Mel D. Cole

Body PoliticsMusic

ho99o9 live at saint vitus: a baptism in sweat

August 7, 2019
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Too often, raging gets a bad rap. To the uninitiated, the apparent mayhem of the bodies colliding into one another in a mosh pit is violent, senseless, and scary; but to those who brave the pit, the experience is nothing less than spiritual. This past Sunday (August 4th), I witnessed the rapture of raging firsthand at a Ho99o9 show. Held at the Brooklyn dive bar/performance space and heavy metal haven, Saint Vitus, the pop-up show—announced only a few days prior — featured a fresh-off-of tour Ho99o9 as headliners and their comrades The Death Set and Hoddy, the Young Jedi as openers.

As I approached the venue Sunday evening, my mood was admittedly dour; depression and the grim news of two racist mass shootings hung over my head like a storm cloud, threatening to turn my excitement for the show into an amorphous feeling of sadness and dread. Part of me wanted to be alone, not in a crowd of people at a concert. But duty called. As I arrived in Greenpoint and walked up to the venue, I saw a line outside of Saint Vitus that snaked around the corner of Manhattan Avenue and Clay Street — a diverse collection of punks awaiting entry into the free, all-ages show. The crowd featured everything you would expect to see: leather, skateboards, tattoos, piercings, band tees, dreads, baldheads, afros, colored hair, black outfits, black makeup, dirty Vans, etc. Their eagerness and greetings from familiar faces brightened my mood some. Team AFROPUNK was there, as were local luminaries like Ninjasonik’s Ben Robey, rising indie rap star Pink Siifu, and fans like Tink, a woman I recognized from a Show Me The Body/MIKE show I had gone to a few weeks back. A face-tatted young mom and OG Afro-punk, Tink brought her 5-year-old daughter Zin to the show to test how literal the all ages policy was.

Doors opened and people filed in just as Hoddy was wrapping up his soundcheck. Not yet familiar with his music, I didn’t know what to expect from his performance. Ten minutes later he made me a believer. A rapping, beat-playing one-man show, and ball of energy, Hoddy started the night off with a raucous set that inspired the first pit of the night. A dread-headed kid in a yellow tank top was the first to set it off, stalking his way through the center of the crowd and throwing his weight so hard the ankh pendant on his chest slapped him in the face. The first few brave souls looking for release joined in, as Hoddy egged them on, bringing together the aggression of hardcore rap and punk. By the time he left the stage, the Jersey native had the audience reciting his “Baseville ain’t nothin’ to fuck wit’!” chant, a reference to his native North Plainfield neighborhood. After a brief moment to catch our breath and break for the bathroom or the bar, The Death Set took the stage. Bandleader Johnny Sierra exhorted us to “spazz like you’ve never spazzed before,” as the trio ran through a set of loud and fast songs only broken up by left-field hip-hop interludes between them (e.g. Nas’s “New York State of Mind” and the intro to De La Soul’s “A Roller Skating Jam Named ‘Saturdays’”) The Death Set’s performance inspired crowd surfing, vigorous pogoing and of course more moshing. By this point, the room’s air was thick with the vapor of sweat and the heat of warm bodies. Save for a few trips to the bar for water, no one seemed to mind – they were too busy watching Sierra leaping from speakers and stage diving.

The anticipation reached a fever pitch when Ho99o9 took the stage. At first, shrouded in darkness as the audience roared for them then they exploded into action opening up with “Forest Fires” from last year’s Cyber Cop EP. The crowd reciprocated the group’s energy and morphed into an undulating sea of humanity that swept up those on the perimeter in a wave of motion and emotion — myself included. When I arrived that night my intention was to be a fly on the wall, by the middle of Ho99o9’s set I’d become a euphoric human pinball. Band-members Eaddy, TheOMG and drummer, Billy Rymer brought us to the intersection of ecstasy and exhaustion as they ran through songs like “Punk Police,” “Mega City Nine,” and “Bone Collector.” Though it might have looked like mayhem on the outside, the messy display of human interaction inside the pit was a heartening display of empathy. Together, we supported the crowd-surfers hoisted above our heads, picked fallen revelers up off the floor before they got stomped, and basked in the spectacle of it all.

One of the night’s most powerful moments came when Ho99o9 covered Bad Brains’ “The Big Takeover.” H.R.’s lyric, “So understand me when I say/ There’s no love for this USA” felt more than appropriate in light of recent events, and those of us in the crowd felt united in our resistance. After an encore Ho99o9 ended their set with an electrifying as-yet-released new song called “Master of Pain.” But once everything was over and people began to trickle out of the venue, walking on a floor slick with our own sweat, all we felt was catharsis. This was the beauty in rage, a thing that must be experienced to be understood.

Mel D. Cole

Ho99o9 at Saint Vitus 8/4/19

Mel D. Cole