, and the crowd surging forward almost to say, “bring it!”
BillyBio continued his set, including a few older Biohazard songs including” A Lot to Learn,” How It Is,” and going as far back as the 1992 album Urban Discipline with “Shades of Grey.” BillyBio’s set was like a runaway tattooed mack truck, fast, hard-hitting and relentless.
With roots dating back to 1986, Sick of It All is a 30 plus year veteran of the New York hardcore scene, with a reputation for delivering hard-driving, high energy shows. SOIA is currently touring in support of their latest album Wake the Sleeping Dragon which dropped on November 2, 2018, via Fat Wreck Chords. SOIA band members are Lou Koller on vocals, Pete Koller on guitar and vocals, Craig Setari on bass and Armand Majidi on drums.
SOIA took the stage and immediately set a fast and driving pace playing songs from their new as well as older albums. Its been four years since the band’s last album and can tell you it was worth the wait, and while this isn’t an album review, let’s say their new one is good, really good. SOIA’s music is rooted in social and political issues but delivered in a way unique to this band; their music possesses a sense of urgency and impatience via Koller’s distinct expression filled vocals and the bands driving beats and guitar riffs.
With a discography spanning 30 plus years SOIA played a rather diverse set including several off their new album including the title track “Wake the Sleeping Dragon,” That Crazy White Boy Shit,” Inner Vision”, and my personal favorite “Step Down” off the bands stand out album from 1996 Scratch the Surface.
SOIA wrapped up their high energy set leaving behind a crowd of sweaty, beat up and tired people, who were all smiles including me.
By the time the night’s headliner, Life of Agony hit the stage you could barely make your way through the tight crowd at the Stone Pony, and people were beginning to looking a bit weary.
Life of Agony has been a band in various configurations on and off for almost 30 years with the current tour commemorating the 25th anniversary of the band’s debut album Rise of the Underground. The bands most recent album A Place Where There’s No more Pain dropped in 2017, twelve years after their last album Broken Valley and was considered one of the best comeback albums ever. Life of Agony is, Mina Caputo on vocals, Veronica Bellino on drums, Alan Robert on bass and Joey Z on guitar
Mina Caputo and bandmates stormed the stage launching right into “Plexiglass Gate” off the band’s album 1988-1999 with frontwoman Mina wasting no time getting up close personal with the crowd. Watching the interaction unfold you could see the crowd embracing Mina as she worked her way through the set, both sides clearly enjoying the intimate nature of the moment. LOA really hit their stride hard by the third song of the set “My Eyes” with a large circle pit forming and crowd surfers flowing freely over the barrier.
I found the set list for the show to be really interesting, the band choosing old over new, playing only one song (A New Low) off their latest album and instead choosing songs going back as far as 1993. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind the choices but the actions of the crowd were clearly showing they approved. The set worked through a total of 14 songs including “Underground,” Weeds,” Dammed if I Do,” Punishment” (Biohazard cover) and featured BillyBio joining the band for “Method of Groove.”
It was a great set by veteran band Life of Agony, and rumor has it that there may be a new album in the works for the end of 2019. We can only hope!
Big thank you to Life of Agony, Sick of it All and BillyBio for a night (and years) of great music and to the always professional staff at the Stone Pony for having our back.