Last Friday, my good buddy and I made the trek up to the First Unitarian Church to catch the Philly stop on Job For a Cowboy's latest jaunt. Neither of us had ever been to the church before, but we had both seen JFAC in the past, so we were interested to see how everything would play out.
Trap Them was supposed to be the first band of the night, but they had to drop off the tour for reasons of their own, which was no skin off our noses. They're fairly lame anyway, and that just meant we got to see Misery Index that much sooner. While it seemed kind of unfair to have a band as accomplished and seasoned as MI play first, before all the younger bands, that didn't stop them from bringing the heavy. This marks the third time I've seen Misery Index, and thus the third time they've kicked their fair share of ass. When the grooves and blasts got going, they looked as furious as they sounded, plowing through songs like "The Carrion Call", "Traitors", "Conquistadores" and more with ease. A few people moshed, but for the most part the crowd stuck to the basic head banging and horn throwing. When they wrapped up, they invited anyone who was willing to help them break down their equipment, and this allowed yours truly to meet and chat with their drummer, one Adam Jarvis, who incidentally is a very nice fellow. Good on ya, sir.
Next up was A Life Once Lost, the one band on the bill that I knew would attract the dancers, and lo and behold I was right. I discreetly made my way to the back of the venue for these guys, and sure enough, as soon as the mandatory "What the fuck is up, we're A Life Once Lost, let's fucking do this shit" sounded, about three or four kids started hyping up by hopping around like kangaroos. As expected, their performance was energetic due to the relative simplicity of the music, and the only moshing that happened was the same handful of dancers doing their thing. However, no fights broke out, and as far as metalcore goes ALOL isn't that bad, plus they played the one song I knew/wanted to hear, so it wasn't that bad. I give them a solid six out of ten.
Alright, so now that we'd gotten the breakdowns out of our system, the next band on the bill was the complete opposite, brimming with solos and nostalgic thrash riffs. I had no sooner worked my way up to the front of the stage when Skeletonwitch started off with a bang, and I immediately got sucked into a small but dense and enthusiastic pit that just didn't seem to end. Needless to say, the crowd response for this band was extremely warm, and rightfully so. These guys are a perfect throwback to the glory days of metal, combining all the best elements of thrash and melodic black metal. It's all about beer, headbanging and Satan-worshipping for Skeletonwitch, and there was plenty of all three (which was ironic, seeing as the venue is literally a church basement). Good moshing, a few stage divers, shredding solos and enough windmilling hair to make anyone dizzy; these things are all in a day's work for Skeletonwitch. Bravo gentlemen, bravo.
Last but certainly not least, after taking their sweet time setting up and soundchecking, Job For a Cowboy dove headlong into their set and didn't look back once. Now I must admit, I don't listen to JFAC much on CD, but they are a whole different monster on stage. Despite a dismal performance at the 2008 Mayhem Festival, I have seen this band three times now, and they have since proven themselves to be one of the most commanding live bands I've seen in years. Although there were a number of hardcore kids present throughout their set, there wasn't a single flailing arm or spin kick, and the pits, stage dives and crowd surfing were nonstop. For whatever reason there was a fill-in for guitarist Bobby Thompson, and bassist Brent Riggs was completely absent. Fortunately this didn't really affect their sound or performance at all, although it was very difficult to hear Mr. Not-Bobby-Thompson's leads over everything else at times. Regardless, they powered through their set nicely, playing gems like "To Detonate and Exterminate", "Unfurling a Darkened Gospel", "Knee Deep", "Bearing the Serpent's Lamb", "Entombment of a Machine" (complete with everyone screaming like an idiot and loving it, including me), and closing with "Embedded". Incomplete lineup notwithstanding, it was a very solid, commendable performance. This particular tour is pretty much over and done with, but if you do get the opportunity in the future to see Job For a Cowboy I highly recommend you do so, I know I certainly will.
All in all this one is definitely going down in the books as a good show. From making new friends, watching said new friends get really drunk and proceed to buy and don Skeletonwitch booty shorts, laughing about throwing change into the pit for A Life Once Lost just to see what would happen, meeting various members of Misery Index, Skeletonwitch and Job For a Cowboy, and giving JFAC drummer Jon "The Charn" Rice money as a donation for weed (I made him very happy), I think it's safe to say we had a blast, and I can't wait for the next one.
-The Baby Killer