Tag Archives: Washington DC

DC’s Darkest Hour on Their City’s Political Climate and Hockey

Darkest Hour

After more than 20 years, DC hardcore outfit Darkest Hour have done something more and more bands find themselves doing: they’ve left the classic record label dynamic and crowdfunded their new release, Godless Prophets & the Migrant Flora. It’s allowed them to connect directly with their fans, and also made more room for family time. They’re now in control of their own destiny, and taking full advantage of it. Ahead of their release, we got the chance to chat with the group’s co-founder, Mike Schleibaum, about crowdfunding, the political climate in DC and, of course, hockey.

First of all, you’re from the DC area and you’ve been living there for a while. So, given the recent political changes and climate, what is it like in DC right now? 

It’s definitely an ‘interesting’ time. Trump is here and he’s certainly way different from even George W. Bush. He’s actually around town, and there’s always a gaggle of people around him screaming. When Obama was here, it felt like things were kind of normal. But now, it’s a city of lefties, so we are all pretty up in arms.  For the next four years it’s going to be an epicenter for people to have their voices heard. That’s why it wasn’t made an independent a state, so people will come here to have their voice heard. I guess, all this traffic will bring a bunch of money to the area. People are certainly on edge. So I’m interested to hit the road and hear people elsewhere let me know how they feel. Here, it’s kind of a given that everybody feels the same way—like over 90% of the residents are Democrats.

The riots and the craziness that happened here weren’t really televised nationally. The rioting was like what would have happened after a trial—it was very directed against the government. There was an incident where someone climbed the scaffolding outside the White House and hung a “Resist” flag. That shit was not happening a couple months ago. Everybody was just hoping there weren’t going to be any more terrorist attacks or mass shootings. Now, no one has time to think like that. Maybe we just haven’t heard about it. There have been some terrorist activities with bombings and marines killed in some raids.

I guess, it’s an important time for art in a sense. What is ‘great’ and what is ‘art’ will always be argued. So let’s just hope we don’t blow up the planet.

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Album of the Day, Channels: “Backpfeifengesicht/Airstrip One”

Unlike other metropolises, it’s not terribly easy to find lifelong natives of the Washington, D.C. area. Part of that is because of the gentrification process that’s squeezing so many out of rent they were once able to afford. But, also—growing up in and around the nation’s capital exerts a strange and particular pressure. The industry in D.C. is pretty much purely politics and its associated supports (universities included), and as such can feel suffocating. Those who arrive for jobs with rotating administrations, lobbying organizations, and think tanks rarely interact with anyone outside their circles, skimming along the city’s surface.

Channels is comprised of three individuals who know this peculiar world intimately—the notorious J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines, many production and engineering credits) and bassist Janet Morgan (of Shonben, also Robbins’ wife), who currently live in Baltimore, and drummer Darren Zentek (Kerosene 454, Oswego), who is still in D.C. proper. And so, their anti-Trump Inauguration protest 7-inch, “Backpfeifengesicht/Airstrip One,” feels more natural and less opportunistic than many other political statements. Even when addressing entirely personal matters, and even in the poetic, playful lyrical abstractions with which Robbins often works, there’s politics in the water.

“Backpfeifengesicht”—a word which can be translated from the German as “a face in need of a slap”—is as direct an indictment of Trump as possible. It goes from the sort of roiling, percussive noise rock this crew is known for (dual vocals from Robbins and Morgan urgent, overlapping) to chiming pop luxury at the flip of a dime, seeking the humanity of a man with seemingly no empathy. “Airstrip One,” a tense little jam that works expertly with post-punk negative space (particularly when it comes to Morgan’s vocal lines), locates the terror of losing ground that exists at the heart of xenophobia, fascism, and nationalism (“Who was holding all the gold in that Golden Age?”). It asks of those it critiques: “Were you fighting for the right side? Did you throw away your lifeline? Did you wake up on the wrong side of a burning bed?” As Robbins repeats those words, and as the song sharpens into punk glass, there is honest passion and power in his voice—grit, if you will. Resolve.

“Backpfeifengesicht/Airstrip One” is also the first new Channels material in a decade; adult responsibilities, including complicated healthcare for Robbins and Morgan’s son Callum, who was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, made bringing the group together regularly too challenging for a time. There is an ease to these two complicated, coiled-up songs, a sort of effervescence that pushes through even in the most pointed moments; the band is obviously having a blast playing with one another. This is reportedly only the first new material from Channels’ second life, and hallelujah for that. If all political gauntlet-throwing felt this resonant, we might just pull through.

—Jes Skolnik

Album of the Day: Pure Disgust, “Pure Disgust”

As thousands of activists and ordinary citizens gather across America to protest the slayings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Pure Disgust touch down to fire off ten warning shots. The debut full-length by the Washington, DC hardcore vanguards makes their intentions plain. Every roar from vocalist Rob Watson rings out against racism (“Slander Me”), its force threaded through the state (“Potential Criminal”), and its long line of ruined lives on levels systemic (“Pipeline”) and personal (“Lost Child”). His bandmates match force, fusing the Oi!-influenced hardcore of their previous EPs with Discharge’s speed and NYHC’s heft.

“Normalized Death” embodies this attack down to the second, charging with jackhammer chords before slowing to crush heads. Tracks like “Agents of the Machine” and “White Silence” complicate the onslaught. “Machine” takes Chained’s blasts and switches out dynamite for nukes, while “Silence” finds Pure Disgust wringing complacency out of its targets’ necks, complete with NWOBHM chord progressions to prolong the choke. This is the siren song to having no home as a person of color—in punk, in society, in America. This is the sound of swinging at a nation and breaking bones. Be glad they’re not yours.

—Nnamdi Bawsism