For all those people who have never experienced the pleasure that is Mohawk Place in downtown Buffalo, let me set the scene for you.
You walk down a scarcely populated main street in the heart of a rust belt city as the single subway line passes by and you feel as if you’re in the midst of the zombie apocalypse. Storefronts are busted out and the street is littered with vacant buildings, yet what is open and thriving harkens back to the Art-Deco and Greek revival periods. As you pass by buildings you see a multitude of street art, including a wheat-paste Mickey Mouse with a skull face holding a cleaver, courtesy of Buffalo street artist Malt Disney. You turn a corner and across from a nondescript parking ramp is a heavy wooden door with the address 47 East Mohawk Place. You open the door, cross the threshold and enter into what is for many the premier underground music venue in Buffalo.
Enter Long Island alternative-hardcore foursome Stray From the Path and you’re in for a night of mosh-pits, mic-grabs, pile-ons and erupted eardrums (all in good fun, of course). I experienced this chaotic tumult for myself on Tuesday October 9th and can chalk it up as one of the best hardcore performances I’ve ever witnessed.
Opening songs are always a key in performing live and of all the openers I’ve seen performed I would not rank any higher than Stray’s “Rising Sun” in its ability to set off a venue. From the signature bend of Tom Williams’ opening guitar riff to Drew York’s first lines of “We are the light / We are the light that guides you home!” the crowd exploded into a hurricane of life. However, the real introduction occurred midway through the song when drummer Dan Bourke’s ever-quickening drum roll abruptly halted, along with the rest of the music, and the crowd joined York in screaming the line everybody has been waiting for: “This is the year of the rising sun!”
Immediately following this visceral assault upon the audience’s ears, Williams once again demonstrated his creativity, a la Tom Morello, and opened the song “Mad Girl” with a pitch-shifting effects pedal whose sound can only be described as similar to a fire alarm. Williams was so proud of the way he’s manipulated this pedal for his own use that the entire pedal was covered in black tape with the words “Get your own” written across it in silver Sharpie.
The band then went through such favorites as “Make Your Own History,” “Bring it Back to the Streets” and “Prey” before launching into their popular song “Damien.” By this time the crowd was not only warmed up, but on the brink of mayhem and as the grooving, yet obliterating rhythms of the song shook through the room the band let loose themselves, with Williams spinning his body around mid-riff and slamming his foot into the stage with a pounding ferocity. Always coy and smooth, bassist Anthony Altamura offset Williams’ physical presence with his own reserved strut that can only be classified as pure swagger.
The highlight of the night for fans, however, occurred eight songs in when the band debuted their newest song off of their upcoming album. The song, titled “Landmines,” is set to be released in the following weeks and begins and ends with Williams’ cry-baby wah pedal that creates a swirling sonic atmospheric, as if he took the sounds of a windstorm and ran them through a Fender Strat. After this introduction, the song blazes into what can only be called a “bomb-track” characteristic of Rage Against the Machine‘s own brand of funky and original riffage.
Following this pleasant treat, the band closed their set with the often misunderstood song “Negative & Violent,” which resulted in the most vicious crowd participation of the night. I mention that this song is misunderstood because oftentimes fans see it as a call to act in an aggressive and hateful way towards others, but, as the band has stated in multiple interviews, the song is actually condemning the “macho-man” attitude not only present in the hardcore scene, but also online in music forums and other outlets for individuals to express their opinions of various artists. Hence the revelry that ensued made me smile in its irony, although that wouldn’t even prevent me from going all out – in a respectable manner.
As the song ended, the house lights once again flooded the stage with brightness, but this crowd wasn’t going anywhere until they got an encore and Stray was more than happy to oblige. Drew York once again greeted the crowd, announcing their final song “Fraudulent” with the words “You fake motherfuckers.” With the room still lit by the house lights, the boys from Long Island flew through this churning grinder of a song to the crowd’s delight and finally left the stage, leaving their fans sweaty, sore and satisfied.