Sign up for our newsletters   

Baltimore City Paper home.
Print Email

The Short List


By Jess Harvell | Posted 5/24/2006

WEDNESDAY: Sometime in the late 1980s, hardcore punk shacked up with heavy metal and became the ultimate bonding music for aggressive teenage males with a pronounced homoerotic streak and absolutely no sense of irony. Like ’50s rockers claiming the music would never die, hardcore celebrated itself to the sound of grinding guitars tuned to D and close-cropped boys shouting in unison. 25 ta Life keeps the youth crew spirit alive tonight at the Sidebar. Like inadvertent master formalists, the band offers songs titles like “Hardcore Rules” and “Positive Hardcore.” Too dumb to be called Zen, the music itself is a Platonic ideal of mosh riffs, hoodies, and gang chants about loyalty.

THURSDAY: In 1989, Unsane formed in New York City. Like the group’s rough contemporary Helmet, Unsane was metal for guys in backward baseball caps over offensively short hair and noise rock for guys who liked real porn rather than the Richard Kern kind. The band’s album covers featured gentlemen who had forcibly removed their own heads or whose heads had been forcibly removed by large industrial machinery. Vocalist Chris Spencer sounded like he was pissing on an N train’s third rail and played his riffs on a Fender Telecaster, giving the music a trebly howl. Almost two decades later Unsane is still kicking the same noise around tonight at the Ottobar.

FRIDAY: Hammerjacks has been sold, and so tonight the club presents its last ever high-school party for the kids. Club Queen K-Swift and DJs Buckshot and Paradise spin a mix of club, rap, and R&B to keep the under (and over) 21s moving all night. The party also features a live performance by up and coming B-more rapper D.O.G. alongside club producer-turned-rap producer Blackstarr, performing its hit “Ridah Girl.” So long, Hammerjacks: where will the youth of Baltimore go to awkwardly freak each other now?

SATURDAY: Two days of the Maryland Deathfest kicks off before noon today at Sonar with 32 bands playing all sorts of death metal, grindcore, hardcore, crust, deathgrind, grindcrust, speedcore, power violence, power electronics, and electronic deathgrind, but definitely no false metal.

SUNDAY: An albino in a culture where skin tone is as fiercely policed as class lines, Jamaica’s Yellowman turned his disadvantage into a long-running career as the country’s first dancehall superstar. An exceptionally elastic toaster, Yellowman’s rhymes often became strings of scatted nonsense syllables: “Zungguzungguguzungguzeng.” He was also a dirty, dirty man, hitting the Jamaican charts with the nasty “Shorties” and the self-explanatory “Wreck a Pum-Pum,” which beat the Ying Yang Twins by nearly two decades. Tonight at Rams Head Live, an aging Yellowman takes the stage; chances are he’ll still stick the microphone between his legs.

MONDAY: Like George Clinton, that other funkateer getting on in years, James Brown ceased to be a recording artist of any note in the ’80s and now exists solely to play his epochal hits live until the end of time, because James Brown will never die. Brown is now 73 years old. Think about that tonight at Rams Head Live when he drops into a split, spins like a dervish, or drops to knees which have been landed on hundreds of thousands of times in a 60-year career. Think about how much your knees would ache after one such drop. And then get on them and thank god for James Brown.

TUESDAY: Sometimes these days it feels like Baltimore has more rappers than bus drivers. Every week there’s a poster for a new mixtape or DVD or freestyle battle featuring a bunch of names you’ve never heard of before. B-more rappers are definitely on the grind, and while everyone wants to get signed, the DIY hustle of the men and women of Baltimore hip-hop is something to applaud. Tonight the 5 Seasons presents a packed showcase featuring rappers Dirty Hartz, Realiside, Dez Red, Bucktane, Concrete, Kartel, Lyrical Leviathan, and Born King, plus beatmakers Ray Lugar, Ms. Tris Beats, and Third Infantry.

WEDNESDAY: Perhaps tonight would be a good night to take a break from drinking your youth away in rock bars and consider devoting more time to community service.

IN THE WINGS: Having ditched Jim O’Rourke and fully reinvented itself as America’s greatest avant-classic rock band, Sonic Youth continues to relax into old age on the forthcoming Rather Ripped and on June 14 at Washington’s 9:30 Club. With the noise jags safely confined to side projects and no more ironic death porn, the band has perfected its mix of soft-rocking Bread and proto-punk Television—though the dappled guitars often sound more Jerry Garcia than Tom Verlaine. Who could have guessed the petulant Youth would end up at groove and beauty? (For more info call [202] 393-0930 or visit

Related stories

The Short List archives

More from Jess Harvell

Keeping Up (12/2/2009)
Nearly 20 years after his death, Arthur Russell finally gets the biography he deserves

Human Architecture (7/29/2009)
The protagonist isn't the only one obsessed with capturing life in two dimensions in Asterios Polyp

The Unseen (11/5/2008)
Catherine Pancake and Jai Brooks Capture a Slice of Black Baltimore Lesbian Life in Jay Dreams

Comments powered by Disqus
CP on Facebook
CP on Twitter