Cattivo, an almost unnoticeable bar in Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood was the site of a punk/metal uprising the other evening. Call it “crossover” or thrash or plain old punk, this Friday night gig was one of the most unhinged I’ve ever attended.
Iron Reagan, a side project formed by alumni of Municipal Waste and Darkest Hour, came barreling out of Richmond, Virginia’s hotbed of a metal scene in 2012, and since then have been burning it up anarchically on the club level. Sacred Reich, the legendary Arizonan shit-starters with whom Iron Reagan released a 7-inch split earlier this year, are their forefathers and co-headlined, which was something that gave the gig a synergy that isn’t often seen, especially when Leeway and Enforced were involved. There was a sense of unity of purpose, a celebration of a particular niche of hard music as well as a set of ideals.
Despite the political nature of the genres being straddled and ignoring the bodies flying about the humid and small basement venue (as if that were possible), I found Iron Reagan’s and Sacred Reich’s stands to be rather jovial. Iron Reagan frontman Tony Foresta came off as the Andrew W.K. of this particular scene, and Sacred Reich leader Phil Rind as its Sammy Hagar. This was a party above all else. Yet each band wielded as much mid-paced, destroy-all-monsters, precision-obsessed metal magic as they did racing, off-the-chain punk. This having been my third time seeing Iron Reagan, I knew what I was in for and was not disappointed, even if their music isn’t entirely in my arena. To me, Iron Reagan are first and foremost a live band, and it was never more apparent; the stage is where these hoodlums do their dirty work. Their mastery of underground showmanship and ability to incite crowds into raucous frenzies with tunes like “Fuck The Neighbors” was thoroughly in effect and was enough to rival that of Slayer. Candidly, Sacred Reich were the only band I was truly there to see, and Rind and his sardonic, but weighty and technically proficient battalion exceeded expectations. “The American Way,” “Surf Nicaragua,” “One Nation,” Ignorance,” and the immortal “Death Squad” were peeled off sharply, flawlessly, guitarists Wiley Arnett and Joey Radziwill buttressing the hardcore with I-beams of steel.
As was the case with Sacred Reich, Leeway and Enforced were also acts I’d never before caught. A New Yorker through and through, Leeway throat Eddie Sutton, who claimed to have lived in Pittsburgh for a time, prowled about the stage as if he were a cross between Jane’s Addiction’s Perry Farrell and a cat, revealing shocking vocal prowess, even getting quite soulful at times. Admittedly, I’m not as familiar with Leeway as I should, perhaps, but their deftly performed warm-up extravaganza left an impression on me.
Enforced, who share a hometown with Iron Reagan, were rather derivative to me but were also quite competent at riling up the audience, particularly once vocalist Knox Colby (what a cool name) commanded everyone to move closer to the stage. With only some demos on the market since their 2017 formation, I think Enforced have plenty of time and room to graduate from mere Bay Area worship (not that such a thing is necessarily bad) and into a sound and style they can call their own, and they have the chops to make it happen.
In less than a month, I’ve been twice reminded that punk and metal are blood-siblings in the hostile musical landscape and that the animosity I once harbored towards the former was regrettable. One may have gotten more critical respect than the other, but it’s clear that they are kindred immaterial of divisive journalistic practices. Both are sounds of the proletariat. Both are angry and need to tell you about it. Both of them rumble the brains of the moral majority. Both of them make living in righteous defiance a noble pursuit.