Sensory Overload: Beartooth

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From the February 7, 2013 edition

By the time they pulled down what remained of Kobo’s ceiling fan and started pulling off the blades as souvenirs, it became apparent that the audience is as much a part of Beartooth’s show as the fiery hardcore quartet they came to see.

That’s how Caleb Shomo wants it. Beartooth shows are also apparently about hearing the former Attack Attack! frontman spew words at an impossible clip, words like: “This is where the show is! Over here! I know you're not too cool for this!” and “I believe in something! I believe that love actually will change this world!” and “I know you guys don't know these songs yet, but I want to say you guys are killing it right now!” and “Circle pit! Circle pit! Circle pit!”

Lots of other words too, but the most common last Thursday were vehement exhortations to stage dive. People complied frequently, often dangling from that poor fan. By the end, Shomo had half the crowd on stage ready to run into the crowd and “lose it” on command. (Very Lancaster Dodd of him.) Before that, he hovered above the crowd throughout, lifting his hands passionately, Poseidon summoning a hurricane from an oversized pond of humanity.

Shomo quit Attack Attack! late last year to get his head straight after struggling for about a year with clinical depression, eating disorders and addiction. Presumably this new project won’t keep up a whirlwind promotional schedule, but they will play shows; given Shomo’s charisma and obvious enthusiasm for performance, how could they not?

This was their first, and they showed no signs of trepidation. The music was preposterously humongous from the start, with bullet-train tempos and dissonant half-time breakdowns galore. The songs Beartooth has posted online so far felt like the bleeding-heart scene-kid hardcore I had expected from musicians of this vintage, but on stage everything felt thicker, weightier, more substantial. There were moments that favorably recalled Refused, but maybe that just shows how little time I spend listening to hardcore.

The inspirational shpiels were too long by half, and Beartooth seemed to use up their best songs at the beginning, but on balance this raged a lot harder than I expected.