Connection: Avail takes over Brown’s Island with Over The James 2022
I think the first time I saw To profit from was at Dayton’s More Than Music Festival in 1993. In an era of hardcore when 90% of Midwestern business was just a wall of people standing with their arms crossed staring at an exploding band, Avail provided the experience which I’ve been dreaming about since I first heard about punk via the Chipmunks episode where Alvin gets caught up in the chaos of the pit. From minute one, they were a wave of frenetic energy – an orgy of flying bodies, screams, songs and mayhem, all led by cheerleader extraordinaire Beau Beau like an orchestral conductor leading a symphony.
Fast forward 29 years, I find myself with more pounds and less hair than I would like, once again celebrating this group with many thousands of potential friends. And while the Brown’s Island concert experience on Saturday, August 6, 2022 was light years away from the random building owned by meth-making bikers in the middle of a field on the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio in 1993, the Avail provided sense of connection and community was the same.
This was evidenced by the selection of bands leading up to the headlining event. The day started with scorching sunshine and a sparsely populated field, accompanied by the raunchy, loud hardcore of the people of Richmond. terminal happiness. Comprised of former members of Pg99, Iron Reagan, Stop It!, and more, they ripped apart a fast-firing, blistering hardcore punk ensemble that was seemingly over before it started. They’re a must-have the next time they walk through a basement or warehouse near you.
Screaming bitches hit the stage as ominous storm clouds began rolling in – led by guitarist Marissa Paternoster (invented the 77th greatest rock guitarist of all time by twirl in 1982), is a band that argues that punk rock is less what you look like and more how you do it. While they play a more traditional rock style, with mountains of fretboard dynamics and jamming solos, they cut their teeth in basements and DIY spaces, and releasing records on the independent label Don Giovanni.
Unfortunately, at the end of their set, the storm predicted by my Lyft driver (and which I laughed at) began to take shape – eventually causing the island to be cleared, minutes before the ceremony in Los Angeles. Luckily, that only set things back about an hour and the boulder was back.
Ceremony had so many styling changes over the course of their career, but somehow they always made it work as a cohesive project. Moving between tense Wire-style moments, Prince-inspired dance music, stomping hardcore, garage rock and more, they were the first band of the day to really feel like they’ve caught on. the crowd’s attention, having them sing along to their DC Red C cover of the hardcore legend and Ceremony’s own track, “Sick.” Unfortunately, their part of the day was cut short due to the storm.
from boston collapse started out as a taunting, heavier than you riff machine about 25 years ago and slowly turned into a rock machine, drawing elements from space rock bands like Hawkwind and slowburn desert rock from bands like Kyuss. Focused primarily on tracks from their recent LP, heavy pendulumthey briefly returned to the year 2000 to pound the track “Big Riff”.
The sun began to dip below the horizon as Quicksands hip, ripping through a mush of groove-heavy, groove-oriented songs spanning their entire catalog – from their recent Remote populations up to their self-titled debut single from 1990. To me personally, I felt like the second half of their setlist was tailor-made for this grizzled old man, as they pounded out bits of Underwear and Manic compression, aka “the hits”. By the time they unplugged, the sun had finally gone and the island was finally full, just in time for Avail to take the stage.
I could probably write several thousand words about Avail – their importance to me personally, to Richmond music, to hardcore punk nationally, etc. etc Richmond has long had a strong underground music scene – White Cross, Honor Role, GWAR, Four Walls Falling, Inquisition, Strike Anywhere, Municipal Waste, etc. But it always seemed the most important thing was Avail. If there’s one band that put the city on the map, it’s Avail, as they’ve traveled tour after tour, playing explosive shows across the country and the world, connecting with people, bands and scenes along the way.
It’s those connections that matter the most, and it was on full display as thousands of people sang and danced to anthems spanning their entire discography. In many ways, the Avail presented last Saturday was not far removed from that band I saw nearly thirty years ago – only the scale of the thing has changed. From the moment Tim said “Hello, we’re Avail from Richmond Virginia” to the closing lines of the final song “Scuffle Town”, the band and audience were a cohesive, furious organism beaming with energy in a symbiotic relationship. The back and forth between the band and the audience generated a passionate storm swell, filling the island and spilling into the James River.
One of the craziest moments for me was seeing a CSX train roar down the tracks halfway through, whistling almost at the right moment – connecting Avail, a band held in such high esteem the world over, to the city that made them. There are so many things about Richmond that come through in Avail’s music and lyrics, and those things are part of what makes them so special both for this place and for the whole world. A beautiful day indeed.
More scenes from Over The James 2022 at Brown’s Island. All pictures of Michael Thorn:
TO PROFIT FROM: