Life of Agony

Photography by Laura Desantis-OlssonWHAT METAL IS DOING RIGHT
A review of “Life of Agony”  in New Jersey 12/06/15
By PawL BaZile
Photography by Laura Desantis-Olsson

About halfway through the show Joey Z yelled to the crowd “This isn’t a show it’s a gathering”.  I think I see what he meant by that.

Metal and punk have as much in common as they have differences.  I know from the people at Walgreens at 2am asking me if I’m “a gothic” that it’s hard for uninitiated to tell rock sub cultures apart.   At the end of the day it’s all branches of the disenfranchised, outcaste, family tree, and Life of Agony shows metal can still teach us how we celebrate life.

The show was celebrating Mina Caputo’s birthday.  If you’re not familiar a few year’s ago Mina was Keith and Photography by Laura Desantis-Olssonliving as a man and now is not.  So if you think metal/hardcore has become too macho and formulaic, Life of Agony will break you’re preconceptions before they play a note.  But hang on to your ass when they do play a note cause Mina is clearly more confident, in control, and on point than ever.  Something this brought to this audience that I don’t see at punk shows is the crowd was 50/50 guys and girls.  Hot, metal girls with a different look, happy to be there, singing along, and some of them smelled pretty great.  Anytime I see awesome cute girls enjoying themselves I feel like I must be in the right place.  (Happy Birthday Mina)

Martin Mull once said “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture,” so I’m not going to attempt to fumble through a clumsy music review.  Better qualified people can do that, but I’ll say what I got out of the show.  1stly, the energy and enthusiasm:  crystal clear from the band.  I know individually each member has been through a lot.  Life of Agony takes their Brooklyn hardness and aggression and turns it into love, pure love.  You can feel it.  The show itself is well arranged but isn’t ridged.  It’s like watching theater with room for improv if that makes sense.  And if this is your first show or hundredth show they lock with the audience the second Sal Abruscato drums start pounding.

It was all heart too.  In front of this sea of black t-shirts, a guy named Jimmy asked a girl named Gia to marry him…. That couldn’t have been more east coast if the band ate manicotti behind them.  Late in the show, they paid tribute to Scott Weiland as well.  Mina and Joey did an acoustic version of Stone Temple Pilot’s “Plush” that will break your heart.  The crowd singing along to it was a surreal tribute.

That’s what metal is doing right.  It IS a family.  It is a place where a bunch of outcasts and hard-asses can be vulnerable for a few minutes and even pick each other up.  That can only come from Brooklyn; a place where every single musician I’ve ever met knows how to make you feel welcome as one of them.  Then as the last notes of the show winded down, a local motorcycle club started a fight.  That’s probably not a great thing, but I look at it as the chance of danger always being right around the corner.  Something punk rock is desperately lacking these days. (Note to punk rockers: Stop emphasizing how safe, positive, and ordinary your music is.  Embrace your dangerous element and people might mistake you for interesting.  Just be dangerous about the right things.)

The challenge is this: Bring the Love.  Bring the Passion.  Leave the personal bullshit at home.  Life of Agony is one of the most quality shows still playing today and they’ve been doing it for decades.  It didn’t feel like a show; it was “a gathering”.  The music brought it all together but the love kept it together.  Don’t forget FUN either.  You’d never hear about people not “supporting the scene (yawn)” ever again if you “the scene” was less of an obligation and UNDENIBLE fun.

Fun is the ingredient new punk rockers AND all music AND all “scenes” need, cause the old bands won’t be here forever.  It’s a connection that you don’t get staring at your phone.  Yes, you can keep it simple.  You can use 3 chords if you want.  Most people can’t write bass lines like Alan, or shred like Joey, but you can love each and every note like they do.   Your shows are your house, your living room, and your there with your family so treat it like that.  I love punk rock, and I want new punk rockers to make me feel the way I felt at a metal show this past Sunday night.

Pawl Bazile is a film director and journalist.  For more of his work or to contact him go to:
Follow him on Twitter @PawLBAZiLe