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Dark Ages/No Class Concert Review

Dark Ages/No Class
August 22nd, 2015
FOKL - Kansas City, KS

Jordan Carr of Dark Ages says "thanks!"

Saturday night was truly a historic night in Kansas City music. Local hardcore bands Dark Ages and No Class played their last sets back to back to a full house at the FOKL center in Kansas City, Kansas. The two bands were active for a combined 15 years, an incredible feat in and of itself in punk rock. Both equipped with two full-length records, their was plenty of fuel to send them both off with a bang.

The bands recruited longtime friends Faultfinder to open up the show. I have been dreading the day where I have to describe Faultfinder due to how unique and difficult to digest they are, but here goes my best. The group plays a polarizing and abrasive style of rock music. You can tell it's abrasive just by watching them pound at their instruments, and you can see that it's polarizing by watching multiple people leave the room almost as soon as they start playing. The tempos of their often-cacophonous and brooding tunes range from doom metal slow to parade soldier medium. Any faster would put a halt to their (very enjoyable) sonic torture. If you'd have to pick a genre to call them, I'd lean towards a mix of no-wave and very aggressive post-punk, but it's really up to the listener and I doubt the band would want to throw any sort of label on themselves. Singer and bassist Mookie Ninjak made sure to joke about it being a whole show of "old men playing children's music," being that everyone playing that night was at least 30 years old. He also assured the crowd that there were some fast bands coming up next.

And fast the next band was. Cardiac Arrest, a veteran hardcore band from the other side of I-70 (St. Louis, you joker), blazed through their first Kansas City show in seven years. The bandana-clad frontman stormed around, often leaving the venue's small stage. The band delivered their no-frills style of punk and hardcore in excellent fashion and incited the first of the night's slamming and stomping. Not bad for a bunch of old dudes who just traveled four hours in a van to play a weekend gig. They have a new album to boot!

Once I wandered back outside, past the long merch table set up to clear out the last of the bands' t-shirts and some special prints for the night, I could see that the street outside was flooded with rock-n-rollers from all over the Midwest. While most in attendance were older than me and not as involved with the scene as they probably once were, it was cool to witness a sort of final pilgrimage to my town for many of them. While the teenagers and 20-somethings of the scene today will surely keep it moving onward for many years, this was about to get pretty emotional for just about everybody.
No Class

After a longer break than between the first two bands, the room filled and No Class assembled. Many friends from the audience laughed and playfully heckled singer Neal Dyrkacz with him shooting back over the mic until it was time to play. As soon as the first bass riff began people were flinging themselves through the pit, swinging arms, and two-stepping like they never had before. The band's style was based around a throwback '80's Boston style of hardcore and that's the kind of show they always ended up with. Multiple people leaped off the stage onto small pockets of people only a foot lower than them and there was dogpile after dogpile in the front to sing into the microphone. Some rockers even took the liberty of grabbing it all for themselves and having their final No Class fantasy time. After about 20 minutes of banger after banger the band ended it with "Hate Crime," the closing track from their first (and most popular) LP. Neal pulled out all the stops, the band played nearly-as-tight as ever, the crowd yelled out the final line ("The way you treat me is like a hate crime"), and it was over.

One round of goodbyes was over. Next came Dark Ages.

Allow me to get a little personal for a second here. Dark Ages was the first band that showed me that real hardcore punk still existed. In my early teenage years I was a big fan of bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat. I naively assumed that hardcore punk had ended in the 1980's along with those bands, but one night when I saw Dark Ages all of that changed. My friend's older brother who knew I was into punk took me to my first DIY punk shows, starting with the last show at the Studded Bird. I was squished into a back corner and couldn't make out much of what the bands sounded like but had a good enough time to where I wanted to join him again. The next show he took me to was part of the Troost DIY Fest that took place at the Asshole Castle house. Dark Ages had played that first show I went to, but it wasn't until the Asshole Castle show that I realized what I was in for. When I walked downstairs before they started playing, the basement was already full. I squeezed into a spot directly behind their drummer and witnessed one of the most enthralling and important sets I've ever seen. People crowd surfed under the low ceiling, swung from pipes, and went completely nuts and that was not something I had never seen in my life. But what really floored me was the intensity and precision that the band played with. I got home that night and listened to as much of their music as I could find and have been seeing as many punk shows as possible ever since.

My second Dark Ages show
So this set was a big deal. Vocalist Jordan Carr's pre-show banter was of the more sincere variety, thanking everyone who helped them and played with them over the years, but capped that off by making fun of former member Ben Smith who was in town for the gig. They began with "Can America Survive?" parts one and two. I think anyone you ask has a different favorite release and era of the group, which had many of those in their nine year lifespan. The band did their best to accommodate everyone. They played everything, from bare bones, nihilistic jam "Contemplating Suicide," off their first EP, to the winding, moody "Vapor" off their final record. Along with announcing almost every song's name before they started it, Jordan had some fun faking some of the audience out by saying it was their last song three different times during the set.

One thing that must be recognized in the Kansas City history books is that the band played an incredibly unique brand of mysterious punk music. And not the type of pretentious coastal,  "mysterious" tough guy shit that you hear all the time on the internet. Dark Ages played the type of mysterious punk that's in the background while you're running through a corn maze in the pitch black, trying to find your way out, with a dismal, hellish Midwestern existence on your tail the whole way.

While the band made fast, calculated music that is for more than dancing to, that's what happened anyway. The band played its real final song, the anthemic and self-explanatory "No Cops No Christians," and there were nearly as many people moving about as there were at some points during No Class's rambunctious set. And then it was over. Jordan sat on the stage and quietly thanked everyone again for coming. People grabbed their friends and hugged and yelled at each other about how cool the show was as they filed out of the dark, sweaty room and the house music came on. This show was a true mile marker for loud, fast music in Kansas City. The end of an era? Yes. The end of punk rock in the city of fountains? Definitely not.

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