In Control
Thurs Nov 15 at the Paradox.

A pit formed the moment In Control took the stage at the Paradox last Thursday night. It was exciting. Rock and roll music has lost so much vitality and momentum over the years--and especially hardcore, a scene that seems completely dead to the outside observer.

But this night was unique. Limpwrist--the queer straightedge project of Martin Sorrondeguy from Los Crudos--was on the bill. "Queer straightedge" is not exactly the most common of combinations. Several very excited gay kids were in attendance, political fliers were being passed out, and everyone seemed in particularly high spirits.

In Control's pit was adorable at first: Some little nerdy guy started slamming into a batty young lady with a habit of spinning in circles and kicking at the air (very goofy and martial-artistic), and soon just about everyone in the room joined in. The pit was exuberant and nonviolent. In Control was very aggressive, and the night, upon first glance, looked as though it was shaping up to be something very young, spirited, and memorable.

Then the vocals came in. The first song, "Not Afraid," was introduced to the audience by In Control's frontman, Ryan Fredette, in that manner typical of hardcore bands: "This next song is about [fill in blank with something very impassioned and worthy of being discussed]." Of "Not Afraid," Fredette informed the audience, "This song is about not being afraid of being yourself." Roiling, thunderous, predictable instrumentation followed; the theater was filled with sound; and, of course, the lyrics were entirely inaudible.

Lyrics aren't everything, though. The band was just fine. Guitarist Zack Nelson, bassist Robert Martinez, and drummer Tony Meleno created frenzied, abrupt, basic chord progressions and powerful percussive noise. They each channeled as much sonic angst as possible into every brief song, and there were even a few more classical moments that hinted at influences as diverse as the Cult and Metallica. For the most part, however, In Control was straight hardcore: brief bursts of unsurprising chords, abrupt, jerky time signatures, ample feedback during pauses, and lots of indecipherable diatribes.

Fredette's introduction to the song "Tear You Apart" went, "I've done a lot of things in life I didn't mean to, or want to, but that's life...." He said more, but that was the gist. Because One-Night Stand couldn't figure out any of the lyrical content--and because One-Night Stand is never a fan of meaningless angst--we purchased a $10 copy of In Control's Another Year CD, for the lyric sheet. Here's the song's opening verse: "Human emotion/so hard to bear/searching for solace/so much to fucking bare." Yikes.

The song broke into a lulling, melodic section toward the end. And then, to In Control's credit, the composition took a beautiful turn. All sound crashed back in beautifully. The ebb was melodic and genuinely moving--the show's high point. Fredette screamed over this onslaught of sound, and his raw, thick voice was gratifyingly inspired.

But the high was brief. There was a song in the set against the illegality of gay marriage, but Fredette made the mistake of not telling the audience what it was about before the song was played. Had he spoken up in advance, it might have been easier to appreciate the band's cagey display of angst. Instead, the song just seemed like a whole lot of pissing in the wind: pain addicts making a spectacle.

It seems immature to say things like "hardcore is dead," but I guess I'm saying it anyway.