Culture Abuse and Gouge Away pack a heavy dose inside Hardcore Stadium


Authority figures and their toadies spend a lot of time nowadays screeching at us to doubt our own eyes, ears, and minds, and as much as I hate to think I might be playing their game, I confess my perception might not be entirely trustworthy this time.

Yesterday evening at Central Square’s Hardcore Stadium (also known as Cambridge Elks Lodge), it looked to me a hellufa lot like a shapeless, intradimensional organism composed only of human arms and legs roughly the size of the creature at the end of 1964’s The Creeping Terror underwent what I can only describe as a seizure — except fun, as opposed to nasty and scary like a regular seizure. During this episode, it tried to consume San Francisco’s Culture Abuse, however they managed to save themselves by feeding the beast punk rock songs — the only substance available in sufficient quantity. Fortuitously, punk rock songs happened to be the beast’s favorite food.

But that’s only what it looked like, not what really happened. Fact of the matter is Culture Abuse are touring behind their second long-player Bay Dream, a markedly sunnier effort than 2016’s grisly Peach. Incidentally, Bay Dream contains 2018’s raddest track with a pun in the title, “Bee Kind To The Bugs.” So Culture Abuse played this show and — as if foreseeing that nobody who wasn’t standing directly next to the stage would be able to see anything at all — unleashed a bevy of balloons onto the revelers, thereby enhancing the general ambiance of magic and wonder and the possibility of transcendence through music n’ all those sorts of spiffy things. With all due credit to Culture Abuse themselves, here we had a clear example of how sometimes a certain set of dudes playing certain guitar music is not as entertaining as 150-something sweaty fans immensely excited to hear a certain set of dudes playing certain guitar music.

By contrast, onlookers respected a healthy personal bubble around Fort Lauderdale’s Gouge Away, creating a scene that scanned like the inverse of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. It was the figure(s) at the center who stoned the mob to death, you see?

This entire three-band bill (rounded out by Bittermelon) kicked off a little before 8 p.m. and wrapped around 10, which was super because it must’ve been about 5,000 degrees at the front of the room and hardcore is not known for its low cardiovascular demands. But despite the short set time, Gouge Away squeezed in most of Burnt Sugar, their national label debut via Deathwish Inc. and a strong indicator that they’re going to be a way bigger band in, like, two years from now.

Singscreamer Christina Michelle acknowledged Mental Health Awareness Day as a segue into Burnt Sugar’s “Subtle Thrill.” Though she probably wrote that song about something pretty specific and maybe serious, the potential subjective, non-specific applications of the shouted refrain, “Hurt Is A Commodity,” seem downright universal. Most of us do something miserable for money, after all. That lyric is only really about one person’s experience, but it could be about anybody’s, which makes it a good’un, I think.

Side-note: I get that whoever’s in charge of Cambridge Elks is already being extra nice letting shows happen here at all and nobody wants to hear me complain about stuff like this, but is there anything that can be done about the severed elk head hanging on the wall in the main room? Feels like an unnecessary signal clash when I’m showing up to hear a band with at least one animal rights activism anthem.

Photos by Barry Thompson; follow him on Twitter @barelytomson.