Scenic Presents’ sold-out Choking Victim show was the sort of evening that many of the fans in attendance had been dreaming about since they were in middle school (three years ago). But notwithstanding the young crowd — and to be fair, there was a good smattering of more seasoned punks throughout the auditorium too — Choking Victim killed.
The Warsaw show sold out so fast that Choking Victim were able to add a 3 p.m. set at a free show in Tompkins Square Park that same day. The free set was about six songs long, highly entertaining, and featured two OG members of Choking Victim making guest appearances. I assumed that the evening show would be about the same, but honestly even if the set lists had been identical, it would still have been like watching two completely different bands. And the set lists were completely different!
Choking Victim tore through the entirety of their incendiary debut record No Gods No Managers and then concluded the night with a raucous cover of “Money Changes Everything.” In the park, they were a loose, comfortable band playing a show that could as easily have been in Stza’s livingroom as in front of hundreds of people in a historic New York City location. On the Warsaw stage, they were an unstoppable death machine ripping a hole through the eardrums of anyone dumb enough to listen (as I write this, my ears are still ringing).
The Warsaw moshpit erupted after about twenty seconds, and it had to have been within the next twenty seconds that a barrage of stage divers and crowd surfers rose to the top of the audience. People tried to stand toward the wings of the venue, but really being within fifteen feet of the stage put you in the blast radius for out-of-control skankers being ejected from the pit by the sea of moshers. Then whoever bowled them over would help them up and start all over again.
The current lineup was joined throughout the set by original drummer John Dolan, original bassist Sasha Scatter, OG bassist peasant James, C-Squat founder Popeye, and other close associates.
Stza claimed that the band only practiced each song twice, but it didn’t matter. No one goes to see Choking Victim, or any Stza-fronted band for that matter, for a precise musician who’s taking care to hit every note accurately. With Stza, it’s about raw emotion and explosive energy, which he provided in spades, fed on and intensified by bandmates Alec Baillie and Skwert.
There was a rich diversity in the people playing in many of the opening bands, but one thing that tied (almost) all of them together was Stza’s signature crack rock steady beat. No matter how far toward the precipice of heavy metal (almost) all of the openers got, they mostly found their way back to that more dub / ska sound.
(A)Truth and Trashy picked up two short early slots and both brought heavy guitars and the aforementioned beats. Death Vacation was a vicious kick in the teeth that may have been closer to metal than punk. Public Serpents are damn near as heavy as Death Vacation but went on dub tangents so mellow they could have been reggae. All Torn Up is one angry group of hardcore punks, and As$troland are an old school New York Hardcore band.
Death Vacation was close to stealing the show. After seeing Choking Victim, there is no doubt who the star of the evening was, but Death Vacation was damn close … check them out.