Why am I here now? Why is the guy who grew up in Atlanta, Gee Eh paying taxes in Montclair, En Jay? I believe it can all be traced back to Ken Saluzzi and Rob Fuller who shredded and crooned respectively in the band I was born and bred on – Act of Faith. Any self-respecting hardcore kid from the ATL (not to mention a fair share of douche bag rednecks) dug AOF. MRR said they lay somewhere between Cro-mags and Bad Religion, but in 1994, I thought they were the best thing this side of “Just Look Around.” Every one of their gigs at the Somber Reptile was packed and every out-of-towner opener Rob and Ken gave a nod to got an obligatory listen. Featured among them – Strength 691. We all assumed that 691 represented an area code (which it didn’t) and we assumed that so-called area code was from the Garden State. Strength brought a hefty dose of speed to the mid-90s crunch we were quickly growing tired of and my friends' and I played their as-of-yet unreleased LP in the form of heat-warped, warbley cassettes through the summer of ‘95. When they called it a day, the sting was nursed by the fact that their bass player, one Nate Gluck, was moving on to a new band – Engisn – who would be gracing us with their presence in the not-to-distance future. Ensign were riding on a slow, but steady rising tide of “youth crew revival” that would bring much needed velocity to the present day HC. Other Strength alums John Stanley and Dan Sobon would turn their focus to For the Love Of…, rich in pre-song samples, straight-up metal fucking hardcore. All three combos were loved to some extent in our much-isolated (but by no means starving), Atlanta scene.
I could of mentioned Mouthpiece boring us at the Reptile one summer. Or Matt Miller and I accompanying Mr. Saluzzi to somewhere in north Jersey to pick up a tour bus from the dis-banded Dog Pound. Or Lifetime, full stop. Or hell, getting into the Misfits via Garage Days Re Re Visited or as 12-year old, wondering about this mythical place called Megaforce Records nestled somewhere in this other equally mythical town called Old Bridge. Sure. But Strength 691 really put NJHC on the map for me. And if that’s the genesis – then Fast Times is the exodus…
1997. Floorpunch’s appearance on "The Tie That Binds" compilation alongside other Jersey folks, took the 10 Yard Fight 7” – purchased after seeing them rage at a classic mid-90s living room show with nary a varsity font or champion hoodie to be seen – to a whole new level of SXE angst. “Your fucking lifestyle makes me sick / Straighten out your act, and fucking quit /I can't understand why you do that shit /Cause me and my crew won't stand for it!” was the rallying cry. With a mere two decades behind me, I was pissed off at ev-ver-rything and having matriculated to a notorious party school in the guise of an institute of higher learning, this SXE’er had more than enough inspiration for revulsion. Right or wrong, just the facts. I didn’t need the lyrical theatrics espoused by the likes of the Victory bands. I wasn’t a SXE viking. I was just an idiot kid. I needed “SXE brothers in the pit together / singing SXE anthems together.” Now right around the corner in my record buying timeline was the "Growing Stronger" 7” comp. As an Ensign insta-fan (see above), I was all over that one too. Wayne, NJ; Red Bank, NJ – homes to labels I wanted to know more about. I wanted my band on Growing Stronger II. Alas…
Now it’s 1999 and FP will reach as far south as the Carolinas. Columbia to be exact and not my oft-overlooked hometown. Ah, I didn’t make the trip. That’s ok, neither did FP. Others did and came back newly-psyched on a novel opener with a petite Asian-American vocalist; an attractive female to boot. That was my intro to Fast Times, people. I picked up the CD version of the 7” a-sap and found myself truly digging the simple, minute-long blasts with a twist of NYHC. They were formula-derived, but seemingly not formulaic. It wasn’t female-fronted Floorpunch to be sure. Deserved or not, they were catalogued in my brain with that ilk though and not to their detriment. The rallying cry was “Full speed ahead – GO!” Again, we didn’t need high art – we just needed to move!
Later that year, one of my better friends from the Carolinas made mention of Fast Times swinging back through the southeast again. I emailed the group and heard back from none other than FRUMP, the guitar player (well, email@example.com, a Cure reference that I did not get then, and still don’t). The show was booked, promoted and performed. Not a smashing success, but not a bad show by any stretch; people moshed. What did come out of that night were some solid friendships.
My friendship with FT led to a friendship with Tear it Up. I can still remember hanging out with Matt Wechter for the first time in 2000 in the FT van and listening to him going on and on about the new group he was getting together out of the ashes of Dead Nation. He confidently boasted that they were gonna’ cover Deuce by Kiss. Now Deuce on “Alive!” was one of the few older songs I still cared to bang my head to after I discovered thrash metal circa 1988. For that, Wechter’s new band got immediate cred in my book. And Dead Nation was nothing to shake the proverbial stick at either. That LP stands the test of time in 2012. That is classic Jersey HC, friends. After a move up to Boston in ‘00 and the subsequent break-up of their crop of SXE flag wavers, I was starting to take my HC a bit darker and faster. Dead Nation’s “Painless” ep fit the bill. “Suicide is painless,” the new rallying cry. DN finally supplied the brooding context such a phrase commands.
My first memory of Dead Nation was seeing them at Posi Numbers in ’00. That’s where I met the rest of the gang that would morp into TIU a few months later. The most striking of the group was Dave Ackerman – barking vocals with some serious intensity. At one point, he hocked a yellow loogie high in the air and it landed squarely on his right cheek. And it stayed there on his fucking cheek for like three full songs. “This is guy is punk as fuck!” I thought. When they took a break, Dave noticed the loogie and wiped it off hastily exclaiming, “Why didn’t anyone tell me? That’s fucking gross!”
So friendship with TIU led to friendship with Forward to Death led to more and more Jersey friends. FTD crashed with me in Atlanta and Boulder, Colorado. True, these two locales do not go hand in hand. Evidence of my record collection going transcontinental one too many times, to be sure. I was exhausted and I needed roots. Though Fast Times was long, long gone, Frump and I remained close, and it was his persistence that eventually won out and got me to the Garden State. He would say “Move here, we hang out.” That was the new rallying cry, I guess.