Some bands’ shows, even on the heavier side, are best enjoyed by kicking back, settling into a mood & getting lost in a nice stable atmosphere to wash over you for a night. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but ’68 is not one of those bands.
I’d seen this Atlanta hardcore/garage rock/noise rock duo twice before in 2015, once opening for Stick to Your Guns and later confounding pop-punk kids on Warped Tour. Neither featured them near the top of the bill, but both presented the kind of raw and spontaneous yet tight as hell set that truly sticks in the mind. This leads us to this past Wednesday, at a free show at Fullerton’s Slidebar, where they kicked off their end-of-2017 run.
For a headlining tour, ‘68’s distinct brand of unpredictability needed a lineup to get the crowd fully into that mindset. Luckily, all six members of Alistair Hennessey stepped up with far more dynamics and stage presence than the typical opener, emphasized by a set of lamps placed around the stage that synced up with some of the drum beats.
Stolas kept the trend of lineup quirks going strong, switching between a more conventional 4-piece and a trio where the singer went behind the kit. (From my research afterwards, the latter is closer to the setup on their older material.) That said, the set stayed cohesive in their frenetic post-hardcore sound, with some shots of prog edge highlighted by their incredibly technical yet well-rounded guitar work.
Then ’68 came on. Even before their set starts, you can tell how unique it’ll be, as the mic stand and drum kit are set up to face each other in the middle of the stage, perpendicular to the crowd. As vocalist/guitarist Josh Scogin (previously of The Chariot) and new touring drummer Nikko (no lineup change announcement yet as of now) take those positions in a pair of snazzy black-and-white suits, playing feels like some sort of musical shouting match. Or like being a fly on the wall for a particularly intense jam session.
Again, the key word when talking about this duo is spontaneity, especially since they never use a setlist. They already pulled off the idea of letting songs collapse and rebuild on the spot when promoting their first album. But now that the core songcraft is stronger, more daring and even catchier on their excellent new one Two Parts Viper, they can let that carry the brunt of the set and have even more room for those crazed deviations. For a more amateur act to try this kind of thing would just be obnoxious, but at this point these guys have controlled chaos down to a science. This is made even more impressive when you consider Nikko just joined for this tour and the synergy is already there. They can derail a song midway through, with Scogin setting his guitar on the amp to let the feedback run for a couple minutes, while Nikko paces behind his kit, stopping every 30 seconds to fire off a manic fill, and hop right back into the next verse like it was nothing, with no complaints from the crowd to be found.
Toward the end, they even broke the kick drum pedal, and rolled with it for the last 5 minutes or so. In the meantime while dealing with that, Scogin took the time to thank Slidebar for putting on free shows on this level, and to support them any way you can to keep that possible. Given this was my first time here and it doesn’t feel different from your usual $10-20 club venue, I have to agree.
UPCOMING TOUR DATES:
w/ Stolas & Alistair Hennessey
11/14 – Denver, CO @ Marquis Theater
11/16 – Omaha, NE @ Lookout Lounge
11/17 – Madison, WI @ The Annex
11/18 – Newport, MN @ Opinion Brewing CO.
11/19 – Iowa City, IA @ Gabe’s
11/22 – Birmingham, AL @ The Syndicate Lounge
w/ Whores & Alistair Hennessey
12/6 – Columbia, SC @ New Brooklyn Tavern
12/7 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
12/8 – Philadelphia, PA @ Voltage Lounge
12/9 – Amityville, NY @ Amityville Music Hall
12/10 – Cambridge, MA @ Sonia
12/12 – Canton, OH @ Buzzbin Art & Music Shop
12/13 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Hoosier Dome
12/14 – Springfield, MO @ Outland Ballroom
12/15 – Memphis, TN @ Growlers
12/16 – New Orleans, LA @ Gasa Gasa
12/17 – Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
Written by Mark Berman