live: sharptooth, bad off, and psychodynamic at the meatlocker- 1/19/17

What an interesting year it's been so far. But when times are changing, music- especially punk rock- is as important as ever. Our new president was inaugurated on Friday, and like many of you, I was nervous, and scared of what the future had in store. So what did I do on Thursday night? I went to a punk / hardcore show.

The Meatlocker is a grungy, graffiti-covered DIY venue right in the middle of Montclair, N.J. It feels out of place in the area (there's a Lululemon store across the street- among plenty of other "nice" chains and restaurants) and it's been "shut down" multiple times in the past (but it always comes back to life). I went to see Sharptooth (melodic hardcore from Maryland; I know their bassist Phil through his other band, Something More) but the other two bands I saw, Bad Off (hardcore, also from Maryland) and Psychodynamic (punk, from Jefferson, N.J.) were great as well.

To start this off, I should say that while I've brought my camera to previous Meatlocker shows, in the past I never ended up with any photos I actually liked. Like any punk/ DIY venue, it's a small, cramped space with poor lighting. I used my flash for the entire show, something I'm working to do more often; in the past I've avoided using flash because I hate drawing attention to myself while I'm shooting, but I realized it was a huge help (a necessity, honestly) in these small venues.

Psychodynamic played first (their frontman / guitarist Michael Russo also booked the show). I loved how aggressive they were.

Bad Off was next. Their frontman, Zach, spent most of his set off the stage, running around the (small) room. I tried to really show off the walls of the venue in these images; the graffiti and stickers on the walls tell a living story of everything that's happened here.

Sharptooth was the third band to play; it was my first time seeing them but I really hope it's not the last. There are not enough women in hardcore but as frontwoman Lauren Kashan was saying before the show, "Girls can scream, and arguably, we've got more to scream about." 

I was pretty happy about capturing that jump shot. My widest lens is 28mm (I mainly shoot with a Sigma 28-70mm/f2.8, which is what I used for this show) so it's a miracle I was able to get everyone in frame! I loved seeing Phil (the one with the green hair) playing such a different style of music from what I'm used to seeing him play (Something More plays straight-up pop-punk). 

I'm very passionate about mental health and suicide prevention, so I was really glad to hear Sharptooth sing about the stigma surrounding these issues in "Blood Upon Your Hands". Often, people are afraid to seek help because they think they should "snap out of it", or that a mental illness is a sign of weakness. Talking about mental illness is the first step to removing that stigma.  

I really enjoyed Sharptooth's entire set (and I'm so glad I was there to document it), but one of my favorite parts was seeing Lauren scream in some random guy's face. Even better than that was when she ordered all of the women in the room to come right up to the front. So often women are marginalized, told to stay off to the sides while the men have all the fun. 

Story time here: at a show a few years ago, I was pushed on stage by moshers. The crowd had been rough but I was having a good time. When I was shoved on stage, I stood there for a few seconds, trying to figure out which direction was safest to jump off. The band finished the song, and the singer preached in to the mic that "if you can't handle the pit, you shouldn't be up front." People in the crowd shouted unsavory names at me, making me feel like I didn't belong in that room. I was told that my place was in the back, or off to the sides, rather than up front in the middle of the action (which I was absolutely able to "handle"). So it was a welcome change to see Sharptooth demand that the women be the center of attention. 

I took this image after the show- I wanted to get a photo of all of the women (well, except for myself) together.

These last four images are my favorite from Sharptooth's set. The last song they played was called "Clever Girl"; Lauren climbed on top of an amp halfway through the song. She collapsed at the end, and I love how these images show her emotions.