Hardcore legend Agnostic Front plays Hollywood’s Knitting Factory
By Richard Davis
On Friday, April 4, inside Hollywood’s Knitting Factory, a music club located steps away from Manns Chinese Theater, a wall-to-wall crowd awaits the hardcore band Agnostic Front. Cheers erupt as the four-man group (Roger Miret – vocals, Vinnie Stigma – guitar
Joe James – guitar, Mike Gallo – bass and Steve Gallo – drums) arrive on stage and begin the evening, fast and loud.
On the floor, personal space disappears as young men and women in a seemingly visceral response to the first hard notes, begin stomping around in circles, flailing arms completely covered in polychromatic tattoos.
Onstage, the lead singer Roger Miret screams lyrics into the mike, his sweat and spit fly out into the writhing crowd below. And true to the hardcore spirit, a few individuals break away from the crowd, climb onto the stage and dive head-first into the human undulation below.
This is no garage-band-hardcore wannabe. Listen closely. Their music is tight — fully realized both technically and creatively. But it’s no surprise that they’ve mastered the genre. They’ve been doing it for 25 years. And despite their ages, the energy and passion they exhibit on stage easily match that of their “20 something” fans.
As the night continues, neither the band nor the crowd show any signs of slowing. Fans ceaselessly abuse each other with elbows and workman boots, all in time to the music. It continues non-stop until the last note is played, leaving a deep, uneasy silence. The sweaty, disheveled crowd utter final yelps in hoarse, tired voices. The violence and excitement is gone. The audience peacefully heads for the doors and the midnight coolness outside.
Backstage after the show, L.A.’s hardcore glitterati: musicians from other bands, female groupies, tattoo artists and even a “know the face, but not the name” movie star surround the band members, congratulating them on another great show.
I ask guitarist Vinnie Stigma, who founded the band in 1983, what’s it like playing hardcore. “It’s never boring”, the 51-year old, replies. “It gets crazier every year.” Stigma, who also owns New York Hardcore Tattoos in New York City, is frenetic, intense and committed to his music. “Stevie Ray Vaughn plays Blues, I play Hardcore,” he says, in his tough-guy New York accent.
Standing next to Stigma, newcomer bass player Mike Gallo has been with the band for only three years. Gallo counts Agnostic Front among the bands that have most influenced him musically. “I grew up with Agnostic Front,” he explains, “their music has stood the test of time.” As if playing in a band and running a tattoo parlor wasn’t enough, Stigma has also partnered with Gallo to put out an album. They also plan to tour later this year. “I still got a lot of music in me,” he says. A cancer survivor, Stigma also plays Jazz and Blues in his free time.
Agnostic Front defined hardcore in the early eighties and continues to attract new fans today. While other bands of their era like Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys are long gone, Agnostic Front plays on, producing music that’s well-received by fans and critics alike.
And the band’s popularity isn’t limited to the United States. In fact, the evening’s show at The Knitting Factory is just one of the final stops in a world tour that has taken them to Japan, Australia, South America and Europe. “We played in 40 European cities over a two-month period”, says Stigma, “The worldwide hardcore scene is one big family. They all know our lyrics, wherever we go. What the crowd was doing here tonight is what they were doing last week when we were in Tokyo.”
In addition to stage performances, Agnostic Front has released 14 albums over their career and more recently, two live DVDs, recorded at New York’s famous nightclub CBGBs (which stands for Country, Blue Grass and Blues).
Even if you don’t know care much about Hardcore, Agnostic Front is worth a few moments of your time, if only to experience something very rare — authenticity. They are definitely the “real thing”.
To find out more about the band, hear a sample of their music or purchase albums or DVDs, visit their Web site, www.agnosticfront .com.
Web sites related to this article
Agnostic Front: www. Agnosticfront.com.
The Knitting Factory: www.knittingfactory.com.
New York Hardcore Tattoos and Piercing: www.hardcorenyc.com.