w/Amazombies, the Insurgence, Bad Otis
Fri Feb 25, the Vera Project, 7:30 pm, $7/$8.
Since the 2004 presidential election, the media may still be color-coding this country's political reactions into red and blue racing stripes, but in the punk world, things generally look black and white as the patches stitched into the community's jackets. Knee-jerk conservatism, war for oil, and clamping down on the nation's civil liberties=bad. Protesting the state of the union, educating tomorrow's youth, and fighting the Bush greed machine=good. Look how far that philosophy has taken Green Day, the Bay Area trio who flipped a finger at our American Idiot of a president on their last album and walked away the pop-culture victor with a Grammy for best rock album.
The HollowPoints haven't written their rock opera--they're more rooted in the dirt-under-the-nails hooks of Social Distortion and early Rancid than Green Day's pearly mainstream pop--but they do rest their music on a platform that's deeply invested in our country's welfare. On "The Sickness," from their new full-length, The Black Spot, bassist Ben Early sings, "Americans, they look away/pretend everything's okay/until this fight returns under the flag/the public stays afraid/of our new Iraqi slaves/we invade to save the world trade/Haliburton sets the score to reap the benefits of war/so they fill the pockets, fill your coffin…" Throughout the album (released on Duane Peters' Disaster Records) the cycles of corporate political bedfellows, economic oppression, and American apathy build into powerful anthems that could rally the most lethargic punk into challenging the status quo, or, at the very least, hitting the pit better connected to the antiestablishment generation. Early explains, "[Punk] is on the fringes for a reason; you have to keep your own ethics in check. Plenty of punk bands can and have done well in the mainstream, but it's a hard line to walk between sending a message and following suit with what you think is right."
If you're searching for the passionate protests of the Regan era for the '00s, Seattle is a microcosm of using music to rally the troops. Mudhoney's Mark Arm, indie band site Threeimaginarygirls.com, and DJs Cherry Canoe and El Toro have been working with promoter Dave Meinert to raise consciousness about the importance of making a difference at the local-election level. And while the HollowPoints' street-punk aesthetic may feel far removed from the elegance of Mirabeau Room fundraisers, the genuine desire from both groups to overturn the powers that be is connected at its core.
"Well, fuck, [Bush] has had a huge impact on all music, not just the underground," says Early. "Major-label bands of all different genres, even artists that have never been outspoken in their views, have written songs in a political and social vein since Bush has been in office. At this point, what else is there to write about? Whether it's the way our leaders treat our own citizens or entire other nations, you can't hide the fact that things are falling apart, and pretend that you don't notice. There has been a realization that you can't connect with people without a common interest. That interest seems to be the Bush administration's abuse of power."
But even the best of intentions can get buried if the songwriting sinks the ship. Luckily, that hasn't been an issue for the HollowPoints. The young band has matured fast in its four years to become one of Seattle's most well-respected punk bands--locally and nationally. After some lineup adjustments, Early shares the stage with drummer Dan and guitarist Matty, and the combination gives new meaning to the phrase "power trio." In comparison to their Bullet Holes in City Walls debut and Annihilation EP, The Black Spot is just as feral but uncoils their energy with more thought for crafting catchy rock 'n' roll anthems--anthems that easily keep pace with the larger bands with whom they've shared stages: the Distillers, Swingin' Utters, and the Exploited. Nearly every song starts at a 10 and ratchets up the energy level to choruses that would sound jubilant were they not really about the atrocities of violence and dictator nations.
The three Port Townsend natives have protest songs in their blood, having between them played in "three of the five punk bands" in their hometown since they were teenagers (they're now all in their early 20s). All of which gives the HollowPoints much pride in what they do and the power of punk rock--a force Early jokingly describes as "more powerful than 500 million bleach-burned, spitting, stomping Clydesdales running through quicksand on crack with a real badass attitude."